Barrett book delves into Congress’s posture toward the CIA in the agency’s early years
Dr. David M. Barrett, Villanova University political science professor and former Democratic congressional candidate, spoke at Falvey Memorial Library on March 30 about his latest work, The CIA and Congress: The Untold Story from Truman to Kennedy. The book covers the founding of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Harry S. Truman up to the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.
In three parts, the book explores the Truman Era, 1947-1952; the Eisenhower Era, 1953-1960; and Cuba, the CIA, and Congress, 1960-1961. Dr. Barrett highlighted several findings reflected in his book: for example, the notion that Congress rarely monitored the CIA is a myth.
Painstakingly researching newspapers, archives, declassified documents and the unpublished papers of former congressmen, Dr. Barrett discussed how CIA directors had briefed Congress on many occasions about numerous covert operations. Congress was often “colorfully aggressive” in support of covert CIA actions. CIA actions were actually suggested or encouraged many times by the President and Congress.
For instance, concerning the U-2 spy plane incident in 1960, a hawkish Congress found aerial surveillance of the Soviet Union highly desirable and willingly funded the U-2 program. Back in 1949, the first head of the CIA was summoned before Congress to explain how the CIA had missed alerting Congress to the fact that the Soviet Union had conducted an atomic explosion. Finally, Dr. Barrett noted that there is still much classified information about this era but documents congressmen left behind have yielded great insight into the workings of Congress at the time.
Various reviewers have called the book “a detailed and colorful history,” “a landmark study,” and “trenchant.”
Dr. Barrett's talk was part of the Scholarship @ Villanova series.
Contributed by Merrill Stein, Team Leader, Assessment; photograph by Laura Hutelmyer