Some 50 years ago, the CIA was chartered to perform this country’s dirty work in the interest of national security. Ever since, it and the U.S. military have tried to convince the world (and taxpayers) that the feds are the good guys. Washington author William Blum thinks otherwise: His Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II chronicles “the Machiavellian way U.S. policy is habitually and more often than not brutally implanted abroad.” Blum, a former State Department employee, originally published Killing Hope in 1986, and continued to monitor the Agency over the following years; this updated edition includes new segments on Iraq, Haiti, Panama, Afghanistan, Libya, and Bulgaria. What makes Killing Hope an interesting read—and not just for international policy and espionage enthusiasts—are its details about covert operations. The ventures criticized go beyond the usual résumé of assassinations, gunrunning, and election rigging; the author outlines the production of a porno movie meant to blackmail an Indonesian head of state, and anti-crop and -livestock measures against communist Cuba (including the introduction of dengue-fever-carrying mosquitoes). “Unfortunately,” Blum writes, “the American Government keeps people like me very busy.” It certainly must—he could not be reached by phone or e-mail for comment.

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