A revelatory new biography of the sinister, powerful, and paranoid man at the heart of the CIA for more than three tumultuous decades.
Legendary head of the CIA James Jesus Angleton was one of the most powerful unelected government officials in American history. Virtually untouchable, he operated beyond the view of the public, Congress, and even the president himself.
In this gripping biography — the first in over 20 years — investigative reporter Jefferson Morley reveals the man behind the myths: from Angleton’s friendship with the poets Ezra Pound and TS Eliot, to his links with the underground gay milieu of mid-century Washington; from the intelligence secrets he unwittingly shared with British double agent Kim Philby, to his obstruction of the investigation into the JFK assassination; and from his initiation of the US’s first foray into mass surveillance of its citizens, to his obsession with hunting for communist moles — a search that nearly destroyed the Agency.
Yet during Angleton’s seemingly lawless reign, he also proved himself to be a formidable adversary to America’s enemies, acquiring a mythic stature within the CIA that continues to this day. Here, Morley uses exclusive interviews with colleagues and friends, and never-before-seen correspondence, to piece together a detailed and fascinating portrait of one of the most influential spies of our times.
‘James Angleton's real life is the most intriguing, moving, and at times shocking spy story in American history. In The Ghost, Jeff Morley has captured the man in all his brilliant and sometimes delusional eccentricity. Angleton is woven through many of the strangest episodes of the 1950s and 60s — including the Kennedy assassination — in what was invisible thread, until Morley's book. A ‘must read’ for anyone who wants to understand just how strange and secretive the CIA was at the height of the Cold War.’
David Ignatius, columnist for The Washington Post and author of The Director
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‘The best book ever written about the strangest CIA chief who ever lived. No screenwriter or novelist could conjure a character like Angleton, but Morley's stellar reporting and superb writing animate every page of this work. It's essential history and highly entertaining biography.’
Tim Weiner, National Book Award winning author of Legacy of Ashes
‘Americans are finally coming to know the Cold War spymasters and other hidden figures who lived their lives in secrecy while shaping our national destiny. The Ghost reveals a fascinating chapter of this hidden history. It is a chilling look at the global power that is wielded in Washington by people who are never known — until a book comes out to spill their secrets.’
Stephen Kinzer, author of The Brothers
‘The Ghost is the compulsively readable, often bizarre true-life story of American spymaster James Jesus Angleton — the CIA’s poetry-loving, orchid-gardening mole-hunter for almost 20 years. Capturing the extent of Angleton’s eccentricity, duplicity and alcohol-fueled paranoia would have challenged the writing skills of a Le Carré or Ludlum, and Jeff Morley has done it with flair. This important book depicts the trail of wreckage left behind by Angleton in a CIA career that involved him in virtually every major spy-versus-spy drama of the Cold War and drew him deeply into the mysteries of the Kennedy assassination and the murder of one of JFK’s mistresses.’
Philip Shenon, author of A Cruel and Shocking Act
'Transcending mere thriller comparisons, this gripping read is filled with descriptions of events that sometimes beggar belief and open the reader's eyes to a world that often has much greater influence on world politics that we might realise. The Ghost is compulsory reading for anyone interested in contemporary history, American politics and the mysteries of the 20th century secret intelligence community.'
All About History
‘This is the book to read if you’ve ever doubted the extent to which powerful countries can meddle or if you’ve ever naively disbelieved that the CIA has a reprehensible record of interference, both domestically and internationally.’
‘A fascinating insight into a murky, labyrinthine world, one which ultimately trapped the man who built it.’
‘[Morley] writes fluently and engagingly.’
Josephine Fenton, Irish Examiner