Secret Book of CIA Humor, The

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Release Date: 
September 1, 2011
Pelican Publishing
Reviewed by: 

With the title of this book, The Secret Book of CIA Humor, expectation is that this is a work of great insight into the high-level intellect of such an elite agency.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. The disappointment in this book is colossal. From the first page to the end, the manuscript is one long adolescent anecdote after another of pedestrian pranks and practical jokes that kids—and some adults—play on each other.

The author, Ed Mickolus, has impressive credentials. There is no question about his credibility as an ex-officer in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He served with high honors receiving citations with seven Exceptional Performance awards and three meritorious citations.

Mr. Mickolus retired from the Central Intelligence Agency after serving over 30 years. He is a Professor at Harrison-Middleton University, an adjunct staff member with the Rand Corporation, and a member of the Speakers Bureau of the International Spy Museum. He was an analyst, covert action officer, and spent time in the CIA public affairs office.

After leaving the CIA, Mr. Mickolus went into stand-up comedy. There is every expectation that this work would translate at the same level of expertise as his other distinguished works. Possibly the stories in the book translate better to the stage, although it is difficult to understand how. They certainly don’t translate well on the page and the book became quickly tedious.

Regrettably how many times can the old joke about the two men and one woman apply for a job as an assassin with the woman willing to kill her husband for the job while the two men fail the test or tell the old saw of super-gluing pens, pencils and desk trays to a desk blotter.

Although the author provides the reader with a long list of translations to government acronyms, it is impossible to follow along without returning to the glossary repeatedly.

There are a couple of opaquely bright sections in the book where Mr. Mickolus retells the CIA spoof version of the famous Tom Clancy’s book and the movie, The Hunt for Red October. The CIA has dubbed the title with its own addition, “The Untold Story,” adding chapter numbers that did not appear in the original version.

This small piece of text more likely reveals the genuine understanding of the day-to-day in the gray concrete jungle of bureaucratic Washington, D.C.

In the telling of the cold war story, hero Jack Ryan is caught between revealing his discovery of a disaster that the Russians have launched a submarine with undetectable technology and providing the agency with a study of the cost burden of the Soviet Naval Uniforms.

Ryan is bounced around the agency from a multitude of one bureaucrat to another, each with his or her own title. It could have been fun reading for anyone familiar with the various pay-grade levels of and knowledge of the titles. The numerous names, titles, jargon and acronyms were clearly part of the spoof. Keeping track of the players was indeed difficult. It is obvious the spoof was written to shine a light on the ridiculous nature of convoluted federal and corporate hierarchies. It worked.

Subsequently, The Secret Book of CIA Humor is a big disappointment, especially compared to the highly skilled collection of Mr. Mickolus’ previous work. In fairness, this latest addition is a vast departure in content and style from his previous work.

Not recommended.