Intelligence in Public Literature

Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf

Compiled and reviewed by Hayden Peake


No Place To Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State, by Glenn Greenwald.

The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man, by Luke Harding.

The Snowden Operation: Inside the West’s Greatest Intelligence Disaster, by Edward Lucas.

The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay, by Jess Bravin.


“A” Force: The Origins of British Deception During the Second World War, by Whitney T. Bendeck.

The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI, by Betty Medsger.

Dark Invasion: 1915—Germany’s Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America, by Howard Blum.

Dr. Benjamin Church, Spy: A Case of Espionage on the Eve of the American Revolution, by John A. Nagy.

Fool’s Mate: A True Story of Espionage at the National Security Agency, by John W. Whiteside III.

Historical Dictionary of World War I Intelligence, by Nigel West.

Historical Dictionary of British Intelligence, by Nigel West.

James Jesus Angleton: Was He Right?, by Edward Jay Epstein.

Meeting the Challenge: The Hexagon KH-9 Reconnaissance Satellite, by Phil Pressel.

Moles, Defectors, and Deceptions: James Angleton and His Influence on US Counterintelligence, edited by Bruce Hoffman and Christian Ostermann.

Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case, by Allen Weinstein.

Proceed to Peshawar: The Story of a U.S. Navy Intelligence Mission on the Afghan Border, 1943, by George J. Hill

Prisoners, Lovers, & Spies: The Story of Invisible Ink from Herodotus to al-Qaeda, by Kristie Macrakis

SIGINT: The Secret History of Signals Intelligence 1914–45, by Peter Matthews.

TOP SECRET: Images from the Archives of the Stasi, by Simon Menner.

Unlikely Warriors: The Army Security Agency’s Secret War in Vietnam 1961–1973, by Lonnie M. Long and Gary B. Blackburn.


Chapman Pincher: Dangerous To Know—A Life, by Chapman Pincher.

How Long Till Dawn: Memoirs of one of the Charter Members and Original Founders of the Resistance Movement in Algiers and a Member of OSS during World War II, by Daphne Joan Fry (Tuyl) Knox.



The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man, by Luke Harding (Vintage, 2014), 346 pp., index.

The Snowden Operation: Inside the West’s Greatest Intelligence Disaster, by Edward Lucas (Edward Lucas eBook, 2014), 76 pp., glossary, endnotes, no index.

No Place To Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State, by Glenn Greenwald (Metropolitan, 2014), 259 pp., photos, endnotes & index at

Each of these books about the Snowden affair covers the basics of Snowden’s broken family life, his half-finished education, his political beliefs, and his devotion to the Internet. The Snowden Files—published first—is based on interviews conducted by Guardian journalist Luke Harding, materials furnished the paper, and accounts appearing elsewhere. Harding clearly views Snowden as a noble, self-sacrificing whistle-blower. His major addition to the story is a chapter describing how Snowden, using the Internet name TheTrueHooha, attempted to learn how to set up a Web server. Later, writes Harding, Snowden, still as TheTrueHooha, engaged in Internet chats that complained about the New York Times publishing leaked information in violation of national security. He then criticized the “Obama administration for appointing a…politician to run the CIA.” (4) Harding also adds some minor details—not included in the other volumes—about British SIGINT facilities and British reaction to the Snowden disclosures. With these exceptions, the book offers nothing significant not found in the other two.

The Snowden Operation, published only as an e-book, takes a decidedly different approach. Economist-author Edward Lucas views Snowden as a “useful idiot,” (2) suggesting that his theft of government documents amounts to sabotage, not whistle-blowing. He recognizes that the charge of mass surveillance resonates with the public but warns against overreaction by the “Snowdenistas” that would destroy valuable capabilities and says they are naïve in arguing foreign intelligence services will not have access to or benefit from the stolen material. Noting that “Russian intelligence keeps a close eye on staff of adversary countries’ foreign missions,” (chapter 5) he concludes that it is likely that they would have been onto Snowden from his days as TheTrueHooha and suggests just how they would have monitored him.

On the topic of how a legitimate whistle-blower would have behaved, Lucas describes the options available and the procedures that would have achieved the practical goals Snowden espoused. But they would not have put Snowden in the media spotlight. In short, Lucas does not see Snowden as the product of heroic virtues, or Western intelligence as the perpetrator of persistent willful illegalities, though he suggests that unwarranted sloppiness contributed to the problem. After a few modest suggestions for improvements, Lucas concludes that Snowden has become a pawn in an information warfare operation that is no cause for comfort.

No Place To Hide is the most complete, though far from the most objective account of the Snowden affair to date. Lawyer-journalist Glenn Greenwald is the only one of the three authors to have met and interviewed Snowden. Four of the five chapters in his book deal directly with the details of their relationship. He begins with a story of their first contact—a cryptic e-mail signed Cincinnatus—a detail not included in the other books. He then explains how this eventually led to a quasi-clandestine meeting in Hong Kong after the intervention of Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker. Greenwald also includes a lengthy description of how they arranged for publication of the documents Snowden provided—some examples are included in the book—and the many difficulties they experienced once they did so.

