Intelligence in Public Literature

Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf

Compiled and reviewed by Hayden Peake

Harry Potter and the Art of Spying, by Lynn Boughey and Peter Earnest

Code Warriors: NSA’s Codebreakers and the Secret Intelligence War Against the Soviet Union, by Stephen Budiansky

Cyberspies: The Secret History of Surveillance, Hacking, and Digital Espionage, by Gordon Corera

Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War, by Fred Kaplan

Guy Burgess: The Spy Who Knew Everyone, by Stewart Purvis and Jeff Hulbert

Into The Lion’s Mouth: The True Story of Dusko Popov: World War II Spy, Patriot, and the Real-Life Inspiration for James Bond, by Larry Loftis

The Last Goodnight: A World War II Story of Espionage, Adventure, and Betrayal, by Howard Blum

The Less You Know, The Better You Sleep: Russia’s Road To Terror and Dictatorship Under Yeltsin and Putin, by David Satter

On Intelligence: The History of Espionage and the Secret World, by John Hughes-Wilson

Operation Whisper: The Capture of Soviet Spies Morris and Lona Cohen, by Barnes Carr

The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and The New Online Revolutionaries, by Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan

Spies In The Congo: The Race for the Ore That Built the Atomic Bomb, by Susan Williams

The Spy in Hitler’s Inner Circle: Hans-Thilo Schmidt and the Intelligence Network that Decoded Enigma, by Paul Paillole

Spying Through A Glass Darkly: American Espionage against the Soviet Union, 1945–1946, by David Alvarez and Eduard Mark

Stalin’s Singing Spy: The Life and Exile of Nadezhda Plevitskaya, by Pamela A. Jordan

The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel, by Uri Bar-Joseph

The Black Door: Spies, Secret Intelligence and British Prime Ministers, by Richard J. Aldrich and Rory Cormac

The Intelligence War in Latin America, 1914–1922, by Jamie Bisher

The Secrets of My Life: Vintner, Prisoner, Soldier, Spy, by Peter M. F. Sichel

Harry Potter and the Art of Spying, by Lynn Boughey and Peter Earnest. (Wise Ink Creative Publishing, 2014) 632 pp., appendix, glossary, index.

The enormously popular Harry Potter books are not only exciting fantasy for young readers, each one is also “a complex multifaceted, superb primer on spying and spycraft.” (1) At least that is what novelist Lynn Boughey and former CIA officer Peter Earnest would have young readers believe is the payoff for reading their 600-page book. The book is divided into two parts. The first part is a chapter-by-chapter analysis of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with occasional references to the other Potter books. The authors highlight parts of the plot that illustrate intelligence tradecraft, from the use open source intelligence to secret communications, to cover requirements and other aspects of tradecraft. For example, they point out the “false background created by the Dursleys to explain Harry’s presence in their home.” (10) Similarly, in chapter 9, “Life At Headquarters: Boring, Boring, Boring,” (89) the authors opine that much can be learned there. Other examples include moles in the Ministry of Magic, counterintelligence principles displayed by the character Hermione, use of “spells” to prevent discovery, and various examples of data analysis.

Part two examines the “Art of Spying in the Wizarding and Muggle Worlds” from a functional espionage point of view. The authors provide examples of agents’ or spies’ motivations and discuss recruitment and run­ning of spies, deception, decrypted communications, and double agents—Severus Snipe, the death-eater, in this case—to name few of the topics covered. Incidents from the book are used to illustrate the points under discussion.

Harry Potter and the Art of Spying includes a glossary for those unfamiliar with intelligence terms. Presumably there is no need for a glossary describing the world of Muggles, Hogwarts students, the evil Voldemort, and the Order of the Phoenix. There is also an Appendix in which Earnest makes specific refer­ence to various CIA corollaries with the Potter topic.

It is too soon to tell whether the authors have produced a benchmark introduction to the world of intelligence for young people. But they certainly have produced an unexpected, spirited contribution toward that end.

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Code Warriors: NSA’s Codebreakers and the Secret Intelligence War Against the Soviet Union, by Stephen

Budiansky. (Alfred A. Knopf, 2018) 289 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.

The National Security Agency has been an object of public interest since the 1975 Church Committee Hear­ings that revealed its domestic surveillance program called MINARET. In 1982 James Bamford published the first of three books on NSA that covered its origins, Cold War, post-Cold War and post 9/11 activities re­spectively.[1] In 2009, Matthew Aid’s study, The Secret Sentry, (Bloomsbury, 2009) surveyed NSA’s operations from its origins to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now Stephen Budiansky has contributed another volume on NSA; although there is some topical overlap with his predecessors, Code Warriors concentrates on NSA’s Cold War operations against the Soviet Union.

Budiansky begins with a note on the Edward Snowden revelations that “seemed to epitomize a secret agency out of control . . . raising questions about domestic surveillance policy, legality, and, morality.” While he acknowledges that Snowden “crossed the line from defensible whistle-blowing to reckless exposure of ongoing foreign intelligence operations,” (xvi–xvii) he insists that NSA has made very serious errors. Code Warriors argues that NSA’s post-9/11 blunders were a logical consequence of Cold War precedents.

After reviewing post-World War II Soviet espionage operations against the West, which were revealed by defectors and the VENONA decrypts, Budiansky summarizes the West’s counterintelligence reactions and various programs initiated to deal with the growing threat, particularly in the SIGINT area.[2] He then describes the contentious turf battles among the military cryptographic elements that led in 1952 to the creation of NSA.

This is followed by a description of how the first NSA director (DIRNSA), General Ralph Canine, struggled to get the agency functioning while dealing with moles, defectors, and the transition to a digital environment. As it grew in size and importance, NSA was involved with numerous crises such as the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis; the 1968 capture of the USS Pueblo, a Navy intelligence vessel, by North Korea; the 1964 confrontation between the United States and North Vietnam known as the Gulf of Tonkin incident; and the 1972 Watergate scandal—curiously, the shelling of the SIGINT ship by Israel during the 1967 war is not mentioned. Budiansky also scrutinizes the interagency conflicts—often with CIA—that resulted from these and other operations. He is particularly concerned about the long-range impact of “the fiction that signals intelligence is not intelligence but information,” though his arguments leave many questions unanswered. Budiansky he emphasizes the consequences of excessive secrecy—a persistent theme in the book—as well as NSA’s “drive to get everything” as major weaknesses. (308–309)

Code Warriors does mention NSA’s positive contributions, including its electronic monitoring and satellite signal interception capabilities, which were impressive and increased its bureaucratic influence. But his judgment that, by the end of the Cold War, NSA’s influence “made it a system ripe for intellectual corruption” is arguable. (308)

Whether NSA’s Cold War mistakes fathered, any more than operational necessity, the post-9/11 era operations remains an interesting thesis worthy of debate. Perhaps a final judgment about this will be made in the next book about NSA.

Cyberspies: The Secret History of Surveillance, Hacking, and Digital Espionage, by Gordon Corera. (Pegasus Books, 2016) 448 pp., endnotes, index.

This book was published in Britain earlier this year as Intercept: The Secret History of Computers and Spies. (It was reviewed in Studies in Intelligence 60, no. 1 (March 2016): 113–114.) This edition has a new preface, which urges public action to protect against creeping government and commercial surveillance of ordinary citizens, but it is otherwise identical to the original.

Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War, by Fred Kaplan. (Simon & Schuster, 2016) 352 pp., endnotes, index.

