Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf
Compiled and reviewed by Hayden Peake
Abuse of Power: How Cold War Surveillance and Secrecy Policy Shaped the Response to 9/11, by Athan G. Theoharis.
Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America’s Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda, by Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker.
International Intelligence Cooperation and Accountability, by Hans Born, Ian Leigh, and Aidan Wills (eds.).
Keeping U.S. Intelligence Effective: The Need for a Revolution in Intelligence Affairs, by William J. Lahneman.
The Next Wave: On the Hunt for Al Qaeda’s American Recruits, by Catherine Herridge, and Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go To War In The Name of Islam, by J. M. Berger.
Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State, by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin.
The CIA on Campus: Essays on Academic Freedom and the National Security State, by Philip Zwerling (ed.).
Collaborative Intelligence: Using Teams to Solve Hard Problems, by J. Richard Hackman.
Intelligence: The Secret World of Spies; An Anthology (3rd edition), by Loch Johnson and James J. Wirtz (eds.).
Reducing Uncertainty: Intelligence Analysis and National Security, by Thomas Fingar.
The Secret Book of CIA Humor, by Ed Mickolus.
The Secrets of the FBI, by Ronald Kessler.
Words of Intelligence: An Intelligence Professional’s Lexicon for Domestic and Foreign Threats (2nd edition), by Jan Goldman.
The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11 and Osama Bin Laden, by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan.
Historical Dictionary of Atomic Espionage, by Glenmore Trenear-Harvey.
The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds: A Tale of Espionage, the Silk Road and the Rise of Modern China, by Eric Enno Tamm.
The Shah, by Abbas Milani.
The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda, by Ali Soufan with Daniel Freedman.
The Craft We Chose: My Life in the CIA, by Richard L. Holm.
The Interrogator: An Education, by Glenn Carle.
The Art of Betrayal: Life and Death in the British Secret Service, by Gordon Corera.
Abuse of Power: How Cold War Surveillance and Secrecy Policy Shaped the Response to 9/11, by Athan G. Theoharis. (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2011), 212 pp., endnotes, index.
Marquette University Professor Emeritus Athan Theoharis is an old-school historian and longtime FBI nemesis who writes that, like the Bureau, “I am sorely deficient in the use of computers; I do not have an e-mail address, and I still use a manual typewriter.” (x) These Luddite limitations have not kept Theoharis from developing the unmatched Freedom of Information Act FOIA inquiry skills he has used to acquire and analyze thousands of FBI documents. The result has been a series of books, all critical of Bureau operations. Abuse of Power is the latest contribution.
In this book Theoharis begins by critiquing a May 2002 statement issued by Attorney General John Ashcroft on then-new guidelines intended “to change the culture of the FBI from that of a ‘reactive’ law enforcement agency to one that was ‘proactive’…[putting] prevention above all else.” (xi) Ashcroft got his history wrong, says Theoharis. The FBI had been proactive since 1936, when it was given “a secret oral directive” by President Roosevelt to prevent espionage, sabotage, and subversion. The thesis of Theoharis’s work is that the Bureau abused its powers then and continues to do so today.
In the opening chapters Theoharis lists examples—from WW II through the Cold War—of illegal wiretapping, questionable surveillance practices, and techniques designed to prevent public disclosure of these methods. There follow two chapters on counterintelligence. The first reviews familiar cases and criticizes the Bureau’s failure to discover some Soviet espionage operations and to take advantage of others that did come to its attention. The second chapter argues that the shortcomings were due in part to political considerations having to do with the nature of the subversive threat and the FBI’s failure to recognize the espionage threat. The chapter then summarizes the Bureau’s questionable surveillance of prominent political figures suspected of communist associations.
