Intelligence in Public Literature

Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf

Compiled and reviewed by Hayden Peake, except where otherwise noted.

The End of Intelligence: Espionage and State Power in the Information Age, by David Tucker

Applied Thinking for Intelligence Analysis: A Guide for Practitioners, by Charles Vandepeer; reviewed by Jamie H.

Historical Dictionary of Intelligence Failures, by Glenmore Trenear-Harvey

Historical Dictionary of United States Intelligence, by Michael Turner

Blowtorch: Robert Komer, Vietnam, and American Cold War Strategy, by Frank Leith Jones

Churchill’s Iceman: The True Story of Geoffrey Pyke: Genius, Fugitive, Spy, by Henry Hemming

Double Agent: The First Hero of World War II and How the FBI Outwitted and Destroyed a Nazi Spy Ring, by Peter Duffy

The Gestapo: Power and Terror in the Third Reich, by Carsten Dams and Michael Stolle

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War, by Karen Abbott

A Matter of Intelligence: MI5 and the Surveillance of Anti-Nazi Refugees, 1933–50, by Charmian Brinson and Richard Dove

The Role of Intelligence in Ending the War in Bosnia in 1995, edited by Timothy R. Walton

Scouting for Grant and Meade: The Reminiscences of Judson Knight, Chief of Scouts, Army of the Potomac, edited by Peter G. Tsouras

Secret Cables of the Comintern, 1933–1943, by Fridrikh I. Firsov, Harvey Klehr, and John Earl Haynes

The Spy Catchers: The Official History of ASIO, 1949–1963, by David Horner

The Spy With 29 Names: The Story of the Second World War’s Most Audacious Double Agent, by Jason Webster

State Department Counterintelligence: Leaks, Spies, and Lies, by Robert David Booth

The End of Intelligence: Espionage and State Power in the Information Age, by David Tucker (Stanford University Press, 2014), 241 pp., endnotes, bibliography, appendices, index.

David Tucker is a former Foreign Service Officer and currently a senior fellow at the Ashbrook Center of Ashland University in Ohio. He began his research for The End of Intelligence while a student at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California. The result is one of the more unusual and provocative works on the subject of espionage published to date. For openers, the title is never explained. While one might conceivably infer from the narrative that Tucker is implying the information age will doom espionage, or that the words “the End” in the title implies its purpose or objective, either of which would be just an unsupported guess. There are also two unusual statements worth noting. First, he asserts “that most discussions of intelligence suggest that we need more analysis, probably less espionage, and certainly less covert action. The analysis presented here reaches a somewhat different conclusion: we could do with much less analysis, at least as it has been institutionalized in American intelligence, but cannot do without espionage and covert action.” [emphasis added] (2) This assertion is treated in the narrative but is not remotely justified and is never clearly explained. The second unusual statement is, “In the end, [the book] reaches the entirely ineffective conclusion that a ‘standard of goodness or badness beyond results,’ rather than knowledge, is the key to power.” (4) Two things are worth observing about this quotation: the ambiguity is never clarified and, though the statement appears in the introduction, it is not mentioned in the book’s concluding chapter or anywhere else.

The six explicatory chapters of the book discuss various aspects of intelligence and espionage—terms that Tucker often confuses—and power. He begins by considering where espionage fits into the constellation of “information, intelligence, and state power.” (3) His approach is to compare the differences between ancient—16th century—and modern espionage, in part by invoking the philosophic views of Colbert (Jean-Baptiste, not Steven) and Francis Bacon, and in part by critiquing well-known espionage cases and the thinking of intelligence professionals. Sherman Kent is a favorite target in the latter category. Tucker questions Kent’s advocacy of the “modern scientific method” (19) and “a liberal tradition that deemphasized espionage . . . destined, in his view, to become redundant.” Tucker challenges Kent’s view of analysis, concluding that his methodology “does not alter the conclusion that judgment in espionage is more reliable than judgment in analysis.” (187) Tucker’s rationale for this conclusion is not straightforward and hints at confirmation bias.

Other topics subjected to Tucker’s insights include counterintelligence, covert action, conventional and irregular warfare, plus principals and agents as they figure in the information revolution and espionage. Overall, he concludes, the revolution “helps more than it harms the state.” (160) As to the importance of espionage, he offers many judgments, a few of which exemplify his grasp of the topic. For example, “in recognizing the limits of self-knowledge in espionage organizations, we are again recognizing the limits to the power of information” (185) or, “calling for more espionage in the face of failure...suggests a reliance on espionage as a kind of magic charm.” Then he suggests that “it is difficult to read about William Donovan’s insistence on the effectiveness of operations behind enemy lines, despite all the evidence to the contrary, and not believe that he was in the grip of some belief that intelligence had occult power.” (189)

The End of Intelligence presents some unusual concepts, all of which challenge the mind. Making sense of them, as formulated, is a project without end.

