Intelligence in Public Literature
Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf
Compiled and reviewed by Hayden Peake
Hunting in the Shadows: The Pursuit of Al Qa‘ida Since 9/11, by Seth G. Jones.
Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad, by Peter Bergen.
Open Source Intelligence in a Networked World, by Anthony Olcott.
Alger Hiss: Why He Chose Treason, by Christina Shelton.
The CIA’s Greatest Covert Operation: Inside the Daring Mission to Recover a Nuclear-Armed Soviet Sub, by David H. Sharp
Encyclopedia of Cold War Espionage, Spies, and Secret Operations, by Richard C.S. Trahair and Robert L. Miller.
Ian Fleming’s Commandos: The Story of the Legendary 30 Assault Unit, by Nicholas Rankin.
On the Edge of the Cold War: American Diplomats and Spies in Postwar Prague, by Igor Lukes.
Saddam Hussein’s Ba‘th Party: Inside an Authoritarian Regime, by Joseph Sassoon.
Spies in the Continental Capital: Espionage Across Pennsylvania During the American Revolution, by John A. Nagy.
Spies in the Sky: The Secret Battle for Aerial Intelligence During World War II, by Taylor Downing.
Black Man in the CIA: An Autobiography, by Leutrell M. Osborne, Sr.
Locating India’s Intelligence Agencies in a Democratic Framework, by Danish Sheikh.
Strategic Intelligence in the Wider Black Sea Area, George Cristian Maior and Sergei Konoplyov (eds.).
Global Secret Service and Intelligence Service I: Hidden Systems That Deliver Unforgettable Customer Service, by Heinz Duthel.
Secret Intelligence Service — MI6: Codename MNL DCVR, by Heinz Duthel.
Deception: The Untold Story of East-West Espionage Today, by Edward Lucas. (New York: Walker, 2012), 372 pp., endnotes, index.
Spies intrigued author Edward Lucas “as a student, activist and journalist.” (5) After graduating from the London School of Economics, he served with the Economist since 1986 in locations that included East Europe, Germany, and Russia, where he was the journal’s Moscow Bureau chief. During those years he “rubbed shoulders and clinked glasses with spooks on both sides.” (5) Deception is his disquieting tale of post-Soviet-era espionage, security, corruption, and their historical antecedents.
The central theme of the book is that Russian espionage and domestic control have been successful since the Bolshevik revolution. Lucas writes that the practices did not end “with Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika (reform) and glasnost (openness)” but, in fact, expanded with former KGB officers in key national positions. (15) Using a topical approach, Lucas discusses several cases to illustrate the seriousness of the situation.
Lucas’s first example concerns William Browder, an American-born British subject—the grandson of the late Earl Browder, onetime head of the Communist Party USA—who in 2005 was a successful financier in Russia. In that year, Browder hired a tax attorney, Sergei Magnitsky, to investigate apparent irregularities in government activity that affected Browder’s interests. Magnitsky uncovered state fraud, forged contracts, and unlawful acts committed by the FSB—the domestic intelligence service—all of which Lucas details. In the end, Magnitsky was arrested and died—some allege that he was tortured—in jail. Browder fled to London.
A second case, not previously reported in detail, illustrates how the SVR continued espionage operations in Europe after the Cold War. Herman Simm, an Estonian recruited by the KGB in 1967 and later by the German foreign intelligence service, the BND, had become a senior officer in the Estonian Interior Ministry after Estonia achieved independence in 1991. By 1995, he had moved to the Defense Ministry with NATO-related responsibilities that gave him access to NATO documents, including war plans and records, which he shared with the SVR. Lucas doesn’t explain just how Simm was identified, but he describes how Estonian authorities arrested and interrogated him. Lucas takes NATO security to task for failing to vet Simm properly and criticizes, unpersuasively, the West for post-Cold War complacency.
A third case, Operation Ghost Stories, concerns the 10 illegals the FBI arrested in 2010 after they had been operating in the United States for as many as 10 years. Lucas divides them into two groups, those using false documentation—“traditional illegals”—and those using their true names—“legal illegals.” (164) The latter term hasn’t appeared in the literature before and makes a useful distinction.
Lucas spends considerable effort analyzing the backgrounds of the illegals, their modus operandi, and their tradecraft. He also compares the weaknesses of false identities and the strengths of true names—Anna Chapman is his principal example of an illegal in true name. Lucas is critical of the mistakes they made, but he doesn’t point out that their errors did not result in their exposure.
Deception is generally well documented from open sources, but not in all instances. For example, Lucas notes that when Chapman suspected something was amiss, “She phoned her father in Moscow, to be told that a senior SVR officer dealing with illegals had disappeared. This was oddly sloppy tradecraft.” (171) If it happened this way, it was poor tradecraft indeed, but Lucas does not provide a source, and no such claim has been made elsewhere.
To emphasize his contention that “Russian spymasters…frequently run rings around their Western counterparts,” (214) Lucas devotes a chapter to successful Soviet deception operations against the West, starting during the Bolshevik revolution and extending through Operation Jungle, the disastrous British attempt to send penetration agents into the Baltic states after WW II. He even tracked down a survivor of the operation living near London, who provided a firsthand account. There is nothing new in these narratives; they only stress the point that the Russians have a history of espionage and deception against the West.
Deception is a well-written, journalistic account that seeks to alert readers to the undiminished Russian espionage threat and to security conditions within Russia that are not conducive to Western business.
Hunting in the Shadows: The Pursuit of Al Qa‘ida Since 9/11, by Seth G. Jones. (New York: W. W. Norton, 2012), 534 pp., endnotes, photos, index.