Slate journalist Fred Kaplan begins his book with a story about the 1983 film War Games in which a young hacker unwittingly accesses a supercomputer at NORAD and—thinking it is a war game—nearly starts World War III. After President Ronald Reagan viewed the movie, Kaplan reports, he asked the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff whether “something like that could really happen.” Being a good bureaucrat as well as a bemused general, the chairman said he would look into it. To his great surprise, it turned out that not only were US military systems vulnerable, but that Willis Ware, a computer scientist at the RAND Corporation, had published a paper on the problem in 1967. Moreover, Ware had been an advisor on the War Games movie. In 1985, the administration published a classified national security decision directive (NSDD-145) titled “National Policy on Telecommunications and Automated Information Systems Security.” (2) It was the first official recognition of what has become known as cyber warfare. The National Secu­rity Agency (NSA) was appointed as the action agency.

Shortly after VADM Michael McConnell became NSA director in May 1992, he viewed the movie Sneakers. In the film, a comedy, the evil antagonist steals an NSA black box that can decrypt all coded messages. He makes the point that “the world is run by ones and zeroes . . . there is a war out there . . . it’s about who controls the information.” This was an “epiphany” for McConnell (32) writes Kaplan, and he soon created NSA’s Directorate of Information Warfare. Sneakers was written by the same screenwriters that had written War Games.

These anecdotes illustrate two key points stressed by Kaplan throughout the book. First, he believes the US government was lethargic in responding to the threat posed by digital means, which was already very familiar to civilian scientists and hackers. Cooperative corrective action was essential. Second, in Kaplan’s view, US adversaries are capable of and intent on doing to the United States whatever the United States can do to them in terms of cyber warfare. Dark Territory tells the story of what the US government has learned about our country’s national digital capabilities and vulnerabilities and is being done to secure those systems.

Kaplan describes the seemingly constant turf battles that ensued among the key players—mainly NSA, CIA, National Security Council (NSC), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Justice (DOJ), and Congress—seeking to establish their roles in the rapidly changing communications security mission. In addition, he reviews the transition from traditional offensive and defensive practices using analog signals to the digital methods imposed by the Internet. He describes red team exercises that “always succeeded” in hacking classified DOD systems and in once case those of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand as well. (65–66) Experience on genuine intrusions occurred when hackers, thought to be of Middle East origin, penetrated the computers at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, DC. Kaplan describes how a team tracked down the culprits, who turned out to be two teenage hackers near San Francisco.

Dark Territory deals in detail with the role played by NSA and each of its directors as they worked to shape the agency to meet the growing cyber threat. As examples of the offensive capabilities developed, Kaplan discusses the Stuxnet operation, which he describes as a joint-US Israeli operation that damaged Iran’s centrifuges. On the defensive side, he deals with intrusions from China and Russia and lays out the potential threats they pose to military and civilian infrastructure.

By 2009, when then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates established the Cyber Command under the director of NSA—20 nations had created cyber warfare units. Reports of multiple daily attempted intrusions from Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and Syria were routine. Two years later, the command’s mission was expanded with more authority for defending the nation’s “critical infrastructure,” though Kaplan emphasizes that there was strong resistance on that score from industry, a persistent problem that would be further complicated by the Snowden leaks. (280)

Dark Territory lays out the problems associated with cyber security, cyber espionage, and cyber war and the complication imposed by interaction with Congress and the cyber industry. Although he does not present a solution—because one has not yet been found—Kaplan makes a powerful case for why one is needed.

Guy Burgess: The Spy Who Knew Everyone, by Stewart Purvis and Jeff Hulbert. (Biteback Publishing, 2016) 480 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.

The story of the five Cambridge students—Kim Philby, Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, and John Cairncross—who went on to spy for the Soviet Union from the mid-1930s to the early 1960s has been the subject of virtually continuous attention to the present day. In addition to movies, TV dramas, articles, and academic histories, each of these men has been the subject of at least one biography. In Guy Burgess’s case, more than 60 years after his defection to Moscow, two biographies have appeared in successive years. The first, by Cambridge historian Andrew Lownie,[3] was reviewed in Studies in Intelligence 60, no. 3 (September 2016): 56–57. The second is the present work by BBC journalist Stewart Purvis and media historian Jeff Hulbert (2016). Same topic, major differences? The short answer is “no.” But Purvis and Hulbert do add some details of interest while omitting others.

Both books discuss Burgess’s early life and education at Dartmouth and Eton; his experiences at Cambridge University, where he became a communist; his recruitment by the NKVD (Stalin’s domestic security forces); and his foreign office and BBC service. They also include his work for MI5 and later MI6, as well as his relationship with the other Cambridge spies and the events that led to his defection to Moscow with Donald Maclean, who be­came a British diplomat. Both works portray Burgess as a leftwing slob with dirty fingernails and bad breath whose charm, rhetorical brilliance, and homosexuality somehow compensated for his sordid deficiencies. As the authors demonstrate, Burgess did indeed “know everybody.”

The books differ in describing details, however. For example, citing his BBC personnel file, Purvis and Hulbert’s account of Burgess’s visit with Winston Churchill at his home suggests the BBC was reluctant to grant permission and that Burgess had to take a sick day. Lownie omits this detail. The authors of the work being reviewed here obtained a recording—thanks to a FOIA request filed with the FBI—of Burgess’s own description of the encounter, in which he is heard mimicking Churchill rather well to colleagues in New York. The authors name those present, whereas Lownie does not because the records had not yet been released.

Another incident the authors describe for the first time almost unintentionally exposes Burgess and Maclean as communists after they had begun government work. When the BBC announced that Burgess would appear on a program as a “typical young Englishman,” a former Cambridge colleague, Derek Blaikie, turned communist, wrote a letter to the Daily Worker describing Burgess as a “renegade from the C. P.” and along with Maclean as “having gone over to the enemy.” (67) For reasons unexplained, the authors note, the letter was never published; it was intercepted by MI5 and placed in Blaikie’s file, but not Burgess’s. (68)

In a final example of a detail not told elsewhere, the 2016 book states that the chairman of the Joint Intel­ligence Committee, Patrick Reilly, trashed his office chair when he heard the news of Burgess’s defection. These instances, as well as the inclusion of a few names not mentioned in Lownie and scarce mention of Burgess’s unhappy life in Moscow, illustrate the differences between the two biographies.

The Spy Who Knew Everyone is a well-documented account of Guy Burgess’s life before his defection.

Into The Lion’s Mouth: The True Story of Dusko Popov: World War II Spy, Patriot, and the Real-Life Inspiration for James Bond, by Larry Loftis. (Berkley Caliber, 2016) 384 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.

Dusko Popov was a double agent for MI5 during World War II. Known as TRICYCLE to the British and IVAN to the Germans, his service came to public attention in 1972 when he was mentioned in The Doublecross System, by Sir John Masterman. In 1974, Popov published his life story in Spy/Counterspy: The Autobiography of Dusko Popov. The first independent biography of Popov appeared in 2004.[4] Attorney Larry Loftis has revisited the TRICYCLE story in Into The Lion’s Mouth: The True Story of Dusko Popov.

The obvious question is, “Does the Loftis biography add important new material to Popov’s story?” It does not. Like the other books, Loftis covers Popov’s early life, how he became a double agent, his operational contributions, and his colorful personal adventures as TRICYCLE. But Loftis does present a new analysis of two incidents in Popov’s life story that are worth considering. The first has to do with the assertion in his subtitle that Popov was the “Real-Life Inspiration for James Bond,” and that “Dusko was also BOND in . . . Casino Royale” (265). Fleming’s first biographer, John Pearson, implies that Fleming himself was the likely model.[5] More recently, Andrew Lycett suggests Fleming drew on characteristics from three of his wartime colleagues in creating Bond.[6] Neither biographer mentions Popov. But Popov raised the issue himself when he wrote, “I am told that Ian Fleming said he based his character James Bond to some degree on me and my experiences. Could be.”[7] Loftis expands on that comment with a lengthy discussion drawn from Popov’s book that says he was followed by Fleming in Lisbon, and that they were both at the same Lisbon casino but never met. Loftis adds only specula­tion and no substance to Popov’s comment, “could be.”

