Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf
Compiled and reviewed by Hayden Peake
Challenges in Intelligence Analysis: Lessons from 1300 BCE to the Present,
by Timothy Walton
Extreme Risk Management: Revolutionary Approaches to Evaluating and Measuring Risk, by Christina Ray
The Technical Collection of Intelligence, by Robert M. Clark
Betrayal: Clinton, Castro and The Cuban Five, by Matt Lawrence and Thomas Van Hare
Black Ops: The Rise of Special Forces in the C.I.A., the S.A.S., and Mossad,
by Tony Geraghty
Double Death: The True Story of Pryce Lewis, the Civil War’s Most Daring Spy,
by Gavin Mortimer
Empire and Espionage: Spies and the Zulu War, by Stephen Wade
Final Verdict: What Really Happened in the Rosenberg Case,by Walter Schneir
The First War of Physics: The Secret History of the Atom Bomb 1939–1949,
by Jim Baggott
The Invisible Harry Gold: The Man Who Gave the Soviets the Atom Bomb,
by Allen M. Hornblum
The Kremlin’s Geordie Spy: The Man They Swapped for Gary Powers, by Vin Arthey
Radio Free Europe’s “Crusade for Freedom”: Rallying Americans Behind Cold War Broadcasting, 1950–1960, by Richard H. Cummings
Secrets of the Cold War: US Army Europe’s Intelligence and Counterintelligence Activities against the Soviets, by Leland C. McCaslin
Through Hitler’s Back Door: SOE Operations in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria 1939–1945, by Alan Ogden
Wild Bill Donovan: The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage, by Douglas Waller
All Them Cornfields and Ballet in the Evening, by John Miller
The C.I. Desk: FBI and CIA Counterintelligence As Seen from My Cubicle,
by Christopher Lynch
Holding Hands with Heroes, by Jack Kassinger
The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia’s Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB, by Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan
Challenges in Intelligence Analysis: Lessons from 1300 BCE to the Present, by Timothy Walton. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 294 pp., bibliography, maps, index.
Former CIA analyst Timothy Walton begins his book with a discussion of the basic elements and tools of intelligence analysis, which in the end supports decision making. For example, after identifying various factors an analyst must be careful to consider—uncertainty, deception, surprise, estimates of the accuracy of judgments—he describes some of the important techniques that can be applied. These include the time-line or chronology, competitive hypotheses, and various matrix models. Finally, he stresses the value of presenting the decision maker with options when no single result is directly on point.
To illustrate how analysis has functioned in the past, he provides 40 historical “lessons” from biblical times to the present. While the reader might legitimately expect the lessons to demonstrate the techniques Walton presented in the introductory chapters, that is not what the lessons do. Instead, they are historical summaries that set the stage for analyses. For example, his account of Moses sending spies into Canaan only summarizes the conflicting reports he received and the resultant disagreement among the leaders. There is nothing about fact checking or other analyses that might have led to conclusions they might have reached. Likewise, in his discussion of Hitler’s surprise attack on the Soviet Union, Walton mentions Stalin’s requirements for intelligence and the indicators that an attack was imminent, but he does not analyze why Stalin steadfastly refused to believe them. In the case of the run-up to the attack on Pearl Harbor, Walton provides a good summary of what happened and then acknowledges it as “the most famous and consequential example of failure in intelligence analysis.” (95) But he fails to describe the analyses performed by those involved that allowed for the surprise.
A similar approach applies in the case of the atomic bomb spies. He tells how the FBI learned of the espionage through defectors and the Venona messages, but he neglects to comment on how the Bureau approached the difficult analytical problems the decrypts posed. The case also points to a major weakness of the book. None of the facts presented are sourced, and this leads to careless errors. Thus Walton writes: “shortly before Gouzenko’s defection [5 September 1945] Elizabeth Bentley had volunteered information to the FBI field office in New Haven.” (116) In fact, Bentley went to the Bureau office in New York on 7 November 1945. In another instance, Walton claims that Gouzenko mentioned Harry Gold, Klaus Fuchs’s courier, but he did not. And Gold was not, as the book claims, the one who identified Fuchs; it was the other way around.1
In sum, while Challenges in Intelligence Analysis illustrates historical cases in which analysis was no doubt performed, the details of that analysis—how it was done, what one really needs to know—are omitted. The reader is left to resolve that.
Extreme Risk Management: Revolutionary Approaches to Evaluating and Measuring Risk, by Christina Ray. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2010), 287 pp., endnotes, charts, index.
Just days after 9/11, financial analyst Christina Ray read press allegations that Osama bin Laden collaborators with knowledge of the upcoming attacks had been trading in the market in anticipation of the impact of the attack. She hypothesized that if the story were true, analysis of open source stock market transaction data would expose those involved. Extreme Risk Management does not reveal whether she tested her theory. Instead, it focuses on her subsequent work, which expanded the concept and explored the similarities she found in risk management techniques employed by the financial and intelligence communities. She argues that “the ability to reverse-engineer actionable market intelligence, or MARKINT,” (vii) might be useful as an investigative tool in counterterrorism work and describes a number of risk management models aimed at achieving that goal. In fact, Ray points out that “the CIA is now publicly advertising” for experienced financial analysts. (viii)
Extreme Risk Management is not a book for beginners. Most of its chapters are devoted to complex financial models and the risks associated with their use. But in chapter nine, “An Alternative Path to Actionable Intelligence,” she compares risk methodologies employed by financial and intelligence analysts. Here she argues that financial models, which are mainly statistical, can be adapted to show, for example, how the “intelligence community might benefit from information derived from open-source market prices converted to knowledge using quantitative sense-making models…as a metric of sovereign state instability.” (151)
More generally, Ray concludes “financial warfare is arguably one of the types of unrestricted warfare for which the United States is least prepared and to which it is the most vulnerable.” (254) To meet this threat, she suggests applications for MARKINT by intelligence analysts dealing with cyberthreats, counterintelligence, terrorism, insurgency, and rogue state behavior. While the practical testing of such applications remains to be done, Extreme Risk Management provides the basic techniques for analysts in this new field of activity.