Author Seth Jones is a senior political analyst at the RAND Corporation, where he specializes in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. His RAND biography points out that he focuses on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and al-Qaeda, and that he has served as the representative of the commander of the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) to the assistant secretary of defense for special operations. He has also been an adviser to the US military on special operations in Afghanistan. Hunting in ihe Shadows treats the US and UK reactions to 9/11.
The first chapter is important for two reasons. First, it tells the story of Operation Overt, a successful joint US-UK effort to prevent a terrorist group based in England from blowing up multiple civilian aircraft over the Atlantic in 2006. This served as “a harbinger of things to come.” (22) And what was to come included a surprising number of terrorist acts, planned and attempted but seldom heard about. Jones describes very well the disciplined and complex efforts of counterterrorist and intelligence authorities to deal with these dangers. Second, the chapter introduces the concept of “al-Qa‘ida waves and reverse waves,” which Jones uses to explain surges and reductions in levels of terrorist activity since al-Qa‘ida was created in 1988.
The remainder of the book is separated into four parts, each dealing with one of the four waves he discusses and the principal terrorists involved. Part I describes the first wave, which peaked with the 9/11 attacks. It introduces the major Islamic players and tells how, despite differing goals and views on how to implement jihad against the West, they developed and implemented attacks to kill Americans. It also includes a description of JAWBREAKER, CIA’s entry into Afghanistan after 9/11, the domestic terrorist threat (including the unrepentant shoe bomber, Richard Reid), other responses to 9/11, and the reactions of Pakistan to US activities. Part I ends as al-Qa‘ida regroups—surprised by the American response to 9/11—and makes new plans.
Part II deals with al-Qa‘ida in Iraq and Pakistan, the Madrid and London attacks, and the attempts of its allies to counterattack in Afghanistan. There is also an interesting section on radicalization in the West, illustrated by the story of Adam Gadahn (Azzam the American). Part II ends as al-Qa‘ida’s popularity in the Muslim world fell to a low point in 2004, due mainly to its decision to kill civilians in Iraq.
Part III covers the third wave, including al-Qa‘ida’s struggle to reestablish its leadership, the rise of competition in Yemen and Africa, the curious case of David Headley and his links to the Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, and a brief summary of the operation that ended with the death of Osama bin Laden.
Discussion of the fourth wave takes only a few pages It is a wave that hasn’t yet occurred, but Jones thinks it will. He writes that the “West’s record of learning from past success and failures has been mixed, and policymakers have tended to be unsympathetic in their analysis and shortsighted in their strategies.” (437) He suggests “three steps” that he thinks will help prevent this fourth wave.
Jones’s style makes for an easy read, and he does more than just provide facts. He adds background—geographic, societal, and political—in each case and explains the often complicated personal relationships among many players. Thus the reader gets a sense of the reality the terrorists create for themselves—a reality that does not necessarily make sense by Western standards.
This is a fine, well-documented book, with essential background for anyone trying to get a better grasp on the terrorist age.
Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad, by Peter Bergen. (New York: Crown, 2012), 359 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.
The measure of a great book is when a reader knows the ending and still enjoys the reading. Manhunt is a fine example, and it’s no surprise that Peter Bergen wrote it. He is one of the few journalists to have met Osama bin Laden and has written three other books about him and al-Qaeda.
Manhunt begins with a review of the CIA’s efforts to monitor al-Qaeda and bin Laden, which began in the mid-1990s, and then focuses on the work of Intelligence Community analysts to “track him down.” (75) This is one of the few operations in which the role of analysts receives much-deserved prominence. After many dead ends, CIA analysts took the lead and developed what Bergen terms “the four pillars of the hunt”: bin Laden’s family, his communication with other leaders in his organization, his media statements, and his courier network. (93) The first three came to naught, so the analysts decided to focus on the courier network. Bergen relates how information obtained from captured terrorists led to the identification of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti as the man to watch. After he was put under various types of surveillance, the compound at Abbottabad became the prime target. By January 2011, one analyst said she was 90 percent sure that bin Laden was there. When CIA Director Leon Panetta asked another, she said 70 percent. (135)
When the president asked for options and courses of action, they were quickly developed. It soon came down to two: bomb the compound or send in the SEALs. Bergen recounts the sometimes heated discussions that followed before the president decided on employing the SEALs—without giving Pakistan prior notice. The chapter on the raid, Operation Neptune’s Spear, and how it was monitored in the United States is perhaps the most exhilarating in the book. Bergen describes the planning, rehearsals, and execution in detail. His version of bin Laden’s death differs somewhat from other accounts. (He did not have access to the only first-hand account published.) Bergen visited the compound shortly before it was destroyed, so his descriptions of the layout have added veracity.
A number of events complicated decision making while planning of the operation was under way, and Bergen devotes attention to each. These included the attack on the CIA base at Khowst, the Christmas bomber’s attempt to bring down an airliner, revelations of plans to attack the New York City subway system, and the shooting of two Pakistanis by a US contractor working in Lahore. Bergen also includes a chapter on bin Laden’s last years, offering conjecture on his life in the compound and how he tried to manage al-Qaeda and communicate with his followers. (136ff)
The death of bin Laden and the impressive intelligence take that resulted from the raid will not, Bergen points out, end al-Qaeda’s attempts to pursue its goals. He concludes that Yemen is the most likely place from which operations will continue. (260) But there is no doubt al-Qaeda has suffered a serious blow, and Peter Bergen has told that story very well indeed.
Open Source Intelligence in a Networked World, by Anthony Olcott. (New York: Continuum, 2012), 283 pp., end-of-chapter notes, bibliography, index.
After a teaching career in the Russian Department of Colgate University, Anthony Olcott in 2000 joined the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), which became the DNI Open Source Center in 2005. He served there as director of Analytic Assessment and Academic Outreach. In 2009, he joined the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University. Until this year, he also served in the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence, which produces this journal. Throughout his career, Olcott has studied the information revolution and its impact on the use of open sources in intelligence. Open Source Intelligence in a Networked World is the result of his research.
US intelligence organizations have made use of open source information since WW II, when the Research and Analysis Branch of the OSS, using material in the Library of Congress, prepared reports on the North African beaches for Operation TORCH, the Allied invasion of that region. The use of open source material continued after the war, when the Foreign Broadcast Monitoring Service—created even before the OSS—became part of the CIA as the Foreign Broadcast Information Service and provided the Agency and other government organizations with daily media translations from numerous countries. Olcott reviews this history, citing theoretical foundations, bureaucratic battles, and various commission reports. He stresses that past failure to pay attention to open sources has resulted in unnecessary surprise. For example, he characterizes the Intelligence Community’s failure to perceive the onset of the Iranian revolution during 1978 and 1979 as an “open source blunder.” (59) He goes on to note that even in 1998, the CIA’s preference for secret over open source information caused the Agency to be surprised when India resumed nuclear testing, even though Indian leaders had publicly stated their intentions to do so. (89)
As the Community worked to prevent similar incidents, he suggests, it was simultaneously striving to deal with what became known as the information explosion. Most of Olcott’s book addresses this multifaceted problem and its implications. For example, the nature of open-source information has evolved to include more than the traditional base of media and government reports. One must now take into account resources on the Internet, including Google, social networks, blogs and microblogs, and Wikipedia. So while the volume of data and rapid access have always been problems, they are compounded in today’s world. Olcott describes technology solutions to solve intelligence problems as well as the importance of asking the right questions. (146) Chapters such as “So What? Addressing the Signal-to-Noise Problem” and “Improving Information ‘Food Searches’” consider these issues in detail.
The new information age also presents new analytical challenges, and Olcott devotes substantial attention to them. Here he considers the “power of heuristics,” or the tendency to use familiar structures or models. He notes the traditional compliance with Sherman Kent’s guidance that an intelligence organization should have the combined characteristics of “a large university faculty, our greatest metropolitan newspapers, and an organization engaged in manufacture of a product.” But in today’s world, he adds, “each of these forms of enterprise is in profound trouble” due to the transformation of the information environment. (252) New models and approaches will be necessary to satisfy demand for quick and accurate information.
Open Source Intelligence in a Networked World is a thoughtful, well-documented, if at times ponderous treatment of a very practical and important problem. Open source intelligence has finally received the careful analysis it has long deserved.
Intelligence and Government in Britain and the United States: A Comparative Perspective, by Philip H. J. Davies (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2012), Volume 1: Evolution of the U.S. Intelligence Community, 441 pp., end-of-chapter notes, index, and Volume 2: Evolution of the U.K. Intelligence Community, 385 pp., end-of-chapter notes, bibliography, glossary, index.
Dr. Philip Davies is the director of the Brunel University Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies in London. He obtained his PhD in sociology in 1997 from Reading University, where he wrote his dissertation, “Organisational Development of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service 1909–1979.” Since then he has published widely on the intelligence profession. This two-volume comparative treatise is his latest contribution.
The goal of the study “is to try to understand the two systems, and how they have developed, in a comparative context, seeking to comprehend each better by juxtaposing it with the other.” More specifically, Davies asks, since the two systems seek to answer similar problems, “why do they choose almost diametrically opposed solutions to the task…and why is the coordination and management of national intelligence in the United States so much more fraught than in the United Kingdom?” (ix) Davies’s formulation of these questions risks a predetermined outcome as the result of confirmation bias, and readers should keep this in mind.
The 24 chapters and more than 800 pages provide a top-down, chronological examination, through the eyes of a political scientist—there are no spy stories here. Davies compares organizational structure and integration, product timeliness and quality, physical separation, size, budget, political systems, staff subordination and qualifications, security requirements, management, and operational culture—a massive task. In the end, one of his many general conclusions—there are specific ones too—is that a principal difference in the two systems is “the apparent long-term stability and relatively consistently high coordination and integration of the UK intelligence community and the discontinuous, fractious, and contentious experience of the American system.” (V2-314)
This judgment raises the question of whether Davies fully understands the US system. Given the much larger size of the country and its Intelligence Community, there is perhaps more frequent turbulence at the top in the United States, but Davies presents no evidence that this results in operational dysfunction. Davies clarifies his concept of the US Intelligence Community by noting that “not only is analysis particularly central to U.S. intelligence, it stands in sharp contrast with approaches to intelligence in the U.K., which typically focus on covert collection as the defining feature of intelligence.” (14) He does not explain why he concludes collection is less important to the Americans, and his own treatment of the Casey years at CIA suggests the opposite. (286ff). In any case, his concept will certainly be challenged by US intelligence professionals.
Davies returns to this point in volume 2, where he writes, “The three principal players in the U. S. intelligence community are the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and the Defense Department’s Defense Intelligence Agency.” (V2-5) He may be right if he is referring only to these organizations as sources of intelligence analysis, but if he means the Intelligence Community writ large, it is a surprising statement and raises questions about the other major components of the US community. A final example suggesting he pay more attention to the US community is Davies’ comment that, after 9/11, “if the jihadist threat would ultimately intensify the friction between [US] agencies, it was serving to push the UK’s agencies closer together in an ever more intense and thorough going collegiality.” (V2-266) This view too is likely to spark cries for evidence from US readers.
The comparisons that are the basic ingredients of this study of intelligence systems, though thoroughly sourced, do not make for easy reading—this work is not a primer. Frequently terminology is hard to follow. For example, nonsociologists may be perplexed by the comment “That which is ‘distinctive’ about U. S. intelligence culture clearly embodies the optical illusion of the common appearing singular.” (14) On the other hand, Davies’s use of culture as a comparative metric is a useful contribution.
For those seeking to better understand the complexities and differences of both systems, these volumes will serve as a challenging basis for discussion. They are most worthwhile contributions to the intelligence literature.
Alger Hiss: Why He Chose Treason, by Christina Shelton. (New York: Threshold Editions, 2012), 330 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.
Author Christina Shelton, a retired DIA analyst, begins her study of Alger Hiss with an anecdote that actually adds something new to what she terms “the unending Hiss saga.” (1) In November 1979, she attended Hiss’s 75th birthday party in New York. In a conversation with Hiss, she reports, he claimed he had never read Whittaker Chambers’s book, Witness. Astonished, since Hiss was a principal subject in the book, she asked, “How is that possible?” Hiss never responded. Thirty years later, in a memoir by Hiss’s son, she read that Hiss had read the version serialized in the Saturday Evening Post. (6–7)
Carefully constructed responses to questions were characteristic of Alger Hiss. He maintained throughout his life that he was innocent of charges that he was a communist and a Soviet agent; he was just a victim of anticommunist hysteria. Shelton reviews the contrary evidence and raises the never-satisfactorily-resolved mystery that Shelton maintains has contemporary relevance, Why He Chose Treason.
In one sense, the book is a well-documented biography of Alger Hiss. Shelton writes of his early years, his time at Harvard Law School, his enthusiastic participation in Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal politics, his activities as a committed communist, and the espionage activities that led to his trial and conviction. She goes on to include a description of Hiss’s time in prison and his subsequent campaign to vindicate himself, an effort that only ended with his death. Shelton ends the book with a review of the overwhelming evidence against Hiss, which many still refuse to accept. But all this has been said in the many other books on the Hiss case. For readers new to the topic, Shelton’s work provides a good summary. But those searching for a resolution of the mystery—as promised in the book’s title—will not find an answer here. It may just be that even Alger Hiss didn’t know.
The CIA’s Greatest Covert Operation: Inside the Daring Mission to Recover a Nuclear-Armed Soviet Sub, by David H. Sharp. (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2012), 328 pp., endnotes, bibliography, appendices, photos, glossary, index.
The Azorian program was a clandestine CIA operation to recover a Soviet Golf II-class nuclear submarine (K-129) that sank in early March 1968 more than 16,000 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. David Sharp was a member of the team that performed what turned out to be a partial recovery. His book, The CIA’s Greatest Covert Operation, is the most recent account of the mission. Several books and many articles have been written about the operation since it was exposed by the Los Angeles Times on 7 February 1975. With the exception of the works that called the project “Jennifer”—that was the name for the security system used—they have gotten the basic facts right. The 2010 book Project Azorian: The CIA and the Raising of the K-129, by Norman Polmar and Michael White, used Russian sources to add a Soviet perspective and is the most technically detailed.
Also in 2010, the CIA released its own report. What, then, does Sharp have to offer?
Sharp provides a firsthand view of Azorian—supplemented by input from other team members—that he argues is the most accurate and complete account available, although he admits it is not the whole story. Some details have been withheld for security reasons. Sharp begins by telling how the project originated, the difficulties getting approval, and the formation of the team with wideranging skills that did the work. He was hired by the program leader, John Parangosky, whom he knew from his work on the U-2 and Corona programs. Sharp also describes how the Navy found K-129—he cannot confirm the submarine’s name, although others have identified it—and then determined how it was positioned on the ocean floor. Once that was established, a recovery vehicle had to be identified, contractors selected, and operating offices set up on both coasts. Sharp eventually became the head of the West Coast program office and, after some expressing some reservations, director of recovery systems at sea. (128) From then on, he commuted frequently from CIA headquarters to Los Angeles, where he worked undercover.
The recovery vehicle was called the Hughes Glomar Explorer, and Sharp explains how the cover story—deep-sea mining exploration—was developed to explain what the huge vessel was doing. He goes on to describe the actual recovery, the continual monitoring by Soviet ships, the many problems that were overcome, and others that were not. Besides his personal viewpoint, from time to time he adds a detail not recounted elsewhere. For example, he describes the back-and-forth in planning meetings he attended, and he explains how secure communications were established to encode messages. (67)
Whether Azorian was the CIA’s greatest covert operation may be a matter for debate, but Sharp’s firsthand, well-documented account is valuable in any case.
Encyclopedia of Cold War Espionage, Spies, and Secret Operations, Third edition, revised and updated, by Richard C.S. Trahair and Robert L. Miller. (New York: Enigma Books, 2012), 687 pp., bibliography, chronology, glossary, index.
Richard Trahair is a social research adviser and consulting psychologist at La Trobe University in Australia. His coauthor is the senior editor and publisher of Enigma Books. The first and second editions of Trahair’s Encyclopedia were reviewed in Studies in 2005 and given poor marks for the number of errors they contained, especially since they were “intended as a useful tool to support espionage studies.” This updated and revised edition extends that objective to include “the study of specific circumstances that gave so much importance to espionage during the Cold War period.” (xiv) It is also intended to be a tool for authors and “the facts have been checked once again as thoroughly as possible.” (xxx) But while many corrections have indeed been made, some errors remain. For example, Oleg Kalugin was never a defector, and he did not expose the Koechers, the Czechoslovakian couple acting as KGB surrogate agents in the CIA in the 1980s. (259) CIA officer Martha Peterson was not “the chance victim of a simple KGB active measure” (413) nor were tradecraft errors the reasons the KGB was able to capture her, but it was the Koechers who had exposed her, a topic she discusses in her memoir. Wrong, too, is the assertion that “while at Cambridge,” Kim Philby approached Donald Maclean, and asked him to work for the NKVD. (418) Philby gave Maclean’s name to his handler a year after he had graduated. Finally, Harry Gold never converted to communism (157)—ironically, he was the only member of the Fuchs atom network who was not a communist and who told the truth at his trial.
The book, however, still has many positive features. The number of entries has been increased. An entry on China was among the additions. Other entries have been revised, and the valuable review of intelligence literature, the biographical data, the chronology, and the sources cited after each entry have likewise been updated.
The authors deserve credit for an improved edition, though readers are cautioned to check the facts against the sources provided rather than assume their accuracy.
Ian Fleming’s Commandos: The Story of the Legendary 30 Assault Unit, by Nicholas Rankin. (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2011), 397 pp., endnotes, photos, index.
The 30 Commando Information Exploitation Group at the Royal Marine Barracks, Stonehouse, Plymouth, has a history beginning in 1942, when it was formed as an “Intelligence Assault Unit.” It subsequently was called 30 Commando and, in 1943, was designated as the 30 Assault Unit, or 30AU. (330) The idea for the unit appeared in a Most Secret memo titled “Proposal for Naval Intelligence Commando Unit” and signed by Ian Fleming. (131) By the time of its creation in July 1942, it had become a joint service element, though it was headquartered within the Admiralty. (222) The IAU first saw action in the disastrous raid on Dieppe on 19 August 1942. Ian Fleming’s Commandos tells how Fleming conceived the idea and describes some of the unit’s operations.
Before the war, Ian Fleming had been a journalist and completed an assignment for the Times in Moscow. In May 1939, he was invited to lunch with Adm. John Godfrey, the director of naval intelligence, who was seeking to augment his staff with bright young men. Godfrey liked what he saw in Fleming—who was fluent in German and French and spoke some Russian—and offered him a spot on his staff. Thus began Fleming’s six-year tour in naval intelligence and the adventures that laid the groundwork for the James Bond books.
Author Nicholas Rankin provides historical background to the creation of 30AU, reviews the formation of Britain’s intelligence assault units, and discusses the bureaucratic conflicts that Fleming learned to navigate so well. He also tells of Fleming’s contacts with Bletchley Park and his trips to France, Spain, countries in Africa, and the United States. It soon became clear to Fleming, Rankin argues, that much-needed intelligence could be acquired if units were specially designed for the purpose. The concept was to have those units land with invading troops and go directly to the nearest captured German headquarters and communication elements and confiscate records. One of the first attempts at such a mission occurred during Operation TORCH in North Africa. There, 30AU had mixed results. Its participation in the Sicily landings was more successful, as were its operations in Italy. 30AU was a part of Operation OVERLORD, and Rankin describes the difficulties the unit experienced going after a radar control station in France. He also discusses the difficulties 30AU faced in targeting V-1 sites as part of Operation CROSSBOW.
Rankin provides glimpses into how some 30AU personnel felt about Fleming. In one case, a colleague is quoted as saying Fleming “always loved hearing about things—sex, war, personalities, danger—from other people, but shied away from experiencing it himself.” (223) In a second example, Lt. Cmdr. Tony Hugill wrote in his 1946 book—citing an episode in which Fleming had arrived in France in July 1945, wearing his dress uniform, to see how the force was doing—that “none of us liked him very much. He was one of those very superior professional RNVRs [Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve] who got their claws into Their Lordships early in the war.” (246)
Throughout Ian Fleming’s Commandos, there are references to incidents and names that later appeared in the Bond books. Enthusiasts of 007 should enjoy these bits of Bond trivia, and fans of WW II special operations will find it most interesting for the groundwork 30AU laid for postwar special operations units.
On the Edge of the Cold War: American Diplomats and Spies in Postwar Prague, by Igor Lukes. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 279 pp., endnotes, photos, index.
In 1955 during a meeting of the National Security Council Operations Coordinating Board, DCI Allen Dulles commented that he “for one believed that Czechoslovakia would never have been lost if someone had been there doing something about it.” Dulles’s reference was to the 1948 Soviet takeover that ended Czechoslovakia’s postwar democratic government. Boston University history professor Igor Lukes has investigated the question of who was there at the time and whether anyone in fact attempted to deter the Soviets. On the Edge of the Cold War reports the results of his investigation.
Lukes begins with a review of the events from the Munich appeasement in 1938 to the liberation of Czechoslovakia by the Red Army in May 1945 and the return of President Edvard Benes. This includes an analysis of the American decision to halt Patton’s 3rd Army west of Prague and a failed attempt by an OSS team to reverse the ruling. That team had penetrated German lines and joined a British Special Operations Executive team (PLATINUM) already in Prague. (49) The first permanent OSS team arrived on 10 May 1945 and began setting up an embassy in preparation for the arrival of the ambassador, Laurence Steinhardt.
The next several chapters compare the relatively relaxed way the embassy functioned—the ambassador didn’t even arrive in Prague for another six months—to the more determined activities of the Soviet delegation. These involved the persistent political machinations of the Soviets during first free elections in May 1946, when the communists won the most seats, to the takeover by a Soviet-backed communist government in 1948.
As these events unfolded, the intelligence and security elements of both sides played a role, and On the Edge of the Cold War does a fine job of telling their story, much of it for the first time. The American intelligence staff, headed by Col. Charles Katek—initially of the OSS, then SSU, CIG, and finally CIA—remained relatively unchanged through the period. Its mission was long term: “to help the Czechs guard their independence and to promote Western democracy.” (157) When the 1948 crisis came, however, Lukes concludes, “US intelligence did next to nothing.” (200) He attributes this to the effectiveness—not to mention ruthlessness—of the Soviet-dominated Czech security service (StB) and the inexperience of the Americans.
The problem wasn’t that Katek and his officers hadn’t recruited agents or attempted to establish agent networks. (222ff) Katek’s men, often with the help of embassy staff, even learned how to help agents and Czechs escape arrest. Lukes describes the effectively run BLACKWOOD operation that fooled the StB as one example. The exfiltration of an agent’s fiance—on the ambassador’s plane—is another. The difficulty, however, was that the StB’s round-the-clock surveillance identified all of the recruited agents and had them arrested when necessary. Furthermore, at least one of Katek’s men, Kurt Taub—who had grown up in Prague and was serving Katek’s deputy—had had prewar contact with the Soviet intelligence services. Lukes makes a strong case that Taub continued that relationship after his return to Prague.
On the Edge of the Cold War is a superbly documented, well-written story of US intelligence operations in early postwar Czechoslovakia, not told before in such detail.
Saddam Hussein’s Ba‘th Party: Inside an Authoritarian Regime, by Joseph Sassoon. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 314 pp., footnotes, bibliography, appendices (organizational charts), index.
The fall of Iraq’s government in April 2003 led to the “liberation” of government files by looters, who quickly “noted the addresses and began selling them door to door,” (14) presumably to those who had been named in the documents. Among the most popular were those from the security services. But millions of other documents and audiotapes found their way to various organizations in the United States. They include records of “the Ba‘th Party, the intelligence services—mainly the Special Security Organization (SSO)—the Ministry of Information, and the Revolutionary Command Council.” (1) Georgetown Adjunct Professor Joseph Sassoon has used them to describe how the Iraqi government functioned before and after Saddam Hussein took power.
The first three chapters deal with Ba‘th Party’s history, organization, and development into an authoritarian regime. Chapter 4 describes the four principal security organizations in detail—General Security, established in 1921; General Military Intelligence, established in 1932; the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS), an element of the Ba‘th Party, established in 1963; and the Special Security Organization (SSO) established by Saddam after he became president in 1979. Sassoon explains the organizations’ overlapping, competitive functions and how each gathered information, recruited informers, and carried out surveillance of society.
The final four chapters examine the Ba‘th Party and the army; Saddam’s personality cult; population control and resistance, including security aspects and political incentives; and the Ba‘th Party bureaucracy and social life under Saddam.
Similarities between Saddam-era Iraq and Soviet Union are inescapable. They include the practice of “fighting the enemy” with “surveillance, instilling fear into the population, and using torture and violence to extract information or destroy the alleged enemies of the people.” (195) Sassoon makes the distinction, however, that Saddam’s government was authoritarian, not totalitarian, since Stalin’s control over the military won wars, and Saddam’s did not.
Sassoon concludes that for those “who were not direct victims of repression, daily life was generally more normal than the image we may have of such systems.” (281) But for the others, “based on the regime’s own archives, we now know that a comprehensive system of repression and surveillance existed, and that many thousands paid a heavy price for refusing to bend to the will of the Ba‘th Party.” (284) Saddam Hussein’s Ba‘th Party is a very valuable and thoroughly documented contribution to the literature.
Spies in the Continental Capital: Espionage Across Pennsylvania During the American Revolution, by John A. Nagy. (Yardley, PA: Westholme, 2011), 273 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.
In Turncoats, Traitors and Heroes, his benchmark history about intelligence in the Revolutionary War, historian John Bakeless included one chapter on spies in the “Quaker City,” wherein he cautioned the reader that there was scant evidence to support some of the tales handed down. Aware of the problem, author John Nagy was able to write an entire book on the subject, Spies in the Continental Capital, after he found overlooked clues and previously undiscovered sources.
Spies in the colonies were nothing new by the start of the Revolution, and Nagy begins with a review of French espionage in Pennsylvania during the French and Indian War (1754–63). This is followed by a discussion of British efforts to obtain military secrets and to penetrate the Continental Congress, and American actions to prevent success. The stories of James Molesworth (a spy for British Admiral Howe) and Simon Girty (the loyalist spy who couldn’t read or write) are examples not reported fully elsewhere. Lydia Darragh’s story as a spy who crossed the lines for General Washington—an account often doubted by historians—is reinforced by the new documentary evidence Nagy uncovered. Some of the cases discussed are well known, for example Major John Clark’s spy network in Philadelphia, but Nagy has added new details. Coverage of others, such as Benedict Arnold, contributes nothing new but is included for completeness.
Nagy keeps the emphasis on spies on both sides, and sometimes the narrative is a bit choppy for lack of historical context. The book’s documentation is extensive, and Nagy is careful to label spies as “possible” when the evidence warrants. (193) For those unaware of the extent of espionage in Pennsylvania during the Revolutionary War, Spies in the Continental Capital will be an eye-opener and a source for further research.
Spies in the Sky: The Secret Battle for Aerial Intelligence During World War II, by Taylor Downing. (London: Little, Brown, 2011), 406 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.
