The Intelligence Officer's Bookshelf

Intelligence in Recent Public Literature

Compiled and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake

This section contains brief reviews of recent books of interest to both the intelligence professional and the student of intelligence.

Thomas Sileo. CIA Humor: A Few True Stories From A 31-Year Career. Alexandria, VA: Washington House, 2004. 101 pages.

At a recent conference on intelligence, a young participant was heard to exclaim that “the business” wasn’t anything like James Bond; in fact it was boring! When queried as to his role in the Intelligence Community, he replied that he had never had the honor, that his conclusions were based on scholarship. As his views suggest, there are limits to what scholarly endeavors can uncover, at least about intelligence, and, until recently, humor appeared to be a topic in that category. Oh, there have been authors with a subtle humorous style—as, for example, Bill Hood in Mole[1] and Roger Hall in You’re Stepping on my Cloak and Dagger[2]—but not until Tom Sileo published CIA Warrior, was there a book devoted to the subject.

The first of Sileo’s five chapters of anecdotes relate humorous stories about four Directors of Central Intelligence—William Casey, Robert Gates, James Woolsey, and George Tenet—though others are mentioned elsewhere. The other chapters cover working for the CIA in America, operations gone awry, the CIA and the military, and, finally, some odds and ends. In the latter category, Sileo tells a tale of advice to an analyst in the Directorate of Intelligence on how to pass the polygraph . . . from Rick Ames![3] (89) Not all of the stories are funny, but they are all instructive—the attention-getting behavior of the KGB surveillance teams in Moscow, for example. In a different vein is the story of the security officer and Queen Noor of Jordan. The CIA wives are not forgotten, although Mrs. Sileo may wish her husband had omitted her encounter with the “six star general” (70).

This little book will bring pleasure to many and probably invoke similar memories in other officers. So Sileo hints at the end he is considering another edition—a good idea!

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Arthur S. Hulnick. Keeping Us Safe: Secret Intelligence and Homeland Security. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2004. 238 pages, endnotes, bibliography, index.

In this follow-on to his earlier book, Fixing Intelligence,[4] former-Agency-analyst-turned-Boston University-professor Art Hulnick looks at the intelligence implications of homeland security since the September 2001 terrorist attacks. The book is arranged in 12 topical chapters. Most provide historical background, but the focus is on assessing the role of intelligence in domestic security. For example, Chapter One, “What Went Wrong,” briefly considers the precedents of surprise—Pearl Harbor, North Korea’s attack on the South, and the Yom Kippur War—before drawing parallels with the missed opportunities prior to 9/11. Hulnick does not suggest that the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is the solution to the problems identified, but he concludes that whatever its role, it will require an intelligence element.

While written before The 9/11 Commission Report was issued, the fundamental level of Hulnick’s approach makes his analysis worth attention. It is not, however, a detailed, case-oriented treatment. Problems are identified, but only the nature of solutions are suggested. For example, he urges DHS intelligence analysts to issue useful, not too highly classified reports, without spelling out how that is to be done. Keeping Us Safe is more a primer on the intelligence process that the author thinks should be applied to homeland security problems. In this regard, there is a very interesting discussion about the different approaches to intelligence found in the FBI and the CIA. In the chapter on “Understanding the Enemy,” there are brief references to recent espionage cases as a justification for improving intelligence functions to meet the threats of state-sponsored and al-Qa’ida-based terrorism.

In the chapter titled “Should We Have an MI-5?”—a reference to the British domestic security service that has a counterespionage mission but no arrest authority—Hulnick raises some of the pros and cons, including the putative negative-public-reaction-to-a-domestic-secret-police argument. But he never really demonstrates that such an attitude still exists. Moreover, he does not explain the advantages of changing our system, or why a new organization without arrest powers would be viewed with greater hostility than the current one with those powers.

The chapter on understanding DHS should really read “understanding the general nature of DHS’s formative problems.” It considers the various DHS functions while suggesting that its future is by no means certain. The final chapters look at the restructuring of the Intelligence Community and the issue of maintaining civil liberties while ensuring public security. In the former, Hulnick suggests the creation of a Director of National Intelligence, but does not explain why that move would be more effective than giving the requisite authority to the Director of Central Intelligence. Throughout the book, Hulnick is meticulously careful to weigh the needs of new laws with their effect on civil liberties; his proposed revisions of the Patriot Act are illustrative.