The Technical Collection of Intelligence, by Robert M. Clark. (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2009), 322 pp., end of chapter notes, photos, glossary, index.
Independent consultant and patent lawyer Robert Clark is a former industrial executive, Air Force intelligence officer, and CIA analyst with extensive experience in the field of technical intelligence. His previous books discussed intelligence analysis.2 In his latest work he turns to technical collection, which he defines as the “collection, processing, and exploitation of nonliteral information—that is, information in a form not used for human communication” as opposed to that acquired from human agents. (xvi)
The keys to technical collection are signatures—photographic, electromagnetic, chemical, biological, acoustic, and nuclear—collected by various acquisition systems. Clark is careful to distinguish between signatures and the patterns associated with them. For example, the images of the Cuban missile sites acquired by the U-2 in 1962 are signatures. Their significance results from analysis of the patterns observed by analysts.
Chapters cover the space-, air-, sea-, and ground-based collection platforms intelligence organizations employ today. With the help of impressive color illustrations, Clark explains what each platform does and how it works. He includes, for example, several types of radar techniques, passive RF (radio frequency) collection, and digital satellite imagery. Clark also highlights the differences between active and passive systems. The final chapter looks at managing technical collection. He does not get into detailed operating procedures, though he does present a list of key management tools for consideration. One of the most important and difficult tasks Clark discusses is the allocation of collection requirements to meet time-sensitive demands that often exceed the capabilities of available systems.
Technical Collection of Intelligence is a fine, fully-documented, understandable, and comprehensive, though not elementary, introduction to a complex intelligence activity. It is an important topic not treated in such depth elsewhere.
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Betrayal: Clinton, Castro and the Cuban Five, by Matt Lawrence and Thomas Van Hare. (New York: iUniverse, Inc., 2009), 217 pp., bibliography, no index.
On 24 February 1996, Cuban MiGs shot down two of three unarmed American light aircraft over international waters off the Cuban coast. The four pilots died. The third aircraft escaped and spread the word. The United States government responded with diplomatic gestures. Matt Lawrence and Thomas Van Hare think more should have been done. Betrayal explains why.
The authors, like the pilots flying near Cuba that day, were members of Brothers to the Rescue, a volunteer group that flew missions between Cuba and Florida searching for rafters, or balseros, trying to flee Castro. When the pilots spotted rafters, they radioed the US Coast Guard so they could be rescued. Between 1994 and the final mission in 2001, Brothers helped save over 17,000 lives, according to Lawrence and Van Hare.
The Castro government said the planes shot down in 1996 were in Cuban airspace, and it produced a “survivor” to prove it. The authors knew no one had survived. They also recognized the “survivor” as a fellow Brothers pilot and concluded he had penetrated the organization for Cuban intelligence.
While the story quickly dropped from public attention, many questions were left answered; for example, exactly where had the shoot-down occurred; had they actually flown into Cuban airspace (one plane did briefly); why did the Cubans risk US Air Force retaliation; what had the three survivors said about the mission; and had any formal investigations been done by US officials? Betrayal offers answers to these and other questions that emerged as the authors pursued their own investigation. In a chapter titled “Cuba’s Queen of Spies,” the authors assert that the Pentagon did draft military responses for the president, but he chose not to implement them. Even if he had done so, the Cubans would have been prepared, and not only because of their “survivor” agent. Their principal agent in the United States, Ann Belén Montes, had been in the Pentagon group that had drawn up the options for White House consideration.
And there were other Cuban agents involved, according to this book. At least two were part of La Red Avispa (or Wasp) network, one of many such groups in the Cuban refugee community in Florida. (73ff) Five Wasps were eventually arrested, and the authors explain those agents’ roles. Perhaps the most controversial conclusion of the authors is that the US government knew the Cubans were going to attack the Brothers’ planes that day and for complex political reasons did nothing to warn the pilots or prevent the attacks. (189ff) The authors’ evidence is not rock solid, and the reader is left to make an independent judgment.
In discussing their findings, the authors do not neglect the personalities of the Brothers pilots and their families. They present a poignant picture of Cuban refugees working against Castro while his agents work to thwart them.
Lawrence and Van Hare do not provide specific sources for key points in the book, though in the “Key References and Bibliography” section, newspaper articles, books, and persons interviewed are listed for each chapter.
Betrayal is a sad story of a humanitarian effort eventually shut down by Castro and international politics.
Black Ops: The Rise of Special Forces in the C.I.A., the S.A.S., and Mossad, by Tony Geraghty. (New York: Pegasus Books, 2010), 440 pp., endnotes, appendices, photos, index.
Arabic linguist Tony Geraghty served in the British Army, flew Nimrods in the RAF, and was a war correspondent before turning to writing books. His histories of the SAS (Special Air Service), the IRA conflict, and BRIXMIS (The British Commanders-in-Chief Mission to the Soviet Forces in Germany, which provided cover for a military intelligence unit in Cold War Europe) established him as a respected authority. In Black Ops he expands his outlook, first to discuss the broad historical origins of Special Forces (SF) activity, and then to focus on their use by the United Kingdom, the United States, and Israel.
