The Hidden Hand: A Brief History of the CIA
Buy Rights Online Buy Rights

Rights Contact Login For More Details

More About This Title The Hidden Hand: A Brief History of the CIA


The Hidden Hand is a succinct accessible and up-to-date survey of the Central Intelligence Agency’s history from its inception in 1947 to the present.

  • Covers both aspects of the CIA’s mission – the collection and analysis of intelligence and the execution of foreign policy through covert, paramilitary operations
  • De-mythologizes the CIA’s role in America’s global affairs while addressing its place within American political and popular culture
  • Written by an esteemed scholar and high-ranking officer in the intelligence community, drawing on the latest research
  • Assesses the agency’s successes and failures, with an eye to the complex and controversial nature of the subject


Richard H. Immerman is Professor and Edward J. Buthusiem Distinguished Fellow in History at Temple University and Marvin Wachman Director of its Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy. The recipient of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations' Bernath Book Prize in 1983 and its Bernath Lecture Prize in 1990, he served as SHAFR’s president in 2007.  His most recent publications include The Oxford Handbook of the Cold War (2013) and Empire for Liberty: A History of U.S. Imperialism from Benjamin Franklin to Paul Wolfowitz (2012). From September 2007-December 2008, he served as Assistant Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analytic Integrity and Standards and Analytic Ombudsman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. He currently chairs the Historical Advisory Committee to the U.S. Department of State.


Preface and Acknowledgments ix

Note on Redactions xiii

1 Birth of an Enigma: 1945–1949 1

2 Halcyon Days and Growing Pains: 1950–1961 35

3 The CIA and its Discontents: 1961–1976 70

4 A Time of Troubles: 1977–1987 108

5 Victory Without Redemption: 1988–2000 138

6 9/11, WMD, GWOT, IRTPA, and ODNI: 2001–2004 172

7 Crisis of Identity: 2005–2013 206

Index 235


“I highly recommend Immerman’s history as a corrective.”  (Journal of American History, 3 January 2016)

"Written in clear terms with excellent summaries of complex events, The Hidden Hand makes a mass of history and bureaucratic strife manageable to newcomers of the subject. ...The redactions in this volume serve as an introduction for would-be scholars to the risks of researching so close to the circles of power and authority."  (Intelligence and National Security, 6 February 2015)

“Richard H. Immerman, who teaches the history of American foreign policy and intelligence at Temple University, has produced a fine, concise history of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The Hidden Handhas three major virtues: it is fair-minded, readable and up-to-date, including a useful insider’s analysis of how the creation of the new position of National Director of Intelligence (NDI) in 2005 has affected the role of the CIA and its director.”  (Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, 1 January 2015)

“Meantime, as far as the book under review is concerned, It’s a very well written piece of history and well referenced with numerous end-of-chapter source notes.”  (Nurturing Potential, 1 March 2014)

“Richard Immerman’s brief history of the CIA is, I believe, the best one currently available.” – John Lewis Gaddis, Yale University

“In this important book, Richard Immerman examines the torturous history and mixed record of the CIA. Arguing that the agency was engulfed from its inception in controversy between intelligence analysts and covert operators, Immerman laments the agency’s post-9/11 trajectory toward paramilitary operations. If you are looking for a good, short text in your courses on intelligence history, this should serve you well.” –Melvyn P. Leffler, Edward Stettinius Professor of American History, University of Virginia

The hidden Hand provides a balanced and informative history of CIA covert actions, why they were undertaken, and what they accomplished.” –Thomas Fingar, Former Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis

“Born in conflict and steeped in controversy, the CIA remains extraordinarily difficult to understand. But now it has a fair and insightful biography. Richard Immerman bring to the task the skills of an accomplished historian and the personal experience of having seen it from the inside. The result is fascinating and important.” – Robert Jervis, author of Why Intelligence Fails: Lessons from the Iranian Revolution and the Iraq War