Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf
Compiled and reviewed by Hayden Peake
Intelligence and International Security: New Perspectives and Agendas, by Len Scott et al.
The Threat Matrix: The FBI At War in the Age of Global Terror, by Garrett M. Graff
Tiger Trap: America’s Secret Spy War with China, by David Wise
Intelligence: Critical Concepts in Military, Strategic, and Security Studies, by Loch Johnson (ed.)
America’s Nazi Secret by John Loftus
Beetle: The Life of General Walter Bedell Smith, by D. K. R. Crosswell
Behind Enemy Lines: The Autobiography of Britain’s Most Decorated Living War Hero, by Sir Tommy MacPherson
The Brenner Assignment: The Untold Story of the Most Daring Spy Mission of World War II by Patrick K. O’Donnell
A Covert Affair: Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS, by Jennet Conant
Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia, by Michael Korda
Our Man In Tehran: The True Story Behind the Secret Mission to Save Six Americans During the Iran Hostage Crisis and the Foreign Ambassador Who Worked with the CIA to Bring them Home, by Robert Wright
Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty: The CIA Years and Beyond, by A. Ross Johnson
Russia’s Cold War: From the October Revolution to the Fall of the Wall, by Jonathan Haslam
A Spy’s Guide to Santa Fe and Albuquerque, by E. B. Held
The Vietnam War: An Assessment by South Vietnam’s Generals, by Lewis Sorley (ed.)
Laughter in the Shadows: A CIA Memoir by Stuart Methven
The Making And Breaking Of An American Spy, by James Everett
Ashraf Marwan, Israel’s Most Valuable Spy: How the Mossad Recruited Nasser’s Own Son-in-Law, by Ephraim Kahana
Gulag Boss: A Soviet Memoir, by Fyodor Vasilevich Mochulsky
The South African Intelligence Services: From Apartheid to Democracy, 1948–2005, by Kevin A. O’Brien
Intelligence and International Security: New Perspectives and Agendas, by Len Scott, R. Gerald Hughes, and Martin Alexander (eds.). (London: Routledge, 2010), 173 pp., footnotes, index.
The eight articles in this volume, a special issue of the journal Intelligence and International Security, are expanded versions of papers presented at a conference organized by the Centre for Intelligence and International Security Studies at Aberystwyth University, Wales, in 2007. This book’s stated objective is to improve “understanding of the nature of the intelligence process and its importance to national and international security.” (1)
The authors are academics who have written extensively on aspects of British and American intelligence. In general, they adopt normative views of the topics they cover, which include intelligence—failures, reforms, globalization, cooperation, and accountability—as well as the British perception of the Muslim extremist menace, human rights, the need for intelligence in the European Union, and Iraq and the Vietnam syndrome. With one exception, the articles are thoughtful, well documented, and impressive.
The exception, Rise, Fall and Regeneration: From CIA to EU, by Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, characterizes the CIA as a Cold War success but assumes that after the Cold War, the Agency “declined until, during the post-2001 Bush administration, it fell into disrepute and was effectively marginalized.” (97) After some historical background, not all of it accurate—Roger Hilsman never worked for the CIA, and the implication that William Donovan’s Office of the Coordinator of Information should have predicted Pearl Harbor is tooth-fairy logic—Jeffreys-Jones goes on to assert that “After 9/11, the CIA lost its standing within the intelligence community,” and the subsequent reform legislation “formally ended CIA’s primacy as America’s central foreign intelligence agency.” (99, 100–101) These undocumented opinions raise doubts about the author’s conclusion that any future European Union intelligence entity should take advantage of the CIA’s experience.
Overall, however, the collection achieves its objective. This volume is a practical, thought-provoking, and weighty contribution to the literature.
The Threat Matrix: The FBI At War in the Age of Global Terror, by Garrett M. Graff. (New York: Little Brown and Company, 2011), 666 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.
Most mornings before 9/11, the CIA briefed the president on critical intelligence matters. The sessions were known as the President’s Daily Briefing (PDB), and they continue to this day. Since 9/11, however, the PDB has been followed by a separate briefing from the director of the FBI. He reviews the global “terrorist plots” (11) summarized in a document called the Threat Matrix. This was a new role for the FBI, and The Threat Matrix explains how that role originated and how the Bureau has adapted—not always smoothly—to its expanded mission. In large measure, this is, as author Garrett Graff puts it, the story of the “Muellerization” of the FBI after Robert Mueller took the Bureau’s reins one week before 9/11.
Graff has adopted an interesting approach: This is not a formal history of the Bureau, which might have detailed footnotes, though for perspective he includes considerable historical background with general references. He dutifully pays attention to Hoover’s crime-fighting legacy—“the FBI always gets its man”—that stressed image and reputation even when it meant bending the truth. (pp122ff) Discussion of various FBI calamities—COINTELPRO, a program under which the Bureau conducted counterintelligence activities against domestic US political groups (1956–71); the performance of the first post-Hoover FBI head, Acting Director L. Patrick Gray, during the Watergate scandal (1972–74); and the FBI investigation of CISPES, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (1983–85), to name three. The accompanying narrative lays the groundwork for the book’s principal focus: Mueller and the global counterterrorism mission. (339)
Of particular interest is the chapter called “The Pizza Connection,” which describes the FBI’s “rise as an international crime fighting organization.” (79) Here Graff explains how the Bureau learned to cooperate with Italian authorities to bring down a major Mafia drug operation. The lessons learned, he concludes, “had all the elements of the terrorism cases that would unfold in the coming decades.” (108) He then turns to FBI responses to the terrorist attacks of the 1980s and 1990s—the airplane hijackings, the S.S. Achille Lauro hijacking, the Marine barracks attack in Lebanon, the Pan Am 103 bombing, the first World Trade Center bombing, and the al-Qa’ida bombings in Africa. Here Graff tells of then Director Louis Freeh’s successful efforts to expand the Bureau’s global presence, much to the annoyance of the CIA. But Freeh does not escape criticism, especially for his insistence on giving priority to illegal drug trafficking. When challenged to devote more effort to terrorism, Freeh responded, “You’re nuts … [drug trafficking is] our bread and butter.” (270)
Perhaps the hardest topic to grasp is the so-called “Wall” that inhibited the passage of information between the FBI and other members of the Intelligence Community, and Graff devotes a chapter to it. The rationale behind the concept is that FBI agents dealing with cases that may go to court should not exchange data with intelligence operators. There are two main reasons for this constraint: the first is to avoid the risk that if potential evidence for a trial is used for intelligence purposes a court case might be comprised; the second is to prevent bringing in information that may not have been collected properly and be unusable in a trial. Graff covers the topic well, but he does not remove the impression that in this matter, a lack of common sense dominated the Department of Justice.