The second incident is more significant and more controversial. In August 1941, the Germans sent Popov to the United States. He carried with him a questionnaire—in the form of a micro-dot—listing the information he was to acquire. Copies were given to MI6 and MI5; the FBI kept the original. One section of the questionnaire dealt with specific military topics regarding Pearl Harbor. Popov was tasked by his German case officer to go there him­self—the FBI prevented him from doing so. According to Loftis, after reading the document Popov concluded, “The Japanese were going to attack Pearl Harbor.” (35)

In a chapter titled “Cover-Up,” Loftis provides a lengthy analysis arguing that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover did not inform the president that one-third of the questionnaire was devoted to Pearl Harbor. Nor did he distribute it to other intelligence agencies. He also mentions that “According to Popov, he [Popov] reminded Hoover of the purpose of his mission and reiterated his warning of where, when, why, and by whom America was go­ing to be attacked.” But “the director would have none of it.” (107) Loftis does not provide a specific source for this quote, but he does mention in the narrative that several authors supported Popov’s claims to varying degrees. All of them rely on Popov’s account. The one source that supports a contrary view is not cited.

In his article, “The British Assault on J. Edgar Hoover: The Tricycle Case,”[8] former CIA officer Thomas F. Troy mentions several respected historians who used FBI documents to show that “Hoover had shared the questionnaire with military and naval intelligence” and Troy asserts, there was no cover-up. Troy says that there is evidence that Popov never even met Hoover.

In sum, Loftis’s assertions regarding Popov and Bond, and of a Hoover cover-up, rely on unpersuasive speculation and weak analysis that distract from the true story of Dusko Popov. Into The Lion’s Mouth deserves a secure place in a dark corner of intelligence history.

The Last Goodnight: A World War II Story of Espionage, Adventure, and Betrayal, by Howard Blum. (HarperCol­lins, 2016) 528 pp., occasional source notes, bibliography, photos, index.

Amy Elizabeth Thorpe was born on 22 November 1910 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Friends and family called her Betty. Her OSS codename was “Cynthia.” Some even referred to her as the “American Mata Hari.”[9] In The Last Goodnight author Howard Blum, using the surname of her first husband, calls her “Betty Pack.” This American spy has been the subject of two other books. Cynthia (Ballantine, 1977) was written by her wartime colleague, British historian H. Montgomery Hyde. Blum calls it “a slapdash work eviscerated by the Official Secrets censors . . . and based on Betty’s incomplete memoirs and her cursory notes.”(465) The Hyde book focused on Betty’s putative exploits as an allied spy. The second book, about which Blum expresses high regards, is Cast No Shadow, (Pantheon, 1992) Mary Lovell’s biography of Betty’s extraordinary life.

The Last Goodnight, also a biography, covers the same ground as its predecessors: Betty’s complicated family and personal life; her spying during the Spanish Civil War, then for MI6 in Poland, Chile, and the United States; and finally for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Blum’s reason for writing another treatment of Pack’s story is based on his examination of Montgomery Hyde’s papers in Churchill College, Cambridge, and the “memoirs [including Pack’s unpublished drafts], letters, diaries, transcribed interviews, government documents, and contemporaneous newspaper articles.” His objective was “to tell the truth” rather than “write an academic history.” (470–471)

The result is an interesting, if melodramatic, account of a WWII spy who seduced her targets to achieve her goals. But has Blum found the truth? Blum’s self-proclaimed non-academic (470) approach makes it difficult to answer this question. He does provide some endnotes, but not for all chapters. He assures the reader that there are “no inventions in my account . . . where quotations bracket any dialogue . . . one of the principals was the source.” (471)

This methodology creates difficulties when questions of accountability arise and where the value of an opera­tion is at issue. For example, Blum writes “that it was Betty who first reported that the Poles were able to read the Enigma traffic.” (215) This is an astounding assertion not made elsewhere, and thus one immediately asks for specifics: when, to whom, and before the French learned of it? None are provided. In another case, in which Pack and her OSS colleagues stole the Vichy government ciphers from their Washington embassy, Blum writes that “arguably, the stolen ciphers’ greatest importance was in the days leading up to the invasion of North Africa.” (425) Arguably indeed. Lovell, among others, writes about the episode that “the only question open to discussion is whether . . . the ciphers were as useful to the British . . . as BSC (MI6 New York) claimed.[10]

Beyond Blum’s judgments about Betty’s exploits, the relatively little new material in The Last Goodnight concerns details about the spy’s relationships with husbands and lovers. Among the latter, Blum reports Montgomery Hyde’s conclusion after a trip to Ireland with Pack, that “he could spice up the tales that Betty was telling him, and the Sunday papers would clamor for the rights . . . the spy codenamed Cynthia was money in the bank.” (282). But Cynthia didn’t sell well.

For those seeking entertainment, The Last Good­night will be an enjoyable encounter. Those more concerned with the substance of intelligence operations will lament the evidence omitted by design.

The Less You Know, The Better You Sleep: Russia’s Road To Terror and Dictatorship Under Yeltsin and Putin, by David Satter. (Yale University Press, 2016) 221 pp., endnotes, bibliography, index.

David Satter began working in Russia in 1976 as a correspondent for the Financial Times. His articles were often critical of the government and from time to time caused problems with his getting a visa, which were overcome when the State Department or his publisher threatened reciprocal action. Even after he accused the domestic security service, the FSB, of blowing up four civilian apartment buildings in 1999—killing hundreds for political reasons—he survived as an example of official tolerance until 2013. Then his visa application was rejected because “competent organs”—read FSB—“have determined your presence is undesirable.” (x) The rejection was not a total surprise. As one Moscow colleague put it, “it was amazing it took so long.” (xi) Readers of The Less You Know, The Better You Sleep will soon agree.

Satter is now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. The Less You Know is a critical analysis of post-Cold War Russia and Vladimir Putin’s rise to power. It is based on the author’s observations and experiences, in which he asks the reader to “believe the unbelievable.” (xiii)

His first example of the “unbelievable” is treated in a chapter on the 1999 apartment bombings in Moscow, where Satter makes a case for FSB responsibility. The bombings occurred when the Yeltsin government was disintegrating, a war was raging in Chechnya, the oligarchs were acquiring greater influence, and the dire economic situation was the focus of citizens’ attention. Then, after the bombings and Vladimir Putin’s vows of revenge, he was elected president and life improved for many Russians. Satter didn’t reach this “unbelievable” correlation on his own; he describes the contacts that convinced him the FSB played a role. He also reviews supporting incidents such as the arrests and even disappearance of those—especially journalists—who held similar views and said so.

Although nominal stability followed Putin’s election, the vicious war in Chechnya drew international criticism and Satter argues this led to two acts of terrorism. The first was the 2002 hostage siege at the Dubrovka Theater in Moscow; a second siege occurred at a school in Belsan in 2004. Both caused many deaths. Satter writes that “in both cases, there was evidence that the government had a role in instigating the original attacks” (99) and he presents his argument in detail. Here, too, he describes what happened to those who challenged the government’s explanation, especially journalists.

The Less You Know goes on to portray Putin’s consolidation of power, the reasons behind the annexation of the Crimea, his reaction to the turmoil in Ukraine, and Putin’s response to the domestic demonstrations—powered by social media—opposing his second election to power in 2012. In support of these actions Satter reveals how the FSB manipulated the legal system and when legal action wasn’t feasible, eliminated opposition figures by assassination or deportation.

Looking to Russia’s future, Satter suggests “the most desirable scenario for Russia would be the re­moval of the Putin regime in a free and fair elec­tion. Unfortunately, there is virtually no chance that that will take place.” (170) Alternatively, he recommends a “truth commission” (173) that might succeed if it stirs the latent liberal forces to action.

