Intelligence in Recent Public Literature
The Intelligence Officer's Bookshelf
Compiled and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake
Necessary Secrets: National Security, the Media, and the Rule of Law by Gabriel Schoenfeld
A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran by Reza Kahlili
The Watchers: The Rise of America's Surveillance State by Shane Harris
Historical Dictionary of Naval Intelligence by Nigel West
The Oxford Handbook of National Security Intelligence by Loch Johnson (ed.)
Structured Analytical Techniques for Intelligence Analysis by Richards J. Heuer, Jr. and Randolph H. Pherson
The Chief Culprit: Stalin's Grand Design to Start World War II by Viktor Suvorov
The Deceivers: Allied Military Deception in the Second World War by Thaddeus Holt
Eyes In The Sky: Eisenhower, The CIA and Cold War Aerial Espionage by Dino Brugioni
Hitler's Intelligence Chief: Walter Schellenberg-The Man Who Kept Germany's Secrets by Reinhard R. Doerries
JOHNNY: A Spy's Life by R. S. Rose and Gordon D. Scott
The Making of a Spy: Memoir of a German Boy Soldier Turned American Army Intelligence Agent by Gerhardt B. Thamm
Rome's Wars in Parthia: Blood in the Sand by Rose Mary Sheldon
Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America by John Haynes and Harvey Klehr
A Spy's Diary of World War II: Inside the OSS with an American Agent in Europe by Wayne Nelson
They Dared Return: The True Story of Jewish Spies Behind the Lines in Nazi Germany by Patrick K. O'Donnell
Intelligence Services Abroad
Nest of Spies: The Startling Truth about Foreign Agents at Work within Canada's Borders by Fabrice de Pierrebourg and Michel Juneau-Katsuya
Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices by Mosab Hassan Yousef
Spying on Ireland: British Intelligence and Irish Neutrality during the Second World War by Eunan O'Halpin.
Secrets: National Security, the Media, and the Rule of Law, by Gabriel Schoenfeld. (New York: W. W. Norton, 2010), 309 pp., endnotes, index.
What do James Monroe, Thomas Paine, Daniel Ellsberg, Philip Agee, Herbert Yardley, and Thomas Tamm have in common? According to Gabriel Schoenfeld they were all unpunished leakers, and he uses their examples to address three important and related issues. First, does the First Amendment make the press the final arbiter of what can be published? Second, why aren’t the leakers prosecuted? Finally, are new laws needed to protect the nation’s secrets?
To examine the first question, Schoenfeld uses the New York Times decision to defy White House requests not to publish the story about the NSA surveillance program to detect and monitor terrorist activity. After reviewing the substantial and specific dangers pointed out to the Times, Schoenfeld challenges its position that the public’s right to know and the Times' right to decide trump the government’s authority. There is, he suggests, a corollary proposition: the "public's right not to know," (259) and the decision should rest with the Executive Branch of government. He then reviews various historical precedents for that view.
As to legal action against leakers, Schoenfeld discusses the leakers noted above and shows that they escaped punishment for different, often inexplicable, legal or political reasons. The Pentagon Papers case, he argues, is a good example of exoneration based on legal technicalities. The Philip Agee case, Schoenfeld suggests, could probably have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act, but he is at a loss to explain why he was not. The most recent example involves the Justice Department leaker in the NSA case, Thomas Tamm, who has not been prosecuted even though he stated publicly that he acted because he objected to the program, did not like the Bush administration, and hoped it would damage the president’s reelection—which ironically took place even before the Times story was published. (263) A decision here will establish a precedent.
Regarding new leaker laws, Schoenfeld thinks they are unnecessary. He analyzes the existing government employee secrecy agreement and concludes it would do the job if implemented consistently. The cases of former CIA officers turned authors Frank Snepp and Victor Marchetti make the point. He uses the Samuel L. Morison case—he sold classified satellite photographs to a commercial magazine—to show that some leakers do go to jail.
In the end, Schoenfeld argues that editors are not justified in deciding what to print "no matter the cost." (260) Nor should they have "unfettered freedom of action," which could lead to an imperial press. Editors do have obligations under the law to act in the public good (275) not for their self aggrandizement. Necessary Secrets is accurately titled, well documented, and persuasive.
A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran, by Reza Kahlili. (New York: Threshold Editions, 2010), 240 pp.
Details in his book have been changed for security reasons—Reza Kahlili, for example, is a pseudonym—but that hasn’t diminished the punch of this unusual story. Kahlili grew up in Iran but in the early 1970s went to college at the University of Southern California where he lived with relatives. He returned with a masters in computer science in time for the revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power. Motivated by the end of the shah’s oppressive regime and visions of a Persian renaissance, Kahlili joined the Revolutionary Guards’s computer division. He might have remained an obscure programmer had not one of his childhood friends joined the operational element of the Guards and sought his assistance setting up a database of dissidents. When several of his dissident friends defied the regime, Kahlili witnessed the cruelty they endured, especially the women, who were routinely executed. When the US embassy was seized and its occupants taken hostage in 1979 he learned of the brutal treatment the Americans received at the hands of the Revolutionary Guards and discovered that the incident was anything but a spontaneous act of students. Such events convinced him he was witnessing the creation of a corrupt, unjust, iniquitous, Islamic fundamentalist Iran.