From this point on, the book is devoted to the post-9/11 era and to Mueller—the professional qualities he brought to the job and the modern, character-shaping policies he instituted. “It took Mueller years to get his arms fully around the Bureau,” concludes Graff. (414) Many—though not all—of Mueller’s decisive methods were a breath of fresh air. Mueller summed up his management style by stating, “I’m here to protect democracy, not to practice it.” (414–5) Graff describes Mueller’s skillful dealings with the Congressional commission investigating 9/11, his emphasis on bringing the Bureau up to par in the digital world (an initiative Freeh had neglected), the use of Bureau teams to collect evidence from terrorist attacks overseas, expanded domestic counterterrorism operations, and Mueller’s often vexing contacts with the Bush and Obama administrations. It was not all smooth going as the challenges implementing the Patriot Act illustrate, (503) but Graff shows that progress was continuous and positive, and the Bureau of today bears little resemblance to Hoover’s organization.
Along the way, Graff does more than reprise challenging Bureau cases. He includes biographical details about special agents and illuminates the often frustrating bureaucratic culture in which they operate. The John O’Neill tragedy—he died in the South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11—is one instance. Another is the case of Coleen Rowley, the whistle-blowing special agent from Minneapolis, who wrote a memo after 9/11 that attacked “Mueller and other Bureau leaders for pre-9/11 failures.” While its accuracy was not challenged, she had embarrassed the Bureau, an act that violated “the number one precept of the FBI.” Her retirement followed. (417) A chapter on operations in the Iraq war zone includes the engrossing story of George Piro, whose interrogation of Saddam Hussein illustrated the Bureau’s approach to dealing with high-value enemy targets.
The Threat Matrix is based on hundreds of interviews Graff conducted throughout the government and the New York Police Department, plus various books and articles. Graff admits he has recreated some conversations, an increasingly common practice in such histories. The result, nevertheless, is a well-told story and a reading pleasure. J. Edgar Hoover would be proud of the result.
Tiger Trap: America’s Secret Spy War with China, by David Wise. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011), 292 pp., endnotes, photos, index.
To readers of espionage fiction and nonfiction, the names CIA, FBI, DIA, KGB, SMERSH, Stasi, MI5, and MI6 are instantly identifiable as major players in the “Great Game.” But the list is not complete. The Peoples Republic of China is a major player, too. It just doesn’t have an iconic abbreviation. And unlike its well-known competitors, Chinese intelligence has been the subject of few books. In 1994, DIA analyst Nicholas Eftimiades published an interesting account, Chinese Intelligence Operations.1This was followed in 1999 by Howard DeVore’s China’s Intelligence & Internal Security Forces,2 a study that drew heavily on the 1999 report of the House Select Committee on US National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China (The Cox Report).DeVore highlighted organizations, identified high-level positions, mentioned technical capabilities, and discussed the global scope of Chinese operations, but he seldom included names. Copies were available for $1,200. There has also been a memoir and some case studies of particular operations.3 What the literature has lacked is a good account of contemporary Chinese espionage involving American targets and that explains Chinese modus operandi and tradecraft, reveals connections between operations, and identifies principal players. Tiger Trap fills this gap.
Before dealing with specific cases, author David Wise discusses how Chinese intelligence functions, and he quotes retired FBI China analyst Paul Moore to explain that while the Chinese do conduct espionage in the traditional US way—in which agents are handled by case officers with diplomatic cover—they more often employ thousands of “tourists,” each “assigned to collect a single grain of sand.” (11)4 Alternatively, they don’t try to recruit foreign visitors, but instead induce them to give away secrets, a tactic based on the belief that “people will almost never commit espionage, but they will often enough be indiscreet.” (13) Because this happens in China, it greatly complicates FBI evidence collection.
Wise then explains a variety of cases, all with colorful names. Two in particular, the “Parlor Maid” and “Tiger Trap” cases, are related to the Wen Ho Lee case (“Kindred Spirit”) of suspected nuclear espionage at Los Alamos. These three cases involved complex relationships which included an FBI agent. How the Bureau eventually learned of all these relationships and what it did about them is engrossing reading. Wise addresses numerous other cases: “Ethereal Throne” ruined the career of a loyal American; “Royal Tourist” involved a Cal Tech graduate who spied for money and went to jail; “Eagle Claw” describes Larry Wu-Tai Chin’s penetration of the CIA as a translator in the Foreign Broadcast Information Service; “Red Flower” reveals a family of spies, 10 of whom went to jail. And then there is an incongruous allegation about Richard Nixon and a Hong Kong hostess. The final chapter reviews the Chinese cyberthreat.
As Tiger Trap makes very clear, Chinese espionage is not always successful, but it is a serious threat.
[Top of page]
Intelligence: Critical Concepts in Military, Strategic, and Security Studies, by Loch Johnson (ed.). (New York: Routledge, 2011), four volumes. Vol. 1, The Collection and Analysis of National Security Intelligence, 376 pp., end-of-chapter notes; Vol. 2: Covert Action: The Aggressive Arm of National Security Intelligence, 458 pp., end-of-chapter notes; Vol. 3: Counterintelligence: Shield for National Security Intelligence, 468 pp., end-of-chapter notes; Vol. 4: Holding National Security Intelligence Accountable, 392 pp., end-of-chapter notes, index (for all 4 volumes).
In 2007, Loch Johnson edited five volumes of mainly original articles on various aspects of intelligence—the intelligence cycle, collection and analysis, counterintelligence, covert action, and accountability.5 The four-volume work reviewed here covers those same topics, but its 76 articles and extracts have all appeared elsewhere. Many come from the three journals specializing in intelligence: Intelligence and National Security, International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, and Studies in Intelligence. Others come from journals that occasionally include articles on intelligence, as is the case with an article on covert action from the American Journal of International Law. There are also contributions from government reports, for example, the final report of the 9/11 Commission, the Report of the President’s Special Review Board (the Tower Commission), and the report of the US Commission on National Security in the 21st Century (the Hart-Rudman Commission). Several chapters are excerpts from books, some of which are out of print. One particularly useful example is “The Theorist: James Jesus Angleton” from Robin Winks’s Cloak and Gown.6 Johnson’s first volume contains a chronological listing of each contribution and its source, plus a complete table of contents covering all four volumes. Volume 4 contains an index covering the entire work.
The $1,272 price for this collection is steep, but its value is in the convenient access it provides to the literature. While some contributions are available from the Internet—the Studies in Intelligence articles, for instance—many others would be more difficult to find. For students and those refreshing their knowledge of intelligence history, these volumes will be very useful.
Finally, Johnson makes no claim of comprehensiveness. On the contrary, the articles represent only a small portion of those available, a statement that couldn’t have been made just 20 years ago. But the selection here is representative and a good place to start.
