Event Date: 29 April – 1 May 2011
East Midlands Conference Centre
University of Nottingham
Nottingham NG7 2RJ
Landscapes of Secrecy: The CIA in History, Fiction and Memory
Dr Chris Moran (University of Warwick) – Memories and Memoirs
CIA memoirs are everywhere. In recent years, it has become a rite of passage for veterans of US intelligence to produce a record of their career in espionage, whether to enhance their reputations or to pad their bank balances. In many accounts, sentient readers will discover a heady mixture of suggestio falsi and suppressio veri. Recent works, such as Fair Game by Valarie Plame Wilsonand Jawbreaker by Gary Bernsten, have popularised the idea that the CIA is instinctively and culturally hostile to the publication of memoirs by former employees. In both cases, the publishers tell us, with some satisfaction, ‘this is a book the Agency doesn’t want you to read’. Using declassified files, this paper will argue that the CIA’s record with regard to memoir writing is much less draconian than sensationalist headlines would have us believe. More often than not, the picture that emerges from declassified materials is one of remarkable Agency support to authors. In the case of Richard Helms’ memoir, A Look Over My Shoulder, it will be argued that the Agency worked tirelessly with the former CIA chief to produce a surrogate official history, designed to ‘counter-blast’ negative portrayals.
Dr. Christopher Moran is a postdoctoral research assistant in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick. At Warwick, he is attached to a large AHRC project entitled ‘Landscapes of Secrecy: The CIA and the Contested Record of US Foreign Policy 1947-2001’. Since December 2008, he has been writing a book on CIA memoirs, exploring questions of production, reception and censorship. Before this, he was a doctoral student under the supervision of Professor Patrick Major. Confirmed in late 2008, his doctorate took a fresh look at Britain’s culture of secrecy, with a particular focus on the censorship of the press. This is now forthcoming as a monograph entitled Classified: Secrecy and the State in Postwar Britain (Cambridge University Press, 2012). It includes a foreword by fabled investigative journalist Chapman Pincher.
Contact details: Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK