The Intelligence Officer's Bookshelf
Compiled and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake
Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope by Chalmers Johnson
Intelligence Cooperation and the War on Terror: Anglo-American Security Relations after 9/11 by Adam D. M. Svendsen
A Necessary Engagement: Reinventing America’s Relations with the Muslim World by Emile Nakhleh
Securing the State by David Omand
Skating on Stilts: Why We Aren’t Stopping Tomorrow’s Terrorism by Stewart Baker
Spies, Lies and the War on Terror by Paul Todd et al.
The United Nations and the Rationale for Collective Intelligence by Bassey Ekpe
Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy: The Secret World of Corporate Espionage by Eamon Javers
Surveillance Tradecraft: The Professional’s Guide to Covert Surveillance Training by Peter Jenkins
The Nine Lives of Otto Katz: The Remarkable True Story of a Communist Super-Spy by Jonathan Miles
Spies of the First World War: Under Cover for King and Kaiser by James Morton
ULTRA versus U-Boats: Enigma Decrypts in the National Archives by Roy Conyers Nesbit
In Pursuit of Shadows: A Career in Counterintelligence by Thomas M. Slawson
Good Arabs: The Israeli Security Agencies and the Israeli Arabs, 1948-1967 by Hillel Cohen
A History of the Egyptian Intelligence Service: A History of the Mukhabarat, 1910-2009 by Owen L. Sirrs
Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope by Chalmers Johnson (New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 2010), 212 pp., index.
In his 1964 book about Ozaki Hotsumi, the principal agent in the Richard Sorge Soviet spy network in pre-war Japan, the late University of California professor and former CIA analyst Chalmers Johnson hinted at his views of the American democratic system when he wrote that after the war “it was difficult for the Japanese people to comprehend that the Americans intended to subvert the older order and replace it with a ‘democratic’ one.”1 (201) Dismantling the Empire, is less subtle. It criticizes the United States for being “a foreign imperialist” and its “democracy peddlers” (62) for their dismal record in Iraq and Afghanistan. (29) Three of the four essays in the book attack the CIA and its putative ineptitude in the two countries.
Essay number two is a review of Timothy Weiner’s book Legacy of Ashes.2 Here Johnson linked our current situation in the Middle East to “blowback” from the 1953 coup in Iran and to US assistance to the mujahedeen resistance to the Soviets in Afghanistan. Then follows inaccurate history when the book states that President Truman never meant to permit the CIA to conduct clandestine operations. Johnson then went on to challenge the need for military bases—they should be dismantled—and called for shutting down the military industrial complex. The military establishment that has “created a worldwide sexual playground” and whose troops “have been taught to think of [foreign] inhabitants as inferior to themselves,” (194) the book intones, should be reduced in size and kept at home. These steps, it argues, must be taken before the US economy collapses and the country is bankrupted.
In the end, Johnson recommended that the CIA be abolished and replaced by the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. This done, he argued, “we must liquidate our empire or else watch it liquidate us.”
Dismantling the Empire is a thoughtful book, but it lacks sources, offers no alternative solutions, and does not assess the practical impact of the recommendations. The book should not go unchallenged.
Intelligence Cooperation and the War on Terror: Anglo-American Security Relations after 9/11 by Adam D. M. Svendsen, (London: Routledge, 2010), 236 pp., end of chapter notes, index.
As a visiting scholar at Georgetown University during 2007, Adam Svendsen conducted more that 60 “elite” (xi) interviews, most off the record and not cited in this book, concerning intelligence cooperation between the United States and the United Kingdom. While acknowledging the overall importance of the relationship and that it “is almost universally recognized as being remarkably close and enduring,” (3) Svendsen considers only the period between 2000 and 2005. After outlining the general nature of “US-UK intelligence relations” and its “gains and strains” as he puts it, (3-8) Svendsen addresses interoperability, which he concludes “has been enhanced, and intelligence liaison appears to be structurally even closer,” (30) although he acknowledges persistent differences. To illustrate, Svendsen presents two case studies. The first describes the relationship as it deals with terrorism, but Svendsen’s vague language detracts from his argument and leaves the reader aching for simple explanations. For example, in stressing that the “intelligence liaison relationship is overwhelmingly important as a mode of activity” he goes on to say that “‘functionalism’ and ‘evangelicalism’ were the dominant drivers.” (40)
The second case study deals with Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and counterproliferation efforts, which Svendsen finds have mixed, though complex, results. He includes commentary on the policy aspects of the Iraq war and criticism of the United States for “bypassing… experts and advisers in both the UK and US intelligence and diplomatic communities.” Likewise, he points out that a UK government commission report was critical of the British intelligence services on the WMD issue. This section also considers problems associated with counterinsurgency operations by special operations forces in Iraq.
For intelligence professionals, there is little new in this book. For academics, Svendsen provides a different way of thinking about the relationship by dividing basic factors in the relationship into eight levels and then into two groups. Whether this approach is of value must be left to the reader. In the end, however, it does not change the view that the US-UK intelligence relationship is important and necessary to both countries.
A Necessary Engagement: Reinventing America’s Relations with the Muslim World by Emile Nakhleh (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009), 162 pp., bibliography, glossary, index.
Dr. Emile Nakhleh was born in Palestine, raised as a Greek Catholic, and attended a Franciscan high school in Nazareth. After immigrating to the United States 51 years ago, he attended St. John’s University (a Benedictine school in Minnesota), Georgetown University (run by the Jesuits), and American University in Washington, DC. He taught at Mount Saint Mary’s University, a Catholic school, for 26 years before becoming a scholar in residence and then a senior analyst at the CIA, where he specialized in political Islam. His duties, especially after 9/11, included briefing policymakers in the executive branch and members of Congress. To gain contemporary perspective, he traveled to more than 30 Muslim countries in the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Fluent in Arabic, Nakhleh interviewed Islamic scholars, government officials, intelligence officers, radical leaders, and ordinary citizens. The results of these interviews convinced him that most Muslims want peace, not conflict. They admire America and desire a better relationship. By contrast, Nakhleh cites discussions in US media and public opinion polls to show that most Americans “view the Islamic world through the prism of terrorism.” (xi). A Necessary Engagement presents his assessment of how these contradictory views can be reconciled.
The first of the four chapters provides background on political Islam and Islamization (the spread of Islamic political influence). Nakhleh stresses that his Muslim interlocutors condition progress on ending the Iraq “occupation,” reducing—not ending—military operations in Afghanistan, halting renditions, and treating prisoners humanely. Most Muslims, he notes, “expressed strong interest” in participating in a democratic political process. Jihad, they insist, is viewed by most Muslims as a religious effort. (3) The radicals take a different path, and Nakhleh discusses their views at length.
The second chapter deals with how the US Intelligence Community, in particular the CIA, views political Islam. There are some surprises here. Nakhleh argues that the CIA has pursued Islamic expertise for far longer and with more success than is commonly reflected in the press. The real problem before 9/11, he argues, is that policymakers failed to take seriously the existing warnings regarding the threat of Islamic activism. The claim attributed to Richard Perle that the CIA “failed to understand and sound an alarm at the rise of jihadist fundamentalism,” he writes, “is patently false.” (39) Nakhleh describes in considerable detail successful efforts to establish internal expertise (training, language skills, overseas assignments, and graduate studies), to battle bureaucratic impediments, and to build closer relationships with specialists from academia during the 16 years he was at the CIA.
The final two chapters discuss what Nakhleh calls “public diplomacy” or the effort to convince Muslims that “the so-called war on terror is not a war against Islam.” (71) He provides a lengthy discussion, with supporting evidence, to show that the negative view of America held by many Muslims is policy driven and not a clash of values or ideas. The most prominent example is the invasion of Iraq, an action that Muslims tend to view as a deplorable attack on Islam, not as a logical response to 9/11. Here too, Nakhleh describes the differing views of “Islamic reformists and modernists,” including the Muslim Brotherhood, so that the reader can better grasp the complexity of the Islamic world.
Nakhleh lays out a “public diplomacy blueprint” for changing, if not correcting, the Muslim view of American national objectives. It is not a cookbook remedy, but a summary of practical measures and the necessary accumulation of knowledge and expertise that must precede them. He also takes into account the inherent risks and potential benefits of such an effort.
