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About The Book

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Gatekeepers, a remarkable, behind-the-scenes look at what it's like to run the world's most powerful intelligence agency, and how the CIA is often a crucial counterforce against presidents threatening to overstep the powers of their office.

Only 11 men and one woman are alive today who have made the life-and-death decisions that come with running the world's most powerful and influential intelligence service. With unprecedented, deep access to nearly all these individuals, Chris Whipple tells the story of an agency that answers to the United States president, but whose activities — spying, espionage, and covert action — take place on every continent. At pivotal moments, the CIA acts as a brake on rogue presidents, starting in the mid-seventies with DCI Richard Helms’ refusal to conceal Richard Nixon’s criminality and continuing recently as the actions of a CIA whistleblower ignited impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump.

Since its inception in 1947, the Central Intelligence Agency has been a powerful player on the world stage, operating largely in the shadows to protect American interests. For The Spymasters, Whipple conducted extensive, exclusive interviews with nearly every living CIA director, pulling back the curtain on the world's elite spy agency and showing how the CIA partners — or clashes — with counterparts in Britain, France, Germany, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Russia. Topics covered in the book include attempts by presidents to use the agency for their own ends; simmering problems in the Middle East and Asia; rogue nuclear threats; and cyberwarfare

The Spymasters recounts seven decades of CIA activity and elicits predictions about the issues — and threats — that will engage the attention of future operatives and analysts. Including eye-opening interviews with George Tenet, John Brennan, Leon Panetta and David Petraeus, as well as those who've just recently departed the agency, this is a timely, essential and important contribution to current events.


About The Author

Photograph by David Hume Kennerly

Chris Whipple is an acclaimed author, political analyst, documentary filmmaker, and speaker. He is a widely recognized authority on how the White House should be run, and is a frequent guest on MSNBC, CNN, and NPR. He has spoken at the Harvard Kennedy School and Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. He has also contributed essays to The New York TimesThe Washington PostLos Angeles Times, and Vanity Fair. His first book, The Gatekeepers, an analysis of the position of White House Chief of Staff, was a New York Times bestseller. The Spymasters featured interviews with nearly every living CIA Director and was critically acclaimed. Chris’ most recent book, The Fight of His Life, takes us inside the Biden administration as it strives to overcome challenges larger than any that have occurred in decades. Whipple lives in New York City with his wife Cary.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (September 15, 2020)
  • Length: 400 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781471183713

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Raves and Reviews

“Here's a secret: The best way to learn the history of the CIA is from the top, and Chris Whipple goes there, with amazingly candid interviews with the spymasters. This engrossing, well-researched book also breaks new ground with the untold story of the CIA's biggest-ever manhunt.”

– Jonathan Alter, author of His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life

“Chris Whipple has become in recent years something of a Washington elite whisperer. In The Spymasters — as in his equally masterful book, The Gatekeepers — he gets almost everyone to spill their secrets.”

– David Friend, Vanity Fair

The best book about the CIA I’ve ever read.  Its revelations are eye-popping, alternately exhilarating and depressing … How Whipple managed to pull so much history together, how he extracted such a wealth of detail from his principal sources — the CIA leaders themselves — is quite simply mind-boggling.  This is an important book.  And one hell of a story.”

– Christopher Buckley, New York Times bestselling author of The White House Mess and Thank You for Smoking

"Compelling … Chris Whipple does for the CIA and Washington DC what Plutarch did for those whose job it was to expand and defend the glory of Rome — paint an indelible portrait of how the servants of government seek to know and control the world … One theme emerges from the career of each director — how difficult it is to tell presidents anything they don’t want to hear."

– Thomas Powers, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA

“Riveting … a timely reminder of the outsized influence of our nation’s intelligence bureaucracy — and the men and women who live in this wilderness of mirrors. ‘They were all asked to do things they shouldn’t do,’ says Cynthia Helms, wife of the legendary CIA Director Richard Helms. Whipple explores these ethical quandaries with nuance and fairness.”

– Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames

“Fascinating … Whipple parts the curtains on the dark art to show the triumphs and failures, the personalities and rivalries of those who work in the shadows of espionage.”

– Tom Brokaw, Special Correspondent for NBC News and bestselling author of The Greatest Generation

“Chris Whipple is an accomplished historian, hard-nosed journalist, and master storyteller … A must-read for anyone interested in America’s intelligence gathering and national security.”

– James A. Baker, III, 61st U.S. Secretary of State

“Provides astute profiles of the men, and one woman, in charge of the modern Central Intelligence Agency, and the presidents for whom they have worked … Accurate, fair and informative.”

– John W. Dean, Nixon Administration White House Counsel and bestselling author of Conservatives Without Conscience

“Better than anyone, Chris Whipple knows how to root out the secrets buried deeply in the federal bureaucracy … When he gives the most secret of our agencies a good shaking the headline stories and secrets come tumbling out … This is the CIA with the bark off, and Washington reporting at its best.”

– Bob Schieffer, CBS News

“Engrossing … Whipple is at once clear-eyed and fair-minded while giving us a riveting read.” 

– Evan Thomas, New York Times bestselling author of The Very Best Men: The Daring Early Years of the CIA

“A highly readable, fair, and well researched history of the CIA over the past fifty years. Whipple comes neither to pillory the CIA nor to praise it but, rather, to understand it — and he fully succeeds."

– Max Boot, New York Times bestselling author The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam

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