But the core arguments in No Place to Hide are found in chapter three, “Collect It All.” Greenwald is appalled at the concept implied in the chapter’s title and analyzes it with the presumption of illegality while dismissing without comment the intelligence issues that led to its adoption. Throughout this chapter and the next, “The Harm of Surveillance,” Greenwald emphasizes the coincidence of his judgments and values with those of Snowden. He also links Snowden’s upbringing and checkered employment history as justification for his decision to proceed as he did rather than follow official whistle-blower procedures. Greenwald also ignores other interpretations regarding the legality of the NSA’s collection programs—for example, the views of retired admiral Michael McConnell, former director of the National Security Agency and national intelligence.1

The fifth chapter is something of a surprise. Here Greenwald harshly attacks selected members of the media—including the New York Times—for their efforts to “discredit [the author] personally” (211) and for publishing classified information. He goes on to criticize the Bush and Obama administrations and various private individuals, including Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who said Greenwald’s reporting “doesn’t border on criminality—it’s right in the heart of criminality.” (217) More generally, Greenwald insists that since journalists often consult with the government before publishing certain stories, “establishment media figures have accepted the role of dutiful spokespeople for political officials.” (232)

Greenwald sums up the common themes of these three books: Snowden’s acts were justified because he chose to seek “reform of the surveillance state,” (248) and journalists have the absolute right to be the final arbiters of what to publish. Greenwald’s often bitter ad hominem rationale for this is unlikely to be the last word on the subject.


The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay, by Jess Bravin (Yale University Press, 2013), 440 pp., endnotes, photos, index.

President George W. Bush’s November 2001 signing of the order creating military commissions to deal with prisoners at Guantanamo Bay came as a surprise to DCI George Tenet. The CIA preferred using the “federal prosecutors and judges in the Southern District of New York” since they were experienced in handling “the biggest terrorism cases” while protecting classified information “without a single leak.” (45) For reasons of their own, the State and Justice Departments were also not pleased with the decision. In The Terror Courts, journalist and lawyer Jess Bravin describes the bureaucratic battles that followed the decision, its impact on government attempts to prosecute suspected terrorists, and the less-than-career-enhancing consequences for the principal legal officers involved.

Bravin takes an interesting approach to a complicated legal situation. He uses several cases to illustrate the difficulties that have been encountered in bringing detainees to trial and the appeals that often followed. The story of Salim Hamden is a prime example. Bravin follows Hamden’s capture in Afghanistan in November 2001 and multiple interrogations in which his testimony often changed. When it was learned that he had been Osama bin Laden’s driver he was sent to Guantanamo. At Hamden’s trial by a military commission, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) was a key witness. When Hamden’s lawyers challenged the authority of the commission to try him, the case went to the Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor. Hamden was released in 2009 and returned to Yemen. (375) When the District of Colombia Circuit Court vacated his conviction, “the decision immediately placed in jeopardy every military conviction.” (377) Bravin examines the legal fallout.

The case of Mandouh Habib illustrates the difficulties prosecutors encountered when key evidence was withheld. In Habib’s case, it was a CIA record of an incriminating phone call he had made. (235) A further complication was that his admission to training terrorists and planning to hijack a plane himself had been obtained after his rendition to an Egyptian prison. When the prosecutor of the case, Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Couch, realized he could not show Habib’s statements were not the result of torture, Habib was released. The claim that evidence was obtained under torture is a problem in many of the cases Bravin discusses, including that of KSM. (250)

Besides detailed case revelations, Bravin describes legal procedures employed at Guantanamo, the influence of politics on the disposition of prisoners, the seemingly endless pretrial maneuvering, and the conflicts that emerged among the defense and prosecution lawyers. The Terror Courts does not, however, suggest what should be done with the prisoners remaining at Guantanamo. He only shows that the military commission approach was not the appropriate legal solution.

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A Force: The Origins of British Deception During the Second World War, by Whitney T. Bendeck (Naval Institute Press, 2013), 259 pp., endnotes, bibliography, index.

Historian Whitney Bendeck teaches at Florida State University, where she is also director of undergraduate studies for the international affairs program. Her interest in deception was triggered by a visit to the Normandy Cemetery and Memorial, and “A” Force is the result. She provides several objectives for her study. One was “to explain why the British resorted to deception in the first place.” Another was to “synthesize military and deception histories into a single narrative.” Finally, she wanted “to build on [her] predecessors’ works and demonstrate beyond question that the deception operations in the Second World War began in the deserts of North and East Africa, not in London.” (12–13) She accomplishes the first two admirably. But “A” Force does little to achieve the third.

The reason is not because she omits any of the key players or operations or fails to document her account. Rather, it is because her treatment covers the same topics as other authors have and adds little to their record. For example, although broader in scope, Thaddeus Holt’s The Deceivers2 discusses the same operations and personnel, while leaving no doubt that British deception during the war originated during the Africa campaigns.

Although it does not meet all of its stated objectives, “A” Force is nevertheless a concise but thorough treatment of an important topic.


The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI, by Betty Medsger (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014), 596 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.

During the night of 8 March 1971, while the nation’s attention was on the long-anticipated boxing match between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, antiwar activists calling themselves The Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the F.B.I. broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania. Executing a carefully planned burglary, the perpetrators quickly stripped the office of its files and took them to a remote farmhouse in upstate Pennsylvania. While examining their haul, the burglars found a 1970 memorandum directing agents to increase their interviews of antiwar activists and other dissident groups in order to “enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles and…further serve to get the point across there is an FBI agent behind every mailbox.” They realized they had the information they had hoped to find. Other documents added support to their belief that the FBI sought to discredit the Black Panthers, Martin Luther King, and particular antiwar activists, among other targets. One report included a routine routing slip with the acronym COINTELPRO (for Counterintelligence Program), a term that would later assume disturbing significance.

