Prelude to Terror: The Rogue CIA and the Legacy of America’s Private Intelligence Network

By Julia Foster

Joseph Trento has spent decades researching and writing about the field of intelligence. Now, in Prelude to Terror: The Rogue CIA, he has penned what has been called the most authoritative indictment ever of CIA “rogue” splinter groups. He also covers the shocking story of Bush family involvement in their shady dealings, and the funding of terrorists.

Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, Trento explains, flourished under the protection of CIA groups, such as the corrupt Ted Shackley and his associates.

Shackley and his fellow cloak-and-dagger men were fired by Jimmy Carter. But they maintained their own dossiers and used them to establish a private spy network. They got their revenge by helping to engineer Carter’s 1980 defeat.

Allied with President George Bush the First, these ex-CIA men planned and carried out what was to became the Iran-contra operation. The Bush family features very prominently in Prelude to Terror.

This book helps the reader connect the dots. Few outsiders realize there are really multiple “CIAs,” some of which are not part of the official U.S. government. There is, for example, the “Safari Club” led by Saudi Arabia, with France, Egypt and Morocco; a murder network; and a private “CIA” running drugs and arms, laundering money and doing things “off the books and out of control” as the author puts it.

Located on Wall Street, Allen Dulles had the first private intelligence service. Trento documents the historic relationship between Wall Street and companies such as the house of Morgan and Brown and leads us right up to Prescott Bush, father of the first President Bush. Prescott Bush features heavily in the corrupt relations between the CIA and the Wall Street mafia.

The Vietnam era empowered people like Shackley. The CIA learned to run drugs and arms, launder money, start its own banks and avoid funding limitations and congressional oversight.

The book centers on Shackley as a bridge figure among many “external” intelligence activities. Clark Clifford was also vital in the founding of the BCCI bank and in asking the Saudis directly to fund the Safari Club.

This reviewer was somewhat disappointed by the ending of the book, in which Trento talks about how George II “heard the awful news on September 11, 2001, in a Florida
elementary school.” It is strange that someone with Trento’s background cannot believe that Bush had no foreknowledge of the 9-11 attacks.

Still, Trento does a first-rate job of exposing the small cabal that seems to be at the root of so many treasonous incidents in our recent history—people like Ed Wilson, Frank Terpil, Shackley, James Angleton, Thomas Clines, John Poindexter, Richard Secord and John Singlaub. Oliver North and Zbigniew Brzezinski also come in for some mention.

One of the most explosive items in the book, in fact, is the revelation that “the public face of shock and chagrin that the Carter administration had displayed at the [Soviet] invasion [of Afghanistan] was, in reality, quite the opposite of their private feelings. The Soviet invasion was exactly the outcome Brzezinski had hoped for.”

If you are interested in the out-of-control intelligence networks you are paying for (and who is not interested?) and the dirty dealings of the Bush dynasty, you will definitely want to read Prelude to Terror.