This is a story of heroes and secrets. In the entrance of the CIA headquarters looms a huge marble wall into which seventy-one stars are carved--each representing an agent who has died in the line of duty. At the base of this wall lies "The Book of Honor," in which the names of these agents are inscribed--or at least thirty-five of them. Beside the dates of the other thirty-six, there are no names. The identity of these "nameless stars" has been one of the CIA's most closely guarded secrets for the fifty-three years of the agency's existence. Even family members are told little--in some cases, the agency has denied the fact that the deceased were covert operatives at all. But what the CIA keeps secret in the name of national security is often merely an effort to hide that which would embarrass the agency itself--even at the cost of denying peace of mind for the families and honor due the "nameless stars." In an extraordinary job of investigative reporting, Ted Gup has uncovered the identities, and the remarkable stories, of the men and women who died anonymously in the service of their country. In researchingThe Book of Honor, Gup interviewed over four hundred current and former covert CIA officers, immersed himself in archival records, death certificates, casualty lists from terrorist attacks, State Department and Defense Department personnel lists, cemetery records, obituaries, and tens of thousands of pages of personal letters and diaries. In telling the agents' stories, Gup shows them to be astonishingly complex, vibrant, and heroic individuals--nothing like the suave superspies of popular fiction or the amoral cynics of conspiracy buffs. The accounts of their lives--and deaths--are powerful and deeply moving, and in bringing them at long last to light, Gup manages to render an unprecedented history of covert operations at the CIA.
A national bestseller, this extraordinary work of investigative reporting uncovers the identities, and the remarkable stories, of the CIA secret agents who died anonymously in the service of their country. In the entrance of the CIA headquarters looms a huge marble wall into which seventy-one stars are carved-each representing an agent who has died in the line of duty. Official CIA records only name thirty-five of them, however. Undeterred by claims that revealing the identities of these "nameless stars" might compromise national security, Ted Gup sorted through thousands of documents and interviewed over 400 CIA officers in his attempt to bring their long-hidden stories to light. The result of this extraordinary work of investigation is a surprising glimpse at the real lives of secret agents, and an unprecedented history of the most compelling--and controversial--department of the US government.
In this follow-up to The Book of Honor, Gup exposes how and why American institutions keep secrets from the very people they are supposed to serve. He argues that a preoccupation with secrets has undermined the very values in whose name secrecy is so often invoked.
An inspiring account of America at its worst-and Americans at their best-woven from the stories of Depression-era families who were helped by gifts from the author's generous and secretive grandfather. Shortly before Christmas 1933 in Depression-scarred Canton, Ohio, a small newspaper ad offered $10, no strings attached, to 75 families in distress. Interested readers were asked to submit letters describing their hardships to a benefactor calling himself Mr. B. Virdot. The author's grandfather Sam Stone was inspired to place this ad and assist his fellow Cantonians as they prepared for the cruelest Christmas most of them would ever witness. Moved by the tales of suffering and expressions of hope contained in the letters, which he discovered in a suitcase 75 years later, Ted Gup initially set out to unveil the lives behind them, searching for records and relatives all over the country who could help him flesh out the family sagas hinted at in those letters. From these sources, Gup has re-created the impact that Mr B. Virdot's gift had on each family. Many people yearned for bread, coal, or other necessities, but many others received money from B. Virdot for more fanciful items-a toy horse, say, or a set of encyclopedias. As Gup's investigations revealed, all these things had the power to turn people's lives around- even to save them. But as he uncovered the suffering and triumphs of dozens of strangers, Gup also learned that Sam Stone was far more complex than the lovable- retiree persona he'd always shown his grandson. Gup unearths deeply buried details about Sam's life-from his impoverished, abusive upbringing to felonious efforts to hide his immigrant origins from U.S. officials-that help explain why he felt such a strong affinity to strangers in need. Drawing on his unique find and his award-winning reportorial gifts, Ted Gup solves a singular family mystery even while he pulls away the veil of eight decades that separate us from the hardships that united America during the Depression. In A Secret Gift, he weaves these revelations seamlessly into a tapestry of Depression-era America, which will fascinate and inspire in equal measure.