Kahlili decided to tell the world the truth about life in Iran and took leave to visit a "terminally ill" relative in Los Angeles. Once there, he contacted the FBI and through them the CIA. He writes that his intent was merely to ask their help in revealing what was happening in Iran. To his surprise, the CIA offered him an alternative opportunity—become an agent and penetrate the Revolutionary Guards. And that is what he did.
After training in the United States and London, Kahlili returned to Iran and began reporting. In this book he describes the communication techniques he used and outlines the kind of details he provided and the methods he employed to avoid detection. Despite his careful adherence to procedure, he did come under suspicion, but he survived, thanks to the fortuitous death of his accuser. He also married but did not tell his wife about his secret life. Sometime in the 1990s—he does not date his experiences—the stress became evident to himself and his family. He got permission to visit London and from there, with CIA help, he took his family to the United States. Living under a new name, he became a citizen. His son graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2001. By then his wife knew of his former clandestine life.
In his review of A Time to Betray, David Ignatius said he initially doubted this incredible story. But after using his impressive contacts and eventually speaking with Kahlili by phone, Ignatius suggested the CIA should view the book as "a virtual recruitment poster."1 But the book is also a very important contribution to the understanding of contemporary Iran and the role of intelligence in the struggle against Islamic fundamentalism.
The Watchers: The Rise of America’s Surveillance State by Shane Harris. (New York: Penguin Press, 2010), 418 pp., endnotes, index.
One answer to the proverbial question "Who watches the watchers?" is Shane Harris. In this book he chronicles "the rise of the surveillance state" using the career of Adm. John Poindexter and his concept of a Total Information Awareness (TIA) as his reference point. In principle, TIA was to be a monumental link-analysis computer program used to collect and analyze all available data—phone calls, credit card purchases, banking transactions, travel details, addresses, etc., public and private, worldwide, 24/7. From these data it was to extract links to terrorist activities. Conceived after the 1983 attack on the US Marine barracks in Lebanon, it was only in the mid-1990s that it was developed, with strict privacy provisions, under contract to DARPA. Before it could be fully tested its existence became public. Media outrage and controversy followed and it was quickly shut down.
TIA wasn’t the only program testing this concept, writes Harris. The Army’s Information Dominance Center (IDC) had developed a project using open source data off the Internet. Its developers assumed it was free of privacy considerations. Eventually called Able Danger, according to Harris, it produced promising results on Chinese espionage operations in the West and was considered for use in tracking al-Qaeda. But when lawyers became aware of it, they judged that privacy was a major factor and the programmer was instructed to delete the database or go to jail. (132)
Then there was the so-called warrantless surveillance program run by NSA that began after 9/11. After reviewing the well-known controversy that ensued when the program became public, Harris adds that it was only modified, not shut down. And, what is more, the TIA concept was incorporated in the secret continuation.
The Watchers tells the story of these programs and the bureaucratic conflicts that evolved as the Intelligence Community tried to deal with the terrorist threat. Harris devotes considerable attention to the careers of the principal players involved and the role of the media, Congress, and the White House. He does not resolve the question of how to protect privacy and meet the national intelligence mission, but he does suggest that now is the time to debate the issue, not after the next terrorist attack. While his book is thought provoking, Harris's answer to the original question is that only the media can watch the watchers. That too is worthy of debate.[Top of page]
Historical Dictionary of Naval Intelligence, by Nigel West. (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2010), 406 pp., appendix, chronology, index.
Intelligence polymath Nigel West has produced another of his historical dictionaries—there is one on Chinese intelligence in the mill. This one begins with a useful chronology and a historical essay on naval intelligence. It ends with an interesting appendix on "US Navy Signals Intercept Sites," but no British ones, and a reasonably complete bibliographic essay on the literature, which, however, omits the three volumes on WW II Secret Flotillas, by Richard Brooks. In between are more than 600 entries in the dictionary that do not have source references but do discuss naval espionage cases and personalities, naval intelligence organizations, intelligence ships, and codenames. Most concern WW I and II belligerents and Cold War actors. For reasons not given, missing is the Tachibana case that involved, inter alios, Charlie Chaplin’s former valet and Japanese espionage in America. While the current edition is generally accurate, future editions should not claim that Lou Tordella was ever the director of NSA.
Amazon offers some relief from the $95 price tag but does not offer a digital version—yet. It is a valuable reference work.
The Oxford Handbook of National Security Intelligence, by Loch Johnson (ed.). (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 886 pp., footnotes, end of chapter references, index.
As recently as 10 years ago, maintaining awareness of the state-of-the-art in the literature and practice of intelligence required monitoring three quarterly journals and looking out for the occasional reader. This changed in 2007 when Professor Loch Johnson edited a five-volume work on strategic intelligence, followed by single volumes on the subject in 2007 and 2008. And now comes another volume with a new title that he concludes betters expresses the field of inquiry. And he is not alone; several others have produced similar works during the same period.2
The objective of the current handbook is to provide a "state-of-the-art assessment of the literature and findings in the field of national security study." (4) Toward that end, Professor Johnson has assembled 56 mostly original articles. Their authors are a mix of academics and professionals with experience in the field. They come from seven countries—the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Sweden, Israel, and Canada. The articles, presented in 10 parts, cover most elements of the profession. Only the technical aspects are omitted. The introduction has two contributions. In the first, Johnson surveys the field. The second, by Sir Richard Dearlove, examines the topic in light of what he terms the "age of anxieties" (37) in which "internationalization of national security has eroded the distinction… traditionally made between home and away, between foreign and domestic security." (39)
The remaining parts look at some familiar themes such as "intelligence theory," though no example of what that is or what benefit it would provide is discernible. Other topics include the importance of intelligence history and the role of SIGINT. Each element of the intelligence cycle receives attention as do covert action, counterintelligence, and commercial intelligence. A few case studies, domestic security, intelligence policy, ethics, and accountability round out the coverage.