The Less You Know presents a bleak portrait of Putin’s Russia—an outcome that would have dire repercussions for the United States.

On Intelligence: The History of Espionage and the Secret World, by John Hughes-Wilson. (Constable, 2016) 528 pp., bibliography, index.

Retired British army colonel John Hughes-Wilson served in the infantry and the Intelligence Corps. The author of a number of books on military intelligence, he is perhaps best known for Military Intelligence Blunders and Cover-Ups (De Capo Press, 2004) and The Puppet Masters: Spies, Traitors, and the Real Forces Behind World Events (George Weidenfeld & Nicholson, Ltd., 2004). His works apply the notion of history as a critique of “what has happened” with its implicit mandate of factual accuracy.

Hughes-Wilson’s most recent contribution, Intelligence: The History of Espionage and the Secret World adds other criteria as well: “It is intended as an up-to-date analysis of intelligence in the recent past, and how its impact has affected great events.” He goes on to suggest that his recent book shares a common aim with Clausewitz’s book, On War, “To write a book that will not be forgotten after two or three years . . .[and] to lift the veil on what really happened behind the scenes in the intelligence world during some of the most well-known military events that have shaped our lives.” (xiv)

The 42 chapters in On Intelligence meet these objectives with mixed results. The book begins with a historical summary of intelligence from biblical times and continues to discuss the role of intelligence to the present. The balance of the book presents examples that illustrate the contribution of the principal topics: the intelligence cycle, HUMINT, SIGINT, the impact of technology, security issues, deception, failures, terrorism and the Iraq war, and cyber warfare (including the Snowden and WikiLeaks affairs), in roughly that order. Counterintelligence is included under HUMINT. The cases are presented along with a discussion of the historical context in which they occurred. The focus is on the British, US, and Russian services. Hughes-Wilson discusses their creation, organizational evolution, and their interactions with each other and with the services of a variety of other nations.

It is important, therefore, that readers have confidence in the facts presented. Alas, the facts are not always on the mark and the lack of source notes only complicates the problem. A few examples are worth noting. In his discussion of early American intelligence, Col. Hughes-Wilson identifies Benjamin Franklin as a “British agent and spy throughout” the Revolutionary War. (23) All evidence suggests otherwise. Only one source suggested the possibility and even he was not sure.[11]

Turning to the American Civil War, Hughes-Wilson writes that “Lincoln’s first choice as chief of the Union intelligence service was a detective, Allan Pinkerton.” (28) Not so: Lincoln never chose a chief of intelligence and Pinkerton was selected by Major General George Mc­Clellan. Similarly, Belle Boyd—a Confederate spy during the Civil War—was not “the South’s most famous agent,” (29) though she might have been the most self-promoting. And the claim that Antietam was a Union defeat—it was Lee who went home—is at best arguable; the consensus is that it was a military draw and a logistical failure for the South. Finally, the assertion that Lee “pushed a whole corps . . . into the small town of Gettysburg to find out what was going on, just as Meade’s leading Units blundered into town” (31) rewrites the history of the battle.

With regard to the “Cambridge Five” KGB agents, Blunt was recruited in 1936, not 1934, and Maclean did not report directly to Lavrentiy Beria; he had an NKVD contact, as did the other agents. (136) Hughes-Wilson’s statement that the FBI director did not distribute the questionnaire on Pearl Harbor that MI5 double agent TRICYCLE provided is inaccurate. Hoover sent it to the War and Navy Departments where it was ignored. (250) Then there is the curiously opaque comment that “a brush pass with a rock or a tree is still a brush pass.” (72)

Col. Hughes-Wilson uses the case summaries to demonstrate how intelligence has evolved and its importance in modern society. In the end he concludes, without substantiation, that the problems facing intelligence today “will get worse not better.” (474) While On Intelligence is a very readable review of the subject, it should be read with caution.

Operation Whisper: The Capture of Soviet Spies Morris and Lona Cohen, by Barnes Carr. (ForeEdge, 2016) 338 pp., endnotes, photos, index.

In 1946 the US Army’s VENONA program yielded the first of many decryptions of Soviet intelligence mes­sages sent from New York to Moscow during World War II. To the surprised analysts, these messages provided evidence of NKVD (later KGB) penetration of the Manhattan Project during the war. Because only codenames were used, the FBI was tasked with determining the true names from clues in the messages. British scientist Klaus Fuchs (REST) was one of the first to be identified. MI5 was informed and Fuchs confessed during his interrogation; his arrest and conviction made headlines. After sentencing, the FBI interviewed Fuchs about his US contacts. The NKVD was already urging agents whom Fuchs would probably implicate to leave the United States. Among those in New York, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and David and Ruth Greenglass delayed too long. Morris and Lona Cohen didn’t. Operation Whisper tells what precipitated their disappearance in 1950 and how they went on serving the KGB until their deaths.

Journalist Barnes Carr became interested in the Cohens’ case when he read an article about them in the Memphis Press-Scimitar, a paper for which he had once worked. After acquiring a copy of the Cohens’ FBI file, he scoured all the other sources he could find and began interviewing people who had known them. He soon learned that after their disappearance the Cohens had worked for the KGB in England, where they were known to MI5 as “Peter and Helen Kroger.” Under the cover of an antiquarian book business, the Krogers provided a communication link for KGB illegals. They were not, however, as Carr claims, involved “in atomic spying in England.” (x) Carr learned too that they had been arrested as part of OPERATION WHISPER, which tracked down KGB agents revealed by Polish defector Michael Goleniewski (SNIPER). Convicted in 1961, they were exchanged in 1969 and sent to Warsaw and eventually Moscow, where they retired.

Operation Whisper answers a number of other questions about these two New Yorkers. Carr reviews their family backgrounds, education, and courtship—and how they became very dedicated communists and eventu­ally Soviet agents. He describes how Morris became a recruiter of agents who collected military and industrial espionage intelligence in the United States and how Lona carried on his work when Morris served in the Spanish-American War. During World War II, Morris served in the US Army. During this period Lona became a courier for Ted Hall, an NKVD agent at Los Alamos, who furnished atomic secrets to the Soviets.

After Elizabeth Bentley—a US spy for the Soviet Union—defected to the FBI in 1945, the Soviets broke contact with their active agents until 1947. Then the Cohens resumed courier activities—one of their case officers was Willie Fisher (AKA: Col. Rudolf Abel)—until the hunt for atomic spies got too close and the Cohens disappeared.

Carr tells how the couple found their way to Moscow, where they were given new identities and dispatched to London. He describes how they serviced the Gordon Lonsdale espionage network for some time and how they were tracked down by MI5.

Whether they were “the urbane, jet-set couple loyal to their service” as Carr suggests, is questionable. But it may be true that “The Soviets certainly thought so.” (287) After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Morris and Lona Cohen were made Heroes of the Russian Federation, but as Carr reveals “they came to miss America and their families.” They hated being called traitors and denied they had hurt their homeland. Nevertheless, they died in Russia, 42 years after their disappearance. (289)

The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and The New Online Revolutionaries, by Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan. (PublicAffairs, 2015) 384 pp., endnotes, index.

During an informal discussion among some attendees of the international conference on intelligence at Greif­swald University in November 2015, a Dutch academic mentioned the paradoxical website,[12] Cre­ated in 2000, by two young journalists, Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan, its announced purpose was to serve as a watchdog of the Russian secret services. The paradox stemmed from the site’s reputation for excellent coverage and its longevity in Putin’s Russia. No explanation of the paradox was forthcoming then and The Red Web doesn’t supply one either. But it does validate the authors’ reputations for remarkable journalism.