Keeping Us Safe ends with an appeal to the “need for truth,” which Hulnick views as an essential prerequisite to the success of secret intelligence in contributing to homeland and national security.

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Denis Collins, with the International Spy Museum. SPYING: The Secret History of History. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc., 2004. 166 pages, bibliography, photos, index.

This coffee-table book, based on the exhibits found in the immensely popular Washington, DC, International Spy Museum, has an attractive cover. But its subtitle claims far more than its content delivers. In attempting to satisfy “the craving in each of us” to know more about the people, operations, and tradecraft of spying (vi), the museum has produced a disappointing book. It is not a matter of being superficial when covering a wide range of topics, it is a matter of being accurate, especially when the source enjoys considerable authority in the field. SPYING contains far too many errors of fact, both historical and contemporaneous. In the former category, in a discussion of British intelligence, author Daniel Defoe is called “the father of British intelligence” (147) when that accolade goes to Sir Francis Walsingham. In the section on George Washington, America’s first spymaster, the museum tells us that Washington was camped in Valley Forge when he decided to attack the Hessians at Trenton in 1776 (12). History, however, records that Washington’s winter encampment at Valley Forge did not occur until a year later.

In a claim related to more recent events—that World War II double agent Dusko Popov gave the FBI evidence of a planned attack on Pearl Harbor and Director J. Edgar Hoover ignored the warnings—the book errs on both counts. Popov brought no warning, and what he did bring, Hoover gave to the War and Navy departments. The museum’s assertion that William Colby and Ian Fleming were graduates of the World War II paramilitary training facility in Canada, Camp X, is equally in error (27).[5] And then there is the story of William Stephenson, head of British intelligence in New York during World War II (57). Most of the biographical details are incorrect, but, more to the point, some operational details are wrong, too. For example, the claim that Stephenson “delivered to President Franklin Roosevelt the map of a scheme to divide Central and South America into German colonies” leaves out the fact that the map, mentioned by the president in a nationwide radio address, was a fake prepared by Stephenson’s unit to influence American public opinion![6]

Turning to Cold War intelligence, SPYING’s narrative notes that after disbanding the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), President Truman “refused all entreaties to form a peacetime agency to collect and evaluate intelligence” (40). Not so, as historian Thomas F. Troy has shown. On the same day that Truman abolished the OSS, he sent a letter to the secretary of state saying: “I particularly desire that you take the lead in developing a comprehensive and coordinated foreign intelligence program for all Federal agencies concerned with that type of activity. This should be . . . under the State Department.”[7] Then there is the sidebar stating that “In 1947, CIA head Allen Dulles . . . ” when that was a position he would not hold for another six years. In the same vein, KGB illegal Rudolf Abel was not, as the museum claims, “fingered by the newspaper boy.” A KGB defector did that job. When describing Operation GOLD, the tapping of Soviet telephone lines in East Berlin, the suggestion that the Soviets might “wrongly believe that the West had not broken its cipher code, making the intercepts harmless,” is put right by David Murphy and Sergei Kondrachev in their book Battleground Berlin—the lines were not encrypted.

While SPYING gives a good idea of the topics and exhibits to be found in the International Spy Museum, the errors in the descriptive commentary, only some of which are mentioned above, diminish its value as a contribution to intelligence literature and reflect poorly on the reputation of the museum.

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Thomas B. Allen. George Washington, Spymaster: How the Americans Outspied the British and Won the Revolutionary War. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2004. 184 pages, endnotes, bibliography, appendices, illustrations, maps, index.

If you have wondered how far back in American history the use of espionage goes, or what our forefathers thought of the practice, the answers can be found in this splendid little book. Written for teenagers, it is good reading for all. It does not break new ground, but it does concentrate Washington’s spying experiences in one place. Readers will encounter double agents, moles, secret writing, invisible ink, counterintelligence, covert action, and B. Gen. Sir Henry Clinton’s mask letter (170), among the stories Allen tells. We also learn of the practical problems handling the Culper spy network in New York, how agent Hercules Mulligan escaped detection, and the traitorous behavior of Benedict Arnold and Washington’s attempt to capture him. Less-well-known stories include Alexander Bryan’s experiences at the battle of Saratoga, John Honeyman’s contribution to the battle of Trenton, and the operations of American agents in Britain and France during the war, to name a few. In addition to some clever illustrations throughout, there is a convenient pictorial diagram of Washington’s agents at the start of the book. And, at the end, the reader will find a copy of Col. Benjamin Tallmadge’s codebook used to encrypt messages to Washington. The front and back covers contain cryptographic challenges for the curious.

George Washington Spymaster also conveys an implied lesson: non-professionals can perform well at the great game when properly motivated. From the British intelligence perspective, it illustrates the problems faced when operating in an enemy’s homeland. Unlike most books of the genre, this one is rather well documented with many solid primary and secondary sources, often with their Web addresses. In his well written, interesting, valuable history, Allen has made an important contribution to the literature of intelligence.

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Douglas Farah. Blood From Stones: The Secret Financial Network of Terror. New York: Broadway Books, 2004. 225 pages, endnotes, bibliography, index.

The stones in the title are diamonds; the blood comes from al-Qa’ida victims; and the financial network that facilitates the transition is headed by Osama bin Laden. Washington Post reporter Douglas Farah explains both how it all works and how he was able to learn the details. Farah was in the Ivory Coast when he began his quest into terrorist financing. The story he tells and documents is one of corrupt West African governments, diamond traders, weapons dealers, al-Qa’ida worldwide banking techniques, and a CIA struggling to get up to speed on terrorist financing methods. At one point, he admits that what was not known by the CIA prior to the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington would not have “prevented the 9/11 attacks, but it would have left the nation less unprepared for the war it now wages” (5).

In his search to learn the details, Farah managed to contact the diamond smugglers themselves. When in Washington in November 2001, he agreed to brief CIA analysts on what he had found out, including what he knew about al-Qa’ida’s links to the various group involved, though he would not reveal his sources. He did, however, indicate some of the safehouses where he had met them. Some of the analysts, he records, would not accept his contention that al-Qa’ida financing involved diamonds. When he made follow-up requests to the CIA to add to his story, they went unanswered. Farah argues that his findings and those of others who learned the truth, were dismissed by the Agency as fabrications. “Other agencies found the evidence convincing,” he maintains (94).

While the focus of Blood From Stones is on al-Qa’ida financing, the book also provides background about bin Laden’s rationale for his tactics, including the acceptance of Arab deaths in terrorist attacks. Farah also discusses bin Laden’s views on traditional Arabic religious conflicts, his decision to go to Afghanistan, his attitude toward Saudi Arabia, and the money raising operations— including illegal drugs, counterfeit Olympic clothes, and Muslim charities—of his adherents.

Farah concludes that despite interagency conflicts, some progress has been made and now attention is being focused on the financing issue. From his point of view, shutting down al-Qa’ida’s financial networks is the key to stopping the terrorist group and not enough is being done toward that goal.

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Roger Z. George and Robert D. Kline, eds. Intelligence and the National Security Strategist: Enduring Issues and Challenges. Washington, DC: The Sherman Kent Center for Intelligence Studies, National War College, National Defense University, Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 2004. 564 pages, end-of-chapter notes, no index.

In the introduction to this volume, Mark Lowenthal notes that it is “a welcome addition to the intelligence library” for many reasons, not the least of which is the high quality of the contributions. The 39 chapters in this 10-part reader should provide the foundation for a variety of college-level courses on intelligence. They pull together often hard to find articles by a diverse group of professionals. In addition to the editors, the intelligence professionals include: James Bruce, Charles Cogan, Jack Davis, Norman Imler, Garrett Jones, Larry Kindsvater, James Olson, Martin Petersen, and Michael Warner. The academic contributors are also impressive and include Christopher Andrew, Loch Johnson, Harvey Rishikof, James Wirtz, and Amy Zegart. A third group is made up of former Intelligence Community and government analysts, including Michael Bromwich, Richard Friedman, John Gannon, Marvin Ott, Reed Probst, Victor Rosello, and Britt Snider. Finally, several contributors are with private organizations, as for example Matthew Aid (Kroll Associates), Michael Donley (Hicks and Associates), Ann Florini (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace), James Harris (Centra Technology), and Andrew Koch (Jane’s Defense Weekly).

But these names will mean little to most young readers; it is the topics that will grab their attention. Although too numerous to enumerate here, the 10 sections of the book give an idea of the breadth of coverage. In the Introduction, the editors address issues that are related to teaching intelligence at the national level, but also apply generally. Part I deals with Clausewitz on intelligence— surprising, perhaps, since the chapter on intelligence in Clausewitz’s On War is only a page and a half. Next comes a section on the origins and future of US intelligence, including the need to reorganize. These are followed by articles on intelligence and democracy, technical and clandestine collection, the use of open sources, intelligence analysis, denial and deception, the perils of policy support, and intelligence and the military. The appendices include excerpts from the National Security Act of 1947, Executive Order 12333, and DCI Directive 1/1, and comments on the Patriot Act.

Most of the articles have appeared elsewhere and the original venues are cited. The editors have not attempted to correct errors or misperceptions. For example, Amy Zegart’s claim that “the original CIA was never supposed to engage in spying . . . or conduct any other kind of subversive operations” is left undisturbed. That she neglects to factor in the mission of the Central Intelligence Group (the CIA’s immediate predecessor) and its overseas stations, which became part of the CIA when it was created, is left to the teachers.

Among the articles in the book that have not appeared elsewhere is “Espionage in an Age of Change,” by Norman Imler. His essay offers a fascinating overview of HUMINT: what it does; how it fits in; its relation to covert action; the strategies for its effective use; the tradecraft and technology involved; and its moral and ethical dimensions.

With apologies to the many contributors not mentioned, for reasons of space only, scholars are urged to consult this work for a comprehensive overview of this complex profession—intelligence.

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Richard Gid Powers. Broken: The Troubled Past and Uncertain Future of the FBI. New York: The Free Press, 2004. 515 pages, endnotes, photos, index.

A recent book by journalist Peter Lance described and documented major problems with FBI anti-terrorist operations in the years leading up to 9/11.[8] In Broken, Prof. Richard Gid Powers takes a much broader but even more devastating view of the Bureau.[9] This is the history of an American tragedy— the story of how as great an American institution as the FBI could become so traumatized by its past that it failed in its duty to the nation it was sworn to protect (1).

Powers hammers home this critical point: the FBI was the government’s primary anti-terrorist agency prior to the 9/11 attacks; its approach was to bring terrorism under control through arrests and prosecutions. Since the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the Bureau had concentrated on methods of investigating terrorist attacks that would result in successful trials. As Powers concludes: “The focus was on response not prevention. FBI Director [Louis] Freeh liked to reassure critics . . . that his FBI was and always would be reactive, never positive”(2).

At first, Powers recalls, he thought that the post 9/11 investigation would show, as had the Pearl Harbor investigation, that the few meaningful signals indicating an attack were immersed in the high traffic volume and could not be found in time. He assumed that “There would be no smoking guns.” But after his research for the book, he writes: “I was wrong” (3).

The 10 chapters of Broken review the history of the FBI. Powers describes how the Bureau was formed and then got off to a rough start after the Palmer Raids. And he shows how it struggled to create and maintain a public image as the ultimate professional law enforcement agency—the source of its power and prestige. He recounts how, in its formative years, the FBI had to deal with two other problems: communist subversion in government and Hollywood; and German, Japanese, and Soviet espionage in the United States. Then he relates its espionage role in World War II, the Cold War, and the post-Cold War era.

These topics have all been covered before, but Powers adds new insights. With one exception, the Bureau’s reactionary approach since its creation has been to wait until a crime has been committed, then act. This policy, he suggests, was not a by-product of its recent anti-terrorism protocols; it was endemic, traditional, part of its institutional heritage. The exception, of course, was the FBI’s monitoring of the Communist Party of the United States of America and its members, using, among other techniques, informers to keep track of its operations. Sadly, the Bureau failed, until after World War II, to give the same level of attention to Soviet espionage. And, as Powers makes clear, once the level of Soviet espionage became evident, the Bureau reacted swiftly and effectively to eliminate the threat.

Broken looks in considerable detail at the major FBI operations in recent years—the Oklahoma City bombing; the conflagration in Waco, Texas; the shootout at Ruby Ridge, Idaho; and tamping down organized crime—in addition to terrorism and espionage cases. Not all the policies developed to deal with these problems were flawed, but implementation was often obstructed by bureaucratic infighting. In telling these stories, Powers examines the contributions of several FBI directors as they interacted with the CIA and its various directors.

The chapter on Director Freeh is particularly informative and yet somewhat confusing. At one point when discussing the “fatal deterioration of FBI capabilities,” Powers writes that while the decline had begun before Freeh took over, “the worst of the collapse took place on Louis Freeh’s watch” (382). But his ultimate assessment of Freeh’s responsibility for 9/11 is more tolerant. On this point, Powers writes, “domestic surveillance . . . would have been the only way the Bureau could have reacted quickly and efficiently enough to block the 9/11 plot.” But, he continues, “if Freeh had even hinted at reviving domestic surveillance before 9/11, he would have been hounded from office for bringing back the FBI of J. Edgar Hoover” (426).

Robert Mueller, the current FBI Director, has “seen the solution—and the FBI’s salvation—as ‘transforming the Bureau into an intelligence agency . . . .’” In the final chapter, Powers enumerates a list of changes that Mueller currently plans for the FBI, many promised by his predecessors but never made (431). Creating an entirely new agency—for example, an American MI5—is considered and dismissed. Despite all the FBI’s problems and a justifiably tarnished reputation, Broken concludes that “the FBI has changed enough to deserve another chance.”

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Richard Breitman, Norman J. W. Goda, Timothy Naftali, and Robert Wolfe. U.S. Intelligence and the NAZIS. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 2004. 477 pages, end of chapter notes, bibliography, photos, index.

From an intelligence point of view, the principal question raised by this collection of articles is certainly germane: “Under what circumstances were Nazi war criminals used directly or indirectly by U. S. intelligence agencies after the war?” The authors see an analogy to today’s world where “in the struggle against terrorism, recruiting intelligence assets from among previous foes remains a powerful urge” (3). The conclusion reached in the 15 articles by six historians is formulated well by Timothy Naftali in his essay on “Reinhard Gehlen and the United States,” where he writes: “It is equally hard to imagine that the United States could not have found another horse to bet on in a race to build a West German intelligence service if the decision had been made early enough.” Perhaps it is now, but one is left wondering whether it appeared that way at the time. In an analogous situation, Prof. Richard Breitman, writing on “OSS Knowledge of the Holocaust,” concludes that the “OSS seems to have undertaken no general study concerning the German extermination of its Jewish prisoners.” In retrospect, one is left wondering whether the OSS’s mission called for such a study.

Using an impressive mix of secondary and newly released primary sources, the contributors expand our knowledge on espionage and the holocaust, dealing with collaborators, and the use of war criminals like Wilhelm Hottl by the Army’s Counterintelligence Corps (CIC). Similarly, we learn why the surviving Red Orchestra members were important after the war, and more about the FBI investigation of Chase Manhattan Bank, CIA links to Eichmann’s associates, and why so many war criminals escaped punishment. By implication, the authors consider the trade-offs and compromises made when using suspected war criminals for intelligence purposes. They argue that there was a high risk of low reliability. But they miss the context of the times where risks were necessary. Here the chapter on “Coddling a Nazi Turncoat” is valuable (317).

In addition to the Gestapo and the OSS, the authors examine the contributions of the Army CIC and the FBI in protecting and using Nazis war criminals. They also tell of cases where US agencies cooperated in the tracking down of escaped Nazis—the story of Alois Brunner being one example. The final chapter looks at the official manhunts for war criminals that did occur.

The authors have a clear anti-Nazi agenda and their documentation supports what happened at the time—some use of Nazis for intelligence purposes did occur. But their contemporary perspective ignores the circumstances of the time—an a-historical approach. Thus, they leave the reader wondering about the historical context and priorities that led the politicians and intelligence officers directly involved to make the choices they did.