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Applied Thinking for Intelligence Analysis: A Guide for Practitioners, by Charles Vandepeer (Royal Australian Air Force, 2014), 118 pp., figures, tables, no index. Reviewed by Jamie H.

In Applied Thinking for Intelligence Analysis: A Guide for Practitioners, Squadron Leader Charles Vandepeer of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) introduces readers to the challenges and complexities of intelligence analysis, but fails to offer promised practical guidance on making judgments in an uncertain world. The book was written to provide introductory critical thinking training to RAAF analysts, and the chapters are short and punctuated by simple, clear graphics that reinforce the learning.

Applied Thinking for Intelligence Analysis begins by defining intelligence and the problems analysts face. Readers in the Intelligence Community will appreciate the typology offered to characterize “solvable” and “unsolvable” problems, as well as the probing questions the author offers to narrow an analytic inquiry. This discussion sets up later chapters on prediction and complexity that address the limits of our ability to predict future developments, particularly when people are involved.

In the remainder of the book, the author takes a philosophical approach to an overview of knowledge, reasoning, expertise, and cognitive biases. Short descriptions of each provide historic context and possible missteps, but the book lacks guidance on how to use knowledge, expertise, and reasoning to develop analytic arguments—probably the most important application of thinking to intelligence analysis. Moreover, the book references analytic tools but only provides sufficient instruction for backcasting, mind mapping, nominal group technique, pre-mortem analysis, and indicators and warning. For these reasons, analysts looking for guidance on applying thinking to the production of intelligence will need to look elsewhere.

Historical Dictionary of Intelligence Failures, by Glenmore Trenear-Harvey (Roman & Littlefield, 2014), 299 pp., bibliography, appendix, no index.

American readers may well expect this book to discuss some familiar events, such as the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen penetrations, or the Cambridge Five, and even the more recent Manning and Snowden cases. But they would be wrong, according to British author Glenmore Trenear-Harvey, because of his definition of failure. He draws a distinction between intelligence—what we would call the intelligence product—and security. For example, he characterizes the failure to recognize Kim Philby and George Blake as KGB penetrations of MI6 as “appalling breaches of security,” not intelligence failures. (1) Trenear-Harvey extends this thinking to all other penetrations and unsuccessful covert actions, thus excluding them from this book.

Most of the failures he does include are those based on faulty conclusions drawn from sound data, failure to disseminate intelligence properly, or failure to connect the dots. The prelude to the 2003 Iraq war (11) and the use of Ryszard Kuklinski’s Polish intelligence (176) are offered as examples of the former and pre-9/11 analyses are illustrative of the latter. For some entries, however, the reason for inclusion is not obvious, the XX Committee being an example. (253) Additionally, the author does not state the criteria for selecting cases that fall within his definition, the preponderance of which involve the CIA.

Like all books in the Historical Intelligence Dictionary series, the publisher declines to allow sources and most often (as in this case), indices. In some respects, this substantially reduces the books’ scholarly value, though when used as starting points these books can spark solid research habits.

However one defines intelligence failure, the examples Trenear-Harvey has included give a clear exposition of the situation and, since some are seldom found elsewhere, they are worth serious attention.

Historical Dictionary of United States Intelligence, by Michael Turner (Roman & Littlefield, 2014), 383 pp., bibliography, no index. Second Edition.

In the nearly ten years since the first edition of this book was published, former CIA officer Michael Turner has worked to bring it up to date and correct errors. His criterion for including entries was that they be “the most relevant items important to American intelligence.” (ix) There are more than 100 additional pages in this edition, including a detailed list of acronyms, a valuable chronology, a comprehensive bibliography, and a short summary of American intelligence history.

Though more error-free than the first edition, some remain. For example, neither Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) nor the American OSS launched Jedburgh Teams behind enemy lines in 1943 (xxvi); they didn’t go in until 1944. NSA was not established by Congress in 1952 or in any other year; President Harry Truman created it by classified presidential memorandum on 24 October 1952. There are also a few terminological errors, as, for example, calling Rudolf Abel a Soviet illegal agent (he was a KGB officer). The topic of the Cambridge spies, covered only in the entry on Kim Philby, also requires clarification: Philby’s father was not an aristocrat, and SIS did reinstate Philby as a contract agent. His service in Lebanon was not as a freelance agent; he worked for the Observer and The Economist. Donald Maclean never worked for British intelligence, and John Cairncross, who did, is not mentioned. Finally, some of the most important espionage cases in American history have been omitted. Examples include Elizabeth Bentley, Aleksandr Ogorodnikov, Yuri Nosenko, and Adolf Tolkachev. While the discrepancies are not earthshaking, they do suggest fact-checking would be wise when using this dictionary as a source.

Overall, this edition of the Historical Dictionary of American Intelligence is much improved.

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Blowtorch: Robert Komer, Vietnam, and American Cold War Strategy, by Frank Leith Jones (Naval Institute Press, 2013), 401 pp., endnotes, bibliography, index.