In The Red Web, Soldatov and Borogan begin with a story about the Marafino sharashka, a World War II prison camp for scientists in Moscow, made famous by Solzhenitsyn in The First Circle. They tell about the successful development of a primitive voice analysis technique applied to a voice intercept of a call made by would-be spy for the United States. They go on to argue that subsequent Soviet progress in monitoring communications was minimal in part because of Russia’s “dysfunctional and broken communications system with barely a connection abroad,” even in 1991. Today, however, Russia “stands in the top ranks of developing countries that are wired to the world.” (x) The Red Web tells how the Russians achieved this status and what it means for Russia now and in the future.

In the1980s, the Soviets liberated a copy of the UNIX operating system and began developing their own computers. By 1990 scientific labs had established an analog network. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and with help of Western businesses, the Russians went digital and cautiously joined the Internet. All along the KGB and then the FSB, Russia’s state security organization, closely monitored their traffic—all of it. To meet this requirement they developed a backdoor black box called the SORM (system of operative search mea­sures) and tried to keep it secret. The authors write about how they learned of SORM through a leak, how they traced it to the FSB, and how it was exposed. Many were “interviewed” by the FSB about the source, the authors included, but none were imprisoned.

Public awareness of SORM and what it was supposed to do, didn’t raise public concern even though it was integral to Putin’s plan to gain control over the Internet and social media, which was becoming the principal means of informing the public of events free from government spin. Equally important, these new forms of communication could motivate opposition through demonstrations, as they did before and after Putin’s run for the presidency in 2012. “The revolt of the wired was underway” and the resilient netizens found ways around all restrictions. (148) Putin struck back with denial-of-service attacks that brought down offending websites. E-mails with Trojan Horses that destroyed hard drives were used to exert control. After his second election, Putin sponsored legislation that allowed filtering of the Internet and blocked access to selected sites. (166) Other action against opponents included forced buy-outs of TV station, expulsion, and even assassination. (104ff)

The authors also discuss the defection of Edward Snowden, which revealed, inter alia, that most Internet traffic passed through servers in the United States. This, they write, prompted Putin to begin a program to “change the global rules of the Internet” by routing Russian traffic through servers in Russia. Putin, they observe, thought “the Americans ruled the web and it was a CIA project.” (223) Putin wanted to control the Russian web and new laws toward that end were enacted.

The Red Web concludes by acknowledging that “Russian Internet freedom has been deeply curtailed” (314) through intimidation imposed by the FSB. But in the end, they foresee that the free flow of information on the web will prevail, even in Russia.

Spies In The Congo: The Race for the Ore That Built the Atomic Bomb, by Susan Williams. (Hurst Publishers, 2016) 320 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index. (See review by David Foy in this issue.)

On 2 August 1939, Albert Einstein signed a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt warning that Germany might be developing an atomic bomb and suggesting that the United States do likewise. The letter also said that the best source of uranium—a critical component—was in the Belgian Congo (today the Democratic Republic of Congo). Uranium ore in the United States had only 0.03-percent uranium oxide, requiring significant costly and time-consuming enrichment; ore from the Shinkolobwe mine in the Congo had up to 75-percent uranium oxide. General Leslie Groves, head of the Manhattan Project—the US atom bomb program—directed that steps be taken to (1) acquire all the uranium ore at Shinkolobwe and (2) prevent Germany from obtaining any. He assigned that latter mission to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Spies In The Congo tells how they did it.

Most books about OSS exploits expand on operations mentioned elsewhere in the literature or official reports. But Susan Williams, a senior fellow at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, explores a topic not covered previously. The OSS War Report, Volume II, does mention OSS operations in Africa and the Congo, where an officer codenamed TETON was assigned to prevent diamond smuggling, but there is no mention of uranium.

Spies In The Congo not only identifies TETON as Wilbur Owings Hogue—commonly called Dock—and his equally unheard-of OSS colleagues, it also reveals that diamond smuggling was a cover for their secret mission. Few of the OSS or State Department officials involved knew the official purpose of the real mission. Using US and UK archival records, Williams provides biographical sketches of Hogue and the other OSS of­ficers participating in the operations in Africa and Washington. But the central thrust of the book is the various operations initiated and the problems overcome along the way. These range from recruiting agents—which for an unexplained reason she labels “cut-outs,” an entirely different species—throughout the Congo. They monitored the movement of uranium from Shinkolobwe to ports of embarkation to assure the shipments were not diverted and to prevent sabotage by German agents working in the area. There were also administrative issues to be overcome, for example, dealing with the often spotty cooperation of “US Consulate General in Léopoldville, where invoices for uranium were signed and transportation arrangements made.” (160)

Williams also discusses communications problems with OSS headquarters in Washington and the links with other OSS stations and bases in neighboring countries that supported the operation. And then there is the sometimes challenging relationship with “the British Opposites”: MI6, MI5, and Special Operations Executive (SOE) elements operating in the area. With many years of experience in Africa, Williams notes that, “resentment of OSS smoldered among some members of SOE” as well as the foreign representatives. (117)

To complete the story, Williams mentions a number of important issues. These include the miners’ problems unknowingly encountered at Shinkolobwe, where they were handing the radioactive uranium. On the OSS side, she describes what happened to Hogue and his colleagues—in the field and in Washington—when they completed their missions and returned to postwar life.

Spies In The Congo is an immensely valuable contribution to OSS history that recognizes many OSS and State Department officers who never violated their oath of secrecy.

The Spy in Hitler’s Inner Circle: Hans-Thilo Schmidt and the Intelligence Network that Decoded Enigma, by Paul Paillole. (Casemate Publishers, 2016) 304 pp., endnotes, appendices, glossary, no index.

The title of this book misrepresents the story it tells. Hans-Thilo Schmidt was never in Hitler’s inner circle, and there was no network that decoded Enigma. That was accomplished first by the Poles and later by the British. The late Paul Paillole didn’t do the translation, but he does reveal the events that led to the British and Polish successes.

Five intelligence officers are featured in the story. Three served in the Deuxième Bureau (French military intel­ligence): Gustave Bertrand was a cryptologist; Rodolphe Lemoine was an agent handler; and Paul Paillole was a counterintelligence officer. Marian Rejewski was a Polish cryptologist working on a team trying to decrypt Enigma messages. Hans-Thilo Schmidt, thanks to his brother, a senior Wehrmacht officer, was an official of the Forschungsamt, the German service for wiretapping, intercepting communications and decoding them. He was also a traitor who volunteered his services to the French in June 1931.

Paillole’s account begins with Schmidt’s decision to sell cryptographic secrets to the French to enable him to live the lifestyle that he desired—he was a philanderer, among other not so admirable characteristics. Once Bertrand and the French were convinced he was genuine, he was assigned the codename “H. E.” Those letters pronounced in French sounded like Asche in English and that is how he came to be known.

Lemoine (known as Rex) was assigned as Schmidt’s case officer and Paillole describes their secret letter correspondence used to maintain contact and the clandestine meetings—often with Bertrand—in various countries where materials describing the German work on Enigma were turned over in return for substantial sums.

When the French crypto bureau was unable to decrypt Enigma, even with the material Schmidt provided, Paillole took the material to the Poles in Warsaw, who he knew to be working on the problem. The closed-mouth Poles were receptive, but initially reluctant to reveal the details of their results. Frustrated, Paillole contacted the British and gave them copies of the Asche material, but they didn’t have any success, either.

Finally, as Hitler’s invasion of Poland drew near, the Poles arranged a meeting with their British and French contacts to give them the substantial results of their Enigma work before the Germans could get them. Asche continued contact after the invasion but his value was now diminished and Rex had come under suspicion. When Rex was finally arrested in March 1943, he confessed all. Schmidt was arrested soon after. He took poison before the Gestapo could execute him.