The final chapter deals with the consequences of ignoring the lessons of the Cold War. Here Theoharis extends earlier arguments linking the “indifference to history of FBI intelligence investigations” to the dangers of public acceptance of post-9/11 practices. (149) He goes on to contend that “the basic premise that FBI surveillance activities need not comply with legislative restrictions had also determined the secret rulings of 2001–2007 of senior” White House and Justice Department officials. (151) He provides examples which, in his judgment, suggest the “FBI (and military) monitoring of dissident political activities leaves unresolved whether the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA had once again resumed” their WW II and Cold War practices. (155) If so, he contends, these further abuses of power will “promote a culture of lawlessness.” (165)
Abuse of Power is carefully documented to support Theoharis’s position, and while alternative explanations are possible, he does not provide them. Nevertheless, this book is deserving of scholarly attention.
Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America’s Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda, by Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker. (New York: Times Books, 2011), 324 pp., endnotes, bibliography, index.
The doctrine of containment coupled with the strategy of nuclear deterrence worked to keep the Cold War cold. The former applied to threats from nation-states, the latter to the weapons that could have destroyed them. In the post-9/11 world, equally serious threats exist, but they don’t originate from nation-states. The amorphous al Qaeda and its affiliates hold no territory, and deciding whom to retaliate against and how—should a nuclear weapon explode in a Western city—raises new and difficult problems. Counterstrike examines a new form of deterrence suggested by Thomas Shelling, one of the creators of Cold War deterrence theory. The new deterrence strategy would allow capture-and-kill missions while policies are created to deny terrorists certainty of success. It would also include efforts to disrupt fund-raising and recruitment and planning networks, and to “dissuade those who may support extremist ideology but who would not want to sacrifice their own lives to the cause.” And finally, the deterrence strategy would include means to prevent attacks with weapons of mass destruction. (5) What needs to be done to implement this revision of the deterrence doctrine?
New York Times journalists Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker answer this question by first examining the disarray within the US government—with emphasis on the intelligence agencies—prior to 9/11. They describe how agencies gradually rose to the occasion and built a more integrated effort to combat religious extremists during the succeeding decade. The authors give special attention to several relatively unknown players, for example, Juan Zarate in the Treasury Department, who developed methods for tracking terrorist financing, and Pentagon policy planner Barry Pavel and his graduate-student associate, Matt Kroenig, who developed new methods—that some thought radical—for deterring terrorist networks, based on the assumption that individual terrorists can in fact be deterred. (51) It was an approach eventually adopted by the US military.
Schmitt and Shanker devote considerable attention to the need to better understand the terrorist enemy and how intelligence might help. They detail the problems of countering al Qaeda propaganda, the difficulty of collecting intelligence while preserving civil liberties, the risks presented by cyberwarfare capabilities, the political issues surrounding nations involved in combating terrorists and those who support them, and the challenges of dealing with homegrown terrorists. Interwoven in the discussion of these subjects are stories of turf battles among new security agencies, as well as other political conflicts that have complicated progress.
The authors do not argue that all the new approaches have been successful but claim that they demonstrate substantial progress. The operation in May 2011 that killed Osama bin Laden is one example. They suggest, for example, that the Abbottabad raid could not have succeeded had the pre-9/11 disarray not been overcome. “The extraordinary coming together, particularly of the CIA and the military…is unique in anybody’s history,” said Bob Gates. (259)
Counterstrike ends with a sobering warning: “You can destroy the people in al Qaeda…but you can’t destroy the idea of al Qaeda…the attack is coming. The most important thing the nation can do is to be resilient.” (273-76) The authors cite DIA analyst John Tyson (pseudonym), who noted that terrorism “is not something we can defeat…it’s going to have to defeat itself.” (278) This is an important book that puts the current terrorism threat in a real-world perspective.
International Intelligence Cooperation and Accountability, by Hans Born, Ian Leigh and Aidan Wills (eds.). (New York: Routledge, 2011), 335 pp., end-of-chapter notes, bibliography, index.
In 2008, the Norwegian Parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Committee hosted a workshop on accountability in international intelligence cooperation in the post-9/11 world. This volume contains 12 conference presentations by academics, lawyers, and parliamentary participants from various European and Asian nations and Canada. For readers unfamiliar with the subject, the two introductory chapters will be of considerable value. The first looks at how intelligence accountability and cooperation have grown in prominence since 9/11, the oversight mechanisms that resulted, and the legal and human rights issues that confront nations and their intelligence services in dealing with terrorism. The second chapter discusses recent developments in international intelligence cooperation, with emphasis on the impact of globalization.