Robert Komer grew up in St. Louis and went to Harvard to avoid working for his father. An Army intelligence combat historian during WWII, he received a battlefield commission for his work in Italy. After the war, he completed Harvard Business School, married in St. Louis, and then a “wartime intelligence colleague” (18) told him about the newly-formed Central Intelligence Group. He applied and by the time he was hired, Central Intelligence Group had become the Central Intelligence Agency, and he joined as an analyst. He didn’t have a nickname then, but he was already prickly, irascible, and abrasive—character traits that would further develop throughout his career. But it was the combination of his keen analytic skills and his intense passion for the strategic arts that quickly gained command attention. These qualities, coupled with the ability to articulate concepts clearly, quickly—both verbally and in writing—and his talent for speaking truth to power and surviving, led to rapid promotion. In Blowtorch, Army War College security studies professor Frank Leith adds particulars to a colorful though relatively unknown CIA analyst who became an advisor to four presidents.

While serving with Sherman Kent in the Office of National Estimates, Komer became an expert in South Asia, attended the National War College, and then headed the Soviet estimates group; a year later, he was made the CIA representative to the NSC. In less than 10 years he became a GS-16. When the Kennedy administration came to power, National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy brought in a new staff of Kennedy associates. Leith tells how Komer survived the changes and became one of the Kennedy in-crowd, working with Walt Rostow on South Asia policy matters and later with Gen. Maxwell Taylor on counterinsurgency issues.

But it was under President Johnson that Komer reached the height of his analytic and bureaucratic powers. In 1966, Johnson sent him to Vietnam to assess the situation there. It was then that the US ambassador to South Vietnam, Henry Cabot Lodge, gave Komer the nickname Blowtorch for his “resolute determination.” (3) Not all descriptions of Komer were even obliquely flattering, however. Journalist David Halberstam later found him “bumptious and audacious,” and something of a presidential sycophant for his persistently positive judgments that the war was at least not getting any worse.[1]

Leith devotes considerable attention to Komer’s development of and bureaucratic maneuvering for Johnson’s Vietnam pacification policies. For Komer, the result was his assignment to Vietnam—with the rank of ambassador—to establish the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Support (CORDS) group and to rejuvenate the pacification program under the military. After nearly 20 months, progress was in dispute, the Phoenix Program was drawing criticism, and his relationship with the new US commander in South Vietnam, Gen. Creighton Abrams, was not going well. The president nominated Komer as ambassador to Turkey, and, as he later admitted, he left “with his tail between his legs.” (216) Leith concludes that “Vietnam haunted Robert Komer.” (267)

The Turkey ambassadorship lasted only a few months after President Nixon was elected; Komer left government to work at the RAND Corporation. He returned during the Carter administration, working in the Defense Department, but left for the last time after Reagan was elected.

Leith concludes that Komer’s historical reputation was “linked to the folly of Vietnam,” (283) despite the small portion of his career spent there. His passion for and contribution to strategic issues and national policy have received insufficient attention. Blowtorch adjusts the balance.

Churchill’s Iceman: The True Story of Geoffrey Pyke: Genius, Fugitive, Spy, by Henry Hemming (Preface Publishing, Random House, 2014), 532 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.

Geoffrey Pyke ranks with Steve Jobs as an innovative genius. In Churchill’s Iceman, British writer Henry Hemming tells us why. The title comes from Pyke’s idea for a gigantic, unsinkable aircraft carrier—made of reinforced ice called pykrete. Lord Mountbatten, Pyke’s superior at the time (late 1943) thought the idea brilliant and demonstrated the concept to Churchill by placing a sample of pykrete in his bathtub—it floated—while the PM was in it. Despite Churchill’s support, his scientific and military advisors resisted, and the war ended before pykrete got off the drawing board.

The First World War began while Pyke was a student at Cambridge, where, wanting to make a contribution to the war effort, he asked himself, “What can I do to help that hasn’t been done?” His answer was to go to Berlin as a journalist after all others had been expelled and to report on events there. He managed to arrive in Berlin to be apprehended and sent to Ruhleben, the escape-proof internment camp where John Masterman—future head of the Double Cross Committee—was a fellow prisoner. Pyke promptly escaped and made his way to England, where he was suspected of being a German spy, since no one had escaped, as yet, from Ruhleben. Undeterred, and never charged with a crime, he wrote a bestselling book about his experience.[2]

In the interwar period, Pyke married and produced a son, established a private school where the children decided what they would pursue for learning day-to-day, and tried his hand at investing. As the Nazi threat to world peace grew, Pyke supported Republicans in the Spanish Civil War and began sending material to them—Harley Davidson motorcycles, microscopes, and sphagnum moss for wound dressings—though such acts were prohibited in England. In the summer of 1939, Pyke had the idea of carrying out an undercover opinion poll in Germany—without telling the Nazis—the results of which could be used to dissuade Hitler from going to war; he completed the task as the war began. Next, he worked on the problem of fighting in Norwegian snow and invented a military version of the snowmobile.