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Lewis Sorley, ed. Vietnam Chronicles: The Abrams Tapes 1968–1972. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University, 2004. 917 pages, appendices, glossary, index.

West Point graduate and former CIA intelligence officer Lewis Sorley has edited the 455 reel-to-reel tape recordings made of Gen. Creighton Abrams when he was commander of US forces in Vietnam. The tapes document Abrams’ concept of war, the changes made after he succeeded Gen. Westmorland, and how he sought to turn the war over to a self-sustaining South Vietnamese government and military. Extremely valuable to the study of military history and the role that political leaders should play in military decisions and planning, the tapes also include names familiar to those who worked in the intelligence war in Vietnam.

There are parallels with the current situation in Iraq and intelligence tensions in Washington. In one case, Abrams is recorded pointing out that “I have got to be served by all the intelligence, and the best intelligence, that there is! And we can’t have a lot of goddamn private intelligence games going on . . . Shackley’s (CIA station chief in Saigon) not responsible . . . I am!” (116). Later, when discussing the delicate problem of how to help the South Vietnamese, Abrams comments on future Director of Central Intelligence William Colby: “Bill’s our expert. Bill’s got more experience over here than any of the rest of us” (243). The controversial topic of North Vietnamese troop strength is discussed on 21 July 1969. A briefer notes that the CIA and DIA estimates differ by a quarter of a million men. The Army G-2 tells the briefer not to go into that with Abrams. The briefer clearly views that kind of guidance as interference. There is no indication when Abrams was finally told the truth.

North Vietnamese infiltration, the pacification program, and the Phoenix program are among topics that will be familiar to many. For giving us and later historians the top-down view of the commander during this controversial period in our history, Lewis Sorley deserves great credit.

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George Friedman. America’s Secret War: Inside the Hidden Worldwide Struggle Between America and Its Enemies. New York: Doubleday, 2004. 354 pages, map, index.

Wars are hard to keep secret. There are over 90 books about intelligence with the term Secret War in the title and none of the wars involved were secret—not at the time or later. This book is no exception. What then, does it tell us?

In answering this question, author George Friedman, founder of Stratfor, the private commercial global intelligence firm, makes some ambitious claims on the flyleaf of his book. America’s Secret War will tell you about:

  • Al-Qa’ida’s war plans, and how they led to 9/11;

  • The threat of a suitcase nuclear bomb in New York, and how that changed the course of the war;

  • The United States’ deals with Russia and Iran that made the invasion of Afghanistan possible, and how those deals affect our country today;

  • How fear and suspicion of the Saudis after 9/11 tore apart the Bush-Saudi relationship, and why Saudi Arabia’s closest friends in the administration became the Saudis worst enemies;

  • The real reason behind George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, and how WMD became the cover for a much deeper game;

  • How the CIA miscalculated Saddam Hussein’s and Iraq’s real plans, leaving the United States bogged down in a war;

  • How the war in Iraq began with a ruse: the pretense that the “target of opportunity” for attack on Saddam Hussein had presented itself;

  • The real story about why the United States raises and lowers its alert status, and why our government can’t find and destroy al-Qa’ida;

  • The strategic successes that are slowly leading the United States to victory.

Although these topics are discussed in varying detail in the 14 chapters of the book, several persistent flaws diminish the quality and value of the narrative. The first has to do with the author’s weak grasp of how the Intelligence Community and its member agencies function. Comments like “covert operations . . . are not actually part of an intelligence organization’s brief” are illustrative. Then there is the statement that the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence analysts study only “the material delivered to them by the DO.” This is followed by the assertion that there “is and always has been a barely permeable curtain between the DI and the DO. The need for secrecy means that the DI is kept out of operations . . . virtually everything it receives is filtered from the DO . . . . The result of this is a constant desynchronization between intelligence gathering and intelligence analysis” (64–65).

The second flaw—weak evidence for allegations—is common to most of the topics listed above. In the case of the suitcase (nuclear) bomb and how it changed the course of the war, comments on the general parameters of a suitcase bomb are given on page 231ff, but the analysis of its impact on the Iraq war is vague, if it can be found at all. Similarly, the much “deeper game,” for which the WMD issue purportedly became a cover, is not pinned down.