A Necessary Engagement is an articulate, stimulating treatise on a controversial topic. Moreover, it presents a candid, yet optimistic, challenge to the tendency to view all Islam as a breeding ground for terrorists. Well written, well researched, and well worth reading.
Securing the State by David Omand (London: Columbia/Hurst & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., 2010), 345 pp., endnotes, index.
Sir David Omand joined the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in 1969 and rose to become its director in 1996. He went on to serve in the Ministry of Defence, in the Home Office as permanent secretary, and in the Cabinet Office as the first security intelligence coordinator. He retired in 2005 and became a visiting professor at King’s College London. Securing the State reflects this unique background and commands serious attention. The book begins with an examination of Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s three-part, 14th century fresco inside the Hall of Peace in Siena, Italy, which depicts the features of bad and good governments. Bad government is shown in “the exercise of arbitrary power” and in the conduct of the associated vices of “cruelty, betrayal, fraud, terror, internal discord, and conflict.” Good government is shown flowing from “peace, stability and security, prosperity, and culture.” (2) Omand suggests that in the centuries since the fresco’s creation, the characteristics of bad and good government have remained constant, but achieving the latter while avoiding the former has become more complex.
Securing the State examines the conditions needed for civil security, which he defines as “a sense of public confidence that it is safe to go outside, work and play, and get on with one’s life…the heart of good government.” (7) The first four chapters discuss the evolution of the “public value” of security, intelligence, national resilience, and civic harmony as they have evolved through the Cold War and into the current era of terrorist threats. He places particular emphasis on the national infrastructure necessary to manage risk and reduce vulnerability to terrorist acts and their effects. Omand defines this as national resilience, “the ability of society to bounce back as quickly as practicable into patterns of normal after a major disruption.” (60) Central to his thesis is the protection of civil liberties, especially in the development of policies to deal with threats from radical movements that “see themselves as the vanguard of a wider global movement.” (87).
The next chapters look at innovative, yet practical, steps to achieving a state’s security goals. A chapter is devoted to the intelligence cycle, a well-known topic, which Omand expands with developments from open sources, secret sources and “personal protected data.” (120) This is followed by a discussion of “elucidation,” which Omand describes as a combination of analysis and assessment that begins with the receipt of intelligence reports. “Analysis,” he writes, is more than “validation,” and assessment is more than analysis.” (150) The latter is a complex process that includes the problem of validation. Other factors include data sharing, single-source issues, fragmentary data, speaking truth to power, cognitive biases, and the role of authority. He also gives examples of how to solve problems using the scientific method, brainstorming, and Richards Heuer’s competing hypotheses techniques.
The concluding chapters cover the relationship between analysts and policymakers—essentially realists vs. idealists—at various levels of government. Topics include surprise and intelligence failures, and the ethical considerations associated with countering terrorism. There is a summary chapter, “Intelligence Design—Building Intelligence Communities,” that reviews the concepts discussed in the book. The final chapter returns to the Lorenzetti fresco and considers how it might be viewed from a modern perspective, emphasizing the importance of history and recognizing that in today’s world “the public must accept…that there is no general right to know about intelligence sources and methods, but the public has the right to oversight of the intelligence agencies.” (325)
Throughout Securing the State, Omand applies his perceptive analysis to both the British and American intelligence communities in a narrative that demands a reader’s close attention. Given his extensive experience, it is well worth the effort.
Skating on Stilts: Why We Aren’t Stopping Tomorrow’s Terrorism by Stewart Baker (Stanford, CA: Hoover institution Press, 2010), 370 pp., endnotes, index.
After serving as General Counsel at NSA and on the Robb-Silberman Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), Stewart Baker joined the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as assistant secretary for policy. DHS was two years old and still somewhat bureaucratically unsettled. Skating on Stilts is the story of Baker’s four-year tenure working to develop policies on border security, airline travel, cybersecurity, and ways to counter bioterrorism.
The central theme of the book is that necessary intelligence reforms are difficult to implement because the technology that would make improvements possible is viewed as too invasive by privacy advocates on both sides of the Atlantic. Before addressing these issues Baker reviews the failures that preceded 9/11, including the prohibition of information sharing among government agencies—the so-called wall—and the actions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. He then summarizes the programs he initiated to improve security, especially with regard to travel and data sharing. The balance of the book is devoted to the battles fought to implement these programs.
