My Life in the CIA

Ted Shackley with Richard A. Finney

336 pages


September 2006


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June 2011


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About the Book

Lively and informative . . . It is also a good story of how an operative actually works in the field.Military

The death of CIA operative Theodore G. "Ted" Shackley in December 2002 triggered an avalanche of obituaries from all over the world, some of them condemnatory. Pundits used such expressions as "heroin trafficking," "training terrorists," "attempts to assassinate Castro," and "Mob connections." More specifically, they charged him with having played a major role in the Chilean military coup of 1973.

But who was the real Ted Shackley? In Spymaster, he has told the story of his entire remarkable career for the first time. With the assistance of fellow former CIA officer Richard A. Finney, he discusses the consequential posts he held in Berlin, Miami, Laos, Vietnam, and Washington, where he was intimately involved in some of the key intelligence operations of the Cold War. During his long career, Shackley ran part of the inter-agency program to overthrow Castro, was chief of station in Vientiane during the CIA's "secret war" against North Vietnam and the Pathet Lao, and was chief of station in Saigon. After his retirement, he remained a controversial figure. In the early eighties, he was falsely charged with complicity in the Iran-Contra scandal.

Ted Shackley's comments on CIA operations in Europe, Cuba, Chile, and Southeast Asia and on the life of a high-stakes spymaster will be the subject of intense scrutiny by all concerned with the fields of intelligence, foreign policy, and postwar U.S. history. 

Author Bio

Ted Shackley's final CIA position was as associate deputy director for operations. He died in December 2002, weeks after completing this book.


"A veritable handbook for spies."—From the foreword by B. Hugh Tovar, former head of CIA Covert Action and Counterintelligence Staffs

"An incisive and important account by an authentic intelligence professional about the evolution of intelligence and covert action in a changing world. Shackley’s descriptions are riveting, and as far back as 1992, he called for a director of national intelligence and fingered terrorism as a priority problem. Every aspiring intelligence officer and anyone interested in the realities of intelligence should read this book."—James R. Lilley, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea and China

"A must read for espionage and intelligence buffs and one that the uninitiated will appreciate as well. For example, Shackley offers a dispassionate but gripping insider's account of CIA activities leading up to the delivery of the Soviet missiles to Cuba, the CIA’s confirmation of their presence, and the Kennedy-Khrushchev agreement that ended the crisis. It’s an account that once again brings home just how close the episode came to converting the Cold War into a hot one, with its potentially apocalyptic consequences."—Don Bohning, author of The Castro Obsession: U.S. Covert Operations Against Cuba, 1959-1965

"Provides details important to understanding many Cold War crises, and peels back the cloak-and-dagger CIA image to reveal that collecting and analyzing intelligence is a tough intellectual task not for the faint of heart or mind. It also clearly demonstrates the critical need for human intelligence collection and its ability, if properly analyzed, to provide advance warning to policymakers to prevent surprises. Following the surprise of 9/11, policymakers and citizens could learn much about the value of human intelligence collection and about the responsibilities of a Cold War spy by reading this senior spymaster’s revealing memoirs."—Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, author of Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, the Americans, and the Secret War for Laos

"Offers considerable miitary detail from the proverbial horse's mouth."—Military Periscope

"Lively and informative . . . It is also a good story of how an operative actually works in the field."—Military