[Top of page]
America’s Nazi Secret by John Loftus. (Waterville, OR: TrineDay LLC, 2010), 320 pp., source notes, photos, index.
In 1982, John Loftus, a former Justice Department lawyer in the Office of Special Investigations, published The Belarus Secret. The original purpose of that book, he writes in America’s Nazi Secret, was “to amass incontrovertible evidence that the Justice Department had organized an obstruction of Congress with regard to specific cases” involving Nazi war criminals in the United States. He went on to charge that Justice Department officers played a role “in harboring perpetrators of the Holocaust from their victims.” (260) For reasons unclear, he states he was compelled to submit the manuscript to the CIA for review, and it was severely “censored.” The current book, he writes, restores the material previously removed.
In the introduction to the current edition, Loftus makes additional unsupported claims. For example, “the Muslim Brotherhood came under the immediate protection of Kim Philby, the communist double agent inside British intelligence…. Kim Philby and his Cambridge Ring of communist spies were at the heart of the Anglo-British recruitment of Nazi agents…. Vice President Bush had put the Arab Nazis back on our payroll, and … State and Justice were helping him hide the fact from Congress and the CIA.” Furthermore, “the genius who thought up the whole program of recruiting fugitive war criminals for an underground guerrilla network was … Kim Philby…. Philby’s biggest coup was to unload the Communist infiltrated Abramtchik organization on the all-too-eager Wisner,” the director of the Office of Policy Coordination. Perhaps the most egregious comment on the Philby case is that “the Americans had begun to suspect Philby before the British” and that Philby tipped off Donald Maclean because the CIA was on to him. (14, 23, 24, 59, 165)
Loftus goes on to attack the US and British intelligence services: “The British intelligence services used the American National Security Agency computers … for warrantless wiretapping of our [US] citizens while we used their computers at GCHQ … to tap the telephones of the British public.” (21) On the topic of Nazis in America, Loftus claims that “Although the CIA does not realize it (they never do), their own declassified records released to the National Archives in 2009 made a very convincing case that it is the Justice Department which has been lying through its teeth to Congress.” Finally, the book claims, “the Nuremberg trials were fixed. The US Justice Department did it.” (rear cover)
Loftus provides no sources for these assertions, and a genuine scholarly analysis will easily disprove those involving Philby. Any elements of truth in America’s Nazi Secret are camouflaged by bizarre, spurious charges and messy judgments. It is undeserving of serious attention.
Beetle: The Life of General Walter Bedell Smith, by D. K. R. Crosswell. (Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 2010), 1,070 pp., endnotes, note on sources, photo, index.
Most visitors to CIA Headquarters, like the employees who serve there, will walk by portraits of former directors hung along a first-floor corridor. The fourth in the series is of Gen. Walter Bedell “Beetle” Smith—the Agency’s director during 1950–53—whose reputation for “firm guidance” to his subordinates and peers in US intelligence is legendary. Some may recall that he was Eisenhower’s chief of staff during WW II. But few are aware that he signed the German surrender documents, was later ambassador to the Soviet Union—he wrote a book about the experience7—or that he ended his more than 40 years of government service as Under Secretary of State. In Beetle, historian D. K. R. Crosswell adds details to these career milestones.
As biographies go, this one is unorthodox in two respects: First, it is Crosswell’s second biography of Smith. The previous version8 was based on Crosswell’s doctoral dissertation, which presented Smith as Eisenhower’s tough consigliere and an All-American boy, a characterization Crosswell came to regret—it was too uncritical. Second, Crosswell does not tell his story chronologically. He begins after WW II with a review of Smith’s service as ambassador to Moscow—where he “talked turkey” to Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov (23)—followed by his years as Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), and his final assignment as Under Secretary of State. The chapter on Smith’s three-year tenure as DCI is of mixed quality. Crosswell has Philby, Burgess, and Maclean serving in Washington at the same time—but Maclean had left in 1948—and Crosswell’s comments about Philby instigating a mole hunt place the event many years before it occurred, an inexplicable error. Nevertheless, Crosswell depicts a decisive leader who makes major changes in CIA operations and organization that remain to this day.
The balance of the book, some 900 pages, tells the story of an Indiana boy who “always wanted to be an army officer” (110) and started as a private in the National Guard. Though without a college degree, Lieutenant Smith served with distinction in France during WW I in what was to be his only troop command. After a series of interwar assignments that established lasting links with many future WW II generals, Smith arrived at the Pentagon. Before he left, he had established his contacts with the White House and with senior British intelligence officers in the United States. But, more importantly, according to Crosswell, he redefined the job of chief of staff—adding structure and authority to its gatekeeper functions—in the service of Army Chief of Staff General Marshall and then Eisenhower in Europe.
Reaching Europe as the planning for Operation Torch—the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942—was underway, Smith confronted conflict within and between the British and American staffs; meddling from Churchill, Roosevelt, and even Marshall; monumental logistical problems; and an indecisive, often depressed Eisenhower. To varying degrees, as Crosswell shows in great detail, these problems persisted throughout the war and the short-tempered Smith became indispensable in dealing with them. Of special interest are Smith’s encounters with the sometimes unreasonable, always cantankerous General Montgomery, the profane, narcissistic, hard-charging George Patton, and the quietly persistent Omar Bradley, none of whom always obeyed orders. Time after time, Eisenhower turned to Smith to deal with clashes involving these generals, their subordinates, and even Churchill.
It is in his portrayal of Eisenhower as an indecisive, often infuriating commander—as well as the congenial chairman of the board—that Crosswell adds a new perspective to WW II history. Other historians have shown Ike as one or the other. “The truth is that Eisenhower fit both portrayals,” Crosswell concludes with considerable evidence. (3) Likewise Smith is shown to have been a close friend to both British and American generals who admired his effectiveness, despite his crusty no-nonsense approach in dealing with day-to-day tactical and strategic problems.
Beetle is an absorbing book that sometimes leaves the reader wondering how the Allies were able to win the war—the persistent quarreling among the principals was that pervasive. Extensively documented, Crosswell’s new look at the Allies’ role in WW II is a weighty contribution to its history.
Behind Enemy Lines: The Autobiography of Britain’s Most Decorated Living War Hero, by Sir Tommy MacPherson with Richard Bath. (London: Mainstream Publishing, 2010), 272 pp., photos, no index.