Baker provides extensive detail about opposition to whole-body scanners and efforts by privacy groups in Europe and America to prevent the use of technology to collect passenger data that would help track and identify suspected terrorists. (27ff.) In one chapter he recounts actions by a FISA judge to discipline an FBI agent because his proposals failed to “protect the civil liberties of terrorist suspects.” (39ff.) In his discussion of the Patriot Act, which Baker judges to be “a modest set of changes in the right direction,” (73) he explains how legal actions by civil liberties groups have inhibited essential data gathering efforts.
Despite obstacles, progress was made, according to Baker. The Europeans caved when DHS threatened to deny Europeans entry into the United States unless requested passenger data were provided. To show that this would not solve the entire problem, however, he reviews the “Christmas Day” bomber case in which authorities failed to act on available data.
On the subject of cybersecurity, Baker, lukewarm to existing national strategy, outlines the danger of inadequate preventive measures, though he doesn’t detail what he would measures he would adopt. Likewise, in the chapter on biosecurity he describes the conflicts between intellectual property concerns and the need for improved biosecurity standards. Relying on biotechnology companies to demonstrate that they have met security requirements is fraught with danger, he argues.
Skating on Stilts is easy reading, but it is a serious treatment of the conflict between the need for improved security and the privacy and other concerns that oppose making better use of available technology to provide that greater safety. Baker doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, but he makes a strong argument that early action is critical to preventing the next terrorist attack.
Spies, Lies and the War on Terror by Paul Todd, Jonathan Bloch, and Patrick Fitzgerald (London: Zed Books, 2009), 212 pp., endnotes, bibliography, index.
There are no spies or lies mentioned in this book. There is an extensive discussion of the “war on terror.” Its political perspective is in keeping with the articles Mr. Bloch coauthored in Dirty Work 2: The CIA in Africa, a book containing an introduction by Philip Agee.3 The authors of Spies, Lies and the War on Terror argue that “a key enabling factor” in the war on terror “has been the use of intelligence to legitimize expedient and often illegal military adventure and civil repression.” (1) To justify the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they claim, “intelligence was simply massaged and fabricated to fit predetermined policy.” (3)
After a discussion of intelligence and Islam from the Cold War to the present, the authors analyze what they term “spinning the peace” to explain how the US government uses the media to gain public support. They go on to attack the concept of “preemptive war,” renditions, and unwarranted “bugging and data mining.” (86ff.) Turning to Europe, they examine the role of intelligence in the European Union and the “rapid unaccountable growth of databases of personal information.” (163) The authors conclude that “intelligence is more than ever a coin with two sides: a tool for gaining knowledge and a tool for exercising government power.” (169) The benefactors of the Global War on Terror, they add, are “arms manufacturers, mercenary contractors, demagogues and authoritarians of every stripe.” (170)
These views are supported by extensive source notes, but the same sources could be used to justify contrary interpretations. Spies, Lies and the War on Terror presents an unbalanced assessment flowing from flawed assumptions. For an alternative analysis of the same topics, consult David Omand’s Securing the State reviewed earlier in this issue of “Bookshelf.”
The United Nations and the Rationale for Collective Intelligence by Bassey Ekpe (Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2009), 390 pp., endnotes, bibliography, index.
British strategic consultant Bassey Ekpe challenges the “widely held view” that collective intelligence “is infeasible and incompatible with the UN system.” The reason, he suggests, is that the concept is “widely misunderstood, partly because there is no known detailed study of such a concept.” His book is intended to fill that gap. He concludes that “with suitable refinements, an intelligence structure need not be incompatible with the UN system.” (1)
Ekpe’s approach to the problem is mostly academic and his structure somewhat disorganized. He first discusses methodology, frameworks, paradigms, a variety of considerations in the UN system, and the rationale for collective action. He then considers the UN itself, its charter, organization, and components of collective security. This is followed by two chapters on intelligence concepts and processes—strategic and tactical—with some theoretical considerations tossed in. Some chapters seem less applicable. For example, the chapters “Relevance of Authority in the Anarchy Paradigm” and “Micromotives and Macrobehavior in the Theory of Collective Action,” just to cite two examples, is obscure.