The next four chapters deal with financial sanctions and other coercive measures against individuals and organizations; the problems of collateral casualties and civil and human rights; the implications of rendition operations and the use of torture; and the role of peacekeeping operations, weapons inspections, and the apprehension and prosecution of war criminals. There follow three chapters focusing on oversight and review in the international and domestic arenas, and two chapters on centered on legal aspects. The concluding chapter, written by the editors, addresses the challenges posed by the sudden increase in intelligence cooperation since 9/11. While acknowledging that although the various solutions proposed in the presentations are imperfect, they nevertheless suggest options for improving cooperation through review and oversight bodies that stress legal frameworks for assuring accountability.
Although no US authors are included, various putative CIA operations and international reactions to them are offered as examples in the analyses of accountability issues. Thus the book is not light reading, but it is a valuable contribution on the issues raised and to the literature of intelligence.
Keeping U.S. Intelligence Effective: The Need for a Revolution in Intelligence Affairs, by William J. Lahneman. (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2011), 200 pp., end-of-chapter notes, bibliography, appendix, index.
Johannes Gutenberg’s introduction of movable type ushered in a revolution in printing. Thomas Edison’s invention of the electric light bulb revolutionized everyday living. William Lahneman, an assistant professor in political science at Towson State University in Maryland, is convinced that “US intelligence will decline” unless it undergoes a “Revolution in Intelligence Affairs (RIA).” And he asserts in his preface that “the emerging literature on this subject” supports this view. (xvii)1
Lahneman argues that before a revolution, “one set of rules defines the order of things. After a revolution, a different set of rules and processes prevails.” (53) These rules are found in a “paradigm,” or a way of doing things. An RIA requires a new paradigm for the Intelligence Community (IC) since it “has been over sixty years since the last paradigm shift” instituted by National Security Act of 1947; “the intelligence community still functions along the same lines today.” Moreover, the changes required cannot be achieved using evolutionary or incremental improvements; “radical approaches” are necessary. (xx–xxvi)
These arguments are expanded in considerable detail in the book. In the key Chapter 4 (“Is A Revolution in Intelligence Affairs Needed?”), Lahneman argues in the affirmative since “developments in the intelligence enterprise” will change how intelligence is developed and used; require change in the structure of the IC; lead to a rise in new elites; and “significantly affect the national security of the country.” Even if these assertions are true, Lahneman never makes clear why a revolution is needed to deal with them. Chapter 5 describes a “new intelligence paradigm” and compares it with current practices. In sum, “The ‘new’ IC would have two principal roles in the US intelligence enterprise: it would solve intelligence puzzles using the traditional paradigm and it would perform adaptive interpretations on issues that required classified, trusted, and open information,” though the clandestine service would “remain relatively unchanged” by the RIA. Specifics are needed here too. (150–51)
Lahneman’s analysis may raise legitimate questions in the minds of current professional intelligence officers and others who have followed the evolution of US intelligence since 1947. For example, does the IC really function “along the same lines today” as its first constituent agencies did 60 years ago? How does that account for the introduction of computers, artificial intelligence, the Internet, satellites, cell phones, TV, new analytic techniques, increased congressional oversight, and substantial organizational changes? And if, as he writes in his conclusion, “the IC’s traditional paradigm remains essential in today’s world,” (179) just what does the RIA involve that has not already been accomplished or contemplated?
Keeping U.S. Intelligence Effective does not make that distinction clear. In spite of Lahneman’s initial assumptions, one cannot be faulted for concluding that he has made the case for well thought-out, focused, evolutionary change rather than radical change.
The need for a revolution remains unproved.
The Next Wave: On the Hunt for Al Qaeda’s American Recruits, by Catherine Herridge. (New York: Crown Forum, 2011), 258 pp., endnotes, photos, index.
Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, by J. M. Berger. (Dulles, VA: Potomac Books, 2011), 264 pp., endnotes, bibliography, index.
Both of these books discuss, from very different perspectives, the specter of US citizens becoming followers of al Qaeda and performing acts of terrorism against fellow Americans.
Fox News journalist Catherine Herridge describes the evolution of a dozen al Qaeda recruits, some arguably seeming to be like most Americans. The late Anwar al-Awlaki was perhaps the most disturbing of her examples. He became an effective “a virtual recruiter.”(41) Herridge tells how he became radicalized while still managing to be invited to the Pentagon and the White House. She covers his distinctly non-Muslim personal behavior—he was arrested twice for soliciting prostitutes (117)—and his links to al-Shabaab, the underwear bomber, the Times Square bomber, and those involved in attempting to employ explosives-laden printer cassettes. She also deals with other terrorist support components—including schools; institutions such as the Institute of Islamic and Arabic Studies in America in Fairfax, Virginia; Internet publications and chat rooms; and charities—that help indoctrinate potential radicals and finance al Qaeda programs.
Herridge also looks at Congress and the Intelligence Community leadership as they deal with controversial issues, for example, whether captured terrorists should be treated as common criminals and tried in civilian courts. She evaluates the track record of government antiterrorism agencies, giving them mixed marks for efficiency and high marks for luck. Unlike many writers on this topic, Herridge identifies many of her sources.
In the midst of all the above, with a husband in Afghanistan, part of her own liver was transplanted in her son—both recovered. While in the recovery room, she tracked the continued tracking the latest terrorist events on her Blackberry. An admirable reporter.
The Next Wave offers no solution for the problems of homegrown terrorists, though it suggests that first hand observation of the unrepentant terrorists at Guantanamo might reduce over sympathetic reporting by those who refuse to face the current reality.
Freelance journalist J. M. Berger takes a broader view of the homegrown US al Qaeda terrorist in Jihad Joe. He starts by pointing out that modern Islamic terrorism began with the takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979. The group that took and held the mosque for two weeks included two Americans. Other Americans later fought for Islam against the Soviets in Afghanistan and against non-Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chechnya, Somalia, and Yemen—an unsettling chapter is devoted to them. (vii) One American was present in 1988 at the creation of al Qaeda, when America became a jihadist target. (17) Berger has identified “more than 240 American-citizen jihadists,” many of them native born. He defines jihadists as those who “travel abroad to fight in a foreign conflict specifically in the name of Islam” as well as those who support them. (x, xi)
In the support category, Berger describes a number of Islamic organizations whose officials and supporters—including Americans—were prosecuted for supporting al Qaeda. He also treats a number of individual cases. Of particular interest is Ali Abdelsaoud Mohamed, who was recruited by Ayman al Zawahiri. A talented linguist, Mohamed was sent to the United States and applied to the CIA but was rejected. He succeeded in joining the Army, where he trained Special Forces troops and managed to gain access to top secret documents before being caught. Not all the recruits were as successful, and Berger tells the stories of the underwear and Times Square bombers to prove it. But it is Anwar al Awlaki who gets the most detailed attention for his actions in the United States and Yemen.
Though little in Jihad Joe is new, the stories have not appeared in one place before. And they are well documented and supplemented by Berger’s interviews. His chapter on al Qaeda propaganda before and after 9/11 is illuminating, as it demonstrates the impact of the Internet when used by skilled communicators to spread the jihadist gospel.
From time to time Berger points out US government excesses in dealing with Arab-American citizens, mostly right after 9/11. He concludes by warning that the only solution to the homegrown jihadist problem is creating conditions in which Islamic extremism cannot survive, while at the same time preserving constitutional and human rights of all citizens. Not an original idea, but the case is well made.
Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State, by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin. (NewYork: Little, Brown and Company, 2011), 294 pp., bibliography, photos, index.