In 1942, Pyke was recommended to Lord Mountbatten, then director of programs for combined operations, charged with thinking about mounting an offense against the Germans. Pyke was just the kind of scientific yet unconventional thinker that Mountbatten wanted; the pykrete ice ship was just one of Pyke’s contributions.

Hemming interlaces the telling of Pyke’s scientific career with the problems Pyke created for himself because of his political views and associates. He was friends with GRU agent Jürgen Kuczynski—who recruited Klaus Fuchs—and atom spy Alan Nunn May, among many other known communists. Documents linking Pyke to the Cambridge Five were found in Guy Burgess’s apartment after his defection. (408) Milicent Bagot, the famous MI5 counterintelligence analyst (the model for John le Carré’s Connie Sachs) doggedly tracked Pyke throughout the war and suspected he was a Soviet agent, even on his many wartime trips to the United States, but she never had conclusive proof.

After World War II, Pyke worked on problems for Britain’s new National Health Service but his own health was not good and he died, by his own hand, in 1948. Among his legacy of convictions was his view that government officials were the greatest barrier to scientifically-based administration and progress.

Churchill’s Iceman is skillfully written and superbly documented with interviews and recently declassified MI5 files—a fine lesson in what an innovative person can accomplish.

Double Agent: The First Hero of World War II and How the FBI Outwitted and Destroyed a Nazi Spy Ring, by Peter Duffy (Scribner, 2014), 338 pp., endnotes, photos, index.

The trial of 33 men and three women on charges of espionage began in September 1941, and ended a week after the Pearl Harbor attack. All were found guilty and Nazi espionage in America was decimated. The key witness at the trial was a naturalized US citizen, William Sebold. Double Agent tells his story.

Sebold’s role in the case was more than that of just a witness. Born in Germany, he served in the German army during World War I. Seeing little hope in the postwar economy, he signed on with an oil tanker bound for Texas, where he jumped ship. After months working odd jobs and learning English, he stowed away on a ship bound for Germany, where his mother needed help. He would repeat this cycle twice more. The next time, after traveling via South America, he stayed long enough to marry and become a citizen in 1936. While the reasons for his third trip are not certain, it is known he returned again in February 1939, leaving his wife in New York. In Germany, Sebold found work in a steam-turbine factory, a move that suggested to author Peter Duffy that “he had no immediate plans to return to his wife in New York.” (112) Then the Abwehr took over his life.

Duffy tells how Sebold was recruited as an agent and trained to return to America where he would contact other agents. Sebold said he cooperated because of implied threats to his family and the prospect of being called up to serve the Nazis. In any case, he managed to alert the embassy of his situation and, on 8 February 1940 when he landed in New York, the FBI met him. Once he was able to convince the Bureau of his predicament, they recruited him as their first double agent.

Sebold gave the FBI the names of Nazi agents and the contact instructions that he brought with him on microfilm. One of most important names was that of Hermann Lang, who had already given the Nazis some drawings for the very secret Norden bombsight. The Bureau put all the agents under surveillance and created a cover job for Sebold that included an office wired for sound and facilities for filming through two-way mirrors; this ensured all meetings with agents would be documented. They also established a radio site so he could communicate with his Abwehr masters.

Double Agent describes these events and Sebold’s ultimately depressing life after the trial as the first member of what became the FBI’s witness protection program. In this regard the author adds much new to the story, which he interweaves—sometimes to excess—with historical events of the times.

Although the espionage part of Double Agent has been told elsewhere, including a fantasized version in the movie The House on 92nd Street, Duffy has drawn on family interviews, FBI documents, and court records to produce the most accurate version to date. But he doesn’t quite make the case that Sebold was a hero, since Sebold clearly acted out of self-serving expediency. Nevertheless, it is an important case, well told.

The Gestapo: Power and Terror in the Third Reich, by Carsten Dams and Michael Stolle (Oxford University Press, 2014), 234 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, glossary, index.

The Gestapo (shorthand for Geheime Staastpolizei) or secret police, was a Nazi organization that was anything but secret. In the Western media of the day, the Gestapo was portrayed as the omniscient implementer of Nazi evil. In Germany itself, the Gestapo’s existence and methods were widely publicized. In reality, though its reputation for malevolent cruelty is indeed justified, its operations and responsibilities were not as pervasive as some writers and historians have suggested. The Nazis had several other organizations involved in various aspects of state security whose functions and operations often overlapped or conflicted with those of the Gestapo. One of these, the Abwehr or military intelligence element, is, for reasons not explained, omitted. With that exception, The Gestapo illuminates these players and clarifies their roles.

After a review of the Gestapo’s origins and evolution, the authors describe its modus operandi, (57ff) which includes its administrative practices, the use of informants, the role of persecution, and the effectiveness of torture. They also provide examples that illustrate how politics and race influenced decisions about offenses, from the trivial to the more substantive. (78–80) Particular attention is given to the persecution of communists, social democrats, homosexuals, religious minorities, and Jews.