The final section deals with foreign intelligence services. With characteristic candor, Ephraim Kahana notes that "much of the literature about the Mossad may be considered pure fiction," before summarizing the Israeli services and their missions. Wolfgang Krieger writing on the German BND notes that unlike most services, it has responsibility for military and foreign intelligence. Another article looks at intelligence in the developing democracies, and the final piece is on intelligence and national security in Australia. US readers will no doubt wish more foreign intelligence services had been included.
This is a very valuable reference work, at least for the present.
Structured Analytical Techniques for Intelligence Analysis, by Richards J. Heuer, Jr. and Randolph H. Pherson. (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2010), 343 pp., footnotes, no index.
In this volume two experienced analysts argue that intelligence analysis is transitioning from emphasis on a single analyst to a collaborative team. To aid in that transition, they present a collection of analytical methods called structured analysis that capitalize on Intellipedia and social networking to improve results. The book itself has an unusual spiral-bound format with tabs for each well-illustrated chapter. Chapters 2–10 provide a sequential approach to analysis starting with building a taxonomy and continuing with the criteria for selecting techniques and other basics—checklists and alternative methods—necessary to begin. There are also chapters on types of brainstorming, scenario development, hypothesis testing, the importance of assumptions and a new techniques called "structured analogies." Then comes a discussion of "challenge analysis" that is intended to help break away from conventional modes of thinking and look at a problem from different perspectives. A chapter on conflict management introduces methods of treating opposing arguments. Chapter 10 looks at four techniques, including a new one by Heuer called "complexity manger technique," designed to help analysts and managers make tradeoffs. Chapter 12 considers what to do when outside support is needed and chapter 13 examines systematic ways of evaluating or validating effectiveness. A final chapter looks at what developments are anticipated in the future. The volume appears to be designed for individual study and team application.
The one thing not included in the book is an example of a successful application that shows how various techniques were tried, accepted, or dismissed before reaching the conclusion. It would also be valuable to know how the results of using these techniques compare with results produced by a traditional analyst who knows his subject and the languages involved. With these additions this volume would be a definitive work. For now, however, this is the most up-to-date and detailed nonmathematical treatment of this crucial field.[Top of page]
The Chief Culprit: Stalin's Grand Design to Start World War II by Viktor Suvorov. (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2009), 327 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.
Who started World War II? Stalin was the guilty party wrote former GRU officer Viktor Suvorov in his book, IceBreaker.3 Hitler only attacked to preempt Stalin’s invasion of Germany. The book received little attention in England, though it did much better in Russia as it showed how Stalin overcame a mad dictator. One reviewer noted that it sold only 800 copies in the West, but the first Russian printing alone was 100,000 copies.4 Nevertheless, historians took the thesis seriously and analyzed it in a series of papers and books. David Glantz reviews their findings in his book, Stumbling Colossus. David Murphy examines it further in his 2005 book What Stalin Knew. The unanimous consensus: Suvorov arguments are not credible.5
Now, 20 years later, Suvorov has returned to his thesis in The Chief Culprit. He has expanded the historical scope, adding background beginning with the Bolshevik revolution, and he makes interesting comparisons of the two mustached dictators. But his interpretation of certain events is problematic, even confusing. Suvorov characterizes the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939 as "Stalin’s Trap for Hitler," but he does not support this revisionist judgment with facts. In his discussion of Trotsky’s murder in Mexico, Suvorov writes "Trotsky liked the essays" the murderer wrote, which allowed him to "penetrate Trotsky’s inner circle." (178) But extensive evidence contradicts this interpretation. And that illustrates the principal deficiency of the book: Suvorov may have the historical context right but he is weak on substantiating cause and effect and offers too many quotes and assertions without sources. In the end, he doesn’t prove that "the Soviet Union entered World War II as an aggressor" (278) as a move toward world domination. Suvorov just chooses to interpret events that way.
In the end, Suvorov’s interpretations aside, readers are left wondering how Hitler learned of Stalin’s purported invasion plans, and that alone justifies a skeptical approach to The Chief Culprit.
The Deceivers: Allied Military Deception in the Second World War by Thaddeus Holt. (New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2007), 1148 pp., endnotes, bibliography, appendices, photos, maps, index, 2nd edition with new addendum.
British intelligence historian M.R.D. Foot, known for his pithy assessments of a book’s essence, said that Gerald Reitlinger’s The SS was as "depressingly accurate."6 Of The Deceivers, Foot wrote "as good as it is long."7 A few details will suggest why.