To assume, however, that the book’s subtitle implies that Geraghty will give equal coverage to each mentioned organization would be a mistake. After a 39-page introduction that nicely summarizes the entire book, five of the seven chapters are devoted to SF in the United States, one to Israel, and the last to the United Kingdom (the SAS and various lesser-known units). Throughout, Geraghty discusses the influence of British SF elements on their US and Israeli counterparts.
The coverage of US SF units begins with the Revolutionary War, but the focus is on their controversial development during WW II, with the OSS battling the War Department and the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). There is detailed coverage of the contentious use of SF in the Vietnam War. Geraghty goes on to describe the origins of the Delta Force and the tragic outcome of its attempted Iranian hostage rescue mission. He suggests the Delta Force finally achieved acceptance in asymmetric warfare in Iraq.
The chapter on British SF describes the often stormy evolution of operations by multiple, competing units—SAS and special military intelligence elements—that battled the IRA, supported the Falklands War, and fought in the Iraqi wars. Much of the controversy was resolved in 2005 with the formation of the UK Special Forces Group (UKSF), which included the SAS, the Special Boat Service (SBS), the 18th Signal Regiment, and various special military units designed to provide quick reaction capability.
The Israeli Chapter covers the origins of “at least thirty” (178) SF units, including the Mossad, the Aman (military intelligence), the Sayeret Matkal (an army reconnaissance and commando unit), and the Sayeret Shaldag (the Special Air-Ground Designating Team, an air force commando unit). (185) Geraghty records their effectiveness in some well known instances—for example, the aftermath of the Olympic games hostage taking, the Entebbe rescue mission, and the Vanunu case. He also asserts that in operations of this sort, the Israelis possess an advantage in that they can presume they will have the support of Jews wherever Israeli forces operate.
Geraghty takes note of the irony that three of the countries discussed in the book—Israel, the United States, and Ireland—engaged in successful resistance to British rule which “depended, initially, on irregular military forces.” (177) Black Ops shows how SF units have since developed into a major force in the contemporary battle against terrorism. It is well documented and well worth reading.
Double Death: The True Story of Pryce Lewis, the Civil War’s Most Daring Spy, by Gavin Mortimer. (New York: Walker & Company, 2010), 285 pp., endnotes, appendices, photos, index.
The late NSA analyst and jazz musician Edwin Fishel was also an authority on Civil War intelligence. Years in the archives convinced him that most Civil War intelligence memoirs qualified as subprime literature, “so heavily fictionalized that even the most believable parts are suspect.” The memoirs of Allan Pinkerton, he wrote, epitomized this condition. Pinkerton “paid almost as little respect to factuality as did the authors of complete fictions.”3 Author Gavin Mortimer agrees with Fishel’s assessment of Pinkerton. Although a man of many positive qualities, writes Mortimer, “Allan Pinkerton… told the truth only when it suited him; when it didn’t, he lied.” (14) Double Death gives many examples, but the most important one concerns Pryce Lewis, one of Pinkerton’s principal intelligence agents.
The first part of Double Death is devoted to Lewis’s early life, the circumstances that brought him to America from his home in Wales, his work in America as a traveling book salesman, and his recruitment into the Pinkerton Detective Agency in 1859. When Pinkerton went to Washington to serve General McClellan as an intelligence officer, Lewis became one of his agents. He operated first in the South undercover as a traveling English gentleman.
At the same time, Pinkerton’s most valuable agent, Timothy Webster, was acting as a Confederate courier but secretly carrying mail to the North. In 1862 Webster came under suspicion while in Richmond. Before he could escape he fell ill and was confined to bed. When he failed to appear as expected, Pinkerton sent Lewis and another agent, John Scully, to Richmond to see what was wrong. After meeting with Webster, they too were suspected of being agents and were arrested. In his memoir, Pinkerton writes that to save themselves, Lewis and Scully confessed that Webster was a Union agent. Webster was hanged, twice. The first attempt failed when the noose unraveled. Before the second attempt, Webster told his hangman, “I suffer a double death,” hence the title of Mortimer’s book. Lewis and Sully were repatriated, and their days as spies were over. This is the version of Webster’s demise that Fishel recorded in his book.4
While researching the life of Lewis, Mortimer discovered two documents unknown to Fishel. One was a pamphlet written in 1906 by William Pinkerton, Allan’s son, telling the true story of the testimony that led to Webster’s death: “Scully made the confession implicating Webster… Lewis remained staunch, and did not confess.” (236) No one knows why Allan Pinkerton lied. Lewis knew of the pamphlet, but so few others did that his reputation remained tainted. The second document was a copy of Lewis’s memoir found in an archive in Canada. Letters indicated he had tried unsuccessfully to get it published. In the memoir, Lewis writes that he never betrayed Webster. The memoir also provides details of Lewis’s life story, told in Mortimer’s book for the first time.
Mortimer makes a weak case for designating Lewis the most daring spy in the Civil War. Webster is a better fit. In the end, what mattered to Lewis was his tarnished reputation. Burdened by his failure to cleanse it and by persistent financial problems, he committed suicide on 6 December 1911 in New York City. Double Death sets the record straight in an important Civil War intelligence case. Well written and soundly documented, it is a valuable contribution.
Empire and Espionage: Spies and the Zulu War, by Stephen Wade. (Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Pen & Sword, 2010), 183 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.