Top Secret America is a celebration, perhaps unintended, of open source information collection. Most of its data was obtained by direct observation of events, through interviews, and from the Internet. And it contains impressive charts and diagrams. The authors admit some information came from unidentified sources, who admitted “they were breaking some internal agency rule.” Readers are assured, however, that nothing was included that would damage national security. The authors conclude that the only source of alarm they reveal is “that one of the greatest secrets of Top Secret America is its disturbing dysfunction.” (xxiv)
What then, is the message of this book? It does not discuss military intelligence operations, foreign intelligence collection, personal security issues, or counterintelligence operations. Rather, it focuses on national security organizations, the people involved, and the corporations contracted to support them. The central theme is that because there are too many of each and because they are too secret, more transparency is needed to reduce costs and improve results.
The authors supply numbers to support their judgments. For example, they estimate that at one point “854,000 people held top secret clearances.” They are spread out among an excessive number of government agencies—described in chapter 5—and supported by more than 2,000 corporations supplying “legions of private contractors hired after 9/11 to do the work once handled by federal employees.” Leaving aside the argument that the more likely reason for hiring contractors was to perform work existing staffs were unable to handle because of unexpected demands after 9/11, these are indeed large numbers. But are these organizations just the source “of prosperity for life” as the authors claim, or is there a legitimate reason for granting all these clearances? (158) Top Secret America does not address this issue.
Nor do the authors recognize that the number of clearances is not really the point. It is the number of people with access to classified data that counts. The total includes thousands of support staff with no need for such access. The authors include anecdotes from high-level government employees that suggest the numbers are too large and that the volume of intelligence generated by those workers is often overwhelming, but they do not offer a method for determining what the proper figures should be or what actions are needed to deal with the mass of data.
Chapter 11 describes the Joint Special Operation Command (JSOC), an organization that deals with what the authors term the “dark matter” that helps “the CIA’s paramilitary Special Activities Division” and other agencies carry out special counterterrorist missions in foreign countries. After describing some successes and failures, the chapter concludes that JSOC has “arrived in force to take on the slow metabolism of Top Secret America’s obese body, to infiltrate command and control centers, to push its leaders to make decisions that use JSOC’s unique skills, and to be ready to pounce anywhere in the world once they do.” (255) The reader is left wondering just what this means for national security.
Top Secret America screams that the intelligence establishment is too big and that many agree. But that argument was part of the public discussion long before Priest and Arkin wrote this book. The numbers they present may be new to some, but the for those familiar with government, size, personnel selection criteria, and who should answer decide are perennial and unanswered questions. Solutions in specific cases where downsizing is shown to be necessary would helpful. But examples have eluded the authors, and readers are left with a colorful conception of an oft-mentioned problem without any way of judging how serious it is. Not very helpful.
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The CIA on Campus: Essays on Academic Freedom and the National Security State, by Philip Zwerling (ed.). (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 254 pp., 2011), end-of-chapter notes, index.
University of Texas–Pan American Assistant Professor and former Unitarian Minister Philip Zwerling asserts that his “goal of creating and enlarging knowledge in a search for truth depends on openness, sharing information and data, and collaboration across disciplines.” (2) He views the CIA as incompatible with these ends and writes, generally without documentation, that “CIA projects on campus involve recruitment…curriculum modification…[and] have drawn faculty and students into dangerous mind control experiments, election fraud and the training of police torturers and military death squads. Such projects always involve secrecy and subversion of independent faculty.” (3) The CIA on Campus consists of nine articles that reflect Zwerling’s position. Two are his, one is by a former CIA officer, and the rest are by academics with expertise in anthropology, English, history, library science, and psychology.
The material is not new, and the authors’ interpretations of their data are dubious. For example, a typical view is that “those who wish to bring the CIA on campus must confront [a] history of lawlessness, interference with free academic inquiry, and spying that will destroy the academic settings the CIA seeks to join.” (56) The CIA is not the only intelligence agency subject to Zwerling’s scrutiny. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Security Agency are not ignored. (102)
At times the authors digress from their central topic. Zwerling, for example raises three rhetorical questions that have nothing to do with the CIA on campus, although they reveal his biases: “How do you run a secret intelligence service in an open democracy? How do you serve the truth by lying? How do you spread democracy by deceit?” “History reveals the answer,” writes Zwerling, “You don’t.” That there are other legitimate interpretations of intelligence history is not evident in The CIA on Campus.