As Hitler’s armies invaded country after country in Europe, the geographic mission of the Gestapo increased and expanded accordingly. The Gestapo’s penetration of the Polish resistance and its support of the SS (Schutzstaffel or protection squad) and local police in implementing the “final solution” are typical of its operations. By the end of the war, the authors write, the Gestapo had become “the executor of the war of extermination.” (157)

The Gestapo concludes with a summary of what happened to its members after the war. While some were prosecuted, the authors state, “The majority of Gestapo members were not summoned to court, and numerous crimes remained unpunished.” (165) The book ends with a discussion of the question, “What remains of the Gestapo?” (180) The authors suggest very little does remain, but they warn society should not forget “what people are capable of, when state power gives them a mandate.” (182)

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War, by Karen Abbott (HarperCollins, 2014), 513 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.

The four undercover women in Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy will not be new to readers of Civil War history. Three have written memoirs: Belle Boyd, Rose O’Neal Greenhow, and Sarah Edmonds. The story of the fourth, Elizabeth Van Lew, is based on solid secondary sources. Deciding which heroine fits which appellation in the title is not straightforward. Boyd, Greenhow, and Edmonds each greatly embellished their memoirs and each was a temptress. Boyd and Greenhow both claimed to be successful spies, but the evidence shows otherwise. Greenhow was recruited in Washington at the start of the war to pass along what she could using a crude cipher. She did so before the First Battle of Bull Run, but there is nothing—except her memoirs—to indicate it made any difference whatsoever. She was soon arrested by Pinkerton (whose own memoirs are also grossly inflated), ending her career.

Boyd claims to have passed along valuable order-of-battle data to the Confederates and to have personally warned Stonewall Jackson of an impending attack. All accounts present Boyd as employing all means to elicit information and to get her name in the press, which she frequently accomplished. Only Edmonds was a soldier. She enlisted as Frank Thompson—and later became a nurse—but no records have been found, to date, that document her claims to have been a spy. The only one of the four to become a successful spy or Union agent was Elizabeth Van Lew, who risked her life in Richmond sending valuable intelligence to General Grant.

Journalist Karen Abbott indicates in an introductory note that she is aware of the historical hazards associated with using her subjects’ memoirs and that she has taken those hazards into account. But she relies much too heavily on their accounts—especially that of Edmonds—and leaves the impression that their contribution to the war greater that it was.

For readers unfamiliar with these events, Abbott tells their stories wonderfully. She interlaces their roles, often indicating what each knew about the others as events proceeded. And she follows each heroine until her death.

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy will serve as an easy-reading introduction to these well-known episodes of the Civil War. But, except for the Van Lew account, for those wondering which details are accurate, further research will be necessary.

A Matter of Intelligence: MI5 and the Surveillance of Anti-Nazi Refugees, 1933–50, by Charmian Brinson and Richard Dove (Manchester University Press, 2014), 254 pp., end-of-chapter notes, bibliography, index.

A Matter of Intelligence is a study of MI5’s surveillance of German and Austrian refugees from Hitler’s Germany between 1933 and 1950, written by British professors Charmian Brinson and Richard Dove. At first glance, one might reasonably suppose that this topic was covered in Christopher Andrew’s authorized history of MI5 published in 2009.[3] When the authors discovered that it was not, they decided to fill the gap.

The authors’ objective was to “trace the course of the surveillance . . . when and why it began, and what rationale, if any, it was based on . . . and to evaluate how necessary it was or how successful it was.” (2–3) Of the more than 80,000 refugees, 90 percent were Jewish and 10 percent were political exiles, though the categories overlapped. The study examines a portion of the 5,000 files so far released, such that results must be considered preliminary. Besides individuals, MI5 monitored the activities of several suspected communist front organizations using informants. (157) When a refugee found a patron among British citizens—perhaps a relative or former contact—the patron was surveilled, too.

While the book’s subtitle reference to “anti-Nazi refugees” is somewhat misleading, it is completely true. The anti-Nazis came in three principal categories: Jews, communists, and communist Jews. The latter two were designated and treated as Soviet agents or suspected Soviet agents. The authors include short summaries of what the MI5 files revealed about the suspects. Some, such as the espionage aspects of the Jürgen Kuczynski and Edith Tudor-Hart cases, are well known. But here the authors discuss what is recorded in their surveillance files about their daily lives, contacts, and their organizing activities. The file on Englebert Broda, the physical chemist who found work at the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge, shows MI5 was well aware of his communist connections and suspected him of passing secrets to the Soviets—and that is what he did—but they never found any evidence and he managed to escape after the war. (210)

In their conclusions, the authors express consternation that MI5 remained “so intensely concerned with the surveillance of Communists.” They go on to ponder why “the surveillance [continued] and even intensify after the Soviet Union entered the war . . . when the Soviet Union was a war ally.” (232) Then they return to the point they make earlier in book, asking why the surveillance operation has “not become part of the official MI5 history?” (233) The answer, of course, is that some of the suspects—the Fuchs case, for example—and some of those mentioned above were indeed discussed in the authorized history. Their failure to recognize this is unexplained. The suggestion that surveillance of the communists should have been stopped during the war reveals a lack of counterintelligence awareness on the authors’ part.