Paillole completes his story with what happened to each of the characters after the war. His personal involvement with the events adds au­thenticity to the story of a famous spy.

Spying Through A Glass Darkly: American Espionage against the Soviet Union, 1945–1946, by David Alvarez and Eduard Mark. (University Press of Kansas, 2016) 360 pp., endnotes, bibliography, index. (See review by John Ehrman in this issue.)

After abolishing the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in October 1945, President Harry S. Truman soon real­ized he had created a perfect bureaucratic storm as the Army, Navy, State Department, and FBI each maneuvered to be his principal source on intelligence matters. Truman’s corrective was to issue an executive order on 26 January 1946 establishing the Central Intelligence Group (CIG), headed by Adm. Sidney Souers, the first director of central intelligence (DCI). As CIA’s chief historian later wrote, among its other weaknesses the CIG “had no authority to collect foreign secrets.”[13] The CIG was initially an analysis-only organization staffed by former OSS analysts and dependent on other elements of the government to provide whatever information they chose to share. Although the CIG was set up only to do analysis, it soon became heavily involved in intelligence operations. Spying Through A Glass Darkly tells that story.

Historian David Alvarez, then working with the late Eduard Mark, who died unexpectedly in the early stages of research, begins with a review of the bureaucratic muddle that ensued with the dissolution of OSS. Truman decided to accept the Budget Bureau’s recommendation that former OSS analysts go to the State Department and “the clandestine espionage service . . . minus the paramilitary function, move to the War Department for salvage and liquidation.” The secretary of war and his assistant, John McCloy, seized on the “salvage” requirement to preserve “the clandestine operators from OSS and their records.” In their view, rather than be­ing liquidated, these capabilities “should be protected and nurtured as a separate unit rather than simply being absorbed into the Army’s military intelligence office.” (16) That is what happened. The new unit was designated the Strategic Services Unit (SSU). Its mission was to function unofficially as the “clandestine service” of the CIG. (23) By October 1946, the second DCI, Lt. General Hoyt Vandenberg, had integrated the SSU into the CIG.

Alvarez is not the first to discuss the SSU. Former DCI Richard Helms devotes two chapters in his memoir to the SSU, which outline some of the organizational and operational obstacles it faced.[14] But as Alvarez notes, most Cold War historians have largely ignored the SSU’s role during the year of its existence. Intelligence his­tories have focused on Soviet espionage in the United States rather than US operations against the Soviets.

Alvarez reviews the formidable administrative and operational problems facing the SSU as it struggled to become functional. Administrative problems were caused by demobilization, budget reductions, and battles with the State Department over cover arrangements. Operational challenges resulted from lack of experience working against Soviet targets while also interrogating former Nazis, POWs, and émigrés who were potential sources. At first most intelligence on the Soviets was provided by cooperating friendly services like Great Britain, Italy, Sweden and—to a much lesser extent—France. Independent SSU operations were slow to develop and were complicated by experienced Soviet counterintelligence dangle operations[15] and fabricators seeking to line their pockets. Direction from SSU headquarters in Washington was, at the outset, almost nil as the organization worked to get on its feet in the War Department. Left to their own devices, the former OSS stations in Europe initially concentrated on recruiting sources and monitoring mail and other com­munications in Berlin and Austria as they “gradually began to develop operations into Russian-occupied territory . . . and occasionally beyond the Soviet sector of Berlin” (100) into Poland and other East European nations.

As part of the SSU story, Spying Through A Glass Darkly also discusses the intelligence contributions of the military, particularly the codebreaking efforts, and the response of the State Department—not always positive— to the foreign intelligence reports SSU analysts produced.

Alvarez concludes his assessment by acknowledging that it is not possible to say with certainty what impact the SSU had on US policymakers’ foreign policy decisions during the early Cold War. He cites many primary source documents that show that the estimates produced about the Soviet political and military “behavior and capabilities . . . [were] largely accurate.” Contrary to the conventional wisdom in the United States, the Soviets were “deceptive, untrustworthy, hostile, and belligerent” adversaries. Throughout its one-year existence, the SSU, despite its growing pains, “may deserve a more prominent place, not only in the history of American intelligence, but in the history of the origins of the Cold War.” (282) Not only did the SSU provide US intelligence with the capability to conduct clandestine operations, it also provided CIA with an experienced cadre of officers.

Spying Through A Glass Darkly fills a long­standing historical gap and is an important con­tribution to the intelligence literature.

Stalin’s Singing Spy: The Life and Exile of Nadezhda Plevitskaya, by Pamela A. Jordan. (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) 380 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.

For many nations at peace, domestic political opposition is dealt with at the ballot box. In others, however, opponents are coerced, kidnapped and imprisoned, executed, or even assassinated. In the 20th century the Soviet Union, under Stalin, was the exemplar of the latter approach. Stalin’s Singing Spy is the story of how Stalin used his intelligence services to deal with political opposition from Russian expatriates—the so-called White Russians—living abroad and planning to overthrow the communist regime in the motherland.

Author Pamela Jordan is a Russian specialist and intelligence historian at Southern New Hampshire Univer­sity. She learned of Nadezhda Plevitskaya, the relatively unknown central figure in her book, while reading the Biographical Dictionary of the Soviet Union (1917– 1988). Further research revealed the details of Plevits­kaya’s extraordinary life told in Stalin’s Singing Spy.

Nadezhda Plevitskaya was a peasant girl from the rural Kursk region in prerevolutionary Russia. She possessed an unusual talent for spirited folk singing that eventually came to the attention of the Czar for whom she performed. After the revolution, she mar­ried a White Russian general, Nikolai Skoblin. They settled in Paris and joined the Russian General Military (ROVS) movement, headed by General Evgeny Miller, that planned to overthrow the communists by force. Skoblin eventually became Miller’s deputy.

The couple faced ongoing financial troubles even though Plevitskaya arranged concert tours—one to the United States. To make ends meet, they bought a farm in southern France, where they lived modestly. But like many of the émigrés, they became homesick, sensed the futility of the ROVS movement, and returned to Russia. In the early 1930s they returned to Paris and “acquaintances began noticing that Skoblins seemed to be living beyond their means.” (103) Some of their friends even suspected they had been recruited by Stalin’s domestic security forces, the NKVD.

The NKVD kept close tabs on the ROVS by recruiting sources within the organization who reported on their counter-revolutionary plans. The NKVD dealt with the ROVS leaders, often kidnapping them and returning them to Russia for trial and execution. General Miller’s predecessor, Gen. Alexander Kutepov, died en route. General Miller disappeared on 22 July 1937.

Professor Jordan describes the French investigation that showed Miller too had been kidnapped. She reveals that the Skoblins were indeed NKVD agents and that the general was directly involved. Miller, it was learned, had been warned by subordinates that Skoblin was an NKVD agent. Thus, as a precaution he gave a handwritten note to a colleague that explained his movements on the day of his kidnapping. It was to be opened in the event that he didn’t return from a secret meeting arranged by Skoblin of which Plevitskaya knew nothing. The note was turned over to French authorities. Skoblin quickly escaped, leaving Plevitskaya at the mercy of French justice. She was arrested, tried, convicted, and sent to prison, where she died.

Stalin’s Singing Spy is a scholarly, very detailed, thoroughly documented, yet remarkably readable account of Plevitskaya’s often exciting life that intersected Stalin’s intelligence services in the mid-1930s. Dr. Jordan has illuminated one of the dark corners of intelligence history.

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The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel, by Uri Bar-Joseph. (HarperCollins, 2016) 372 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index. (See review by Thomas Coffey in this issue.)