The final part of the book deals with precedents in UN collective intelligence, UNMOVIC (UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission) in Iraq being one exemplar. The issues raised may lead some to ask why the book didn’t start with this topic. The practical problems and their possible solutions are evident.
That the UN requires information and intelligence to perform its peacekeeping missions is a given. Likewise, the UN’s acquisition of intelligence is complicated by national secrecy issues. Whether the complex considerations described by Ekpe are a necessary prerequisite for dealing with these issues is unclear. The Rationale for Collective Intelligence is indeed one approach, but a more common sense, experience-based alternative should be considered.
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Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy: The Secret World of Corporate Espionage by Eamon Javers (New York: HarperCollins, 2010), 306 pp., endnotes, index.
Investigative journalist Eamon Javers doesn’t explain what prompted him to spend nearly five months collecting information on Diligence LLC, a corporate intelligence firm with an office in Washington, DC, before meeting with its CEO, Nick Day, a former MI5 officer, in January 2007. But he does say that the experience revealed a world of corporate espionage of which he had been unaware. His findings are revealed in Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy. At the outset, Javers raises the fundamental question: Is corporate spying “right or wrong?” (xi) He never answers the question directly, but he proposes in his epilogue—in the interest of what is good for society—the creation of a “spy registry” modeled on lobbying disclosure rules coordinated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. (185)
Between his opening question and the epilogue, Javers tells some fascinating stories of corporate espionage and security operations. He shows how corporate spies travel the globe seeking the secrets of competitors, surveilling human targets, and providing security for VIPs. For example, he writes of the Peloquin firm, which arranged refuge in Bermuda for the deposed Shah of Iran in 1979 and two corporate espionage firms that worked for Howard Hughes—one of which exposed Clifford Irving’s false claims to have cowritten the autobiography of Hughes. Perhaps the most unusual case involves the Walmart Corporation, which hired a commercial satellite company to provide images of its stores and their neighborhoods so Walmart could determine why some stores did better than others. (212ff.)
Javers provides details of well-known firms like Kroll Associates and some less familiar ones like the Hamilton Trading Group—Javers says former CIA officer Jack Platt runs the group. Also involved in it was former KGB officer Gennady Vasilenko, who, Javer writes, was abducted by past comrades and imprisoned in Russia—he was recently released as part of the exchange for the 10 Russian illegals arrested in the United States in the summer of 2010. Russian intelligence officers, writes Javers, are not uncommon in the corporate espionage business in America. Another example is former GRU officer Yuri Koshkin, who runs the Trident Corporation in Arlington, Virginia. The company tracked digital pirates making illicit copies of Disney films in Moscow.
Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy is well written and documented. The ubiquity of the corporate espionage world it exposes raises genuine concerns over privacy, though, as Javers acknowledges, not questions of legality. It is a topic that is not going to go away.
Surveillance Tradecraft: The Professional’s Guide to Covert Surveillance Training by Peter Jenkins (Harrogate, UK: Intel Publishing, 2010), 461 pp., photos, index.
Surveillance, the intentional, often prolonged watching of something, is not only a key element of espionage tradecraft. In fact, it has also become an accepted, even expected, ingredient of civilian life, thanks in part to 9/11. Author Peter Jenkins built his expertise in surveillance while serving in the British army and in private business. When corporate, government, and security service demands necessitated well-trained personnel, Jenkins helped address that need with his first book on the subject, Covert Surveillance, in 2000. Revised editions with a new title followed. Surveillance Tradecraft, an oversized, extensively illustrated, softcover book is the third.
The 14 chapters in this guide cover the various forms of surveillance—covert, mobile, foot, and static—under all conditions, plus operational planning and the new high-tech equipment required; the Minox camera is no longer state of the art. There are also chapters on surveillance detection and, perhaps most important, “evidence and law.” The narrative provides suggestions for implementation—there are no absolute rules, just well-tested experience—on everything from specific techniques and staffing to data recording and report writing. Short case summaries emphasize methods and outcomes. An interesting observational skills test is provided on page 325. The only technique not included is internet monitoring.
Jenkins makes clear that surveillance, no matter how high-tech, is often physically demanding, if not boring. But if one wants to learn what is involved in this essential operational technique, this book is the place to start.