The burglars’ next step was to make the documents public in such a way that they could not be successfully dismissed as leftist propaganda. Washington Post reporter Betty Medsger was selected as a reliable avenue. A number of documents were sent to her anonymously. Later, others were sent to members of Congress and other journalists. The Washington Post’s executive editor, Ben Bradlee, directed publication of the documents as a matter of journalistic responsibility.

While there was an initial public outcry and outrage at the FBI spying on Americans, attention gradually faded as the Pentagon Papers and Watergate break-in grabbed headlines. Despite an intense and lengthy FBI investigation, which included an interview of a member of the group, none of the burglars were ever caught.

The story surfaced 30 years later when Medsger was visiting two old friends in Philadelphia, and they told her they had been part of the group that had committed the break-in and sent the files to her. They were by then free to talk since the statute of limitations had long since expired. After they put her in touch with fellow conspirators—seven of the eight agreed to be identified—Medsger decided to write The Burglary.

The book describes the burglary in great detail and also reviews, rather sympathetically, the lives of each of the burglars before and after the break-in. Medsger also uses the book to review the Church Committee investigation of the FBI and to criticize the Bureau’s recent behavior while arguing for reform. As for the Media burglars, she implicitly absolves them of the felony they committed. In the end, The Burglary does, indeed, reveal FBI wrongdoing, but some may be left wondering whether the ends justified the means in this case.


Dark Invasion: 1915—Germany’s Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America, by Howard Blum (HarperCollins, 2014), 473 pp., notes on sources, bibliography, maps, index.

Col. Walter Nicolai, the head of German military intelligence in WWI, surveyed its wartime performance in his book, The German Secret Service. Less than two pages were devoted to the United States, where, he noted, “it was all but impossible to send agents for espionage.”3 Dark Invasion validates Nicolai’s conclusion. Notwithstanding the book’s subtitle, the German agents in America before 1917 were engaged in old-fashioned sabotage, not terrorism, as the book makes clear.

Investigative journalist Howard Blum tells their story through the eyes of the participants. The key figure and book’s central focus is New York police captain Thomas Tunney, head of the Bomb Squad. Blum relates Tunney’s early experiences against anarchist groups, notably his successful operation to foil an attempt to blow up St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This is the closest the book comes to discussing terrorism.

Germany was aware that the nominally neutral United States was, in fact, supplying Germany’s enemies with munitions and other goods. Nicolai, acting under the Kaiser’s orders, charged Count Johann Heinrich von Bernstorff, Germany’s ambassador in Washington, with the task of “keeping America out of the war and preventing the munitions and other goods…from reaching the enemy.” (41) Nicolai explained that while money was no object, sending trained agents to America was not possible. Thus, to accomplish this mission, Bernstorff would have to recruit people from his staff to take the necessary actions. Blum shows that even though Bernstorff had no experience in any form of clandestine service, he did a rather good job.

Dark Invasion recounts the story of each man Bernstorff recruited and the missions they undertook. German-Americans were enlisted to plant so-called “cigar bombs” with delayed-action fuses to blow up ships at sea. The munitions center at Black Tom, New Jersey, was bombed, destroying tons of shells destined for the allies.4 There was even a plot to infect horses headed for Europe with anthrax. Since the United States had no national intelligence service, the New York Police Department Bomb Squad was assigned the job of stopping the sabotage of ports and munitions plants.

Not all the German operatives involved were recruited by Bernstorff or his men. Harvard student Erich Muenter was a walk-in. After Muenter murdered his wife in Cambridge, changed his name to Frank Holt, and remarried, he contacted the German embassy with a plan. To demonstrate his sincerity and ability, he planted a bomb that exploded in the US Capitol and then conducted an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate J.P. Morgan, shooting him twice. Tunney caught him during the attack.

Blum tells how Tunney and his men, with help from the British Secret Intelligence Service, prevented some but not all of the German sabotage. By the time America entered the war, most of Bernstorff’s agents had been caught. Blum ends his story at that point, although Tunney’s job continued. Dark Invasion is a good summary of America’s initial attempts to deal with threats to the homeland.5


Dr. Benjamin Church, Spy: A Case of Espionage on the Eve of the American Revolution, by John A. Nagy (Westholme Publishing, 2013), 211 pp., footnotes, bibliography, appendices, photos, index.

Dr. Benjamin Church was the physician who performed the autopsy on Crispus Attucks after the Boston Massacre. A prominent member of Boston society, he was a skilled orator, poet, and member of the Massachusetts provincial congress. His confidants included Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and John Hancock. As a member of the Committee of Safety, he signed Benedict Arnold’s orders to take Fort Ticonderoga and later became surgeon general of the Continental Army. In short, Church was one of America’s founding fathers. He was also the British spy who informed General Gage, the royal governor of the colony, of the location of American ammunition stores at Lexington.

The story of Church’s treachery has been told in other histories of the War of Independence.6 In Dr. Benjamin Church, Spy, historian John Nagy presents a broader, more thoroughly documented study. While recounting Church’s spying, Nagy examines his motivations, the events that led to his discovery, and the few remaining doubts about the case.