On 27 June 2007, Dr. Ashraf Marwan fell to his death from the balcony of his fifth floor apartment in London. His wife, Mona Gamal Abdel Nasser, was the daughter of former president Gamal Abdel Nassar. The funeral in Cairo four days later was attended by Egypt’s establishment elites. Not all the mourners shared the praise heaped on Marwan, however. Some thought him “the worst traitor in the nation’s history.” (3) Some Israelis later ex­pressed the view that “Marwan duped Israel at the behest of Sadat . . . they worked it out together.” (123) On 10 May 2009, 60 Minutes ran a story that ended by asking, “Who did Marwan really betray?” (5) Uri Bar-Joseph, a former intelligence analyst and now a professor at the University of Haifa, answers that question in The Angel.

Bar-Joseph discusses the knowns and uncertainties about Marwan in order to enable readers to understand the personal, political, and operational aspects of the case. For example, Marwan first contacted the Israelis in the summer of 1970 from one of London’s “iconic red phone booths” now museum pieces. Bar-Joseph then examines the Israelis’ response as they sought to validate Marwan’s bona fides and motivation. While there can never be complete certainty, the Israelis verified his position on the embassy staff, his connections in the presidential office in Cairo, and his access to valuable military and political intelligence. After lengthy interviews in a London safehouse, the Israelis judged Marwan’s actions to be a complex combination of ego and greed. Bar-Joseph sees analogies with the Penkovsky case.[16] (30) But was Marwan an Egyptian provocation? This crucial question was debated at Mossad headquarters, where it was decided he was worth the risk to run him. Reassured by the initial material Marwan provided, he soon became their most valuable agent—codename ANGEL—and Bar-Joseph describes how he was handled.

By 1973, Nassar had died and Marwan was accepted by his successor, Anwar Sadat, as a trusted advisor; he often served as Sadat’s personal representative to other Arab countries in confidential matters. In 1972, when Sadat announced to his military chiefs that he planned to “launch a war” against Israel, Marwan’s value in­creased exponentially. Bar-Joseph explains how Marwan kept the Israelis informed of the Egyptian plans and how, after several postponements, he alerted them to the October Yom Kippur attack only hours before it began.

The Yom Kippur war was widely viewed afterward as an intelligence failure, but Bar-Joseph explains why it was not a total disaster. The warning had provided time to alert the reserves and to take action against Syria. Nevertheless, controversy resulted when some in the Israeli military saw the late warning as evidence that Marwan was a double agent for Egypt.

The Mossad protected Marwan during the next 10 years although rumors that he was a double agent continued within the Israeli and eventually the Egyptian military. In December 2002, Marwan was named in an Egyptian newspaper quoting an Israeli historian. (298) The leak created bureaucratic havoc in Israel and Bar-Joseph tells how he was eventually identified. Marwan vehemently denied the charge, and Bar- Joseph describes how he managed to survive until 27 June 2007, when he fell to his death in London.

The Angel concludes with a detailed analysis of why “Ashraf Marwan was no double agent at all, but rather one of the most important spies the world has seen in the last half century.” (325)

The Black Door: Spies, Secret Intelligence and British Prime Ministers, by Richard J. Aldrich and Rory Cormac. (HarperCollins, 2016) 624 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.

Whether allies or adversaries, individuals or organizations, it is essential that observers understand the political and bureaucratic relationships that shape their national security decisions. Recent histories of the principal intelligence services in the United Kingdom—MI5, MI6, and GCHQ—have contributed to this objective—from inside each service, looking up toward the prime minister’s office. The Black Door reverses direction and adds perspective from “behind the famous black door of 10 Downing Street,” the of­ficial residence of Britain’s prime ministers. (3)

Author historians Richard Aldrich (Warwick University) and Rory Cormac (Nottingham University) ex­amine 39 of the 40 British prime ministers in separate chapters, beginning with Herbert Asquith who was PM when the intelligence services were officially created in 1909. (The present PM, Theresa May, assumed office after the publication date.) Their overall assessment of the relationship is that the “link between Number 10 and Britain’s intelligence agencies, as intimate as it is secret, lies at the heart of the British establishment.” (3)

But it was not always thus. The authors characterize the early prime ministers as “notably inept practi­tioners.” Asquith, for example, “had little interest in secret matters other than his mistress.” (4) In the early days, the authors continue, PMs were also less than security-conscious, in several cases publishing secret decryptions of intercepted foreign traffic for political gain. Of course, the nations involved promptly changed their codes. Some PMs even suspected the services of plotting against the government. (10–11)

All this changed when Winston Churchill became PM in 1940; Churchill “placed a premium on intelligence chiefs telling truth to power” (4) and his influence was felt even after he retired in 1955. But this did not mean an end to intelligence scandals and perceived plots: in fact, they reached new heights during the Cold War. The authors discuss them all and assess their impact on domestic security and foreign relations, especially with the Soviet Union and the United States.

With regard to the United States, readers should question the authors’ contention that during the runup to the Suez crisis, “Miles Copeland, a CIA officer who had . . . discussed Nasser’s assassination with [PM] Eden.” They assert that Copeland claimed “Anthony Eden wanted me to shoot Nasser.” (202) Since, according to Copeland, he was serving at CIA Headquarters and traveling to the Middle East at the time, and never claimed to have been a chief of station, there is good reason to dismiss the authors’ interpretation.[17]

The 1990s opened a new era in the relationship of the services with the public when John Major allowed them to adopt “an avowed legal identity” and the advent of the terrorist threat meant new missions and larger bud­gets. The Blair years were particularly troublesome for the nation and the intelligence services, though Number 10 “was fascinated by them.” (495) The authors discuss Blair’s tenure at length. David Cameron, “who did not share Churchill’s voracious appetite for raw intelligence,” but was never accused of applying Eden’s “model of neurotic meddling,” was nevertheless “a diligent consumer of intelligence.” (456–467) The day after assuming office, Cameron formed the National Security Council to help manage the relationship between intelligence policymaking. The authors conclude that he learned “a great deal about the power of intelligence.” (483)

While The Black Door is generally well documented, it does raise doubt from time to time. For example, the assertion that “in 1954, Britain received five significant defectors from the Soviet Union” is questionable. The only example mentioned is Nikolai Khokhlov, and he defected to the United States, not to MI6 as claimed. (169) In another case, their treatment of Michael Straight’s confession that he was a former KGB agent includes a description of Straight as “a distinguished American academic” who was being considered “to lead the Advisory Council on the Arts.” (In fact, Straight was never an academic and the position involved was Chairman of National Endowment for the Arts.) Moreover, their statement that “Arthur Martin, MI5’s molehunter in chief, was quickly on a plane to Washington” to debrief Straight is inaccurate; Martin was already here on another case, and was called in by the FBI. (239)

Of course the PMs do little of the actual work regarding intelligence policy and The Black Door discusses the sometimes contentious roles of their key subordinates, various ministers, secretaries, and the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) in various well known cases. The intelligence services of the United States figure prominently throughout the book, documenting a close relationship. The result is a very readable, interesting, and informative treatment of the British prime ministers’ contributions to the evolution of their intelligence community and its relationship with other nations.

The Intelligence War in Latin America, 1914–1922, by Jamie Bisher. (McFarland & Company, Publishers, 2016) 440 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos index.

If asked to identify some memorable World War I intelligence-related events, many would name Room 40 and the Zimmermann telegram, the exploits of Lawrence of Arabia, or perhaps the Black Tom sabotage in New York harbor, Reilly “Ace of Spies,” the first use of fixed-wing aerial photo-reconnaissance, and certainly Mata Hari. Jamie Bisher, however, would find this list incomplete because it only hints—e.g., the Zim­mermann telegram—at operations in Latin America.

An Air Force Academy graduate who served during the Cold War, Bisher’s current hobby is researching the stacks at the National Archives for significant intelligence-related events whose story has not been told. The Intelligence War in Latin America 1914–1922, is a great example.

