The Devil's Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America's Secret Government
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An explosive, headline-making portrait of Allen Dulles, the man who transformed the CIA into the most powerful—and secretive—colossus in Washington, from the founder of Salon.com and author of the New York Times bestseller Brothers.
America’s greatest untold story: the United States’ rise to world dominance under the guile of Allen Welsh Dulles, the longest-serving director of the CIA. Drawing on revelatory new materials—including newly discovered U.S. government documents, U.S. and European intelligence sources, the personal correspondence and journals of Allen Dulles’s wife and mistress, and exclusive interviews with the children of prominent CIA officials—Talbot reveals the underside of one of America’s most powerful and influential figures.
Dulles’s decade as the director of the CIA—which he used to further his public and private agendas—were dark times in American politics. Calling himself “the secretary of state of unfriendly countries,” Dulles saw himself as above the elected law, manipulating and subverting American presidents in the pursuit of his personal interests and those of the wealthy elite he counted as his friends and clients—colluding with Nazi-controlled cartels, German war criminals, and Mafiosi in the process. Targeting foreign leaders for assassination and overthrowing nationalist governments not in line with his political aims, Dulles employed those same tactics to further his goals at home, Talbot charges, offering shocking new evidence in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
An exposé of American power that is as disturbing as it is timely, The Devil’s Chessboard is a provocative and gripping story of the rise of the national security state—and the battle for America’s soul.
plea bargain with Frank, and in March 1959, he paid a modest fine, signed an agreement not to work as a foreign agent, and walked out of court a free man. Nobody was ever charged in the murders of Jesus de Galíndez or Gerald Murphy. Allen Dulles’s CIA believed in the power of ideas. It was easy for Dulles’s Ivy League–educated executive team to understand why the Trujillo regime became so obsessed with a doctoral dissertation written by an obscure academic. They knew that ideas mattered: they
martinis. After Wyatt managed to rouse him, the CIA station chief blurted out some provocative remarks about the events in Dallas that deeply disturbed Wyatt for the rest of his life. According to his three children, Wyatt, who died in 2006, at eighty-six, would always suspect that Harvey had some prior knowledge of the Kennedy assassination or was in some way involved. “My dad would sometimes talk about Harvey in the context of the Kennedy assassination,” said Wyatt’s son Tom. “He talked about
Richardson, with whom he had done business since his days at Chase Manhattan. It was the national security establishment, not Bobby Kennedy, that advised the new president to put Dulles and McCloy on the Warren Commission. And Johnson—finely tuned to the desires of the men who had put him in the Oval Office—wisely obliged them. The Dulles camp itself made no bones about the fact that the Old Man aggressively lobbied to get appointed to the commission. Dick Helms later told historian Michael
reported hearing or seeing evidence of gunfire from the grassy knoll. “People even saw and smelled smoke.” “Look, what are you talking about?” fumed the now visibly angry Dulles. “Who saw smoke?” Lifton began giving the names of witnesses, citing the research done by Harold Feldman, a freelance writer for scientific journals. “Just who is Harold Feldman?” Dulles scornfully demanded. Lifton informed him that he frequently wrote for The Nation. This elicited an explosion of derision from
Dulles’s Wall Street office, chatting about the war while “the Old Man,” as he was already affectionately known in spy circles, though he was only fifty-two, puffed genially on his pipe. But these conversations were not simply fond exercises in nostalgia. The men who called on Dulles—OSS veterans like Richard Helms, Frank Wisner, Tracy Barnes, and Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt—all shared the Old Man’s view that the blissful reign of postwar peace would be short-lived and that the West must quickly gird