At 18 years of age, Scottish Highlander Tommy MacPherson became a commando. His team’s first assignment was to capture Gen. Erwin Rommel, who was then in Syria. The mission failed, and MacPherson was captured and imprisoned in Italy. After several failed escape attempts, he finally succeeded and made it as far as Poland, only to be recaptured. So he escaped again and managed to reach Britain via Sweden. By then 21, he was assigned to the Jedburghs, where he met William Colby. MacPherson was then sent to France, where he served behind enemy lines, training the resistance, sabotaging rail lines, and blowing bridges, all the while wearing his kilt. The Germans tried but never managed to catch him again. (149) MacPherson’s many talents were leveraged when an inexperienced 10-man OSS team headed by a colonel joined his team; mutual cooperation prevailed. After France fell, he was off to Trieste in northern Italy, where his team helped the resistance, and MacPherson “did a brisk business couriering escaped prisoners to Yugoslavia” (172) until the war ended. By then, at age 25, he had been awarded the UK’s Military Cross three times, as well as three French Croix de Guerre, a Légion d’honneur, and a Papal knighthood. MacPherson had also learned 3 languages and met Churchill, de Gaulle, and Montgomery. But a military career was not in his future.
MacPherson, like many veterans, seldom spoke of the war—even to his children. He was not depressed, just ready to begin a new life. He starred at Oxford University, where he beat world-class runner Roger Bannister in a race. At age 90, after a long and successful business career, MacPherson decided the time was right to record his WW II experiences. Behind Enemy Lines is exciting reading and leaves no doubt that MacPherson earned his many medals and awards the old-fashioned way.
The Brenner Assignment: The Untold Story of the Most Daring Spy Mission of World War II by Patrick K. O’Donnell. (Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press, 2008) 239 pp., index.
(Reviewed by Joe S.)
In The Brenner Assignment, Patrick K. O’Donnell chronicles the previously untold exploits of a band of Office of Strategic Services (OSS) operatives who were dropped deep behind Axis lines in Northern Italy during the final year of World War II. The saga begins when Lt. Stephen Hall, an audacious prep school-educated army officer, sends a letter to the OSS suggesting the organization dispatch a lone individual to sabotage a key Nazi supply route through the Alps. At the conclusion of the letter, of course, he volunteers to do the job himself: “Ready to go any time, under any circumstances that augur success.” (3)
What follows is the stuff of Hollywood: nighttime parachute drops, secret meetings with communist partisans, raids against vastly superior Nazi forces, downed airmen, double agents, SS torture chambers, murder, and exotic women. In captivating prose, which is well cited and based on excellent primary source research, O’Donnell brings to life an array of characters and events so extraordinary that readers could easily forget that the book is a work of non-fiction.
In the world of American intelligence, the OSS is held in the highest regard. The Brenner Assignment shows readers why. It was an organization that demanded excellence, rewarded initiative, and empowered people to get their jobs done. More than just a captivating war story, this book serves as a potent reminder of the CIA’s extraordinary origins.
A Covert Affair: Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS, by Jennet Conant. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011), 395 pp., endnotes, bibliography, appendix, photos, index.
In her 1947 memoir, Undercover Girl, Elizabeth “Betty” MacDonald tells of her OSS adventures in India, Ceylon, and China during WW II. She was one of many women who volunteered to serve and were assigned to the Morale Operations Branch. Two of her colleagues, the spunky, free-spirited Jane Foster and the “more serious-minded” six-feet-two Julia McWilliams9 are mentioned from time to time as their paths crossed in Washington, DC, and the Orient. The three remained lifelong friends. Foster and McWilliams would later write their own books. Foster’s An UnAmerican Lady10 was a bitter memoir of an indicted expatriate communist. McWilliams, by then Julia Child, wrote Mastering The Art of French Cooking.11A Covert Affair is the story of these friends and their husbands during the war and later as they worked to build careers in the shadow of the McCarthy era.
Author Jennet Conant begins her narrative in 1955, when Paul and Julia Child are living in Bonn, Germany. She is busy “testing recipes for a French cookbook.” (3) He is working for the United States Information Service (USIS) as a visual presentation specialist. Their quiet life is suddenly disrupted when he is recalled to Washington for interrogation by the FBI as a potential security risk. It soon becomes clear that the real subject of interest is Jane Foster. The story then flashes back to their OSS service in the Far East, and we learn in considerable detail what Paul, Jane, Betty, and Julia did during the war. Paul, a worldly intellectual, was initially attracted to Jane, a wealthy and knowledgeable Mills College graduate. But in the end, it was Julia, the inexperienced Smith College graduate, with whom he began an affair. They were married soon after their return to the States in 1946. After joining USIS, Paul was assigned to Paris, where they renewed contact with their friend Jane, who had also moved there. (230)
A Covert Affair dwells at length on the Jane Foster story. The Childs are shocked to learn Jane had joined the US Communist Party in the 1930s; was involved with Boris Morros and the Soble spy network; had married a Soviet agent, George Slatovski, before the war; and had worked with him in Austria afterward. When the Soble network was exposed in the late 1950s, Jane was indicted and her passport revoked. Despite Jane’s “telling [French intelligence] everything,” (291) the French refused extradition. But Jane was less forthcoming in her 1980 memoir. Though she admitted giving the Soviets some documents, she denied “engaging in espionage.” (318) She was unaware that the Venona decrypts would later suggest otherwise. Through it all, the Childs stood by their friend.
In 1961 Paul retired from USIS, and the Childs moved to Boston, where Julia completed her book. It was an immediate success—it sold 30 million copies—and a television series soon followed. Their comfortable retirement was assured.
While A Covert Affair is well documented, drawing on letters and diaries, there is no actual covert affair in it—just a catchy title. Service in the OSS was a formative experience for all involved in the story. Conant’s account adds new details to the role OSS played in WW II and the organization’s impact on the lives of Jane, Paul, and Julia.
Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia, by Michael Korda. (New York: HarperCollins, 2010), 762 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, maps, index.
Thomas Edward Lawrence died in a motorcycle accident in 1935. The Dictionary of National Biography lists him as an “intelligence officer and author.” The Imperial War Museum has an exhibit devoted to him, an honor given to few British war heroes. Along with other artifacts of his adventurous life, his restored motorcycle is displayed. Known to many even today because of the motion picture Lawrence of Arabia, he has also been the subject of several biographies. One characterizes Lawrence as a charlatan, another as a military genius. Jeremy Wilson’s biography,12 which was authorized by Lawrence’s family, is more balanced. His 1,188-page book dwells in depth on Lawrence’s relationship with famous contemporaries, his personal life, and his literary struggles, as well as his two years aiding the Arab Revolt during WWI. Michael Korda writes about these things too, but he envisions a heroic Lawrence, although not in the sense that he was exposed to danger. In his view, Lawrence consciously worked to attain the distinction through “the creation of a legend, a mythic figure and a man who became a hero not by accident, or even by one single act of heroism, but who made himself a hero by design, and did it so successfully that he became the victim of his own fame. (xvii)
Korda begins his account with Lawrence serving as an army intelligence officer in Cairo. Fellow officers disdained the cheeky, five-feet-six (in shoes), disheveled mapmaker and articulate student of military history. He was only grudgingly tolerated because of his superior knowledge of the Middle East, his incisive analyses, and his facility with Arabic. Assigned to contact the leader of the disparate Arab “army” in what is now Saudi Arabia, Lawrence established a rapport, realized the group’s inherent insurgent capabilities, and arranged training, money, and arms. The unanticipated result was Lawrence’s most famous military achievement: the taking the port of Aqaba. The Arab Revolt had begun.
