Facts in ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Bin’

Where to find out more about outrageous CIA deeds

Cover of The Spy Who Came in from the Bin
Legacy of Ashes cover
Legacy of Ashes

In The Spy Who Came in from the Bin, characters mention several completely outrageous, stupid and unacceptable things that the CIA has done. Surprisingly, I didn't make any of these up.

They are all in the book Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, by Tim Weiner. It's a fascinating and excellent book, based on the author's interviews with people who took part in the events it describes. Many of them are former senior officers in the CIA. (Find out about buying it at the bottom of the page.)


On with the facts

Anyway, if you're interested, here's a list of the things mentioned in The Spy, chapter by chapter, and where to read more about them. I'm also slowly adding Wikipedia links.


Chapter 23

'There are MK-Ultra guys here?' – This is the Ultra or MK Ultra programme, also called the CIA mind control programme, and its predecessor, (I'm really not making this up) Project Artichoke.


Chapter 39

‘How does a nice person pay the mafia to poison Fidel Castro’s ice cream?’ 

  • Legacy of Ashes, chapter 17

‘Or recruit all the surviving Nazis after the war?’

  • Legacy of Ashes, chapter 5

‘Or fix the Italian elections for several decades?’ 

  • Legacy of Ashes, chapters 3 and 28

'What, even after Vietnam?' – how the North Vietnamese naval attack that prompted the war never happened.

  • Legacy of Ashes, chapter 22

‘The Bay of Pigs?’ – how the Kennedy administration sent Cuban emigrants to invade their own country, and then didn't provide the agreed support, so that they died.

  • Legacy of Ashes, chapter 17

‘That time you thought the Chinese embassy was a weapons factory?’ – how the CIA misread its maps when providing targets for American warplanes, so that they destroyed the Chinese embassy instead of Slobodan Milosevic's military depot.

  • Legacy of Ashes, chapter 47, page 547

'Although you did fund Saddam Hussein.’

  • Legacy of Ashes, chapter 43

'Instead of by some guy who thinks the answer to every problem is to flood Florida with cocaine ...’ 

  • Legacy of Ashes, chapter 46

'... and launch a coup in Guatemala.’ 

  • Legacy of Ashes, chapter 10


Chapter 53

‘Their way of funding right-wing groups in central America is to sell weapons to Iran, their biggest enemy.’ – This is the Iran-Contra affair.

  • Legacy of Ashes, chapter 41


Chapter 76

'What about Chile?' – This is the CIA-fomented coup against the democratically elected president Salvador Allende, which installed the dictator Pinochet, who 'abolished democracy, killed and tortured thousands, collapsed the economy and died with at least twenty-eight million dollars in secret foreign accounts. By the end, half the population were in poverty.’

  • Legacy of Ashes, chapter 29

'We had exactly three Soviet agents who provided secrets of any value.' (And they didn't believe one of them.)

  • Legacy of Ashes, chapter 43

'Meanwhile, even in the years right before the collapse of the Soviet Union, our head of counterintelligence...' – This is Aldritch Ames.

  •  Legacy of Ashes, chapter 45

'... and the head instructor of our training school were Soviet agents.' – This is Harold J Nicholson.

  • Legacy of Ashes, chapter 46

'But people struggle to tell that you’re the good guys when you’ve covertly ended democracy in half a dozen major countries.’  – These are Iran, Guatemala, Congo, Brazil, Thailand, Chile.

  • Legacy of Ashes, chapters 9 (Iran), 10 (Guatemala), 16 (Congo), 18 (Brazil), 24 (Thailand), 29 (Chile)


Chapter 77

'People would hear about CIA activities – such as accidentally starting both the Iranian revolution...'

  • Legacy of Ashes, chapter 37

'... and al Qaeda – and this would create the best possible chance of returning the CIA to its proper role.’

  • Legacy of Ashes, chapter 42


Chapter 81

'It doesn’t stop the CIA employing a murdering drug dealer like Manuel Noriega.'

  • Legacy of Ashes, chapter 43


Chapter 86

'... keep secretly giving billions of dollars to people you later have to invade.’


  • Legacy of Ashes, literally the whole book

Legacy of Ashes again – I just won't shut up about it

Legacy of Ashes cover

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