The third and by far the most serious flaw affects the content, and thus the value, of the entire book: America’s Secret War cites not a single source and does not even provide a bibliography! How does the author know what Osama bin Laden told his mother on 9 September 2001? What is the source of the author’s quote that bin Laden “knew the intercept-interpret-analyze cycle at NSA . . . was running at about 72 hours” (2)? What is the evidence that Ahmed Chalabi “was actually an Iranian agent working closely with Iran’s Shiites” (325). On what basis does he make the claim that “US intelligence . . . in the beginning of 2004 . . . took a quantum leap forward. It developed sources that allowed it to predict several important attacks . . . .” (337).

The final nine-page chapter is not in the book and may be found only on the Stratfor Web site. This clever, if not unique, attempt to be as current as possible covers the period between the end of writing for the printed work in July 2004 and the publication date in October of that year. No sources are provided here either, and the comment that “Neither side has won, but al-Qa’ida is losing” remains the author’s unsubstantiated judgment.

In short, this book is a 349-page op-ed piece. The author’s views are interesting but not original, and the only thing secret about America’s Secret War is its sources.

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Pierre Th. Braunschweig. Secret Channel To Berlin: The Masson-Schellenberg Connection and Swiss Intelligence in World War II. Havertown, PA: Casement Publishers, 2004. 521 pages, endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.

In his foreword to Secret Channel To Berlin, Joseph P. Hayes, the first director of the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence, points out that the book is “impressively relevant to many of the most significant issues in Intelligence today.” These include the character of sources recruited and the validation of information collected. Author Pierre Braunschweig echoes this theme in the first sentence of his Preface by quoting former Director of Central Intelligence John McCone: “Every war of this century, including World War II, has started because of inadequate intelligence” (xv). These problems have not yet been solved in the 21st century, but it may be hoped that the new generation of intelligence officers will benefit from the historical lessons revealed in this book.[10]

Secret Channel tells the story of the Masson Affair, the controversial clandestine relationship between two World War II intelligence officers, SS Brigadier General Walter Schellenberg, head of the Nazi Reich Security Central Office (RHSA), and Colonel-Brigadier Roger Masson, head of Swiss military intelligence. As Masson explained in an unauthorized interview with the London Daily Telegraph after the war, he had met multiple times with Schellenberg to prevent a German invasion and annexation of Switzerland, an operation he said had been authorized by Hitler in 1943. That Masson had met with a subordinate of SS Chief Heinrich Himmler for any reason, even to gain crucial intelligence, did not sit well with many in the Swiss government after the war. Masson’s claim—that Schellenberg opposed Hitler’s order and ultimately convinced him that since Switzerland would fight if invaded but would remain neutral if left alone—was more than many could accept. The alternative view was that Schellenberg considered the war lost even at that relatively early date and was appearing cooperative while seeking favorable treatment for himself in a country where he might seek refuge when hostilities ended. Sorting all this out after the war involved investigations and harsh criticism of Masson. He did not help matters when he attempted to assist his former contacts—Schellenberg and his deputy—when they were arrested after the war. The idea of “good Nazis” was too much to accept; Masson was forced to resign.

Braunschweig’s post-war investigation of the affair indicates there was more to Masson’s secret channel to Schellenberg than initially became public. The contacts went on for years, included reciprocal trips to Germany and Switzerland, and were concerned with more than preventing a German invasion of Switzerland. In one instance, the author tells how Allen Dulles, the OSS chief in Bern during the war, learned from a “first rate source”[11] that Masson and other Swiss military intelligence officials were meeting with high-level SS officers in Switzerland (201). Furthermore, said Dulles’s source, Schellenberg had been critical of the results in his subsequent report to Berlin. Dulles mentioned this to Hans Hausamann, the head of Bureau Ha, a private Swiss intelligence service with links to Masson and other Swiss government officials. When Masson learned the details, he did not “believe for one moment” that Schellenberg had spoken negatively (204). He informed the German minister to Switzerland of the charge and followed up by sending an emissary to Berlin to discuss the matter. In his reponse, Schellenberg denied making the comments and Braunschweig suggests that the rumors that reached Dulles “might have been part of a plot by the German Abwehr” against the RSHA. Whatever the reality, the events were one of several actions that raised questions about Masson’s judgment and involvement in politics that irritated Swiss politicians. Masson was subsequently banned from travel to Germany.