Collaborative Intelligence: Using Teams to Solve Hard Problems, by J. Richard Hackman. (San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2011), 220 pp., endnotes, bibliography, index.
Some four years ago, J. Richard Hackman, Harvard professor of Social and Organizational Psychology, was conducting research on “how best to design and lead the diversity of teams that operate within the US Intelligence Community.” (ix) The methodology required observing IC teams at work, and while the results were found to be applicable to teams in general—sports, flight crews, musical ensembles—the focus of this book is on intelligence.
The first part of this three-part study lays out the Hackman’s approach, which is to examine how teams are designed, staffed, and led, with an emphasis on the behavior of people. He cites studies that recognize what many intelligence officers know from experience: “analytic failure stems from dysfunctional behaviors and practices within individual agencies and is are not likely to be remedied by structural changes in organization.”2 (4) Hackman goes on to consider what makes a great team while acknowledging that in some cases solo performers are more suited for certain jobs. Then he looks at conditions that require teams and those that do not. Finally, he deals with what “effectiveness” means and how it can be assessed.
In the second part, the backbone of the book, Hackman defines “six enabling conditions that together create a team-friendly work environment” and promote team effectiveness. Here he examines in detail the attributes of a successful team, its motivation and purpose, the desirable characteristics of team members, the preferred norms of member conduct, the support structures that enable successful outcomes, and the role of “competent and well-timed team coaching” to minimize difficulties while enhancing chances of client satisfaction. (51-52) He provides many illustrations of pitfalls and suggests solutions.
The first of two chapters in the final part of the book looks at the importance of team leadership when leaders are acquainted in advance with the six enabling conditions. The data for this topic comes from a study of 64 teams in six intelligence agencies. A key result is Hackman’s 60-30-10 rule. Sixty percent of a team’s effectiveness is determined by “the prework the team leader does. Thirty percent is determined by how well the initial launch of the team goes. Only 10 percent is determined by what the leader does after the team is already working.” (154-55) The best team leaders actively encourage leadership contributions from the members. (165)
In the final chapter, Hackman looks at team context, or the managerial environment in which a team works. He warns against reactive management and the tendency to apply incremental fixes, for example, to please Congress. Such steps might involve replacing a valuable team member, adding an expert who doesn’t fit, or reorganizing when a more thoughtful approach would bring better results without destroying a valuable team.
Those considering careers in intelligence, those recently employed in the profession, and seasoned professionals will find Collaborative Intelligence a well documented, very valuable source of proven concepts.
Intelligence: The Secret World of Spies; An Anthology (3rd edition), by Loch Johnson and James J. Wirtz (eds.). (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 564 pp., end-of-chapter notes, bibliography, index.
Any collection of articles on intelligence written by experts can be a real help to teachers and those seeking to expand their knowledge of the profession. The third edition of Intelligence: The Secret World of Spies—the first two had slightly different titles—is a positive contribution to this genre. Its 10 parts cover the basic intelligence topics—collection, analysis, dissemination, covert action, and counterintelligence—and add several more that have an important bearing on modern intelligence agencies. These include: the role of the policymaker, accountability, politicization, post-9/11 intelligence, and select views on intelligence in other nations.
Twenty-four of this edition’s 39 articles are new. The collection includes material written by people with direct experience in the profession. Among them are serving and former intelligence officers, congressmen, and academics; some qualify in more than one category. The work also includes several extracts from the reports of government commissions and professional journals. These may not be original, but they are not readily available elsewhere. There are two contributions from the UK, as well as one by KGB defector Alexander Orlov.