The Anglo-Zulu War began in January 1879, when troops from the British colony of Natal on the East Coast of Africa invaded neighboring Zululand. Africa was not a high priority for Imperial Britain, and its army units there had few experienced officers and men and suffered from inadequate training. The Brits were counting on rigid discipline and superior weaponry to deal with the “primitive peoples’ attack mode.” (37) The British force of about 13,000 men—5,000 British soldiers and 8,000 Africans—advanced in three columns. Scouting parties were dispatched, but either they failed to gather intelligence about enemy positions and strength, or commanders disregarded their reports. In the event, the center column of 1,600 British and African troops was surprised and annihilated by a Zulu force 20,000 strong—one half of the Zulu Army—at Isandlwana. More than 1,300 British soldiers died. Zulu losses were estimated at 2,000 dead and 1,000 injured. Author Stephen Wade examines in detail the reasons for the defeat. He goes on to describe several subsequent battles. He emphasizes the use and misuse of scouts and spies, the personalities involved, the communications employed, and the role of the media in reporting the conflict to London.
The British ultimately did overwhelm the Zulus, and after capturing the Zulu leader accepted their surrender on 1 September 1879. According to Wade, the British army learned much from the war. He describes its impact on the future of military intelligence—although he acknowledges that some of the same mistakes were made again in the Boer War.
Empire and Espionage is the only book on this topic, and it is valuable for that reason alone. But it has a major defect. Throughout, names, events, and locations are mentioned but not otherwise identified. Thus, for example, we encounter Cetshwayo (the Zulu leader), Garnet Wolseley and Chelmsford (both British generals), and Bartle Frere (the governor of South Africa) without ever learning their roles or titles. Isandlwana, though frequently mentioned in the book’s opening, is not identified as a major battle until page 36. Wade offers no explanation for this awkward treatment. Thus, a reader without knowledge of the Anglo-Zulu War will find the book bumpy going.
Final Verdict: What Really Happened in the Rosenberg Case, by Walter Schneir with Preface and Afterword by Miriam Schneir. (Brooklyn, NY: Melville House Publishing, 2010), 203 pp., endnotes, photos, index.
In their 1965 book, Invitation to an Inquest, Walter and Miriam Schneir argued that key witnesses at the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg lied and that the FBI had fabricated evidence.5 Thus the Rosenbergs were not Soviet spies. They were innocent. In 1995, when the Venona decrypts proved the Rosenbergs had indeed been Soviet spies, the Schneirs, to their credit, revised their position in an article published in The Nation.6 Julius had been a spy, they admitted, but not Ethel, her help in recruiting her brother David Greenglass notwithstanding. Then in 1999, the Schneirs read The Haunted Wood, by Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev,7 and concluded it contained material that cast doubt on aspects of the government’s case and might vindicate the defendants after all. Final Verdict reports the Schneirs’ new position: Julius was only marginally involved in atomic espionage, and Ethel not at all.
Walter Schneir died before he could commit his new arguments to paper in narrative form, but his wife completed the task. She provides an eight-page timeline and a 41-page preface with background on her husband’s research. In a 16-page afterword, based on material in the 2010 book Spies,8 she writes that her husband’s conclusions hold up. The core of Final Verdict—four chapters (113 pages)—is attributed to her husband. It presents his analysis of the critical discrepancies he claims to have found, though in the end his conjectures are only supported by imaginative analysis and speculation. One of the few unequivocal statements comes from Schneir himself when he writes, referring to the Rosenbergs, “Of course they lied and lied when they contended they knew nothing about espionage. Ethel knew about it and Julius practiced it.” (155) In the end, Schneir’s verdict is that the Rosenbergs were prosecuted for a crime they really didn’t commit and not for the one they did.
Nothing the Schneirs present changes the substance of the case. The final verdict remains: “guilty!”
The First War of Physics: The Secret History of the Atom Bomb 1939–1949, by Jim Baggott. (New York: Pegasus Books, 2010), 576 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.
Author Jim Baggott writes in his preface that his book contains “new materials [that] allow a single-volume popular history of the Anglo-American, German, and Soviet [atom bomb] programs to be assembled for the first time.” This claim is an exaggeration. The book does portray the roles played and the controversies experienced by all the well-known scientists involved, from Oppenheimer to Teller. And it accurately chronicles the sequence of events that led to the bombings in Japan that ended WW II. With regard to intelligence, it reviews the work of the NKGB agents in the United Kingdom and the United States who gave the Soviets the plans for the US bombs. Baggott also discusses the impact those agents had on postwar relations among Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States. But all this has been recounted by others. Baggott doesn’t identify anything new in his book. The sources are all secondary, and errors made elsewhere are repeated here. For example, MI5 Director General Roger Hollis did not, as claimed, appoint Kim Philby as the principal liaison officer on the Gouzenko case, and Sir William Stephenson was not code-named Intrepid. (384)
The First War of Physics is a good summary of an oft-told story, but nothing more.
The Invisible Harry Gold: The Man Who Gave the Soviets the Atom Bomb, by Allen M. Hornblum. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010), 446 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.
Defenders of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg have long argued that if Harry Gold had not confessed to being a Soviet agent, they would never have been exposed. Author John Wexley was one of many who went further by characterizing Gold’s trial testimony as “fantasy… unworthy of belief.”9 With scholarly elegance, Allen Hornblum acknowledges the accuracy of the first claim and then gently demolishes Wexley’s, noting that such charges followed Gold beyond the grave.