Thaddeus Holt, a lawyer and former deputy under secretary of the army, conceived the idea for this book in the early 1990s after reading about British deception operations that influenced the invasion of France in 1944. What role, he asked, did the Americans play? During several years of research the scope of the project expanded. The result was a detailed and wide-ranging history of allied deception in WW II. The geographic emphasis is on the war in Northern Africa and Europe, but South Asia, China, and Japan are also included. The story itself is told in two parallel threads. One is about the deception operations themselves, the principles that make them successful, and the organizations involved. The other is about the people who did the work in spite of the appalling amount of bureaucratic infighting.
The central figure is Lt. Col. Dudley Clarke, a maverick officer who had entered the Royal Military Academy at 17 during WW I. Graduated in the artillery, he was too young to serve overseas in the land army, so he joined the Royal Flying Corps and was a pilot in Egypt for the rest of the war. Back with the army at the start of WW II, he served in France and Norway and was involved with the creation of the Commandos—he gave them their name—and before being called to Egypt and assigned to the staff of Gen. Sir Archibald Wavell and told to develop deception plans. With no direct experience and starting alone, he formed a secret planning section called "A" Force. Among the many deception operations Holt describes—not all successful—was the one that misled the Germans about the main thrust of Montgomery’s attack at El Alamein. A key to the success of deception, said Clarke, was not to focus on what you want the enemy to think, but what you want him to do. Clark used all means to deceive the enemy. SIGINT was key to convincing the Germans that the British order of battle had division and corps-level units that did not exist. He also employed agents to whom he passed deceptive intelligence intend to reach German ears. At one point, in an operation never fully explained, he disguised himself as a woman in Madrid, only to be arrested. Despite considerable embarrassment, he survived the ordeal.
Deception operations were not confined to the Middle East. Holt recounts the work of the London Controlling Section (LCS) under Col. Johnny Bevan. This group was responsible for the deception connected with Overlord, the invasion of Europe. Also described are Operation Mincemeat, which was made famous in The Man Who Never Was,8 and the Double Cross Committee’s use of double agents supported by ULTRA. In the telling, we learn of the bureaucratic conflicts that were overcome to make these operations successful. In Southeast Asia, Holt tells of Peter Fleming—older brother of Ian—and his elaborate attempts to deceive Japanese intelligence. (Holt rates the Italians as the best intelligence service among the Axis nations, the Japanese the worst.)
Turning to the American role, Holt explains that when they entered the war their deception plans and organization could be characterized as disorganized at best. And it was only in 1943 that a degree of order was imposed by Col. Norman Smith, the closest planner in terms of competence, to the LCS's Bevan. Cooperation with the FBI, tasked to run some double agents, was equally troubled and the result was not very effective. Here too the conflicts among personnel were fierce and never totally resolved.
In the epilogue, Holt tells what happened to the key players after the war. He also assesses the value of deception, concluding that with the exception of Overlord its contribution is hard to measure. When compared with the double-agent operations, however, he concludes that they "had far more influence than the elaborate effort at signals deception." (779)
The Deceivers provides a historical picture of deception that is truly unique. With descriptions of hundreds of operations and impressive detail concerning all the principals, all extensively documented, Holt’s book stands as the definitive work on the subject.
Eyes in the Sky: Eisenhower, the CIA and Cold War Aerial Espionage by Dino Brugioni. (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2010), 572 pp., endnotes, photos, index.
Dino Brugioni was more than "present at the creation" of America’s national photo-interpretation capability. He was a major player and, equally important, an astute observer until long after it became an accepted source of national intelligence. In Eyes In The Sky his focus is on president Eisenhower’s little known contributions to the origins and development of strategic intelligence programs—especially photographic systems—but his own first hand comments add color and insights not available from any other source.
Brugioni’s story begins with a review of the origins of aerial surveillance from balloons in the 18th century to the end of WW II. The balance of the book is devoted to the Cold War and the demands it created that were met by a group of remarkable innovators stimulated and supported by President Eisenhower. At the big picture strategic level, they included Edwin Land the developer of the Polaroid camera process, Generals Doolittle and Goddard, James Killian and Amron Katz. He tells how, at the working level, Richard Bissell, Clarence Kelly Johnson, Allen Dulles and Arthur Lundahl combined their administrative and technical skills to create the U-2 and the first satellite programs that gave the country the ability to monitor Soviet military and industrial capabilities. Brugioni takes care to mention many of the other players—British and American—that played key roles. Their names will be familiar to numerous readers.
Lundahl’s contributions get detailed attention as Brugioni describes the origins of the National Photographic Interpretation Center and the role it played in resolving the so-called missile-gap issue, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the monitoring of the Soviet strategic missile program. Lundahl did more than create an organization, he briefed the president, often with Brugioni’s help, using photos from the new intelligence tools he had the foresight to support. These achievements did not come without bureaucratic battles and Brugioni tells of the conflicts between the CIA and the Air Force that Eisenhower was forced to decide. How the challenges from Gen. Curtis LeMay were defeated— Brugioni played a direct role—are of particular interest.
Brugioni adds some new details, as for example the story of the "Caspian Sea Monster" that baffles photo interpreters to this day. He also tells of the Genetrix balloon program, the conflicts surrounding the U-2 overflights, and the patience Eisenhower displayed when the first 13 satellites launches failed. While the development of the A-12 Oxcart and SR-71 platforms and their uses in several conflicts are included, Brugioni concludes that the Corona satellite program is President Eisenhower’s greatest legacy because it “laid the groundwork for all the future US satellite reconnaissance systems.” (392)
Eyes in the Sky is history firsthand in which Eisenhower’s role is finally documented. Dino Brugioni has made a fine contribution to the intelligence literature.
