Edward Jay Epstein in 2006 found it a useful exercise. Partisan toady and nitwit snob [we drove into Riyadh in a cab & this arrogant nobody refused to speak to me, as my experience as a Political Officer in Riyadh might prejudice his prejudices. As they say in Washington, "DC is a septic tank & the biggest chunks rise to the top." Talbott now runs a left-wing think tank. [Although to be fair, that's not near the top.] [/sarc rant]
Team B found that the CIA's info [sources] & methods had skewed the NIE on the USSR into a surprisingly benign appraisal of the Soviet Union's mentality, plans & outlook. And of course, the CIA had propagated, and used corrupt media lightweights like Arthur Schlesinger Jr. to convey the falsehood that the USSR was "economically sound."
Of course, the CIA was surprised by Afghanistan, par for the course. But the biggest fumble among the fumblewits was that no one was more surprised when the USSR began to crumble than the "experts" who had studied it from the vantage point of the CIA, using secrecy as a tool to project "inside knowledge" when in fact, they were being subjected to flimflammery and projecting mystifications.
As Edward Jay Epstein says in his book review of Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner. Below a portion of EJEpstein's summary:
Was Angleton's obsession with moles and disinformation misguided? From the evidence in “Legacy of Ashes,” probably not. After Angleton left, the CIA discovered that Aldrich Ames, the agency's own head of counterintelligence for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, had been a KGB mole. And it discovered that it had been receiving Soviet disinformation from myriad sources. One of Mr. Weiner's more stunning revelations is that for eight years (1986-94) a large number of the CIA's highly classified “blue border” reports contained information from CIA recruits who were “controlled by Russian intelligence.”
The CIA director signed these blue-border reports—so called because of their distinctive blue stripes—and sent them directly to the president, secretary of defense and secretary of state. Thus Soviet disinformation from the KGB—and Russian disinformation after the dissolution of empire—had routinely made its way to President George H.W. Bush and President Clinton. Mr. Weiner says that, astonishingly, the CIA inspector general, upon looking into this scandal, found that the “senior CIA officers responsible for these reports had known that some of their sources were controlled by Russian intelligence.” CIA officials continued to forward the Russian disinformation to the White House because it would be, as Mr. Weiner puts it, “too embarrassing” to admit that the CIA had been so badly deceived.
What distinguishes “Legacy of Ashes” from most other books about the CIA is that it places the agency's assassination attempts, coups d'état and other covert actions within a real political context. By tracing the relations between successive presidents and the CIA, Mr. Weiner refutes the paranoid myth that the agency was an out-of-control, rogue entity or, as some claim, a kind of shadow government. The CIA has always been a carefully honed instrument of executive power.
I do not agree with all of Mr. Weiner's characterizations of CIA officials. I find his portrayal of James Angleton as an incompetent and an alcoholic at odds with the trust that Angleton won over many years from six CIA directors—including Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, Allen W. Dulles, George H.W. Bush and Richard Helms. They kept Angleton in key positions and valued his work. Helms wrote in his autobiography: “In his day, Jim was recognized as the dominant counterintelligence figure in the non-communist world.” Such esteem would explain Angleton's long tenure at the CIA.
Sadly, the CIA has become just another political football in the inside-the-Beltway BS that masquerades as US foreign policy deliberations & determinations.
Postscript: George Tenet & I were friends since I married his former boss at the American Hellenic Institute. When I was a few years into a terrific job at Amoco, George took me to lunch and handed me his resume. He told me he was sick of DC & the back-stabbing BS that passes for policy development. He said he'd even move his family to Chicago if that's what it took. While I shopped it through Amoco, suddenly Bill Clinton gave him a super-job at the NSC. A year later, he was appointed DCI in Langley. I thought I saved a copy of George's CV, but no can find.
In the end, he was ground down by a vicious cabal of right and left-wingers---the septic tank of DC had expelled George from a top rank. It's [literally] happened to most of the best of them.