Readers may be surprised to learn how this unruly, unconventional, and unmilitary Oxford graduate came to be a successful military leader and creator of insurgency tactics. Korda supplies the answer in several chapters that explain Lawrence’s origins—he was born out of wedlock, a fact he would not discover until after the war—his education, his interest in fine art and printing, his study of archeology in Carchemish, Turkey, and his desire to serve when WW I broke out. All this was consistent, writes Korda, with Lawrence’s boyhood ambition “to be a general and knighted by the time he was thirty.” (7) Lawrence came close, becoming a colonel, but for reasons that are never completely understood by any of his biographers, he rejected a knighthood and many other honors.
After Aqaba, Lawrence led the Arab Revolt to occupy Damascus, thereby assuring the Turkish defeat. His exploits were made known to the world by war correspondent Lowell Thomas, whose dispatches created the “Lawrence of Arabia” myth. Korda describes the military battles Lawrence fought to get to Damascus and the sexual abuse he suffered in Deraa as a Turkish prisoner. Despite his victories on the battlefield, Lawrence was less successful with his political masters. Of particular concern to him was the Sykes-Picot agreement between the British and the French that divided the Middle East into the nations there today. Lawrence opposed it because it broke land distribution promises he had made in good faith to Arabs to gain their help. He was assigned to the Paris Peace Conference, but he failed to reverse the Sykes-Picot outcome. By then the dispirited Lawrence was writing his masterpiece, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and left Paris to finish it. Recalled by Churchill to the Foreign Office, he helped decide which tribes would rule in Jordan, Syria, and Iraq, and saw his favorite on the Iraqi throne, thus partially redeeming his previous assurances.
The remainder of Hero tells of Lawrence’s unconventional life, in which he inexplicably sought anonymity in writing and rewriting Seven Pillars while controlling all aspects of its printing. With the support of a general officer friend, he used a pseudonym to join the Air Force as an enlisted man, transferred to the Army when his true identity was exposed, and later rejoined the Air Force. All the while, he corresponded with many famous people, including George Bernard Shaw and his wife. During this time, he began riding motorcycles. To augment his meager service salary, he wrote Revolt in the Desert—a condensed version of Seven Pillars—which sold well, and completed a new translation of the Odyssey while serving in India.
Hero is beautifully written and thoroughly documented, drawing heavily on Lawrence’s extensive correspondence, which gave insight into his unorthodox behavior. For those unacquainted with the realities of the enigmatic Lawrence of Arabia, reading this book will be a fulfilling experience.
Our Man In Tehran: The True Story Behind the Secret Mission to Save Six Americans During the Iran Hostage Crisis and the Foreign Ambassador Who Worked with the CIA to Bring them Home, by Robert Wright. (New York: Other Press, 2011), 406 pp., endnotes, photos, index.
In their 1981 book, The Canadian Caper,13 journalists Jean Pelletier and Claude Adams told how Canadian diplomats rescued six Americans who had escaped the claws of the Iranian “students” occupying the US embassy in Tehran in 1979. Writing relatively soon after the event, Pelletier and Adams were unaware of the still secret US contribution to the rescue. In 1997, that omission was rectified when Tony Mendez was designated a CIA Trailblazer for his role in the operation and subsequently related the details in his memoir, The Master of Disguise.14 Of Ken Taylor, the Canadian ambassador in Tehran, Mendez wrote, “he possessed many of the operational qualities we could need on the ground … he knew how to think ahead and keep a secret.”15 Trent University history professor Robert Wright clearly agrees with the Mendez judgment. Our Man in Tehran not only adds much new detail to the Canadian role, but tells for the first time of Taylor’s contributions as a surrogate CIA “liaison officer.”
After reviewing the political situation that led to the hostage taking, Wright tells how the Canadians learned that the six American diplomats had avoided the Iranian secret police and what led to the Canadian decision to shelter the Americans and then help them escape. The Canadians discussed a variety of options before they finally agreed to the unprecedented step of issuing genuine Canadian passports with false names. Of course both Ottawa and Washington were involved, and their contributions are depicted from the Canadian perspective. Taylor’s unhesitating, active support from the beginning was critical. A career diplomat, Taylor had volunteered for the Tehran post so he could advance trade with Iran. He had been there only a year and would leave as the crisis ended in January 1981, but during his brief tenure he devoted much of his time to three overlapping tasks: assisting in the escape of the six diplomats, serving as liaison with three other American diplomats held in the Iranian Foreign Office, and providing intelligence support. As Wright puts it, “What the Americans asked [Taylor] to do amounted to nothing less than this: they asked him to gather intelligence.” (221) Critical to his success, adds Wright, was the ability of the Canadian Department of External Affairs “to insulate Taylor from interference from Langley.” The first test of the relationship came when Taylor rejected a CIA agent sent to help. A suitable replacement was found. (231–32) Members of Taylor’s staff also helped. An important contribution occurred when a Canadian expert discovered the CIA had made an inexcusable error in the dates on the forged visa stamps. (270) The staff also performed surveillance and provided logistical and communications support throughout. But the most surprising fact to emerge in the book is the ambassador’s role in Operation Eagle Claw, the ill-fated hostage rescue mission.
The Canadians who aided in bringing the US diplomats home received honors from both governments, but the details of their contributions were not made public. Wright interviewed most of those involved, and Our Man in Tehran completes the public picture. An amazing story, skillfully told.
Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty: The CIA Years and Beyond, by A. Ross Johnson. (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010), 270 pp., footnotes, bibliography, index.
In the early days of the Cold War, the Soviet Union mobilized European writers, artists, and intellectuals to spread word of the benefits of communism to the world in general and to the East European nations it occupied in particular. One study of the period note that the Soviets “called upon the intelligentsia of the world to rattle their pens under the banner of communism, and hurl ink against the American imperium.”16 In response, the United States sought effective countermeasures that would convey an accurate assessment of Western and Soviet reality to the “captive nation” targets. Unembellished radio broadcasting was one of the techniques implemented. Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty tells the story of this program from its origins to the present.
