Wedge: The Secret War between the FBI and CIA

book by Mark Riebling

Wedge: The Secret War between the FBI and CIA (2002, 1994) by Mark Riebling tells the story of the conflict between intelligence and law enforcement.

Quotes from WedgeEdit

  • The existence of major FBI CIA problems has typically been denied by the parties in power, while the sins of previous generations are acknowledged readily. In this, both sides have been much like the Soviet rulers they spent so long fighting attacking past administrations as bankrupt and moribund, in order to make the present seem more perfect.
  • After more than fifty years of rivalry, Agency people are still perceived by FBI agents as intellectual, Ivy League, wine drinking, pipe smoking, international relations types, sometimes aloof. The Bureau's people are regarded by CIA as cigar smoking, beer drinking, door-¬knocking cops. What kind of restructuring might overcome such stereo-typical perceptions especially when they are generally true?
  • Why should counterintelligence duties be divided between two agencies? The traditional view is that it was Roosevelt's political instinct, in keeping with the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers, that made him avoid concentrating secret powers and overall intelligence responsibility in a single law enforcement agency. In fact, however, the foreign domestic split was originally effected on bureaucratic, not constitutional grounds. The issues of political dictatorship and division of intelligence jurisdictions have nothing inherently to do with each other. The civil liberties argument, which equates these two issues, is to that extent false.
  • American culture has always been tormented by the idea of government secrecy in a way that European nations have never been.
  • That CIA counterspies operated in the U.S. for fifty years without greater civil liberties violations than actually occurred was a function of the uniquely American character—a pragmatism far more idealistic than usually recognized.
  • Every Government inquiry into intelligence, from the first Pearl Harbor inquiry to the 1992 Iraq-Gate probe, cited interagency non-coordination as a major problem to be solved. Failure to solve it damaged the national security of the Republic, and imperiled the Republic itself.
  • That such a phrase as The American Way of Life could no longer be uttered uncynically, at the end of what was once called The American Century, could be conceived as the consequence of various national traumas, and to catalog them was to review, for the large part, the circumstances of interagency strife. Japanese dive-bombers in the Hawaiian dawn; atomic bomb secrets stolen by Soviet spies; failure to prevent or properly investigate the death of a young President; an inability to understand student protest during the Vietnam War; the Watergate coverup; the blowing of CIA's illegal Iran-Contra networks; a bank raid that exposed U.S. complicity in arming Iraq; spy scandals which showed that our secrets were not safe; the deaths of nearly 3,000 innocents on a beautiful September morning—in such episodes could be discerned the FBI–CIA war, both as symptom and cause of an unmistakable national weakness.

Quotes about WedgeEdit

Influence of the bookEdit

  • Riebling's concern for the rivalry and competitive nature of the relationship between the intelligence community is frequently commented upon in studies of intelligence estimates.
    • Glenn P. Hastedt, Espionage: A Reference Handbook.[1]
  • Riebling’s analysis has now become conventional wisdom, accepted on all sides. Such, indeed, is the reasoning behind virtually all of the proposals now under consideration by no fewer than seven assorted congressional committees, internal evaluators, and blue-ribbon panels charged with remedying the intelligence situation.
    • Andrew C. McCarthy, "The Intelligence Mess," The Wall Street Journal (September 20, 2006).
  • I’d eventually come around to the view of the Manhattan Institute’s Mark Riebling that a full half-century’s worth of national disasters... had been enabled or exacerbated by turf-battling between the FBI and CIA.
    • Andrew C. McCarthy, Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad (2008).
  • If Riebling's thesis—that the FBI-CIA rivalry had 'damaged the national security and, to that extent, imperiled the Republic'—was provocative at the time, it seems prescient now, with missed communications between the two agencies looming as the principal cause of intelligence failures related to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
    • Vernon Loeb, "From the 'Hanssen Effect' to Sept. 11," The Washington Post (October 21, 2002).

Reviews of the BookEdit

  • A brilliant book. Outstanding research and superlative presentation of the dramatis personae. An anecdotal and extremely well written account—as informative as any treatise and as entertaining as the best espionage novels.
    • Kirkus Reviews
  • Wedge compellingly re-creates the life-or-death atmosphere of the half-century of American confrontation with the Soviet Union. Mr. Riebling succeeds brilliantly as well in persuading the reader that the FBI-CIA conflict was a more important piece of the cold war mosaic than heretofore noted by historians.
    • Michael R. Beschloss, New York Times Book Review
  • A lively and engaging narrative of interagency bungling, infighting, malfeasance and nonfeasance, providing fresh and well-rounded portraits of well-known (and ought-to-be-well-known) agents—drawing on scores of original and rewarding interviews.
    • Richard Gid Powers, front page, Washington Post Book World
  • There are few books that adequately cover this subject. Much of what passes for 'the literature' is overblown, conspiracy-addled and fragmented. But Mark Riebling, a historian, has made a valiant effort to piece it all together in Wedge. The fact that he has taken great pains to avoid using anonymous sources is just one of a number of reasons why serious students of this nation's haywire-rigged counterintelligence effort should read Wedge. Refreshingly unlike most spy literature, the cumulative effect of his tales is staggering.
    • John Fialka, The Wall Street Journal
  • A surprisingly fresh, coherent, well-written and persuasive analysis. Striking conclusions, a succession of colorful adventurers, and highly provocative speculations which have the unsettling ring of plausibility.
    • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
  • Well researched, wittily written, full of good judgments. In a large and growing field, WEDGE will join the shelf of those few books which meet both standards of scholarship and expectations for insight and entertainment at a high level.
    • Robin Winks, Sterling Professor of History, Yale University


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