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The Nine Lives of Otto Katz: The Remarkable True Story of a Communist Super-Spy by Jonathan Miles (London: Bantam Press, 2010), 366 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.
Otto Katz was a defendant in the 1952 Soviet-sponsored purge trial in Prague. He was charged with championing the cause of Jews, fraternizing with Hollywood film stars, and working for Noel Coward in British intelligence and for American intelligence as well. All true. What was omitted, and what he was not allowed to say, was that all this had been done at the bidding of Soviet intelligence, which he had served loyally, using numerous aliases, for most of his adult life. The Nine Lives of Otto Katz tells the story of this remarkable spy.
Born on 27 May 1895, Katz was a German-speaking Czech Jew. A high school dropout, he served briefly in the Army during WW I, after which he sought his fortune in Berlin—he later claimed to have discovered Marlene Dietrich there. After joining the Communist Party of Germany, he went to work for the arch Soviet propagandist, Willi Münzenberg. Sent to Moscow for training, Katz returned in time to ghost-write and edit one of the most famous anti-Nazi books of the interwar years, The Brown Book of the Reichstag Fire and Hitler Terror, a work of propaganda that blamed the Reichstag fire on the Nazis. In Moscow he had been given the mission of spying on Münzenberg, which he obediently did.
By 1935 Katz was in France staging anti-Nazi, pro-communist demonstrations in Paris. Speakers for the occasion included E. M Forster, Bertolt Brecht, Aldous Huxley, John Dos Passos and Upton Sinclair. Later that same year, Katz was sent to the United States, where he lived for a time in New York, encouraging young writers in “Red” Greenwich Village. (150) He also met with a number of Soviet agents operating against the Roosevelt administration, including Hede Massing and members of the notorious Ware group. Then it was off to Hollywood to exercise his influence in the communist cause in the name of anti-fascism. There he worked with Peter Lorre, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin, and Frederic March, among others. Katz returned to Europe in 1936 and served the Soviets in the Spanish Civil War. By 1940 he was back in the United States, where he came to the attention of the FBI and was forced to leave for Mexico. He spent the war years there (240) and returned to Czechoslovakia in 1946 after stops in America and France.
Author Jonathan Miles’ biography fills in the colorful details of this extraordinary agent of influence who figured prominently in the promotion of communism in much of the Western world. In thanks, Stalin made sure Katz was rewarded with a trip to the gallows. The Nine Lives of Otto Katz is a stirring tale of dedicated service that reveals the realities of Soviet espionage.
Spies of the First World War: Under Cover for King and Kaiser by James Morton (Kew, UK: The National Archives, 2010), 240 pp., endnote, bibliography, photos, index.
Readers who enjoyed the recent authorized and unauthorized histories of the British intelligence and security services will find little new in this book.4 Except for a few comments in the introduction on Alfred Redl, the Russian agent in the Austrian Army, and some stories about the Kaiser’s female spies, the cases and agents are the same. Mata Hari, Henry Landau’s White Lady network, the Zimmermann telegram, the spy panic in Britain, Somerset Maugham, and Room 40 are typical examples. Sidney Reilly, “Ace of Spies,” is inexplicably omitted. Spies of the First World War is well written and well documented, however, and will do nicely for those wishing a succinct, easy-reading overview.
ULTRA versus U-Boats: Enigma Decrypts in the National Archives by Roy Conyers Nesbit (Barnsley, UK: Pen and Sword Books Ltd., 2008), 248 pp., bibliography, photos, index of U-boats.
In his book Seizing The Enigma David Kahn told how British codebreakers attacked the German naval codes and made victory possible in the Battle of the Atlantic.5 He cited contributing decrypted messages but not their actual content. With the release of the ULTRA decrypted messages by the British National Archives, historian Roy Nesbit was able to correlate decrypted message content with resulting anti-submarine operations. ULTRA versus U-Boats presents his research.
Nesbit worked through more than 100,000 messages and selected 200 for this study. Many are reproduced in the book. Messages on pages 70-72, for example, reveal U-boat position and movement data, and an accompanying narrative provides detail about specific U-boats and attacks.