After the invasion of North Africa in November 1942, a photointerpreter (PI) in the US Air Force’s 3rd Reconnaissance Group commanded by Col. Elliott Roosevelt reported sighting a column of German tanks in the desert. When a British PI checked the same imagery, he sent an immediate corrective: “For tanks read camels.” The more experienced Brit had been trained by the Central Interpretation Unit (CIU) at RAF Medmenham. Spies in the Sky is the story of that unit.
British historian Taylor Downing begins his account with a review of the origins of photointerpretation during WW I, after which the RAF lost interest in the technique. In the interwar period, some progress was made when the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) sponsored secret reconnaissance flights flown by Sidney Cotton, a civilian. But by the start of WW II, the RAF had only seven trained PIs, and, when they couldn’t satisfy the demands for coverage of German military and industrial targets, Cotton was hired to establish a top secret, unofficial RAF unit to meet their needs. Soon after, the RAF formed an official photointerpretation organization that served all military branches, and on 1 April 1941, RAF Medmenham began operations.
In many ways, RAF Medmenham was analogous to Bletchley Park, where the Enigma codebreakers worked. Danesfield House, a large Victorian country mansion—now a luxury hotel—was requisitioned for the PIs, and soon its grounds were covered with temporary huts to accommodate the staff. Photography taken by RAF reconnaissance units was interpreted by a staff recruited from universities and the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and trained as PIs. Downing calls them “boffins at war.” (112ff) They included Sarah Oliver (daughter of Winston Churchill), actor Dirk Bogarde, and Constance Babington Smith, who led the team that found the V-1 weapons at Peenemünde. By 1943, American and allied PIs were part of the CIU.
While Downing describes the PI tasks of targeting, damage assessment, and photogrammetry, he also recounts the adventures of the pilots who risked their lives in unarmed aircraft to collect the imagery. The legend of Wing Commander Adrian Warburton, a favorite of Elliott Roosevelt, is a fascinating example. (157ff) Less glamorous but more persistent were the challenges faced by managers who battled logistical problems and incessant service rivalries. A prominent example involved Roosevelt, who lost a dispute over who should command the PIs after the Americans at RAF Medmenham outnumbered their allies. (232ff).
Spies in the Sky is an inspiring chronicle of the vital contribution of PIs to the major operations in WW II and to the postwar profession for which they paved the way.
Black Man in the CIA: An Autobiography, by Leutrell M. Osborne, Sr. ([Temple, TX?]: Jongleur Music Book Publishing, 2012), 148 pp., no index.
Leutrell Osborne began his CIA career as a still photographer, paygrade G-3, in October 1957. (19, 23) He left the Agency in 1984 as a GS-12 operations officer. (140) Black Man in the CIA tells the story of his upbringing and his adventures in the Agency.
Osborne describes himself as “a light-skinned black man” (31) and the illegitimate son of a mother who worked for the CIA at the National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC). He writes that he had wanted to be a “spy manager” since he was 12. (1) Osborne got married and joined the Agency right out of high school. By 1963 he was working in the European Branch mail room and had decided he wanted to become a case officer. With the support of several supervisors, he completed operations training in 1969, (72) before he graduated from college. After refusing a tour in Vietnam (91) and declining to have anything to do with covert action (85–8), Osborne was assigned overseas, where he describes recruiting agents. He also had various assignments at Headquarters, including counterintelligence, counterterrorism, the Office of Equal Opportunity, and Communications Security (COMSEC). He returned to the Directorate of Operations for his final tour working on Libyan matters.
In Black Man in the CIA, Osborne views the Agency through an African-American’s eyes and is candid in describing what his race meant to his career. For example, during his first assignment as a case officer, he “encountered some serious discrimination from…the Chief of Station…[who] had a profound impact on [his] career… making [him] stay in grade for eleven years.” (99–102) But in spite of this atmosphere, he says he “achieved significant accomplishments as a Case Officer in Latin America.” (110) Yet these problems persisted, as he notes, when he was assigned to COMSEC duties and his “superior, Red Neck, was determined to cast aspersions on [his] work.” With regard to his final assignment, he writes that “there were some serious mistakes made by the Division. It seemed clear I was being set up to take the fall….” (134) Despite all of these difficulties, Osborne concludes that in 26 years with the CIA, “I achieved my dream as a CIA spy manager.” (142)
During the 25 years since he left the Agency, Osborne writes, “I have increased my core competency talents, knowing I can lead both the Central Intelligence and the National Security Agencies…toward better solutions.” (144) Black Man in the CIA might serve as an inspiration to others with childhood dreams of intelligence service.
Locating India’s Intelligence Agencies in a Democratic Framework, by Danish Sheikh. (New Delhi: KW Publishers, 2011), 60 pp., endnotes, bibliography, no index.
India has three intelligence agencies. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) is responsible for domestic security and reports to the home minister. The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) carries out the foreign intelligence mission and reports to the prime minister. The National Technical Research Organization (NTRO) conducts SIGINT operations and reports to the national security advisor. At present, the agencies function without a statutory charter. Danish Sheikh, a lawyer with the Alternative Law Forum, argues in this short monograph that there have been “lapses of efficiency, of security, of privacy” (3) that justify establishing parliamentary oversight.
Sheikh supports his argument, in part, with a lengthy discussion of a wiretapping exposé. (7–11) He later asserts that “India has witnessed considerable misuse of intelligence service apparatus.” (42) On a related issue, he recommends “some form of whistle-blower protection.” (9–11) He also suggests that a charter would help the agencies with budgetary issues. In all instances, however, he is short on specifics. After some warnings about the hazards of politicization, he compares the oversight systems in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia to make his case for parliamentary oversight. (34ff) In the end, while he has defined the problem well enough, he presents little evidence that the current system is in need of the major overhaul he recommends, though in principle the need for oversight of intelligence is generally accepted.