Overall, an interesting book that does cover much not recorded before. Well documented, it provides detail on what MI5 looked for as it attempted to defend the realm.

The Role of Intelligence in Ending the War in Bosnia in 1995, edited by Timothy R. Walton (Lexington Books, 2014), 192 pp., end-of-chapter notes, photos, index.

Former CIA officer Timothy Walton has edited a collection of papers presented at the Intelligence and the Transition From War to Peace conference, held at James Madison University (JMU) in March 2014. After a thoughtful introduction by JMU President Jonathan R. Alger, Walton sets the historical context in a paper that summarizes the role of intelligence in government in general and Bosnia in particular. He makes the point that intelligence supports policy—and that is the sense in which it is applied in this volume: no operational cases are included; only treated are policy situations in which use is made of various disseminated products. Most of the papers presented were sourced to documents from the Bosnia, Intelligence, and the Clinton Presidency collection, released in 2013 by CIA.[4]

The book’s title is slightly misleading. While many of the 10 papers do discuss the policymaking pertaining to intelligence products on the Bosnian war, other topics are covered. Examples include a paper on ethical reasoning, another on an unusual analytic technique called “text mining and sentiment analysis,” (35ff) and one on a statistical technique used to study the timing of the US intervention in Bosnia. A paper by two Dutch academics, Professor Bob de Graaf and senior researcher Cees Wiebes, addresses the question, “Was Srebrenica an intelligence failure?” In the final paper, Walton assesses both the compromises the NSC deemed necessary to get a deal that would end the war and the intelligence that contributed to that decision.

The Role of Intelligence in Ending the War in Bosnia in 1995 is a valuable addition to the literature on an area that has not previously received much attention.

Scouting for Grant and Meade: The Reminiscences of Judson Knight, Chief of Scouts, Army of the Potomac, edited by Peter G. Tsouras (Skyhorse Publishing, 2014), 276 pp., bibliography, photos, no index.

Reliable firsthand accounts of Civil War intelligence operations are often truth-challenged and written to embellish the author’s reputation; the memoir of putative general La Fayette C. Baker is a good example.[5] Scouting for Grant and Meade is a welcome exception. Peter Tsouras has done far more than edit the reminiscences of Judson Knight, former chief scout for the Army of the Potomac. Tsouras’s lengthy introduction provides a summary of Knight’s civilian and military career—essential background for Knight’s articles, which were published some 30 years after the war in the Washington, DC, National Tribune that eventually became The Stars and Stripes. Although Knight’s accounts mention well-known officers, fellow scouts, and famous battles, he provides no sources. Tsouras sought to determine their reliability by examining Civil War records in the National Archives. He found many reports from generals—Sheridan, Grant, and Meade, to name three—that supported Knight’s accounts, plus other documents that attested to the accuracy of his remarkable recollections.

Judson Knight enlisted in the Union Army in 1861 and first served as a scout during the Peninsula Campaign, Second Bull Run, and Antietam. He became ill in 1862 and was discharged to recover. In the fall of 1863, he rejoined the Army as civilian chief of scouts under the command of Colonel George Sharpe, who headed the newly formed Bureau of Military Intelligence. Much of his scouting supported the sieges of Richmond and Petersburg; but one of his most valuable contributions was establishing the link between Sharpe and Union agent Elizabeth Van Lew. Knight had met Van Lew’s brother, who told Knight his sister wanted to cooperate. (xxxi) Elizabeth became the principal Union source in Richmond. (205)

While most of the accounts in Scouting for Grant and Meade were written by Knight, Tsouras also includes some material written by Knight’s scouts. The story of Anson Carney and his role in the disastrous Dahlgren Raid—intended to free Union prisoners in Richmond—is one example. (72ff)

Although Knight worked directly for Sharpe, he also received tasks from General Grant. Knight’s account of his mission to determine whether General Lee was being reinforced after the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse is of particular interest, both for its intelligence aspects and for the identification of his contacts among the Confederate civilians whom he met.

Scouting for Grant and Meade is a fine contribution to the Civil War intelligence literature, one of the very few that is both well documented and well told.

Secret Cables of the Comintern 1933–1943, by Fridrikh I. Firsov, Harvey Klehr, and John Earl Haynes (Yale University Press, 2014), 308 pp., endnotes, index.

The Communist Internationale (Comintern) was the Soviet umbrella organization through which Stalin controlled communist parties throughout the world between 1919 and 1943. Radio telegraphy was the primary means of communication with the parties from Moscow, although enciphered letters and invisible inks were also employed. In 2005, Nigel West revealed that the British had secretly intercepted and decrypted some 14,000 messages between the Comintern and the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB).[6] Codenamed MASK, the traffic identified party members and revealed financial transactions, policy decisions, and operational exchanges with the Comintern’s intelligence organization, the Foreign Liaison Department (OMS).