Hitler’s Intelligence Chief: Walter Schellenberg—The Man Who Kept Germany’s Secrets, by Reinhard R. Doerries. (New York: Enigma Books, 2009), 390 pp., endnotes, bibliography, appendices, glossary, photos, index.
Walter Schellenberg was a Nazi SS intelligence officer whose controversial career is examined here by a skillful historian. Schellenberg was born in 1910; by 1936, he had graduated from law school—Universities of Marburg and Bonn—and joined the Nazi Party. After a brief period in private practice, he left to join the SS in Berlin, where he came to the attention of Reinhard Heydrich, who tested his abilities with brief special assignments in Vienna and Italy. When Schellenberg returned to Berlin he was assigned to Gestapo counterespionage. While there, still as a very junior officer in November 1939, Schellenberg participated in the famous Venlo Incident—a deception operation that resulted in the arrest of the MI6 head of station. By the Fall of 1941, Schellenberg’s career had soared and he became head of Amt VI, the Foreign Intelligence Service of the SD, where he served during most of WW II.
Author Doerries gives most attention to Schellenberg’s wartime activities, which are open to several interpretations. Doerries shows that one reason for the uncertainty is that Schellenberg’s memoirs were published after his death in 1951, based on notes assembled by others. The American edition differed from the British version, and both differed from the German version.9 Moreover, postwar interrogations of Schellenberg conflicted with other sources, including a short autobiography he wrote in Sweden, which is published, for the first time, in this volume as an appendix. One thing Doerries does not explain, is whether Schellenberg ever found out about the agents that Britain ran against Germany as part of the Double Cross system.
In the narrative, Professor Doerries attempts to identify and sort out the differences. The Venlo Incident is a case in point. He shows that it was less a well-planned operation than an ad hoc venture that turned into a kidnapping only after an attempt on Hitler’s life. But, Doerries notes that Schellenberg was quick to capitalize on its apparent success for career purposes. Likewise Doerries speculates as to why Schellenberg failed to follow Hitler’s order to kidnap the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and got away with it. And there is considerable detail on the bureaucratic battles waged with his arch enemies Heinrich Müller, head of the Gestapo, and Ernst Kaltenbrunner, chief of the RSHA, the Nazi umbrella security organization.
Aside from his SS service, several things increased Schellenberg’ controversial reputation with the allies. The first was his helping "an extraordinarily large number" (xiv) of Jewish prisoners escape from concentration camps near the end of the war. He used this shamefully self-serving act and the help of his mentor Heinrich Himmler, to get an appointment as diplomatic liaison with the Red Cross in Sweden. A second item was his service testifying at Nuremberg against his former colleagues.
Other sources of controversy are revealed in the final chapter of Hitler’s Intelligence Chief. Here Doerries tells of Schellenberg’s time in Sweden and his extradition to Germany and then to Britain. He was much sought after as a former head of the Nazi foreign intelligence apparatus, but his interrogations yielded mixed judgments. The British concluded that he "had not produced any evidence of outstanding genius." The Americans, on the other hand, reported that he had in one case at least been "both lucid and credible." (278) Here Doerries explains the detailed charges against Schellenberg that surfaced during his interrogations. During 1948–49, he was tried and sentenced to six years by US authorities. Released in 1950 for health reasons, he sought treatment in several locations, eventually landing in Turin, Italy, where he died in 1952.
Professor Doerries has documented his account with recently released documents from allied archives. The Germans records remain classified. Thus the final version of Walter Schellenberg’s career is still to be written.
JOHNNY: A Spy’s Life by R. S. Rose and Gordon D. Scott. (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010), 462 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.
Johnan Heinrich Amadeus de Graaf, called Johnny by his friends and Jonny X by his case officers, is not one of the famous 20th century spies, though his existence is confirmed in Christopher Andrew’s Defend The Realm.10 Born in Germany, he joined the merchant marine as a young man, became a communist radical, and was imprisoned during WW I for mutiny. Freed in November 1918, Johnny continued his political activism while working in German mines. When sent to a Berlin conference to represent his party faction, he was linked to Horst Wessel’s murder and escaped to Switzerland, leaving his family behind. It was there that he was recruited by Soviet military intelligence and sent to Moscow for training. After some eye-opening assignments supervising German refugee camps in the Soviet Union, he was sent abroad and conducted operations in Romania, Berlin, Prague China, and London. It was while in London that he volunteered to work for MI6 in 1933. Sent by the GRU to Brazil, he served as a double agent until WW II began. After a period in prison as a suspected Nazi, he escaped to London and dropped off the GRU radar screen. The British used him to infiltrate German POWs and later sent him to Canada to do the same. After the war he volunteered to work for the FBI. He eventually retired with his second wife in Canada and operated a bed-and-breakfast. Although the GRU learned of his defection after the war, they decided to leave him alone.
JOHNNY contains intriguing details about GRU tradecraft training and de Graaf’s relationship with General Berzin, head of the GRU. Likewise, the authors describe his handling by SIS officer Frank Foley, later famous for helping Jews escape the Nazis. It is an unusual story of a double agent who fought the Nazis and the communists and survived.