The Church case is of historical significance for several reasons. Church was the first spy exposed during the revolution because his enciphered communications were decrypted by Washington’s staff. The case also exposed the fact that there was no law against espionage, leaving the Continental Congress with no basis to imprison Church. His motivations and the reasons for his exposure, on the other hand, were quite conventional. He was in need of money, and he wanted to end up on the winning side. He employed his unwitting mistress to transmit the encrypted letter to the British, but for reasons of her own, she did not follow his instructions, and this led to its discovery. (160)

Benjamin Church always proclaimed his innocence, but his court martial found him guilty. With no option for imprisonment, and after much maneuvering over alternatives, he was deported to Martinico—now Martinique—and died when the ship was lost at sea. Dr. Benjamin Church, Spy is a fine study of America’s first case of espionage and a positive contribution to the intelligence literature.


Fool’s Mate: A True Story of Espionage at the National Security Agency, by John W. Whiteside III (CreateSpace, 2013) 271 pp., bibliography, no index.

When KGB archivist Visili Mitrokhin defected in November 1992, Robert Lipka’s goose was cooked; he just didn’t know it. Mitrokhin had furnished Lipka’s name and said he was an Army communications specialist who had been an active KGB agent for the two years ending in August 1967, when he left the Army and went to Millersville College in Pennsylvania. The FBI was tasked with determining whether Mitrokhin was right. They had only the Russian’s claims; to make a case against Lipka, the FBI needed his confession. FBI special agent John Whiteside was assigned the case. Fool’s Mate describes the investigation and sting operation that led to Lipka’s arrest and conviction 30 years after his offense.

Whiteside tells his story chronologically. Employing a special watcher team, he put Lipka under surveillance and learned his daily routine—the man was gambler and a horseplayer. At the time, he weighed at least 300 pounds, so he was hard to miss. In 1993, after receiving evidence from Lipka’s first wife—who had accompanied him while he serviced dead drops—Whiteside mounted a false-flag operation with an FBI special agent posing as a Russian GRU officer attempting to reactivate Lipka with money as the bait. The details of how they accomplished this while dealing with a suspicious Lipka and Department of Justice lawyers and Bureau supervisors looking over every step make for great reading.

In the end, Lipka did go to jail (in 1997), but under circumstances hard to believe. He was sentenced to 18 years. Lipka was released in 2006 and passed away in 2013. An interesting case study!


Historical Dictionary of World War I Intelligence, by Nigel West (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013), 444 pp., bibliography, index.

Historical Dictionary of British Intelligence, 2nd edition revised, by Nigel West (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), 786 pp., bibliography, index.

These volumes mark the 10th and 11th contributions by military historian Nigel West to the Historical Dictionary intelligence series. In his introduction to World War I Intelligence, West explains the reasoning that kept details of most of these cases secret for so long. Promises by case officers were high on the list, and fear of reprisals to descendants was another factor. But time has lessened the risks, and newly released documents from the British National Archives have revealed new names and acts of espionage among all the major participants in WWI. Still, though many of the cases are well known, they have been included for completenesss. One of the additions to public knowledge is the partial transcript of Mata Hari’s interrogation by Sir Basil Thomson. Curiously, Thomson himself does not have an entry. Another item published here for the first time is the complete Special War List (SWL). Compiled by MI5, it contains the names of “past and present” suspect enemy agents in Britain during the period. (296, 356ff.) WWI intelligence students and historians will find World War I Intelligence a useful reference.

The new edition of British Intelligence contains 74 pages of material that surfaced since the first edition was published in 2005. Some additions include personalities. Former MI5 officer Cathy Massiter is one example. Another is Anya Chapman, as she was known in London, who was arrested (under the name Anna Chapman) in New York as one of 10 Soviet illegals. New terms are also included, for example, “extraordinary rendition,” which West notes had one British involvement. (205) The description of MI5 surveillance operations, codenamed OVERT, is also new. Other entries have been expanded; the one for former MI5 Director-General Stephen Lander is typical.

Both volumes contain excellent bibliographic essays that summarize the British intelligence literature and comment on its quality. Neither volume contains sources for the entries, a publisher-imposed limitation that diminishes scholarly value. That deficiency aside, these reference works are a valuable starting point for those who want to know more about espionage history.


James Jesus Angleton: Was He Right?, by Edward Jay Epstein (FastTrack Press/EJE Publications, 2014), 101 pp.

In 1976, while Edward Epstein was working on a book about Lee Harvey Oswald, he could find little information about Oswald’s  two-year stint in the Soviet Union. When Epstein heard about Yuri Nosenko, a KGB defector who supposedly knew something about the subject, he obtained permission from the CIA to interview him. The interview left Epstein with more unanswered questions, and he was discouraged from pursuing the matter. When Seymour Hersh published his exposé about the CIA in December 1974, Epstein noticed a name he had not heard before—James Angleton. Going first to the Washington DC phone book, he found Angleton’s number, called, and got an interview. Was He Right? describes what followed.

First, Epstein writes, he learned Angleton’s theory and basic principles of counterintelligence and deception.  Then came the details of the Nosenko case, the input from another KGB defector—Anatoly Golitsyn—whose story introduced counterintelligence complications, and the resulting molehunt.  When DCI Colby would not accept Angleton’s judgment that Nosenko was a provocation, Angleton was forced to retire. In the telling Epstein mentions his interviews with various players in the controversy and he gradually broadens the issue. No longer is Epstein concerned just about Nosenko’s role, the primary issue of Angleton’s interest. The real question, Epstein suggests, was whether the CIA had ever been penetrated.

And it is this question that Epstein addresses in the final part of his monograph. To make his point, he summarizes known KGB penetration cases. Curiously, he includes examples that occurred before CIA existed, some that occurred in other intelligence agencies, and still others that took place long after Angleton had left—Howard Ames, Nicholson, and even Yurchenko, to name a few. Thus, his conclusion that “Angleton had been right” (65) is supported in part by cases of which Angleton had no knowledge.