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, coauthor Fridrikh Firsov, an archivist in the Russian Center for the Preservation and Study of Documents of Contemporary History, gained access to millions but not all of the Comintern cipher cable exchanges with many of the other national communist parties. Working with American scholars Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes, Secret Cables of the Comintern provides insights into Soviet foreign policy as it describes the Comintern’s struggle to establish a worldwide communist order during the final 10 years of its existence.

The authors describe in detail the cipher communications practices employed and what they revealed about the Comintern organizational structure, its administrative practices, how it financed the various parties, and the subversion operations it attempted. Of particular interest is the rationale that was disseminated to explain the Hitler-Stalin Pact to the astonished faithful, and the Comintern’s role in the Spanish Civil War, especially the International Brigades. And although the Comintern didn’t engage in terrorist acts, it was called upon to explain and justify those performed by Stalin and why it was necessary to turn over innocent party members to the party’s law enforcement arm, the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), when so ordered.

The Comintern had its own intelligence element that sometimes became involved with NKVD and Red Army military intelligence matters. One interesting example discusses the links between the Red Orchestra’s leader, Leopold Trepper, (218) and his networks in Belgium and France. Then there is the administrative battle between Comintern headquarters and the American Communist Party (CPUSA). When Bill Donovan recruited Milton Wolff, an experienced, communist Spanish Civil War veteran, for OSS, Wolff sought CPUSA approval and got it; but when Comintern headquarters was notified, the approval was revoked. The CPUSA appealed and was sternly rebuked; Wolff was forced to withdraw. The story is not new, but the discovery of the Comintern role is.

Secret Cables of the Comintern shows how the nominally political Comintern was linked throughout its existence to the Soviet intelligence services, especially during WWII. Many of its orders came directly from Stalin, (247) but when it became a political impediment, Stalin shut it down. There is much new detail in this impressively documented account. Students of Soviet intelligence will get a better understanding of how the communist movement made inroads so rapidly in many nations of the world.

The Spy Catchers: The Official History of ASIO, 1949–1963, by David Horner (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2014), 710 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.

The Australian Security Intelligence Service (ASIO) is today a well-known and respected security service with a web page that emphasizes its current mission and functions. Now, following precedents established by the CIA[7] and Britain’s intelligence services,[8] David Horner, professor of defence history at Australian National University, has written the official history of ASIO that tells the story of its often turbulent formative years.

Founded 16 March 1949, ASIO was not Australia’s first security organization and Professor Horner begins with a review of its predecessors and their limitations in early the postwar era; later, he shows how ASIO’s creation became an operational necessity in the early Cold War era as old threats of communist subversion intensified and new ones, as seen in the Venona decrypts, emerged.

Recognizing the necessity of a solution and implementing it required dealing with political and social opposition, legal and vetting issues, bureaucratic disputes, organizational responsibilities, and most important, ongoing operational matters. Horner treats all of these in great detail, showing how the critical operational situation was complicated in myriad ways. Even before 1949, British and American intelligence services were expressing concern over the lack of Australian security and they excluded Australia from access to signals intelligence. The Australians knew they had leaks but had no evidence of Soviet penetration; furthermore, they were not given access to Venona. The British, at least, sent members of MI5 to assist in the creation of ASIO and, once that was accomplished, the situation improved. At first, MI5 provided excerpts from the Venona decrypts without identifying the source and ASIO began investigations of what they termed “the case.” (122ff) Eventually, ASIO was briefed on Venona and their investigations continued as long as the Venona material produced results. Horner describes many of these cases and the countersubversion actions that ensued.

But the most significant operation ASIO conducted during this period was the defection of MGB officers Vladimir and Evdokia Petrov. He was the MGB rezident and she was the embassy code clerk. Unlike most defectors, they were not walk-ins; instead, they were enlisted as the result of the ASIO policy of observing Soviet embassy personnel, identifying likely candidates for defection, establishing relationships, and ultimately securing their defection. A Royal Commission on Espionage was created to make public the activities of Soviet intelligence in Australia. The Petrovs and the officers and agents involved in their defection testified, though not all of what Petrov reported to ASIO and supported with documents was revealed to the Commission. One example is his knowledge that two of the Cambridge Five, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, were Soviet agents and were in Moscow. Because of British concerns, this information was made public by the British 10 months later. (368)

In his analysis of the Petrov defections, Horner reviews the literature and, where necessary, corrects previous accounts of the case. He also discusses the considerable domestic political turmoil within the government that surrounded the timing of the defection. This watershed case established ASIO’s credentials with the Australian public and its sister services.

After the Petrovs’s defection, the Soviets withdrew their embassy, not to return until 1959. Horner discusses a number of operations that followed, to demonstrate ASIO’s competence as a major security service. The Spy Catchers concludes with a lengthy, tradecraft-heavy description of an operation run against KGB officer and first secretary Ivan Skripov that resulted in his expulsion. This is a fine book that demonstrates the many commonalities experienced by new intelligence services and what can be achieved by a dedicated staff. A major contribution to the literature.