Strategic Intelligence in the Wider Black Sea Area, George Cristian Maior and Sergei Konoplyov (eds.). (Bucharest: Editura RAO, 2011), 255 pp., footnotes, no index.
For nearly 15 years, the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University has conducted the Harvard Black Sea Security Program. Its goal is “to enhance regional security through cooperation and integration.” Its method is to bring together policymakers and security managers from the various countries in the region for an annual seminar with “very frank dialogue.” (13) In 2011, the event was a two-week affair hosted with the Romanian Intelligence Service. The first week was spent in Bucharest and Vienna, and the second week at the Kennedy School. Strategic Intelligence in the Wider Black Sea Area contains summaries of the principal presentations made.
Each of the four sections in the book deals with an aspect of security in the wider Black Sea area (WBSA). The first section discusses strategic goals, security policy, and aspects of cooperation and confrontation. One paper, by the director of the Romanian Foreign Intelligence Service, examines managing uncertainty in the WBSA. Another by George Cristian Maior, coeditor of the book and director of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI)—the country’s domestic intelligence agency—looks at intelligence policy and strategic knowledge as related to Black Sea security.
The second section has four papers by experts dealing with security issues related to the environment and demography. Section three has five papers. One, by the head of Romanian military intelligence, discuses security challenges in the WBSA. The others look at changing patterns in regional security, with emphasis on conflict prevention, violence, and radicalization. The fourth and final section has three contributions. One examines the security services’ contribution to a secure environment, another touches on the implications of Romania’s NATO membership for intelligence, and one discusses the relationship between decisionmakers and intelligence services. In his concluding remarks for the book, Ion Grosu, the deputy director of the Romanian Intelligence Service, argues that finding solutions to the problems identified in the book will require cooperative efforts by the governments, the intelligence services, and academia. This includes what he calls, “soft security issues” such as the rule of law and a priority of human rights. (232)
For the most part, the contributions are normative think pieces typical of high-level bureaucrats; i.e., a statement of the issues and some suggestions on what should be done to accomplish regional security. Specific solutions are not addressed; only their nature and the need for them are identified. The endnotes cite both western and Romanian sources—one mentions a paper by former CIA historian Michael Warner.
Strategic Intelligence in the Wider Black Sea Area is an interesting indicator of regional progress made and planned—with cooperation from the West—since 1989.
Global Secret Service and Intelligence Service I: Hidden Systems That Deliver Unforgettable Customer Service, by Heinz Duthel. (Lexington, KY: CreateSpace, 2011), 397 pp., no index.
Secret Intelligence Service—MI6: Codename MNL DCVR, by Heinz Duthel. (Lexington, KY: CreateSpace, 2012), 757 pp., no index.
Amazon books provides a means for self-publishing called CreateSpace. Among the several options available, an author can obtain editorial support and cover design help, or the manuscript can be printed just as submitted. Author Hans Duthel has apparently chosen the latter option. The result sets new lows in intelligence books. These disappointments include a title that is never explained and a table of contents with titles but no page numbers. Topics follow one after another, often beginning on the same page on which the previous topic ended, with no separation. (142) Some topics end with bibliographies, others with references, and to find either, one must go through page by page.
As to content, Secret Intelligence Service is an unedited, loosely formatted collection of notes and extracts on intelligence issues that mention many intelligence organizations. This book contains absolutely nothing not already in the public domain and that is not easier to find through Google and Wikipedia. Global Secret Service and Intelligence Service I (the ‘I’ is never explained), is similar in approach. There is no list of topics covered. There is an alphabetical “partial list of current intelligence agencies” shown at the beginning without page numbers or any indication where the agencies may be found in the text (they begin on page 129). The narrative just begins on page 9 with no introductory comments. Some paragraphs are numbered, but most are not. Some are written in French with no translation.
In short, neither volume is worth the price. Caveat lector!
See for example: Norman Polmar and Michael White, Project Azorian: The CIA and the Raising of the K-129 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2010); Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage (New York: Public Affairs, 1998); and Clyde Burleson, The Jennifer Project (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1977)
Central Intelligence Agency, Project Azorian: The Story of the Hughes Glomar Explorer, 2010. See Library/FOIA Reading Room on https://www.cia.gov
“Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf,” Studies in Intelligence 49, no. 4 (December 2005). This article may be found at https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol49no4/Bookshelf_11.htm.
Milton Bearden and James Risen, The Main Enemy: The Inside Story of the CIA’s Final Showdown with the KGB (New York: Random House, 2003), 26; and Martha Peterson, The Widow Spy: My CIA Journey from the Jungles of Laos to Prison in Moscow (Wilmington, NC: Red Canary Press, 2012).
For an account of a deception operation used against Czechoslovakian dissidents, see Igor Lukes, “KAMEN: A Cold War Dangle Operation with an American Dimension, 1948–1952” in Studies in Intelligence 55, no. 1 (March 2011). This article is available online at https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol.-55-no.-1/kamen-a-cold-war-dangle-operation-with-an-american-dimension-1948-1952.html.
For a history of Allied aerial reconnaissance during WW I, see Terrence J. Finnegan, Shooting the Front: Allied Aerial Reconnaissance and Photographic Interpretation on the Western Front—World War I (Washington, DC: National Defense Intelligence College, 2006)
All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed in this journal are those of the authors. Nothing in any of the articles should be construed as asserting or implying US government endorsement of their factual statements and interpretations. Articles by non-US government employees are copyrighted and so marked in the table of contents.