Similarly, Dulles could not have been pleased that Masson’s mention of the charges to Schellenberg put his source at risk. He would later find other reasons to criticize Masson—his attempts to place Schellenberg in contact with the Allies, for example. In one cable to OSS headquarters, Dulles noted that Swiss intelligence, “again inquired whether I had any interest in making contact with Schellenberg . . .” to discuss the “time-worn idea of opening [the] western front but holding [the] east front. I told Masson [the] west front was already opened up without Schellenberg’s help” (251). Dulles later told Bureau Ha that “there is written evidence from Berlin that . . . Masson has been supplying Berlin with information that is very damaging to the Allies” (262).

After the war, Masson claimed that Schellenberg had performed “services” for Switzerland that justified their continued wartime contacts (248). Braunschweig analyzes these claims and the reciprocal services rendered by Masson to Schellenberg and the Nazis. He also looks at Schellenberg’s real objectives based on evidence developed after the war. His overall assessment is that Masson received less than he gave up and Schellenberg’s so-called contributions to the Swiss were not well substantiated.

The details are complex but thoroughly documented—nearly half the book is devoted to the annotated endnotes, many added or expanded for the English edition. But Masson never changed his view that establishing the contacts was the right thing to do, although he did allow that he might have been deceived somewhat from time to time about Schellenberg’s motives. In the end, Secret Channel gives us an unusual glimpse into Swiss intelligence while documenting what must be the poster-boy case for an officer falling in love with his agent and for what happens when intelligence gets too close to policy.

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[1] William Hood, Mole (Washington, DC: Brassey’s, 1993).

[2] Roger Hall, You’re Stepping on my Cloak and Dagger (New York: W. W. Norton, 1957).

[3] Former CIA officer Aldrich H. Ames was arrested for espionage in 1994, pled guilty, and was sentenced to life in prison.

[4] Arthur S. Hulnick, Fixing Intelligence: Preparing American Intelligence for the Twenty‑First Century (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999).

[5] Andrew Lycett, Ian Fleming (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1995), 149. Fleming never took a paramil­itary course; Colby was trained in England.

[6] Nicholas John Cull, Selling War: The British Propaganda Campaign Against American “Neutrality” in World War II (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 172. See, also, John F. Bratzel and Leslie B. Rout, “FDR and the Secret Map,” Wilson Quarterly 9 (1985): 167–73.

[7] Thomas F. Troy, Donovan and the CIA: A History of the Central Intelligence Agency (Washington, DC: Center for the Study of Intelligence, CIA, 1981), 463. Troy reproduces both letters.

[8] Peter Lance, 1000 Years for Revenge: International Terrorism and the FBI—The Untold Story (New York: HarperCollins, 2004). For a review, see Studies in Intelligence 48, no. 3 (2004): 97.

[9] Powers is also the author of a fine biography of J. Edgar Hoover: Secrecy and Power: The Life of J. Edgar Hoover (New York: The Free Press, 1987).

[10] Pierre Th. Braunschweig, Geheimer Draht Nach Berlin: Die Nachrichtenlinie Masson-Schellenberg und der schweizerische Nachrichtendienst im Zweiten Weltkrieg (Zurich: Verlag Neue Zurcher Zeitung, 1989), 528 pages, bibliography, charts, index. After the first edition of this book was published in 1989, new documents became available that justified both a revision and the translation into English.

[11] The source was Fritz Kolbe, who for some reason is not identified by Braunschweig. See Neal H. Peters­en, From Hitler’s Doorstep: The Wartime Intelligence Reports of Allen Dulles, 1942–1945 (University Park: Penn State University Press, 1996), 8, 238.


Hayden B. Peake is curator of the CIA's Historical Intelligence Collection.


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Historical Document
Posted: Apr 15, 2007 08:50 AM
Last Updated: Jun 26, 2008 02:20 PM