The Invisible Harry Gold is an explanation—not a defense—of Gold’s actions. In explaining them, Hornblum invokes the circumstances of the Depression, growing anti-Semitism in Europe, and the struggles of Jewish immigrants in the United States. Heinrich Golodnitsky was born in 1910 near Bern, Switzerland, and became Harry Gold on arrival to the United States as a four-year-old. Hornblum describes Gold’s hardscrabble early years in Philadelphia, where he endured bullying at school, worked jobs to help the family survive, and gradually became aware of the menace of fascism at home and in Europe. In 1933, desperate for work, Gold accepted the help of Thomas Black and went to work for him in Jersey City as chief chemist for the Holbrook Manufacturing Company. Black, a staunch communist, saw in Gold a potential convert. He worked hard to convince Gold that the only hope for defeating fascism lay in helping the Soviet Union since it had outlawed anti-Semitism. Though Gold never joined the Communist Party, he agreed to help it obtain industrial secrets from his employer. With that decision, there was no turning back. Gold eventually graduated to work as a courier for some of the NKVD’s most important agents in the United States, including Klaus Fuchs, David Greenglass, and, indirectly, Greenglass’s brother-in-law, Julius Rosenberg.
Hornblum describes Gold’s “gradual seduction into industrial espionage” (45) and his often harsh on-the-job training administered by illegals who served the Soviets in the United States. After WW II began, Gold’s assignments were redirected onto military targets. The most important agent he serviced was Klaus Fuchs. Although Hornblum writes that Moscow Centre approved Gold as a contact for David and Ruth Greenglass, who were part of another network, (145) John Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev in their book Spies revealed that Gold met with Greenglass as a last-minute substitution for another courier.10 In any case, had this contact not occurred, the Rosenberg network might have escaped exposure.
The Invisible Harry Gold treats Gold’s espionage assignments with the atom spies in considerable detail. According to Hornblum, FBI investigative work identified Gold as Fuchs’s courier. This is contrary to a version reported by Robert Lamphere that Fuchs himself identified Gold as his courier from a picture.11 The end result, however, was Gold’s arrest, prompt confession, and his damning testimony at the Rosenbergs’ trial.
Hornblum presents a well-documented, convincing picture of Harry Gold as an anti-fascist who only wanted to help an American ally. Caught up in Soviet espionage he had been unable to forsake, he was sentenced to 30 years in jail and served over half that time. The ultimate irony of this story is that while the American communist agents charged with espionage lied about their participation, Harry Gold, the non-communist, is the only one who told the truth.
The Kremlin’s Geordie Spy: The Man They Swapped for Gary Powers, by Vin Arthey. (New York: Dialogue, 2011), 242 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index, 2nd edition revised.
The first edition of this book was published under the title, Like Father Like Son: A Dynasty of Spies. It told the life story of KGB illegal Col. Vilyam “Willie” Fisher, aka: “Col. Rudolf Abel, KGB.”12 The new title may puzzle American readers, but it makes immediate sense to a Brit. A Geordie is the common nickname for those from the Tyneside region of North East England, the region in which Willie Fisher was born on 18 April 1902, in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Author Vin Arthey explains Fisher’s connections to the USSR—his father had been active in revolutionary activities in Russia and in 1901 fled to the UK, where he was involved in clandestine shipping of arms and literature back to Russia. The family returned to the Soviet Union when the younger Fisher was 17. He subsequently served in the Red Army as a radioman. In 1927 he joined the NKVD. His first overseas assignment was to England in 1935. There he worked for Alexander Orlov and Arnold Deutsch of Cambridge Five fame. Dismissed from the service during the Great Purge of 1938, Fisher was recalled in September, when there was a need for trained radio operators. After WW II, he was trained as an illegal and in 1948 was sent to the United States, where the Soviet networks were in disarray thanks to defectors and the Venona decrypts.
Arthey reviews Fisher’s many assignments, including the handling of Soviet agents Morris and Leona Cohen and atom spy Theodore “Ted” Hall. Fisher used a number of codenames—the best known was Emil Goldfus—and his cover was as a commercial artist. Things began to go bad with the arrival of his future replacement, Reino Hayhanen, who proved to be an irresponsible drunk. Fisher had him recalled, but on the way home Hayhanen defected to the CIA in Paris and revealed that he knew a KGB illegal in New York. When the FBI arrested Fisher he gave his name as Col. Rudolf Abel, a prearranged signal to the KGB that he was in trouble. (The real Col. Abel was dead.) Fisher was serving a 30-year sentence when he was traded for U-2 pilot Gary Powers. Fisher returned to limited duty for a while but soon retired. He never revealed what he did in England or the United States. He died on 15 November 1971 at age 59.
While there are no major changes in this edition, a number of corrections have been made and new details added. These include Fisher’s date of birth, the name of his imprisoned brother—Ivan not Boris—and spelling errors. There is also some new material on Fisher’s trial, the negotiation that led to his return to the Soviet Union, and “the Forbidden City”—the location of the KGB headquarters in Potsdam.
The Kremlin’s Geordie Spy is the only biography of Willie Fisher in English that includes details of his KGB career. Arthey examined new materials from Russia, Britain, and the United States to piece together Fisher’s extraordinary career. The result is a welcome contribution to the intelligence literature.
Radio Free Europe’s “Crusade for Freedom”: Rallying Americans Behind Cold War Broadcasting, 1950–1960. Richard H. Cummings (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2010), 257 pp., endnotes, appendices, bibliography, photos, index.
The Crusade for Freedom (CFF) was an early Cold War domestic propaganda campaign aimed at arousing the “average American against the Communist threat.” (1) Intensely popular at the time, citizens contributed funds, attended rallies, marched in parades, participated in essay contests, and read the Crusade for Freedom Newsletter, which described the nature of the threat and advocated means to counter it. A principal component of the public program was Radio Free Europe (RFE), a broadcast service that sent the ‘truth about communism’ to countries behind the Iron Curtain. What was kept from the public at the time was that both CFF and RFE were covertly sponsored by the CIA. The CIA role was officially revealed in 1976, but Radio Free Europe’s “Crusade for Freedom” adds details not made public at the time.