The Making of a Spy: Memoir of a German Boy Soldier Turned American Army Intelligence Agent, by Gerhardt B. Thamm. (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2010), 223 pp., endnotes, photos, index.
The Thamm family moved to Detroit in the 1920s and their son Gerhardt was born there in 1929. When his father lost his job during the Depression, they returned to Germany. Gerhardt was conscripted into the Wehrmacht in January 1945 and fought the Soviets until the end of the war. The NKVD captured his platoon and sent them into slave labor for 17 months. When he was repatriated and rejoined his family, the Soviets had confiscated their land. They managed to move to West Germany, but times were not easy there either. Gerhardt applied for a US passport and returned to the United States where he joined the army. With his language skills, he was assigned to military intelligence and eventually returned to Germany with the Counterintelligence Corps (CIC). The Making of a Spy covers his two years as a CIC agent, although he comments briefly on several subsequent tours overseas with the Army Security Agency and assignments with the Office of Naval Intelligence and the Defense Intelligence Agency. With at least one exception, he has changed the names of the individuals with whom he worked. The exception is Sgt. 1st Class (later Col.) George Trofimoff, now a convicted KGB agent serving life in prison, thanks to Vasili Mitrokhin.
While Thamm tells a compelling personal story, the strength of the book lies in his descriptions of the training, tradecraft, and agent-control techniques he developed in the field.
Rome’s Wars in Parthia: Blood in the Sand, by Rose Mary Sheldon. (Portland, OR: Vallentine Mitchell, 2010), 303 pp., end of chapter notes, bibliography, maps, index.
The ancient Parthian Empire encompassed much of what is today Iran and Iraq. Periodically, for approximately 300 years, beginning about 100 BC, the Roman and Parthian Empires fought territorial wars. Virginia Military Institute history professor Rose Mary Sheldon acknowledges the many histories written about of these wars, while pointing out that all have focused on their military and political aspects, to the neglect of intelligence. Rome’s Wars in Parthia attempts to correct that deficiency.
In fact what the book reveals is that more is known about the lack of intelligence, beyond normal reconnaissance and couriers, than its use. In campaign after campaign Sheldon reports what was not known or even sought after, and the consequences of such ignorance. The chapter entitled What Did the Romans Know and When Did They Know It? illustrates this point in general terms. A particular example, one of many, discusses the failed invasion of Parthia by the Roman commander Crassus. He proceeded before assessing the strength and capabilities of his enemy and was defeated.
Sheldon frequently uses modern terminology in her narrative, as for example, "covert action" and "shock and awe." The former, however, looks more like traditional secret diplomacy. The latter is better thought of as the use of overwhelming force. These concepts have a connotation that doesn’t fit well with ancient military battles.
Rome’s Wars in Parthia is extensively documented and intended for a "general audience." Nevertheless, readers who lack familiarity with the history of those times will need to consult the Wikipedia to identify and understand the many personages and countries named. In her concluding chapter, Sheldon attempts some parallels with the current situation in the Middle East, none of which deal with intelligence, though they warrant consideration. This is a unique book and will be of real value to those interested in intelligence and ancient history.
Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America by John Haynes and Harvey Klehr. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010), 704 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.
The headline in the New York Times of 21 December 1948 read: "Fall Kills Duggan, Named With Hiss in Spy Ring Inquiry." Prominent friends were outraged at the suggestion that former State Department officer Lawrence Duggan had been a Soviet spy. Eleanor Roosevelt wrote "How anyone could suspect him of un-American activities seems inconceivable to me."11 In 1995, historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., referring to Duggan, wrote that Yale University Press "should not have permitted this book to blacken the name of a man whom many knew as an able public servant."12 The book was The Secret World of American Communism, by John Haynes and Harvey Klehr. Their most recent book, Spies, written with Alexander Vassiliev, a KGB officer turned journalist, lays any lingering doubts it to rest—"Duggan was a Soviet spy." (220–45)
The Duggan story is just one of many in Spies. The first chapter reveals new documentation that Alger Hiss was a GRU agent working with Duggan. The second chapter discusses the many atom spies, several not previously known. Surprisingly, the authors conclude that although Robert Oppenheimer had been a member of the Communist Party, he had never become a Soviet agent. Russell McNutt, on the other hand, was never suspected, but Spies documents that he was recruited by Julius Rosenberg. There is new material too that will disturb the defenders of Ethel Rosenberg. Later, the authors add supporting details to previously known cases in the major government departments, including OSS.
Perhaps the most controversial chapter in the book concerns the 22 journalists who worked for the NKVD/KGB in various capacities. (145) That the iconic I.F. Stone was included, enraged many of Stone’s longtime friends and supporters, including his biographer D.D.Guttenplan, who questions the validity of the KGB documents on which Spies relies.13 The sources for Spies are contained in eight notebooks made by Vassiliev at the request of the SVR.14 As part of a joint Russian-American book program started in the 1990s, Vassiliev was to provide extracts from KGB case files and give them to historian Allen Weinstein after scrutiny by security. The resultant book was called The Haunted Wood.15 But Weinstein did not use all of Vassiliev’s material. In 2002, Vassiliev, then living in London, contacted Haynes and Klehr to see if they wanted to exploit the notes. Spies was the result.