Was He Right? should be viewed with caution, and not just because of its foregone conclusion. Epstein also makes a number of factual errors. For example, Angleton did not graduate from Yale “with high honors” (9); he was near the bottom of his class. Nor was he the head of the CI Staff “until Christmas Eve of 1095.” (10)  The typo should have been caught; the correct date was 1974. Pete Bagley didn’t wait for George Kisevalter before interviewing Nosenko. (24) Epstein’s claim that in 1940, “French and Polish intelligence stole a German Enigma cipher machine,” is incorrect. Finally, Anatoly Golitsyn did not defect “at the American Embassy in Helsinki” but went directly to the chief of station’s home. (44)

In the end, Epstein presents an interesting view of his relationship with James Angleton. But his suggestion that Angleton’s contemporaries did not share his view of the potential for KGB penetrations of the CIA is incorrect.


Meeting the Challenge: The Hexagon KH-9 Reconnaissance Satellite, by Phil Pressel (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 2013), 295 pp., photos, index.

The HEXAGON (KH-9) film-based photo satellite system, one of several systems that followed the first orbiting reconnaissance satellite, the Corona (the last in the series was the KH-4b), first launched in 1971. The KH-9 flew 19 successful missions before the 20th and last exploded shortly after launch on 18 April 1986. Meeting the Challenge tells the story of the HEXAGON’s origins and development and provides details of the system’s characteristics, which were tremendously more advanced than those of its predecessors, the CORONA and GAMBIT.7

Sixteen of the 19 chapters and six appendices of Meeting the Challenge are written in whole or in part by principal author Phil Pressel, a former HEXAGON project engineer. The balance of the book is authored by specialists in the technical topics covered. They all worked for Perkin-Elmer Corporation, the contractor that designed and produced the HEXAGON camera system under the guidance of the CIA.

Perkin-Elmer was not the only contractor competing to build the KH-9. The Itek Corporation, manufacturer of the KH-4b, was also a bidder, and Pressel discusses the competition. He also devotes a chapter to the organization of Perkin-Elmer and the staff that designed and built HEXAGON. But most of Meeting the Challenge is concerned with the technical aspects of the KH-9—its optical system, film path, testing, electronics—as well as in-flight problems and Perkin-Elmer’s coordination with the CIA.

Diagrams and photos of the camera configuration are included to illustrate how the system worked and showcase its complexity. There are two chapters that non-technical readers will appreciate. The first deals with salvaging a capsule that sank before it could be recovered. The second describes what happened when the film broke during a mission, and CIA’s program manager, Robert Kohler, worked to determine whether the camera or the ultrathin film produced by Eastman Kodak had caused the failure.

For many who worked on the once-secret HEXAGON program, Meeting the Challenge makes public a story that few thought would ever be written. A most valuable contribution to the intelligence literature and a nice supplement to the material released in 2012 by the National Reconnaissance Office.8


Moles, Defectors, and Deceptions: James Angleton and His Influence on US Counterintelligence, edited by Bruce Hoffman and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2014), 116 pp., photos, no index.

On 29 March 2012, The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars sponsored a seminar on James Angleton, his legacy, and his influence on counterintelligence. It was cochaired by the editors of this volume, which is a transcript of the proceedings. The 12 contributors were Tennent Bagley (CIA retired); Barry Royden (CIA retired); Carl Colby (Producer/Director and William Colby’s son); journalist/authors Edward Epstein, Ronald Kessler, David Martin and David Wise; historians Christopher Andrew (Cambridge), Loch Johnson (University of Georgia), John Prados (National Security Archive), and David Robarge (CIA); and Oleg Kalugin (KGB retired).

Each contributor made a presentation, and the overall result was an unusual summary view of Angleton and his CIA career. Only Bagley had had prolonged professional contact with Angleton. Johnson had interviewed him several times while on the Church Committee staff, and Epstein had interviewed him for 85 hours; both of these encounters occurred after Angleton had retired. The other journalists, authors, and historians had written books or articles about Angleton based on documents and interviews.

The varied views presented reflect the origins and functions of CIA counterintelligence as well as Angleton’s molehunt and other controversial elements of his career. There were brisk exchanges among the presenters and the audience. (36–37) Questions from the audience and the panelists’ answers are also included. This is the best assessment of James Angleton and his career ever produced.


Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case, 3rd revised edition, by Allen Weinstein (Hoover Institution Press, 2013), 766 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.

When a book is judged after a period of time to have lasting benefit to a profession, it is said to be a classic. Perjury is such a work. Historian Allen Weinstein began what would become five years of research with the belief that the evidence he would find would show Hiss to have been innocent. After a precedent-setting FOIA legal battle that produced the FBI’s Hiss-Chambers files, it was clear that Weinstein was wrong. When Perjury originally appeared (in 1978), Weinstein drew severe criticism from Hiss supporters and many in the press. After the Venona decrypts were released in 1995, most scholars acknowledged Hiss’s guilt. In 1997, Weinstein published a second edition of Perjury that included additional details supporting that view. Nevertheless, some, including Hiss, battled on with often improbable theories of innocence.