Bisher has not produced an anecdotal summary of espionage stories. This oversized, three column, exten­sively documented work would be over twice as long had a conventional format been used. Instead, The Intelligence War in Latin America reveals widespread intelligence activities of the nominally neutral Latin and Central American countries as they cooperated with Germany and Japan—a putative ally against Germany—to further their own ends at the expense of the United States.

When the war began, Germany’s long-established economic ties with Latin American nations were in jeopardy due to the British blockade of axis shipping. Bisher describes how naval intelligence units in all countries worked to monitor shipping and inform their headquarters about enemy warships. The Axis nations wanted to protect ships caught in Latin waters and destroy British ships sent to annihilate them. The “first naval battles of the war were fought off Brazilian, Argentinian, and Chilean shores.” (13)

In 1916, the British created a Black List—the United States would publish its own later—of all firms trying to do business with the Axis governments. The result was, among other reactions, “some 200 acts of sabotage within the United States” (86) supported by agents stationed in Latin America. This complicated US relations with its Latin trading partners. Bisher deals with this situation at length. Besides the key personnel involved, he describes the intelligence networks and their operations that struggled to keep the United States from supporting the Allies and the corresponding networks established by the Allies—mainly in Mexico—to counter the Axis efforts.

Bisher also mentions some heretofore unknown US intelligence officers who functioned successfully throughout the war. John Duhn—a German who emigrated to the United States and offered his services as a double agent to the Office of Naval Intelligence—is a good example. Dunn uncovered a US expatriate working for the Germans as well as a German Admiralty codebook. (177) On the other hand, Bisher also tells of German agents sought throughout the war who managed to evade capture.

The end of the war in Europe did not mean the intelligence battles were over; some continued into the 1920s. Japan had established “a small espionage service Latin America” in early 1918 and, anticipating the future, it continued operating throughout the region and even in the United States. (249) Likewise, German intelligence functioned into the postwar era, when economic issues prevailed.

Bisher ends his far-reaching study with a summary of what happened to the major players. Their fates were mixed. His own efforts establish that the extent and intensity of intelligence efforts in Latin America during World War I were far greater than previously reported. A fine contribution to the literature.

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The Secrets of My Life: Vintner, Prisoner, Soldier, Spy, by Peter M. F. Sichel. (Archway Publishing, 2016) 403 pp., bibliography, photos, index.

Peter Sichel has put pen to paper to tell how a young German-Jew grew up to serve in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the CIA before retiring to become the vintner famous for Blue Nun wine. Sichel was born to a prosperous family of vintners in Mainz Germany, on 12 September 1922. He received a traditional Ger­man education until Hitler came to power. Then he and his sister were sent to Public school in England with­out knowing a word of English, an experience “not for the faint of heart.” (86). By 1939, when Peter and his sister left England after five years, they joined the rest of their family in France, where their family members had gone as émigrés to escape Nazi persecution. When Hitler invaded France they became refugees in France, then illegal aliens, and after brief imprisonment began working to avoid a “free train ride” to Germany. They survived thanks to friends, the French and American branches of the family wine business, and skill dealing with slightly corrupt border officials. On 1 April 1941 they left Lisbon for New York. The week after Pearl Harbor, Peter volunteered for service in the army.

Assigned to the Medical Corps, and while waiting for orders Sichel took the Specialized Training Program exams. A few weeks later he was interviewed by two “gentlemen in civilian clothes” who clearly knew of his linguistic abilities and his life in Europe. Asked if he would be willing to be dropped behind enemy lines, Peter quickly volunteered. His OSS career had begun. After extensive training, he was assigned to OSS headquarters in Algiers and placed in charge of “confidential funds” obtained for agents going behind enemy lines. Sichel later served in Italy and France, where his commander was William Casey. By that time he had been given a direct commission.

By the fall of 1944 the demand for German speakers increased as the US Army neared Germany. Sichel left his financial duties and began recruiting and handling German agents to go behind enemy lines. In December, DCI Richard Helms asked him to be part of the postwar OSS cadre in Berlin and he accepted. His descriptions of the postwar devastation—social and physical—in Germany are striking.

Assigned to head the “Peter Unit”—the name was a coincidence— not officially linked to OSS, Sichel describes a number of missions the unit performed. Likewise he provides vivid examples of the intelligence problems encountered interrogating POW sources and recruiting agents to work against the Soviets. After OSS was abolished, his unit became part of the Strategic Services Unit, (SSU), then the Central Intelligence Group (CIG), and finally CIA.

Sichel stayed in Berlin until 1952 and then spent four years at CIA Headquarters before moving on to Hong Kong, where he was chief of station. (236) For various personal reasons—which he mentions— Sichel resigned from CIA after his Hong Kong assignment and returned to life in the vintner business, a topic that fills the latter chapters of the book.

The Secrets of My Life describes many of the fascinating operations in which Sichel was involved in each assignment. He also includes a chapter titled “An Informed Critique” in which he expresses his views of some of the principal CIA officers with whom he served: Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, James Angleton, and Bill Harvey to name several. For those interested in what life was like in the early days of the clandestine service, Sichel has written a valuable and interesting book.

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[1] James Bamford, The Puzzle Palace: Inside the National Security Agency, America’s Most Secret Agency (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1982); Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency from the Cold War through the Dawn of a New Century (Doubleday, 2001); The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America (Doubleday, 2008).

[2] The VENONA project was an effort by the US Army’s Signals Intelligence Service (later NSA) to gather and decrypt messages sent by the Soviet military intelligence agencies from 1943 to 1980.

[3] Andrew Lownie, Stalin’s Englishman: Guy Burgess, the Cold War, and the Cambridge Spy Ring (St. Martin’s Press, 2016).  

[4] Russell Miller, Codename TRICYCLE: The True Story of the Second World War’s Most Extraordinary Double Agent (Secker and Warburg, 2004).

[5] John Pearson, The Life of Ian Fleming: Creator of James Bond (Jonathan Cape, 1966).

[6] Andrew Lycett, Ian Fleming: A Biography (Weidenfeld & Nicol­son, 1995).

[7] Dusko Popov, Spy/Counterspy: the Autobiography of Dusko Popov (Grosset & Dunlap, 1974), 150.

[8] Thomas F. Troy, “The British Assault on J. Edgar Hoover: The Tricycle Case,” International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 3, no. 2 (1989): 169–209.

[9] Mary S. Lovell, Cast No Shadow: The Life of the American Spy Who Changed the Course of World War II (Pantheon Books, 1992), xiv.  

[10] Lovell, Cast No Shadow, 326.

[11] Cecil B. Currey, Code Number 72/Ben Franklin: Patriot or Spy? (Prentice Hall, 1972).

[12] Sponsored by the Institute of National Remembrance, the Uni­versity of Southern Denmark, and Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität, Greifswald, Germany.  

[13] David Robarge, “Leadership In An Intelligence Organization: The Directors of Central Intelligence and the CIA,” in Loch K. Johnson (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of National Security Intelli­gence (Oxford University Press, 2010), 486.  

[14] Richard Helms with William Hood, A Look Over My Shoulder: A Life in the Central Intelligence Agency (Random House, 2003), 64–81.  

[15] A “dangle” is a person sent by the intelligence agency of his or her own country who approaches an intelligence agency of another country hoping to be recruited as a spy and work as a double agent.

[16] Oleg Penkovsky, codenamed HERO, was a colonel with Soviet military intelligence during the 1950s and early 1960s who in­formed the United Kingdom and the United States about the Soviet emplacement of missiles in Cuba. [Wikipedia]  

[17] Miles Copeland, The Game Player: Confessions of the CIA’s Original Political Operative (Aurum Press, Ltd., 1989), 196–198.

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Posted: Mar 06, 2017 02:20 PM
Last Updated: Mar 06, 2017 02:20 PM