Author and former RFE officer Richard Cummings admits that some might consider CFF and its radio operations as a fraud on Americans. But his view is that if they were a fraud at all, they were benign and probably contributed to a Cold War anti-communist consensus. His book is devoted to documenting that position.
Cummings focuses on CFF and RFE from their planning stages in 1949 until CFF was terminated in 1962. RFE continued to function under CIA sponsorship until 1967, when RFE came under independent management, an arrangement that exists to this day. Cummings first describes the program’s origin and goes on to review the bureaucratic and financial conflicts that persisted throughout its existence. Finally he looks at the program’s clandestine elements.
The book treats the public side of CFF in some detail. This includes discussion of an extensive publicity campaign involving Hollywood celebrities, the news media, and political, industrial, and military figures. Here we read about the support of Eleanor Roosevelt, Bing Crosby, Ronald Reagan, General Eisenhower, President Truman, Walter Cronkite, President Kennedy, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, to name a few. Defectors from the Soviet bloc were pressed into service. Col. Joseph Swiatlo of the Polish secret service is a case in point. In RFE broadcasts he informed those behind the Iron Curtain how the KGB dominated the security services of the bloc countries. The CIA role in CFF and RFE was exposed by journalist Drew Pearson in March 1953 (95). Fulton Lewis Jr. added critical remarks in 1957, noting “Dulles doesn’t want it known.” (171) Cummings explains how these events were dealt with and how they led to the demise of CFF in 1962.
Radio Free Europe’s “Crusade for Freedom” is well documented and contains a useful chronology of major events. Cummings does not comment on the overall value of CFF, but judging from this history, it is unlikely that anything like it could be attempted successfully today.
Secrets of the Cold War: US Army Europe’s Intelligence and Counterintelligence Activities against the Soviets, by Leland C. McCaslin. (Solihull, England: Helion and Company Limited, 2010), 200 pp., glossary photos, no index.
There are no secrets in this book. Most of the 19 chapters contain reminiscences written by the more than 50 contributors listed on pages 12–14. Curiously, “Special Comments by Francis Gary Powers, Jr.,” though listed in the contents, are nowhere to be found. Author and retired military intelligence officer Leland McCaslin adds brief introductory comments to most chapters and contributes two himself, one on the annual military intelligence (MI) ball, the other on travel in Cold War Europe.
The topics covered are not without interest. They include the Soviet and Allied military missions that collected intelligence in both occupation zones in Germany, the US-Russian hotline, defectors, counterintelligence, the Berlin duty train, and several case studies. The latter are illustrative and contain no specifics—first names only. No sources are provided.
Secrets of the Cold War with its many photographs does deliver a glimpse of military intelligence activities in Europe during the Cold War, but its content does not live up to the promise of its title.
Through Hitler’s Back Door: SOE Operations in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria 1939–1945, by Alan Ogden (Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Pen & Sword, 2010), 284 pp., end of chapter notes, bibliography, photos, index.
The British Special Operations Executive (SOE) was established early in WW II to run sabotage and support resistance groups in German-occupied territory. By 1943 the SOE was also involved in political subversion—regime change—in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria, each one a German ally. Teams of the “wonderfully amateurish” (vi) businessmen, bankers, engineers and academics that staffed the SOE were dropped into each country to do the job. All operations failed to accomplish their primary objectives. Through Hitler’s Back Door explains why.
The book is divided into three parts. The first deals with Hungary and Slovakia, the second with Bulgaria, and the third with Romania. Author Alan Ogden begins each part with a historical summary of the country and then turns to SOE efforts to bring it under Allied control. “From early on, SOE encountered difficulties in setting up subversive networks in Hungary,” writes Ogden. (23) The same would prove true in the other countries. The difficulties included political opposition from the British Foreign Office, competition with the Secret Intelligence Service, and a lack of any established partisan networks. Logistical problems—air support, communications, and resupply—and the shifting loyalties of those contacted in the local governments also were problematic. But in the end, the uncompromising role of a Soviet Union on its own subversion mission was the dominant road block.
Ogden describes in considerable detail more than 30 missions, with emphasis on the persistent operational glitches encountered and their often herculean efforts to overcome them. He pays particular attention to the personnel involved—those that didn’t survive and the few that did.
Though they fell short of their primary objective, the operations were not entirely in vain. Ogden tells how some tied up German forces that could have been deployed elsewhere and destabilized the planning of the Wehrmacht high command. He also records the considerable number of Allied aircrews the teams helped escape the enemy, often with partisan and OSS assistance.
This book is reasonably well documented, often with primary sources, though in some cases lengthy operational descriptions are not referenced to sources—the efforts of the AUTONOMOUS team are an example. (249–52)
Through Hitler’s Back Door concludes “there were few military or political laurels to emerge from Hungary, Romania, or Bulgaria. Scantily resourced and diplomatically constrained by the need to defer to and to consult with the USSR,” they succumbed to “the pull of insuperable political forces.” The brave efforts of the SOE teams are a tribute to their courage.
Wild Bill Donovan: The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage, by Douglas Waller. (New York: Free Press, 2011), 466 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.
Donovan of OSS was the first of four biographies of ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan.13 It claimed to be the full story, and few in the public knew otherwise. The second and third made similar assertions, adding new details about OSS operations and bureaucratic battles.14 Was there anything new left to say? The existence of a fourth biography suggests an affirmative answer, and author Douglas Waller calmly and carefully documents this position. The principal difference, however, is one of focus. Waller is concerned more with Donovan the man than with OSS operations. The result depicts an ambitious, brave, hard-charging Donovan, who almost by accident created America’s first foreign intelligence service. It was only after completing two fact-finding trips to Europe for President Roosevelt that the idea occurred to him. With the encouragement of the British, Waller writes, Donovan convinced the president to establish the Office of the Coordinator of Information (COI), which became the OSS after the United States entered WW II.