This third edition has a new introduction that elaborates on the book’s origins. It also discusses Weinstein’s interviews with Hiss, Nixon, and others who played roles in the case. In addition, there are new details on Hiss’s fellow Soviet agent Noel Field, which emerged from Hungarian archives opened since the second edition appeared. Field stated, while in a Hungarian prison, that Hiss had indeed been a Soviet agent. There is also some new material from Alexander Vassiliev, with whom Weinstein collaborated in writing the book Haunted Wood.9 Finally, Weinstein discusses the furor that erupted when Soviet Army Gen. Dmitri Volkogonov proclaimed that the KGB had nothing on Hiss in its files.

Perjury is the essence of brilliant scholarship. It will stand as a benchmark for those working in the challenging field of counterespionage.


Prisoners, Lovers, & Spies: The Story of Invisible Ink from Herodotus to al-Qaeda, by Kristie Macrakis (Yale University Press, 2014), 377 pp., endnotes, bibliography, appendix, photos, index.

Oxymorons are often accepted in everyday conversation. “Civil war,” “plastic glasses,” and “open secret” come to mind. In the intelligence vernacular, “defector-in-place” qualifies, and so does “invisible ink.” As Georgia Tech history professor Kristie Macrakis herself admits, “invisible secret writing or SW” is a more accurate description, because nobody has ever seen invisible ink. (xiii, xiv) And this is what she means in her latest book, Prisoners, Lovers, & Spies. In fact, she includes steganography under the SW rubric, though the term “invisible ink” still appears frequently throughout the book.

With that technical qualification aside, readers will find in Prisoners, Lovers, & Spies a thought-provoking history of SW and secret communications. Macrakis begins with the ancient Greeks and Romans, then tracks the operations of Elizabethan spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham, and moves on to the development of “sympathetic inks” in France. She goes on explain their later use in the American War of Independence. She devotes considerable effort to the explosion of SW in the 20th century and mentions some unusual applications in the 21st century. Along the way, she describes the chemicals used and the techniques involved, as well as digital methods used to prevent detection.

Macrakis offers numerous case studies. She provides details about the spies involved and discusses their tradecraft and the organizations they served. The case of Wolfgang Reif is a good, though atypical example. Reif ended up working for the CIA, the West German BND, and the East German HVA (foreign intelligence). How the Stasi exposed him and learned about his SW and microdot communications makes for fascinating reading. The HVA thought the case instructive and made a training film illustrating Reif’s equipment, communication techniques, and trial. (253)

The most bizarre case in the book is of terrorists hiding SW in pornographic websites. Macrakis tells how computer experts in the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) found al-Qaeda operations plans embedded in a file titled “Sexy Tanja.” No illustrations are included for this case.

In an epilogue, Macrakis blasts the CIA for its declassification policies and pontificates a bit about the need for oversight when “we have the power to read everyone’s e-mail with one keystroke.” (301) Her personal views aside, Prisoners, Lovers, & Spies is a valuable contribution to the literature.


Proceed to Peshawar: The Story of a U.S. Navy Intelligence Mission on the Afghan Border, 1943, by George J. Hill (Naval Institute Press, 2013), 228 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.

The Durand Line was created in 1893, when Sir Mortimer Durand and the Afghan Emir Abdur Rahman Khan agreed to establish a rough border and regional spheres of influence between British India and Afghanistan. In late fall 1943, three Allied officers—US Navy Lt. Albert Zimmermann, British Maj. Sir Benjamin Bromhead, and US Army Maj. Gordon Enders—conducted a month long reconnaissance along the Durand Line to make clear “to the American Legation in Kabul the [British] frontier problems” and Britain’s policies for dealing with the Afghans. (xix) Proceed to Peshawar tells their story.

Author George Hill, Lt. Zimmermann’s son-in-law, reconstructs the journey using unpublished material made available by the Zimmermann and Enders families. In fact, Hill says, no official records have survived. He provides a map depicting the route the three observers traveled by jeep, as they made their way from Chital in the north to Quetta in the south of what is now Pakistan.

Hill conveys Zimmermann’s and Enders’s observations about local tribes and customs and the difficult terrain, making it clear that little has changed in the region since 1943. Hill also provides detailed biographic data about the travelers and those with whom they worked before, during, and after the trip. In addition, he describes peripheral contacts in the United States with MI6 and the OSS, and various OSS missions underway in the area.

Hill characterizes the trip as part of “The Great Game” and “a seminal event, though long since forgotten, in American diplomatic history.” (175) But Proceed to Peshawar does not support that conclusion. It is a good record of a reconnaissance mission conducted under moderately adverse conditions and provides links to corresponding wartime events. But the book’s subtitle notwithstanding, Proceed to Peshawar is not about a Navy intelligence mission, and any intelligence benefit from the journey can only be imagined.


SIGINT: The Secret History of Signals Intelligence 1914–45, by Peter Matthews (The History Press, 2013), 256 pp., bibliography, appendix, photos, maps, index.

Author Peter Matthews joined the British army at the end of WWII. After signals warfare training, he was assigned to Berlin at the start of the Berlin airlift (1948). He worked alongside former Wehrmacht signals personnel as they intercepted Soviet military communications. His conversations with German SIGINT personnel revealed what they did during WWII. SIGINT tells some of those stories and adds historical detail about German WWI and interwar operations and practices.

The first seven chapters discuss SIGINT functions as they developed during WWI in each branch of the German services. After a chapter on the interwar years, Matthews devotes two chapters to WWII. He tells of German SIGINT operations against Allied air, sea, and ground forces. What is surprising in his account is that the German intercept operators had a very high opinion of their work, especially at the tactical level. They would not learn until many years later of the Allied successes at Bletchley Park that nullified most of the German efforts.