In his defense of Stone, Guttenpan has argued that either the SVR slanted the message by controlling the material to which Vassiliev was given access or that Vassiliev left out material or failed to recognize the value of key items exonerating Stone and did not make notes about them. The authors deals with these doubts in different parts of Spies and make an over whelming case that the extracts are genuine.
The argument over sources can never be resolved completely, however. Even if the KGB/GRU archives are opened to scholars, some will say Soviet sources can’t be trusted. But in the interim, Spies is the most complete and accurate account to date. It shows the importance of a good all-source counterintelligence service when a nation is opposed by forces with a powerful and antagonistic ideology.
A Spy’s Diary of World War II: Inside the OSS with an American Agent in Europe by Wayne Nelson. (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2009), 204 pp., photos, index.
In December 1941, Allen Dulles, then a lawyer in New York, wrote a letter recommending his secretary, Aubrey (Wayne) Nelson, for a position in the Navy. Dulles did not mention that Nelson had partial vision in one eye or that he was a graduate of the Feagin School of Dramatic Art. Wayne was his stage name. He was not accepted, so Dulles recommended him for a position in Col. William Donovan’s Office of the Coordinator of Information (COI) where he was accepted and worked as an assistant to Donovan. In the summer of 1942, aware that Nelson wanted an overseas assignment, Donovan offered a position in the OSS in London. When Dulles was informed, he suggested that Nelson go with him to Bern instead, but before that could be arranged, the Swiss-French border had closed. So Nelson volunteered for North Africa and after a series of assignment changes began his overseas career there. He began his diary on 12 February 1943 on the ship to North Africa. His final entry was on 15 February 1945. He wrote the entries in a self-taught shorthand on whatever paper was to hand and placed them in a briefcase he carried throughout the war. He had plans of turning the diary into a play, but that never happened. As his wife explains in the introduction to this volume, she and her daughter found the briefcase after his death and after translating and arranging the entries in chronological order, edited the diary in its present form.
The entries are short and often mention well-known OSS figures—Max Corvo and Carleton Coon and Michael Burke are examples. Nelson describes missions conducted with the navy to land and retrieve agents from Sardinia. Later he tells of his experiences as a case officer running agent operations in Corsica and Italy before his major effort in the invasion of southern France, Operation Dragoon. As the army moved North, his OSS detachment briefed French penetration agents and worked with Odette Sansom of SOE. After V-E Day, Nelson served on the Reparations Commission in Moscow, Berlin, and at the Potsdam Conference, though his diary does not comment on these assignments.
After the war Nelson worked in Hollywood as an adviser on 13 Rue Madelaine, a film about the OSS with Jimmy Cagney. He then helped Dulles write his book, Germany’s Underground. Assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he helped Kermit Roosevelt write the War Report of the OSS. Nelson joined CIA in 1949, where he became a case officer, met his wife Kay, and retired in 1970.
The diaries, with an introduction and epilogue by his wife, are a fitting tribute to a modest and brave intelligence officer.
They Dared Return: The True Story of Jewish Spies Behind the Lines in Nazi Germany by Patrick K. O’Donnell. (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2009), 239 pp., endnotes, photos, index.
In his 1979 book about the OSS in Europe,16 Joseph Persico devoted several chapters to Fred Mayer, a Jewish Sergeant born in Germany, who volunteered with several of his compatriots for risky OSS missions behind German lines. In They Dared Return, Patrick O’Donnell devotes an entire book to the subject. Thus the reader learns more about each of the brave Jewish officers before and after they joined the Army. Some things are administrative in nature, as for example their training at the Congressional Country Club in Maryland. But others are operationally significant. For example, at one point while stationed in Italy, according to Persico, Mayer interviewed a POW prospect for a mission. In O’Donnell’s account, we learn that Mayer was himself in a camp housing German POWs, posing as a prisoner and improving his German while observing Axis prisoners who might be used as OSS agents. It was there that he noticed the POW, Franz Weber, and later had him brought to his office for questioning. The obviously surprised Weber was accepted. In another instance, the case of double agent Hermann Matull is told for the first time.17
Mayer’s penultimate accomplishment, after being captured and tortured by the Gestapo, was arranging the surrender of Innsbruck to the Allies without a fight. The book ends with a not-quite-up-to-date summary of where the key characters are now. The six appendices are copies of mission debriefings that provide more details. It is a good story, well told.[Top of page]
Intelligence Services Abroad
Nest of Spies: The Startling Truth about Foreign Agents at Work within Canada’s Borders by Fabrice de Pierrebourg and Michel Juneau-Katsuya, trans. Ray Conlogue. (Toronto: HarperCollins Canada, 2009), 372 pp., endnotes, no index.
Fabrice de Pierrebourg is a Canadian journalist. Michael Juneau-Katsuya is a former member of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). They have assembled a collection of espionage anecdotes and commentaries dealing mainly with Canada, but overlapping to the United States, United Kingdom, China, and Russia. Though some of their stories on China appear valuable, others have a Weekly Reader plot depiction parsimony, some are just wrong, and most are undocumented.