The book concentrates on five aspects of Donovan’s life. The first concerns his military career, his success as a Wall Street lawyer, and his political ambitions prior to serving Roosevelt. The second deals with the bureaucratic battles he fought and the egos he ruffled as he struggled to establish COI (later, OSS), and then to maintain its existence in the face of vigorous opposition from elements in the War Department and the FBI. Here we learn that the Army never accepted the OSS role and formed its own foreign intelligence service—nicknamed “The Pond”—under the control of Major John ‘Frenchy’ Grombach, a man Donovan had once fired. Donovan’s other biographers do not mention the Grombach episode, which was treated in this journal in 2004.15 Donovan’s battles with Hoover and the FBI are also described in detail. On the operational side, Waller mentions Operation Kangaroo, a collection effort that defied an agreement with Hoover not to operate in Latin America, a topic covered in this book for the first time.
The third aspect of Donovan’s life treated in this book, and for the first time, dealt with his many dalliances with women, something Waller did not try to hide. Their impact on Donovan’s marriage did not do him credit.
The fourth part of the Donovan story concerns his frustrated attempts to create and head a postwar intelligence service after President Truman abolished the controversial OSS. Here, Hoover again enters the picture, and Waller leaves little doubt that it was Hoover who spread the rumor to the press that such a service would result in a domestic Gestapo, a charge that applied more to Hoover’s own ambitions to direct an all-encompassing, postwar intelligence operation. Donovan’s hopes were dashed forever when neither Truman nor his successor appointed him to head the new CIA.
The final phase of Donovan’s career that Waller covers is his service as ambassador to Thailand. Although in his late 60s, Donovan was still difficult to control. The concluding chapter covers Donovan’s debilitating sickness that led to his death in 1959.
Wild Bill Donovan is absorbing reading. It is documented with primary sources, though the format used makes it impossible to tell what fact a particular document supports. In all other respects, it is a major contribution to intelligence literature.
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All Them Cornfields and Ballet in the Evening, by John Miller. (Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, UK: Hodgson Press, 2010), 324 pp., photos, index.
British journalist John Miller selected the title for this memoir from a line in the 1957 film, I’m All Right Jack, wherein a “leftish” shop steward played by Peter Sellers proclaims his desire to visit the Soviet workers’ paradise with “all them cornfields and ballet in the evening.” Beginning in 1960, Miller spent 40 years as a newspaper correspondent in the Soviet Union and Russia. His splendidly humorous reminiscences compare Soviet reality with the shop steward’s fantasy.
While any firsthand account of life in the Soviet Union during the Cold War has inherent value, Miller’s story is worthy of attention in an intelligence journal because of his encounters with several subjects of intelligence interest—Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, and Kim Philby. He tracked down an uncooperative Maclean after acquiring a scarce copy of the Soviet phone book and going to his flat, though Miller was denied an interview four times. Burgess, always happy to talk to fellow Brits, gave Miller several interviews, and we learn some new details of Burgess’s unhappy life in the Soviet Union. Miller carried a wreath at Burgess’s funeral in 1963 and again met Maclean, who was more civil that time. Philby did not attend, but Miller later met him serendipitously in a Moscow restaurant where Philby was dining with his wife Eleanor and Maclean’s wife (and Philby’s mistress), Melinda. With a curse, Philby told him to “bugger” off, though Miller did acquire of photo of the elusive defector.
Like most correspondents, Miller got to know the MI6 head of station in Moscow at the time, Rory Chisholm, who was handling the British end of the Penkovsky case. Miller met Penkovsky once at a social function and later covered his show trial. Miller gives two accounts of Penkovsky’s execution—a shot in the back of the head, and being burned alive in a crematorium furnace. The latter version has been reported before, and although Miller names a firsthand witness, the evidence is hearsay and the Soviet denials must be considered.
A variety of other vignettes include the Soviet reaction to their shooting down of the U-2 flown by Francis Gary Powers in 1960, Miller’s encounter with Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and a KGB “honey trap” that caught the British ambassador in an affair with the sister of Captain Eugene Ivanov, a key player in the Profumo affair, which contributed to the resignation of British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in 1963. Miller recalls frequent “chats” with the KGB without ending up in Lubyanka, even though he reported the joke about Brezhnev’s last words: “Comrade Andropov, please stop fiddling with the life support machine.”
All Them Cornfields broadens one’s understanding of Soviet society, adds colorful details to some well-known Cold War espionage cases, and is an unqualified pleasure to read.
The C.I. Desk: FBI and CIA Counterintelligence As Seen from My Cubicle, by Christopher Lynch. (Indianapolis, IN: Dog Ear Publishing, 2009), 433 pp., index.
After graduating from Michigan State University, Christopher Lynch found a job in an FBI mailroom as a GS-2 clerk. It was all uphill from there. After 10 years with the Bureau he joined the CIA. Twenty years later, he retired as a GS-14 and wrote his memoir. Like all dutiful intelligence officers before him, he submitted the manuscript for clearance, twice: once to the CIA and once to the FBI. In an author’s note, Lynch writes that the “successes in which I participated often seemed to get excised from the text.…As a result operations that fizzled out or otherwise went nowhere get an unwanted emphasis.” (vii) He is right about that! The C.I. Desk reads like the story of a serial misfit whose cockroach persistence gets him through a 30-year career. Though he advanced from the FBI mailroom to become a counterintelligence (CI) analyst at the FBI and the CIA, something dissatisfies him in each job, and he is soon looking for another position. At the FBI he cut his teeth on the Boris Yushin case and learned how to do CI case reviews, a task he apparently performed skillfully. He later worked for two years for Robert Hanssen, with whom he got on well, he writes. His description of Hanssen as a “nice fellow” challenges those offered by other contemporaries who cast him as an eccentric computer nerd with few social skills.