Matthews draws on the reports of the Allied Target Intelligence Committee (TICOM) for some of his reporting. Officers from this group interviewed WWII German intercept operators and found they had total confidence in the security of the Enigma machine. The TICOM reports also revealed the Germans had broken Allied codes used during the battle of North Africa. Other sources, according to Matthews, revealed that German SIGINT was unable to keep track of Red Army operations and had a distorted picture of its order of battle. They had a better record against Soviet espionage activities in the Soviet Union and Germany, but in the end they had no practical impact on the war. (197)

SIGINT tells some interesting stories about intercept units and operations, but it has two serious drawbacks. It is not documented, leaving readers wondering about the sources of some of the book’s assertions. For example, in a brief discussion of Soviet radio and security techniques, Matthews notes that “Stalin gave impetus to the army’s improvements,” but there are no supporting details. The second drawback is that the book is poorly edited, and the narrative is often hard to follow. Even with these limitations, SIGINT offers an interesting account of German SIGINT operations not found elsewhere.


TOP SECRET: Images from the Stasi Archive, by Simon Menner (Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2013), 127 pp., bibliography, photos, no index.

While reviewing files in the Stasi archives, German researcher Simon Menner discovered photographs used in surveillance training classes. They included examples of disguises, secret signs, surveillance scenarios, self-defense maneuvers, arrest procedures, and various search techniques. He also found examples of what to look for when searching a juvenile’s bedroom, how to watch a mailbox, and even a confiscated poem about a cow that was considered subversive (the poem, not the cow). Among the book’s lighter moments is a photograph of an agent using a camera to take a “selfie.” (94) A final section is devoted to Stasi social activities and award ceremonies that give an eerie impression of life in the Ministry for State Security.

TOP SECRET is published in two columns, one German, the other, English. It provides an unusual glimpse into the functioning of a dedicated surveillance state.


Unlikely Warriors: The Army Security Agency’s Secret War in Vietnam 1961–1973, by Lonnie M. Long and Gary B. Blackburn (iUniverse, 2013), 475 pp., bibliography, photos, index.

From 1945 to 1976, the Army Security Agency (ASA) was the SIGINT element of the US Army. After 1952, it fell under the overall operational control of the National Security Agency, but tactical command was still exercised from ASA headquarters at Arlington, Virginia. In April 1961, the first ASA unit—made up of 92 men—was sent to Vietnam on a top secret mission. Given the cover designation, “3rd Radio Research Unit,” the group would target local North Vietnamese communications—mainly Morse intercepts—while training the South Vietnamese in COMINT (communications intelligence) duties. A secondary duty for all Army units is “to fight as infantry when required.” The 3rd Radio Research Unit and its successors were weapons-trained on the job. They used this training on many occasions. Unlikely Warriors tells the story of the ASA’s combat and operational roles in the Vietnam War from 1961 (when that first unit deployed) until 1975.

Both authors are experienced COMINT officers. Long served in Vietnam with the 3rd Radio Research Unit aviation section. Blackburn served in an Air Force Security Service unit in Okinawa and for the NSA in Taiwan. The story they tell is a mix of political-military history, land and air operations, the constant threats to physical security, and an ever-expanding missions. Woven in are the personal recollections— often based on letters—of the authors and of those with whom they served.

Among the many units they describe, the ASA Special Operations Detachments (SODs) stand out. Both ASA- and Special Forces (SF)-qualified, they served with SF and South Vietnamese Army units. The authors describe their exploits, living conditions, battles fought, and losses incurred.

Equally compelling are the accounts of the ASA aerial missions. Flying in single-engine Otters, often with one pilot and an intercept operator, they targeted small, tactical North Vietnamese elements. One four-man ASA crew was shot down and captured. The story of their captivity and eventual rescue makes for gripping reading.

The last ASA units were closed down in early 1973, and Unlikely Warriors ends with the fall of Saigon. The authors offer their view of the circumstances that ended the war, including their view of the impact of a biased media. Their account is a significant tribute to the ASA’s little-known role in the war.

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Chapman Pincher: Dangerous To Know—A Life, by Chapman Pincher (Biteback Publishing, 2014), 400 pp., photos, index.

Harry Chapman Pincher began writing his memoir in 2012 when he was 98, finishing in time for its publication when he turned 100 in March 2014. He wanted to call the book My First Hundred Years, but his publisher decided otherwise—Pincher died on 5 August 2014. Dangerous To Know is the story of an army brat born in Ambala, India and educated at Darlington Grammar School and Kings College, London, where he studied botany. He began a career as a teacher, but his WWII service in the British army changed his plans and led to a position at the Daily Express, where he became a defense correspondent known for scoops often dealing with intelligence matters.

Pincher’s ability to get scoops involved common sense and leaks from government officials he cultivated during expensive lunches, pheasant hunts, and social occasions. He acquired a reputation for embarrassing governments while maintaining the confidence of his sources—though most are finally identified in Dangerous To Know—and never publishing information he was asked to withhold. MI5 bugged his phones and prime ministers found him to be a persistent irritation. Harold Macmillan once wrote to his defense minister, “Can nothing be done to suppress or even get rid of Mr. Chapman Pincher?” (43)

The variety of sources Pincher acquired and the famous people he met over the years is staggering. They include publishing magnates, Prince Charles, Lord Mountbatten, members of parliament, and MI6 officers Maurice Oldfield and Nicholas Elliott. Not to be overlooked is the lunch with the Queen Mother, giving advice to Margaret Thatcher, and fishing trips with the an Earl of Carnarvon, better known as the owner of Highclere Castle (the setting for the television series Downton Abbey) where Pincher and his wife, Billee, were often guests. Pincher includes anecdotes about them all. Despite his active professional and social life, he managed to write nine novels.