Although he is a former director of Radio Free Europe (RFE) and a former acting president and counselor of RFE and Radio Liberty (RL), Ross Johnson has not written a personal or anecdotal account. Rather, his approach dwells on individuals and their formative ideas, the organizations they created, and the bureaucratic disputes that ensued. “Propaganda,” writes Johnson, “is the Cold War word most relevant to this book.” But not in the pejorative sense of “spin … or the deliberately misleading, manipulative pseudo-journalism known as disinformation” often associated with the term. Propaganda, as he uses the term, is “information with a purpose.” (4)
In the beginning, the “Radios”—as RFE and RL are called—were intended to “harness the talent of recent émigrés from the Soviet Union and Soviet-controlled East Europe.” (7) Though supported by the State Department, RFE and RL were established and controlled by the quasi-independent Office of Policy Coordination under Frank Wisner and funded clandestinely by the CIA. “Why the CIA?” Johnson asks rhetorically. “The answer is simply that the reality of US foreign policy and domestic politics in the early Cold War period was such that RFE and RL could only have been founded with covert CIA sponsorship.… The CIA protected the Radios from irresponsible interference, especially the domestic American anticommunist hysteria of the 1950s.” (239)
In addition to the difficult problems overcome in establishing full-service broadcasters, Johnson deals with the major controversies and threats the Radios encountered. In the former category, by citing the documentary guidance provided at the time, he puts to rest persistent charges that the “RFE urged the Hungarians to fight the Soviet Army and promised the insurgents Western assistance.” (91ff.) Similarly, he covers RFE’s challenging performance during the Prague spring and the impact of RL broadcasts to the Soviet Union on that country’s dissidents. As to threats, Johnson covers the often successful KGB attempts to penetrate the Radios to learn what they knew and who was supplying information. The result, he explains, served as a basis for Soviet denunciations of the Radios. Contrary to Soviet charges, however, Allen “Dulles insisted that the Radios … should not be involved in espionage.” (233)
While the book focuses on the 1950s and 1960s, it also summarizes the Radios’ operations from the 1970s to the present. The CIA was ready in the early 1960s, writes Johnson, to sever its clandestine links to RFE and RL, but the “Kennedy administration considered and rejected that option.” Exposure of CIA sponsorship was revealed in 1967 and acknowledged in 1971. RFE came under independent management in 1976. (227)
This is a fine scholarly book. Superbly documented and easy to read—footnotes at the bottom of the page, no flipping back and forth—it clarifies the Radios’ contributions “to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of a Europe ‘whole and free.’” (245)
Russia’s Cold War: From the October Revolution to the Fall of the Wall, by Jonathan Haslam. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011), 523 pp., endnotes, bibliography, index.
The term “Cold War,” as we have come to know it, was coined by George Orwell in October 1945, writes Cambridge University historian Jonathan Haslam: “The Soviet Union was ‘a state … at once unconquerable and in a permanent state of Cold War with its neighbors.’” (ix) Since the end of the Soviet Union, many books have been written about the subject from the Western point of view. With the increased availability of Russian archival documents in the 1990s, Professor Haslam, fluent in Russian, decided to examine the topic as the Soviets saw it. Russia’s Cold War is the result.
The basic characteristics of the Cold War were not solely the product of WW II, writes Haslam. They were also a persistent consequence of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Thus he begins with a review of the Bolsheviks’ consolidation of power and Stalin’s reasons for tenaciously mistrusting the West, his fear fed by reports from British agent Kim Philby and others. After the war, says Haslam, Stalin’s “unrelenting mistrust of American intentions … mounted with frightening rapidity” (28) and shaped the Soviet expansionist policies that resulted in the outcome they were intended to prevent, “the emergence of the United States as a formidable force.” (76)
Haslam goes on to review Soviet attempts to spread communism to every part of the world. He discusses in detail the relationship with China, the Soviet reasons for the Hungarian invasion in 1956, the events of the Prague Spring in 1967, the Cuban situation, the Yom Kippur War, détente and Vietnam, and Nicaragua, where détente’s failure was becoming evident.
There are chapters on the events of each American presidency as seen from Moscow, though Western actions and reactions are included for context. One item of particular interest involves the Soviets’ Afghanistan problem. Haslam states that the National Security Agency had been breaking Soviet codes in the 1970s. The result, he asserts without elaboration, “enabled Brzezinski and Carter to trick Moscow into invading Afghanistan.” (319)
Among Haslam’s interesting conclusions in Russia’s Cold War is that Soviet records show they had every intention of dominating Europe after WW II. Moreover, Moscow deliberately continued expansionist polices after Stalin died, rejecting any idea of a peace settlement. The Cold War was not equally the fault of the two superpowers; he suggests, as many in the West have asserted, the Soviets were the dominant force.
The contribution of intelligence is not a major theme, and the CIA and KGB do not appear in the index. They are part of the narrative, however, throughout the book. Russia’s Cold War gives a fresh look at an old subject. Well documented, it is a valuable contribution.
A Spy’s Guide to Santa Fe and Albuquerque, by E. B. Held. (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2011), 95 pp., endnotes, photos, map, chronology, index.
Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico, played parts in two cases of KGB espionage, one Stalin era “wet operation” and one case of suspected espionage for China. Both cities were the locations of the transfer of atomic secrets to Soviet couriers by KGB agents Klaus Fuchs, Ted Hall, and David Greenglass. Former CIA officer Edward Lee Howard was living in Santa Fe when he escaped FBI surveillance and defected to the Soviet Union. The wet operation was the 1940 assassination of Leon Trotsky, planned in Zook’s Drugstore in Santa Fe. Wen Ho Lee, a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, was living northwest of Santa Fe when he came under suspicion of espionage for the People’s Republic of China. In A Spy’s Guide, former CIA operations officer E. B. Held provides annotated maps and photos. Also included are historical summaries of each case, with background details on the principal participants and other key figures. For the espionage cases, Held emphasizes tradecraft, the reasons the agents were caught—or weren’t—and the repercussions. Each chapter ends with suggestions for further reading.
Caution is warranted, as some historical details are inaccurate. For example, as John Haynes and Harvey Klehr explained in their book Venona,17 there never was an agent codenamed PERSEUS at Los Alamos or anywhere else. (13, 16) The one-time pads the KGB used were not used twice. (58) Duplicate pages were printed in Moscow and assembled in a different sequence before distribution. Philby did not warn the KGB or the CIA about Fuchs, nor did Fuchs confess quickly; it took several weeks of patient interrogation. Americans Harry Gold and Julius Rosenberg were just Soviet agents, not illegal/non-official cover officers. (16, 30, 60).
A Spy’s Guide to Santa Fe and Albuquerque is a handy reference about espionage for residents and vacationers alike.