In 1986, Lynch moved to the CIA where the pattern of job-hopping continued. He tells about his 20 years there, describing the CI cases he analyzed in most of the major divisions in the clandestine service. Many of the assignments were initially interesting, others quickly frustrating. His work on the Ames case and his tours in the new Counterintelligence Center are examples of the former. His assignment to the Office of Security is an example of the latter. Either way, after a year, or at the most two, he would declare that his “frustrations in the Branch kept growing” (320–21), or words to that effect, and move on. Lynch spent most of his final years at the CIA reviewing files for declassification and doing CI case reviews in an unspecified office where he “drifted from desk to desk.” (424)
Despite his career turbulence, Lynch writes that he loved CI work and the challenges it presented. It is difficult to pin down the message he wants to convey in this book or to explain his candor in conveying it. But he does seem to be emphasizing the importance of doing one’s work well. A most unusual contribution to the intelligence literature.
Holding Hands with Heroes, by Jack Kassinger. (Pittsburgh, PA: Dorrance Publishing Co. Inc., 2010), 242 pp., photos, glossary, no index.
It takes unusual qualifications to begin a CIA career as a GS-4 and retire as a supergrade. In Holding Hands with Heroes Jack Kassinger tells how he did it: no college degree, service in the Marine Corps, a recommendation from Dave Phillips (a senior CIA officer stationed in Latin America), and an impressive track record as a clandestine service support officer. In one respect, Kassinger’s memoir is a typical account of worldwide assignments and service at CIA Headquarters while raising a family—his wife, Cherie, was a career officer too. But it is also atypical in that unlike the memoirs of clandestine service officers such as Phillips and Milton Bearden that tell of espionage cases in which they were involved,16 Kassinger explains the critical services a support officer provides to espionage and covert action operations. His vivid descriptions of CIA support operations in Somalia and other African nations make the point. In the early 2000s, Kassinger was assigned to the Central Eurasia Division, and from that vantage point he describes the impact of the Ames case, the efforts to rebuild a new, secure embassy in Moscow, support operations in the Balkans and Albania, and the turmoil that followed the appointment of John Deutch as Director of Central Intelligence.
The book’s title refers to the many officers with whom Kassinger served, some of whom will be familiar to those who worked in the CIA after the Vietnam War. In Holding Hands with Heroes Kassinger offers himself as an exemplar for those considering a CIA career.
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The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia’s Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB, by Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan. (New York: PublicAffairs, 2010), 301 pp., endnotes, index.
In the foreword to this book, British investigative journalist Nick Fielding warns that the Russian intelligence services “have little tolerance for criticism…since 2000 seventeen journalists have been murdered.” (vii) That same year Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan created Agentura.ru (in Russian and English), “a journalism-based website for monitoring the Russian services.” (7) Though they have been careful to base their often critical articles on open sources and have been interrogated more than once by the Federal Security Service (FSB),17 the principal successor to the KGB, so far they have managed to survive. The New Nobility summarizes their work to date, with emphasis on the sudden breakup of the KGB, the struggle for power among the surviving elements, and the ascendancy of the FSB. It was Nikolai Patrushev, the successor to Vladimir Putin as FSB director in 1999, who called the FSB the “new nobility” with the mission of “stability and order.” The authors take care to point out that the FSB should not be “mistaken for a revival of the Soviet KGB,” though some journalists have made this error. With all its power, the KGB was subordinate to the Communist Party; the FSB is free of party and parliamentary control, reporting only to the president or prime minister. (4–5)
After the chaos of the Yeltsin era, the FSB moved rapidly to consolidate its power. The authors tell how it worked to “ferret out foreign spies,” (36) to bring human rights organizations under control, and to deal with the oligarchs (giving them the choice of leaving the country or going to a jail in Siberia). A program to plant informants in “liberal organizations” was also established. New counterintelligence regulations were created that allowed access to private correspondence and communications through wiretapping. Restrictions on surveillance were removed and the right to search all premises was granted. (114ff) As incentive, FSB officers were given special benefits, including new brick dachas on land confiscated from the oligarchs.
There are several chapters on the FSB response to terrorism, the one area in which the organization has not been very successful. It was while the authors were preparing articles critical of Russian counterterrorism operations that they were summoned to the notorious Lefortovo prison; they don’t provide any details of the ensuing interrogation. They do assert that FSB assassination teams have been sent abroad to deal with Chechen terrorists. And while they note the stories that claim the FSB poisoned Alexander Litvinenko using polonium-210 in London, they conclude that “there is no information about whether his death was ordered by the Russian leadership” or by mercenaries. (208)
The final chapters deal with two interesting issues. The first looks at rumors that the FSB would absorb the foreign intelligence missions of the SVR (foreign intelligence service) and the GRU (military intelligence service). That hasn’t happened yet, and for the time being Russia has three foreign intelligence services, with the FSB empowered to deal with the former Soviet republics. The second issue concerns the FSB program for cyberwarfare that uses its own cadre of experts and from time to time employs independent hackers.
The New Nobility presents a persuasive, well-documented view of the FSB that only dedicated, risk-taking Russians could provide.
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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.