It was only after Pincher’s retirement from the Daily Express in 1980 that he began writing about intelligence. His first book on the topic was Inside Story,10 in which he discussed the Profumo Affair and briefly mentioned some of the Cambridge Five. The book for which he is best known among intelligence enthusiasts, the intensely controversial Their Trade is Treachery,11 was published in 1981. The brouhaha stemmed from its central theme that former MI5 Director General Roger Hollis had been a KGB agent and from Pincher’s refusal to name his sources. Few historians share this view, but Pincher pursued it vigorously in his most recent book, the 700-page Treachery: Betrayals, Blunders and Cover-ups—Six Decades of Espionage,12 summarizing and updating his investigations into the subject.

Dangerous To Know concludes with a reverie of a life begun in a time without indoor plumbing or telephones and moved into the marvels of the cell phone and the Internet, which have become integral parts of his daily routine. It is a delightful book both for its insights into society and the background it provides about Pincher’s intelligence writings, and is truly a unique contribution to the literature.


How Long Till Dawn: Memoirs of One of the Charter Members and Original Founders of the Resistance Movement in Algiers and a Member of OSS during World War II, by Daphne Joan Fry (Tuyl) Knox (Outskirts Press, 2014), 218 pp., index.

In his book, FDR’s 12 Apostles, journalist Hal Vaughan tells the story of diplomat Robert Murphy’s secret mission to North Africa in 1940 to assess the French situation there.13 Murphy quickly determined that he needed 12 men to provide the intelligence FDR required—they were designated vice-consuls and nicknamed the Apostles. One was a Harvard graduate, former French legionnaire and friend of Ernest Hemingway named John Crawford Knox. While working in Tunis, Knox met his future wife, Daphne Joan Fry Tuyl, a member of the British military mission who would later join the OSS. Vaughan based much of his story about Fry (Tuyl) Knox on her then-unpublished memoir. It has now been published as How Long Till Dawn.

Daphne Fry was born in Cairo to British parents. She was educated mainly in French schools in Algiers. May 1940 found her in Algiers with two small sons and living with her mother. Her Dutch husband had left to join the army in Holland, where he would be captured and executed by the Germans. It was about this time that a friend at the British military mission offered her a job as a receptionist. As circumstances in Europe worsened, she was asked to go among the French and determine their reactions to events. How Long Till Dawn tells of the gradual expansion of her duties. She would help a Polish intelligence element working in Africa and support the French resistance. In November 1942, she joined the OSS, which gave her “odd jobs for a time…and this did not amuse or interest [her].” (155) She preferred reporting on local politics, working with the resistance, and participating in the political battles between De Gaulle and his local opposition, topics that dominate the book.

By the time the war in North Africa was winding down, Fry had married Knox and, pregnant, left intelligence work. The couple was soon transferred to Paris. This is an interesting tale of a little-known aspect of the WWII intelligence story.

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  1. J. Michael McConnell, discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations, 28 June 2007. A video of the discussion is available at
  2. Thaddeus Holt, The Deceivers: Allied Military Deception in the Second World War (Simon & Schuster, 2004).
  3. Col. Walter W. Nicolai and George Renwick, The German Secret Service (Stanley Paul & Co., LTD, 1924), 108.
  4. Jules Witcover, Sabotage at Black Tom: Imperial Germany’s Secret War in America, 1914–1917 (Algonquin Books, 1989)
  5. A book covering the post-war aftermath of these activities is by Chad Millan, The Detonators: The Secret Plot to Destroy America and an Epic Hunt for Justice (Little, Brown, 2006). The book was reviewed by Thomas Boghardt in Studies in Intelligence 51 No. 1 (March 2007).
  6. See, for example, Carl Van Doren, Secret History of the American Revolution (Viking, 1941).
  7. The best source for system characteristics, which changed constantly, is the series of unclassified and declassified histories of US reconnaissance programs available at These contain original documents detailing the range of capabilities introduced with various missions.
  8. For an account of the last film recoveries from the HEXAGON and GAMBIT programs, see David Waltrop, “Catching the End of an Era: Recovery of the Last GAMBIT and HEXAGON Film Buckets from Space, August–October 1984” in Studies in Intelligence 58, No. 2 (June 2014). This article is available at In addition, unclassified and declassified histories of US reconnaissance programs can be found at
  9. Alexander Vassiliev and Allen Weinstein, The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America—The Stalin Era (Random House, 1999).
  10. Chapman Pincher, Inside Story: A Documentary of the Pursuit of Power (Stein & Day, 1979).
  11. Chapman Pincher, Their Trade Is Treachery (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1981).
  12. Chapman Pincher, Treachery: Betrayals, Blunders and Cover-Ups—Six Decades of Espionage, updated edition (Mainstream Publishing, 2012).
  13. Hal Vaughan, FDR’s 12 Apostles: The Spies Who Paved The Way For The Invasion of North Africa (The Lyons Press, 2006).

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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.

Posted: Oct 06, 2014 11:02 AM
Last Updated: Oct 06, 2014 11:02 AM