The Vietnam War: An Assessment by South Vietnam’s Generals, by Lewis Sorley (ed.). (Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University Press, 2010), 919pp., end-of-chapter notes, maps, index.
Whether written by academics, journalists, or military scholars, most English-language histories of the Vietnam War reflect a Western view. But the South Vietnamese perspective of the war has not gone unheeded. Between 1976 and 1978, the US Army Center for Military History sponsored a series of monographs by six senior South Vietnamese participants in the war. Containing remarkably candid views on all aspects of the conflict, the interview transcripts were originally available only in limited copies, but West Point graduate, former CIA officer, and established author Lewis Sorley edited 17 of the interviews for this volume.
Included are discussions of South Vietnamese military force structure, strategy and tactics, logistics, intelligence, and various offensive operations—for example, the US and South Vietnamese incursion into Cambodia in 1970 and North Vietnam’s 1972 Easter Offensive. One article deals with South Vietnamese and US cooperation and coordination, although the topic also arises elsewhere. One interview subject points to communist subversion, US pressures on the government and military, and an unstable government as causes of divisiveness and infighting within South Vietnamese society. These, the interviewee said, were major contributors to Saigon’s ineffectiveness. The Phoenix Program is dealt with as a war-fighting measure without citing any numerical measures of effectiveness. The chapter on logistics reveals that the South Vietnamese experienced problems common to every army in the field, but with the added difficulty of fighting in a jungle while dependent on outside forces.
A chapter on intelligence discusses each functional element and then looks at how they contributed to major offensives. The chapter emphasizes the subordinate role of South Vietnamese intelligence and a lack of command interest in its output, the problems of tactical field collection, competing priorities, not-always-timely reporting, and the value of US cooperation. Many of the difficulties experienced followed from the existence of more than 17 competing intelligence organizations in South Vietnam and the “tendency to take too lightly the enemy’s will to carry out his plans.” (322)
One segment deals with pacification programs, but the topic also surfaces in other articles. A major difficulty described throughout is the problem of local South Vietnamese bickering and power-grabbing that often overcame efforts to achieve unity.
A section on the US decision to leave Vietnam in 1972 argues that the South Vietnamese could have defeated the North Vietnamese—the South’s army lost two provinces below the Demilitarized Zone but held elsewhere against the North’s Easter offensive—but only if US logistical support had been sustained. Of course that did not happen.
Written from the South Vietnamese military point of view—which was critical of its own government and the United States—this work identifies the South’s military failings and provides a solid assessment of why the war ended as it did.
[Top of page]
Laughter in the Shadows: A CIA Memoir by Stuart Methven. (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2008) 177 pp., index.
(Reviewed by Joe S.)
“It was incredible, the stuff of comedy and tragedy, unexpected and improbable, ludicrous and grave,” writes Stuart Methven about the early years of the CIA. From 1952 until 1978, Methven crisscrossed the globe as an Agency case officer, finding adventure, triumph, and tragedy wherever he went. In his concise memoir, Laughter in the Shadows, he provides readers a digestible glimpse of it all.
There are tales of recruitments, failed pitches, explosions, coups, and covert wars. Lending credence to the book’s title, many of Methven’s anecdotes are genuinely funny, such as the story he tells of using his daughter to deliver his business card—concealed in a box of Girl Scout cookies— to a prickly Soviet intelligence officer. But not all of Methven’s stories are meant to provoke smiles. When he tells of watching a band of anti-communist fighters accidently kill themselves firing an artillery piece they weren’t properly trained to use, he reminds us that there is a very serious side to the intelligence business.
While Methven’s stories are, in his words, about the “early, more heady days of the CIA,” the picture he paints of clandestine operations comes across as fresh even today and contains worthwhile lessons both for those currently in the intelligence community and those on the outside looking for a concise introduction to life in the shadows. Much has changed since the Cold War, but informed readers will recognize from Methven’s account that the basic craft of intelligence has not. Methven’s description of his first recruitment, for example, reads like it could have been extracted from this week’s cable traffic.
By sharing both the good and bad, Methven provides his readers with a product that feels honest and unpretentious. He’s not shy about sharing his critiques of US policy—for example, Methven is open about his disappointment with the US government’s decision to abruptly abandon a covert action program he led in Africa— but unlike many former case officers who have picked up the pen, he does not come across as someone with an axe to grind. His writing is not motivated by malice, and his assessment of the Agency is evenhanded. “Make no mistake about it,” he notes in the book’s introduction, “even with the CIA’s flaws…[it] has much to be proud of.”
Like most good books, Methven’s is defined by its characters: from “Shower Shoes” Wilson, the Agency contract pilot who flies supplies into the jungles of Southeast Asia, to “Dmitri,” the Soviet diplomat who defects to the United States by crashing his car through the gates of an American embassy. Most importantly, there is Methven himself, a man who befriended foreign potentates, kept a pet crocodile, and survived a coercive pitch from the KGB. He is, in short, like the other personalities in Laughter in the Shadows: someone worth getting to know.
The Making And Breaking Of An American Spy, by James Everett. (Durham, CT: Strategic Book Group, 2011), 316 pp., no index.
In this memoir, author James Everett tells the story of his 17-year career in the CIA as an officer under non-official cover (NOC). That means he had a regular job with a commercial company while carrying out espionage duties in 35 countries. Everett says he wrote the book for two reasons. The first was to convey a “better understanding about how intelligence works … and shouldn’t work.” (v) The second and more important reason, Everett writes, is to tell his “tale of betrayal: betrayal of the American government to fulfill its promises to one of its spies.” (vi)
The original draft of the book was completed in the late 1980s and submitted for review. Substantial changes were requested. Everett was unwilling to make them, and he put the manuscript aside for nearly 20 years. The project was revived and revised with encouragement and help of a friend, and again submitted for review. Everett dwells at some length on both review sequences, making clear his reluctance to accept the restrictions imposed.
The story itself is a chronological narrative: recruitment, training—Philip Agee was in his class—selection as a NOC, and his various assignments. Everett sympathetically returns to Agee later in the book, making clear that he accepts Agee’s contention that he was never a KGB agent. This and other claims Everett makes raise questions about the depth of his research. For example, he incorrectly asserts that Gen. Walter B. Smith was the first DCI; that Allen Dulles was DCI from 1961 to 1973; and that the US government had advance knowledge of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and did not disseminate the information in a “correct and timely manner.” (viii, x)
The balance of the book, however, is a forthright discussion of how Everett raised a family and managed his commercial job while conducting his clandestine assignments for many years in Sweden and the Netherlands. Things went well until Watergate. During the investigation that followed, it was revealed that E. Howard Hunt worked for the same firm as Everett. In the end, the clandestine relationship with the company was severed and Everett’s service with the CIA was terminated. He describes in considerable detail the trouble he had negotiating a retirement settlement. Everett left, a bitter man.