Questions concerning accuracy are raised by unsupported statements like, "the overall extent of espionage today is much greater that it was during the Cold War." (3) A more specific example follows from the comment that RCMP Sgt. Gilles Brunet approached Vladimir Vetrov, (Farewell) in Canada when other sources says that couldn’t have happened for good reason: Brunet was dead. On the topic of US and British services, it is not true that William Stephenson was coded-named Intrepid, that OSS was Stephenson's idea, or that he was dispatched by Churchill as a personal representative to Roosevelt. And, Ian Fleming did not say James Bond was modeled on Stephenson, and the source cited in the book doesn’t say he did.
Few will dispute that Nest of Spies is an intriguing title or that it offers an interesting view of Canadian intelligence. But all should be watchful for careless errors and of its frugal sourcing. In short, caveat lector!
Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices, by Mosab Hassan Yousef. (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2010), 265 pp., endnotes, glossary, no index.
In 1996, Mosab Yousef was arrested in Ramallah by Shin Bet, the Israeli security service, for buying guns. The son of a founder of Hamas, he had a detailed knowledge of its personnel and its operations. His initial confinement was long and harsh. But gradually Shin Bet eased the pressure and then asked for "his help." He decided to pretend cooperation, get released and then seek revenge. Freedom did not come quickly or easily. He first had to convince his fellow Hamas inmates that he was still one of them. Only then was he allowed to go home. Son of Hamas tells how Yousef came to admire the Israelis and instead of revenge, he became their agent for more than 10 years working for "peace against the zealots."
Shin Bet was clever in its cultivation of Yousef. Before it tasked him for any information, it helped him get a job to explain the financial support it would provide to complete his education. Working with his father Yousef became a trusted associate and helped with operational details while keeping his handler informed. In return Shin Bet promised to keep his father off the assassination list of known Hamas leaders, a promise it kept. Yousef also provided information on upcoming operations of the Islamic Jihad, the suicide bombers of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the second Intifada, and the Hamas relationship to Yasser Arafat. Yousef explains how, in the midst of his dangerous clandestine life, he learned about Christianity and eventually became a Christian.
After a decade of this secret life, Yousef had had enough. He decided to quit and emigrate to the United States. Shin Bet told him it would have to arrest his father since he was on its assassination list and could not be protected if Yousef left. Nevertheless, leave he did, and today he lives under his true name in California. When he called his father in prison and told him what he had done, only silence followed. Today he gives talks about the dangers of Islamic terrorism.
Son of Hamas is a fascinating memoir by a brave young man. On a personal level, Yousef hopes it will show potential terrorists there is an alternative to their lives. On an operational level, it provides details about the tradecraft of both sides. Equally significant are valuable insights into the complex Arab-Israeli conflict. It is an important source for those trying to understand the politics of the Middle East.
Spying on Ireland: British Intelligence and Irish Neutrality during the Second World War by Eunan O’Halpin. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 335 pp., footnotes, bibliography, index.
Hans Marschner was arrested soon after parachuting into Ireland in 1941. He carried a substantial amount of British pounds (counterfeit it turned out), a radio and a microscope, and Irish intelligence (G2) concluded he was a spy with Irish associates. But he claimed his contact would come from Britain. MI5 confirmed Marschner’s contact was a double agent named Rainbow. (103ff) This seemingly routine exchange between security services was anything but, and Spying on Ireland tells why.
Winston Churchill was not happy that the Irish Free State (today’s Republic of Ireland) declared neutrality during WW II. Britain—strongly supported by the United States—feared Ireland would cooperate with the Axis powers. This didn’t happen, and the British knew it because the intelligence services of both countries developed an unofficial clandestine relationship that continued throughout the war. Later, OSS would join in. (199) In addition to counterespionage—see The Basket Case for another example—the G2 developed an impressive signal-interception and code-breaking capability. Results from the illegal radio in the German legation, plus those of Japan and Italy were shared with Britain. Both MI5 and MI6 maintained contacts in Ireland that were so important that they defeated SOE attempts to operate there. The Irish, in turn, shut down the Irish Republican Army for the duration of the war.
Recently released documents have allowed Trinity University professor Eunan O’Halpin to study the intelligence relationship between G2 and MI5-MI6. He explains, in considerable detail, how it fit the political realities of wartime Ireland. The latter included the "American Note Crisis" in 1944 that concerned demands to close Axis legations in neutral nations. Valuable links had been developed in Switzerland, Persia, Afghanistan, among others that the intelligence services wanted to maintain. In Ireland, Éamon de Valera, the Taoiseach (head of government), stood firm and fears of leaks concerning the upcoming invasion proved unwarranted.
Spying on Ireland has extensive documentation that shows how intelligence services can work together in unusual circumstances. It is a very valuable contribution to the history of WW II intelligence.[Top of page]
9 See Walter Schellenberg, The Labyrinth: The Memoirs of Walter Schellenberg, Hitler’s Chief of Counterintelligence (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1956); The Schellenberg Memoirs: A Record of Nazi Secret Service, trans. Louis Hagen (London: Andre Deutsch, 1956).
13 See for example, D.D. Guttenplan, "Red Harvest: The KGB In America," The Nation, 25 May 2009. For more detail see Guttenplan, American Radical: The Life and Times of I. F. Stone (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009).[Top of page]
All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed in this article are those of the author. Nothing in the article should be construed as asserting or implying US government endorsement of an article’s factual statements and interpretations.