SpyCast 9.27.22
Ep 558 | 9.27.22

“The Past 75 Years” – with Historian of the CIA Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones

Show Notes


Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones (Website; Wikipedia) joins Andrew (Twitter; LinkedIn) to discuss his book. He has studied American intelligence for 50 years.

What You’ll Learn


  • The CIA and the American presidents they served  
  • The founding of the CIA just as America became a global superpower 
  • Pearl Harbor, the USSR and covert action under Eisenhower
  • Assassinations, controversy, the Church Committee, and 9/11


  • How much of the future can we predict
  • Intention in history

And much, much more…

Episode Notes

This week’s guest, Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, is Emeritus Professor of American History at the University of Edinburgh. He has been studying American intelligence for half a century and has written a history of the CIA to coincide with its 75th anniversary, entitled: A Question of Standing.   

This episode with Rhodri is a counterpoint to last week’s episode with Robert Gates: a career historian and a career intelligence officer; a European and an American; a 70,000 feet view and a 30,000 feet one. Interestingly, they were born continents apart within almost a year of each other.  

Rhodri is the author of over a dozen books, has a Ph.D. from Cambridge University, and grew up in Harlech, Wales.  


Harlech, Wales, where Rhodri grew up, has the steepest street in the Northern Hemisphere. The steepest street in the Southern Hemisphere, and the world according to Guinness Records, is in Dunedin, New Zealand (Dunedin is Gaelic for Edinburgh). The steepest street in the continental United States is Canton Avenue in Pittsburgh (to celebrate its Welsh heritage the Steel City has a St. David’s Society). Espionage in Welsh is ysbïo.

Quote of the Week

"CIA can't afford to rest on its laurels and continue with systems it has. It has to change all the time." – Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones


*Andrew’s Recommendation*

  • “Documents on Origins of CIA,” Truman Library [pdf]


*Beginner Resources*


  • Covert Action & USFP, L. Johnson (OUP, 2022)
  • A Brief History of the CIA, R. Immerman (Wiley, 2014)
  • The [Dulles] Brothers, S. Kinzer (St. Martin’s, 2014)
  • Mighty Wurlitzer: How CIA Played America, H. Wilford (HUP, 2009)
  • Countercoup: Struggle for Iran, K. Roosevelt (McGraw-Hill, 1979)






Primary Sources


*Wildcard Resource*

  • Tom Paine (Common Sense, 1776), Alexis de Tocqueville (Democracy in America, 1835) and Mork from Ork (Mork & Mindy, 1978-82) are all outsiders, like Rhodri, looking in. What can each of them tell us about the United States? What can they tell us that people born within an ecosystem can’t?