In the final chapter Everett discusses his public activities against covert action, but he doesn’t call for the demise of the CIA. Instead he encourages reforms that reflect his views.
The Making and Breaking of an American Spy is a sad personal story that conveys the difficult life of NOC officers.
[Top of page]
Ashraf Marwan, Israel’s Most Valuable Spy: How the Mossad Recruited Nasser’s Own Son-in-Law, by Ephraim Kahana. (Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2010), 176 pp., footnotes, bibliography, appendices, index.
All parties agree that Ashraf Marwan was President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s son-in-law and security adviser; that he was President Anwar Sadat’s security adviser after Nasser’s death; that he was both an Israeli agent and an Egyptian agent; that he gave the Israelis warning of the Yom Kippur War; that he is a hero in both Egypt and Israel; that he became a wealthy arms dealer with connections to several intelligence services; and that he was found dead below the window of his 6th floor—4th or 5th by other sources—London flat. All parties disagree, however, on what intelligence service controlled him; whether his role in the Yom Kippur War was an Egyptian deception operation; and whether his death was a suicide or a defenestration.
Ephraim Kahana, Chair of the Political Science Department at Western Galilee College in Israel, reviews Marwan’s life as an agent, his activities as an international arms dealer for Egypt and others, and his taste for the good life. Kahana also examines in detail the controversy surrounding the Israeli leak of Marwan’s name to the press, labeling him an Egyptian agent. In an appendix, Kahana examines the Yom Kippur War surprise, providing good historical background to the event.
But what Kahana does not do in the book is significant. In his preface, he writes that his book “reveals who Ashraf Marwan really was, how he became a spy for Israel and what led to his death.” (vii) Kahana accomplished the first two, only in part. But to explain Marwan’s death, Kahana admits his views are “suppositions [that] have more in common with conspiracy theories than with scientific investigation.” (125) The really important question of Marwan’s true allegiance as an agent remains unanswered. Kahana’s book is a good case summary of what is already known, nothing more.
Gulag Boss: A Soviet Memoir, by Fyodor Vasilevich Mochulsky. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 229 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index. Edited and translated by Deborah Kaple.
In her prodigious history, GULAG,18 Anne Applebaum wrote that “once sent to the outer reaches of the Gulag’s empire, officers were rarely allowed to return to any other branch of the NKVD, let alone Moscow.” (259) Fyodor Mochulsky was a rare exception. When Princeton University historian Deborah Kaple advertised in the Moscow newspapers, requesting interviews with former “Soviet advisors”—a euphemism for KGB officers—who had served in China, Mochulsky responded. He not only met the requirement, but had also written a memoir. Impressed by his story, Kaple found an American publisher. Gulag Boss is the result.
Right after graduating from the Moscow Institute of Railroad Transport Engineering in 1940, Mochulsky received a “mandatory work assignment” to the first of the two NKVD-operated Gulag camps in which he supervised prisoners until 1946. Called Pechorlag, it was a railroad-building work camp above the Arctic Circle. The second, Camp 3, rebuilt a highway to Moscow. In 1947, the party sent him to the Higher Diplomatic School of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. After assignments at the UN, he spent 14 years at the Soviet embassy in Beijing and then 20 years in the foreign intelligence service of the KGB.
Gulag Boss says little about Mochulsky’s road-building, diplomatic, or intelligence service. His focus is on supervising railroad-building prisoner crews in the Arctic permafrost. He describes dealing with political and criminal prisoners and the hierarchy within which they existed. While he mentions the exploitation that occurred, he does not dwell on the details. He portrays his treatment of those he supervised as fair, if not benevolent, so long as they met their quotas. This is likely to leave readers familiar with Solzhenitsyn’s stories wondering whether Mochulsky, a lifelong communist, has a distorted memory of camp reality. Yet, his tale is negative enough that he could not get his book published in Russia, which Kaple notes, pointing out that Mochulsky does castigate the Soviet government “for the monstrous inventions of the Stalinist regime and the inhumanity and basic criminal character of the Soviet leadership’s policies.” (178)
Gulag Boss is the only book that describes life in the camps from an NKVD supervisor’s point of view. As such, it fills a small niche in the literature covering the brutal history of the Gulag.
The South African Intelligence Services: From Apartheid to Democracy, 1948–2005 by Kevin A. O’Brien. (New York: Routledge, 2011), 301 pp., endnotes, bibliography, index.
A review of the James Sanders book, Apartheid’s Friends,19 concluded that it provided “the most detailed and best documented treatment of the evolution of intelligence in South Africa.”20 Though true at the time, the publication of Kevin O’Brien’s new book requires that it be modified. Sanders focused on people and case studies. The South African Intelligence Services covers the same organizations, but from a structural and political—rather than an operational, case-oriented—perspective. It is a study of the South African intelligence enterprise, or “dispensation,” to use the author’s jargon, and its “role in supporting all national security, revolution [sic], and counter-revolutionary forces in South Africa’s modern history.” (11)
In practical terms, O’Brien’s book deals with the policy of apartheid: how it came about, how the intelligence services were used to implement and control it, and the opposition forces with which it dealt—the African National Congress, the South African Communist Party, and other liberation movements. O’Brien looks first at the apartheid period, from 1948 to 1990, then at the transition period, from 1990 to 1994, and finally at the post-apartheid period that began in 1994 and continues to this day, though his research ended in 2005.
The apartheid period saw the development of a National Security Strategy correlated and coincident with the growth of what O’Brien terms the “securocracy,” a development that resembled domestic security measures implemented by the KGB in the Soviet Union for essentially the same reasons. At the same time, various opposition groups—at home and in exile—plotted the overthrow of the government. Efforts to counter the threat resulted in competition among the domestic and military intelligence services. The policy of “permanent removal from society … detention without trial … poisoning” and other means of assassination (11) was carried out by special units of the intelligence services.21 With the help of organization charts, O’Brien identifies these units and other elements of the South African intelligence community—as well as the politicians in control—while discussing their interrelationships and conflicts. This makes for slow reading, but the coverage is thorough.
With the release of Nelson Mandela and the end of apartheid, the intelligence services were restructured. O’Brien reviews the difficulties encountered—and the problems still not completely resolved—in that process. With all its detail, The South African Intelligence Services is a unique, well documented study—there are only a few non-attributable sources—that will serve as the definitive work on the topic from the “intelligence dispensation” point of view.
[Top of page]
[Top of page]
All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed in this article are those of the author. Nothing in the article should be construed as asserting or implying US government endorsement of an article’s factual statements and interpretations.