ULTRA versus U-Boats is a history of the Allied battle against U-boats, beginning with the period before the Enigma decrypts were available. Nesbit describes the terrific British losses and the largely ineffective counter-measures initially employed. The situation gradually reversed as the ULTRA intelligence became available and as the US Navy became a player. Among the examples of decrypted messages are those used in the Allied antisubmarine campaign in support of land operations in Africa and Italy. By January 1944, the German U-boat force had been reduced to 168 boats manned by inexperienced crews—this was “two-thirds of [the force’s] strength nine months previously, despite a continuous flow of replacements.”(181) Nearly 270 new U-boats were undergoing trials, but by then it was too late, although the large number of new vessels in the pipeline demonstrated the ineffectiveness of Allied attacks on U-boat production facilities.
Nesbit includes photographs showing naval vessels involved in the battles, some actual battle scenes, and aerial shots of targets. The final decrypted message in the book is the order for all U-boats to comply with the conditions of surrender in 1945. (244).
ULTRA versus U-Boats is a fine contribution to WW II naval history.
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In Pursuit of Shadows: A Career in Counterintelligence by Thomas M. Slawson (London: Athena Press, 2006), 205 pp., glossary.
In flight school, Tom Slawson’s instructors convinced him that he had a bright future in the Air Force, but not as a pilot. He applied to the Office of Special Investigations (OSI), encouraged by the prospect of counterintelligence (CI) duties. In Pursuit of Shadows tells the story of his career as an Air Force CI officer.
OSI had been established in 1948 by an FBI special agent, Joseph Carroll, who was then given a reserve commission as a colonel and brought on active duty as a brigadier general. The 14-week training program Slawson entered was staffed by other former FBI agents. It concentrated more on criminal investigation practices and techniques than CI. But much of the tradecraft was the same, and Slawson describes it in detail. During his initial assignment Slawson paid his dues doing background investigations in the United States. After further training he was sent to Okinawa, where he finally got a chance to learn CI in the field. After another tour in the States, Slawson served in Vietnam, where he worked CI cases with the South Vietnamese and participated in the planning of the Son Tay raid. His next overseas tour was in Libya as it closed the US air base after Qadhafi took power. Slawson’s final assignment was in Britain, where CI was the main focus of his duties.
Throughout the book, Slawson describes the CI cases he worked on, the periodic bureaucratic conflicts with Army CI elements, and difficulties encountered with CIA field stations. In the final chapter, he discusses many of the valuable lessons he learned during his career. In an epilogue, he expands his views on CI, concluding that “on balance the United States has not done a very good job in CI.” (195) Unfortunately, a source for this judgment is The Secret History of the CIA by Joseph Trento,6 the most inaccurate book ever published on the subject.
In Pursuit of Shadows paints a good picture of everyday military CI, its adventurous cases, and its less stimulating administrative duties. It is a first-rate introduction to the profession.
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Good Arabs: The Israeli Security Agencies and the Israeli Arabs, 1948-1967 by Hillel Cohen (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2010), 281 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.
The nation of Israel was proclaimed on 14 May 1948. The next day, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq declared war on the new state. When the war ended a year later with an Israeli victory, 165,000 Arabs remained within Israel’s borders—15 percent of the new country’s population. They were declared citizens of a country they strongly opposed and which most wanted annihilated. In order to establish political control and prevent violence, the Israeli security forces—mainly the police, the Army, and Shin Bet—moved quickly to create networks of informers within the Arab communities. They were largely successful, and Good Arabs is their story.
To those familiar with Israeli domestic intelligence operations, the use of informers to monitor Arab activities will come as no surprise. But revealing operational details is a different matter. Thanks to the recent release by the Israeli state archives of security files for the period of 1948–67, author Hillel Cohen was able, for the first time, to document and describe in detail specific objectives, individual recruitments, and agent-informer handling methods.
What Cohen calls the “collaborator class” gradually emerged with informers who penetrated all levels and activities of Arab life in Israel. At first the Israeli Arabs were cooperative. Many offered their services as “consultants,” others wanted to continue relationships with Zionists formed before the war (21), and some collaborated just to put food on the table—resources were scarce in the new state. Informers were recruited among village leaders, the working class, and potential militant groups. Some helped security forces battle the constant infiltration of Arabs who returned illegally to their former villages in Israel after finding life in the no-man’s land outside its borders too difficult. Others, however, assisted the “infiltrators,” as they became known, while feigning cooperation with authorities.