The Spy With 29 Names: The Story of the Second World War’s Most Audacious Double Agent, by Jason Webster (Chatto & Windus, 2014), 322 pp., endnotes, bibliography, appendices, photos, index.

The first name on the list was GARBO, the MI5 codename for Juan Pujol Garcia. The second name on the list was ALARIC, the German code name for Juan Pujol Garcia. The other 27 names listed in an appendix of Jason Webster’s book are also codenames created and used by Pujol for the fictitious members of his agent network. The Spy With 29 Names tells the story of the network’s formation and how the Double Cross Committee used it successfully to deceive the Germans before the allied invasion of Europe in World War II.

Webster covers GARBO’s early life, his conflicts with the Spanish government and the nationalist insurgents during the Spanish Civil War, and his frustrating attempts to become an agent for the British after WWII began. From the British side, he discusses how the codebreakers in Bletchley Park were puzzled by German references in the traffic between Madrid and Berlin and GARBO’s fictitious ARABEL network in Britain. The content wasn’t correct and neither was the timing of events mentioned in his traffic. MI5 was alerted. They discovered that “a Spaniard had been pestering MI6 [in Spain] for months.” (23) GARBO was soon located, recruited, and brought to London.

GARBO’s story has been told previously in several very good books. Webster adds little new, and there is a good deal of reconstructed conversation that is not sourced. He does add a chapter that speculates about whether GARBO’s MI5 case officer, Tommy Harris, was really a Soviet agent. And there are some comments from the Guy Liddell diaries not seen before, plus some conjecturing about what might have been, had GARBO not existed. In short, The Spy With 29 Names tells a good story, but not a new one.

State Department Counterintelligence: Leaks, Spies, and Lies, by Robert David Booth (Brown Books Publishing Group, 2014), 383 pp., endnotes, glossary, index.

The State Department formed the Secret Intelligence Bureau (SIB) in 1916 to deal with cases of passport fraud linked to espionage. The SIB has since gone through several reorganizations and is today called the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (BDS). Retired special agent Robert Booth spent 28 years with the BDS working cases overseas and domestically. State Department Counterintelligence reviews his career and the BDS history with emphasis on three of the major cases with which he was involved.

The first case he discusses concerns retired State Department officer Kendall Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn, whose affection for Fidel Castro and Cuba led them to become Cuban moles. Kendall is now serving life without parole in a supermax facility; Gwendolyn received an 81-month sentence. Booth tells how he was brought out of retirement as a consultant to BDS in 2003 and ended up working the case with the FBI. It is a thorough treatment, hiding none of the frustrations endured or tradecraft complexities.

The Taiwanese Femme Fatale, or the case of Donald William Keyser, is the second case Booth discusses. Keyser was principal deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific Affairs and became involved with Isabelle Cheng, “a young, female, Taiwanese clandestine intelligence officer.” (81) He also kept top secret CIA documents at home. (157) Keyser served a short term in prison, but did not lose his pension; Isabelle went on to pursue her doctorate in England. How BDS solved the case and why Keyser was treated so leniently by the judge makes interesting reading.

Operation Sacred Ibis, the third case Booth examines, is still in some ways unsolved. The KGB planted a “high quality transmitter in a seventh floor conference room” (279) in the State Department. Booth reveals how it was discovered and describes some strange post-Cold War security procedures regarding unescorted foreign diplomatic access that may have contributed to its installation. But if it is known just how the SVR did it, Booth isn’t saying. The one benefit was that they found the device—an actuator—that caused the transmitter to function. The details of this device are interesting.

Booth also includes a section on leak cases that reveals how they are treated. It is rather depressing, not because they weren’t all solved, but because they occur so often and some leakers are not disciplined even when caught. Booth speculates that those may have been “authorized.” (250)

State Department Counterintelligence is an interesting and worthwhile account of a relatively unknown organization that shows why it exists, and where it fits in the Intelligence Community.

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[1]David Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest (Random House, 1972), 648.

[2]Geoffrey Pyke, To Ruhleben and Back: A Great Adventure in Three Phases (Constable, 1916).

[3]Christopher Andrew, Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009).


[5]La Fayette C. Baker, The United States Secret Service in the Late War: Comprising the Author’s Introduction to the Leading Men at Washington (Forgotten Books, 2012; originally published 1890).

[6]Nigel West, MASK: MI5’s Penetration of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Routledge, 2005).

[7]Arthur B. Darling, The Central Intelligence Agency: An Instrument of Government to 1950 (The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1990); Ludwell Lee Montague, General Walter Bedell Smith as Director of Central Intelligence: October 1950–February 1953, (The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1990).

[8]Christopher Andrew, Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009); Keith Jeffrey, MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909–1949 (Bloomsbury, 2010).

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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: Jul 10, 2015 11:30 AM
Last Updated: Aug 14, 2015 01:55 PM