As political opposition among the Arabs grew, actively provoked by the Israeli Communist Party, the demands on Israeli counterintelligence to recruit informers increased. Giving many examples, Cohen writes of Israeli emphasis on influencing Arab teachers and what they taught in an effort to “shape political consciousness of Israeli Arabs” (235) and limit dissension and resistance. Chapter 5 describes this program in detail.
Israeli efforts to control their Arab citizens had only limited success. Arab opposition to the Israeli state was never eliminated and Good Arabs shows that maintenance of control was a constant struggle. The insights provided in this thoroughly documented book make clear why the Arab-Israeli conflict persists to this day.
A History of the Egyptian Intelligence Service: A History of the Mukhabarat, 1910-2009 by Owen L. Sirrs (London: Routledge, 2010), 271 pp., endnotes, bibliography, index.
Books on Arab intelligence services are in short supply. Yaacov Caroz, a former Mossad officer, published the most recent one, The Arab Secret Services, in 1978.7 Owen Sirrs, a former senior intelligence officer and Arab specialist at DIA and now with the University of Montana has produced a fine, well-documented volume on the Egyptian intelligence service—al-mukhabarat in Arabic—that adds significantly to public knowledge. While the focus of his book is on the Egyptian service—“the oldest, largest and most effective in the Arab world”—Sirrs discusses those in other Middle Eastern countries as well.
The book is divided into four parts and begins in 1910. The first part deals with the British-sponsored service (under the Egyptian monarchy) designed to counter threats from nationalist and Islamic parties and, later, the Axis powers in WW II. It concludes with the failure of the service to prevent the coup in July 1952 that brought Nasser to power. The second part is concerned with the Nasser period (1952-70), when the domestic security service, or GID (General Investigations Directorate), the EGIS (Egyptian General Intelligence Service)—modeled after the CIA (44)—and the MID (Military Intelligence Department) were established. The major threats during this formative period came from the Muslim Brotherhood, dissident military officers, and communists. Sirrs also examines how the services performed during the Suez Crisis of 1956, the Yemen Wars in 1962-67, and the 1970 War of Attrition. Part three deals with the services under Anwar Sadat (during 1970-1981), their operations associated with the 1973 war with Israel, and the services’ failure to prevent Sadat’s assassination. Part four brings the story to the rule of the now deposed President Hosni Mubarak. The principal operations discussed here include threats from the local Islamic community and how they have been sternly and effectively muted. Sirrs also explores the controversial role of the mukhabarat—he uses this term synonymously with intelligence service—and the CIA’s rendition program.
In each part of his book, Sirrs analyzes the mukhabarat performance in several areas: collection, evaluation, counterintelligence, covert action, and liaison with foreign services. Background data on principal figures, human rights issues, organizations, and power struggles are also included. Several short case summaries illustrate operations. For example, he reviews the controversial case of Ashraf Marwan, whom both Egypt and Israel claim as their best agent. As Sirrs notes, Marwan died under suspicious circumstances and the ambiguity remains.
“One in four Arabs is Egyptian,” write Sirrs. (197) This fact and Egypt’s close links to the United States make this book an important source for the general reader, for students of international relations, and certainly for anyone desiring to become a professional intelligence officer.
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1Chalmers Johnson, An Instance of Treason: Ozaki Hotsumi and the Sorge Spy Ring, (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1964).
2Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, (New York: Doubleday, 2007). See Nick Dujmovic’s review in Studies in Intelligence 51, No. 3 (2007).
3Ellen Ray et al., Dirty Work 2: The CIA in Africa (Secaucus, NJ: Lyle Stuart Inc. 1979).
4Christopher Andrew, Defend The Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (New York: Knopf, 2009); Keith Jeffery, The Secret History of MI6 (New York: Penguin Press, 2010); Michael Smith, SIX: A History of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service—Part 1: Murder & Mayhem, 1909–1939 (London: Dialogue, 2010).
5David Kahn, Seizing The Enigma: The Race to Break the German U‑Boat Codes, 1939–1943 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991)
6Joseph J. Trento, The Secret History of the CIA, (Roseville, CA: Prima Publishing, 2001).
7Yaacov Caroz, The Arab Secret Services, (London: Corgi, 1978).
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