All in this collection are worth reading, but since viewpoints on some issues conflict, readers must decide which are most valid. Each article is deserving of a brief comment here, but space precludes that option. Worth noting here, however, are a few that address topics not often included in such compendiums, or which offer especially telling observations. In the first category, Paul Redmond offers some important insights on counterintelligence. Stan Taylor and Daniel Snow consider what motivates spies and how they get caught, and former DCI Stansfield Turner looks at intelligence in the George W. Bush administration. CIA lawyer Fred Manget scrutinizes judicial accountability, and coeditor Wirtz addresses deception in the information age.
In the latter category, Arthur Hulnick presents interesting views on the traditional intelligence cycle, and Paul Pillar contributes firsthand comments on intelligence and policy before the Iraq War 2003. Senior analyst Jack Davis has two contributions which convey his years of experience.
Intelligence: The Secret World of Spies is a very worthwhile contribution, well documented and well written.
Reducing Uncertainty: Intelligence Analysis and National Security, by Thomas Fingar. (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011), 176 pp., endnotes, index.
Stanford professor Thomas Fingar has captured the essence of the intelligence analyst’s function in the title of this book. The challenge, Fingar elaborates, is how to reduce uncertainty in light of “the changes that have transformed the scope, content, and time lines of intelligence analysis during the past two decades, and more importantly, to enumerate and explicate the enduring requisites for the production of accurate, insightful, and useful analytic judgments.” (7)
Fingar is uniquely qualified to address these issues. After completing his formal education at Cornell and Stanford Universities, he began his intelligence career as a linguist and military analyst. His last intelligence position was deputy director of national intelligence for analysis. In between, he spent 14 years with the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research and was chairman of the National Intelligence Council in 2005.
Reducing Uncertainty does not deal with analytical models and procedures. Instead, Fingar provides an overall view that compares the conditions of Cold War nation-state analysis with those of today’s, in which dynamic situations often involve nonstate actors. Fingar ponders “the constraints, challenges and opportunities” today’s analysts are likely to confront in their careers, illustrating his points with anecdotes from his own experience. He includes a chapter entitled “Myths, Fears and Expectations,” which challenges popular views of intelligence analysis found in spy novels. The simplistic notion that an analyst needs only to “connect the dots” ignores the level of effort involved in evaluating, assessing, interpreting, explaining, and validating data collected from a multitude of sources—i.e., knowing which dots to connect. With regard to expectations, he stresses at several points that analysts are not “supposed to advocate specific courses of action,” (25) although he admits he did so when pressed by then Secretary of State Albright. (45–46)
Recognizing that a primary purpose of analysis is to reduce the risk of surprise by providing insight, he points out that this is not always easy. Policymakers sometimes demand raw data so they can do their own analysis but don’t realize how much data that must be considered—IMINT, SIGINT, OSINT, etc. Fingar uses examples from the President’s Daily Briefing and National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) to show the value of finished over raw intelligence.
After chapters discussing elements of strategic and estimative analysis, Fingar details two cases of what happens when things go wrong. The first concerns “the error-plagued 2002 NIE on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program” and the steps taken to prevent a recurrence of the mistakes that were made. The second deals with the 2007 NIE on the status of Iran’s nuclear program and illustrates how important conclusions can be misconstrued when authors incorrectly assume the Estimate will remain classified.
Reducing Uncertainty is a good overview of what analysts strive for, the problems they are likely to encounter, and the actions necessary to achieve their analytical goals. Fingar calls the process changes needed to meet the demands of the post-9/11 world “analytic transformation.” It is a mix of bottom-up changes initiated by analysts and top-down policies implemented by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). Ironically, Fingar originally opposed creation of the ODNI, but he is now convinced it was “absolutely essential.” (138) His is a valuable book, one that puts the analyst’s role in perspective.
The Secret Book of CIA Humor, by Ed Mickolus. (Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 2011), 237 pp., bibliography, no index.
In an earlier life, Ed Mickolus was a standup comic, and throughout his career in the CIA he was conscious of the humorous events that occurred in the course of day-to-day duties. The Secret Book of CIA Humor puts many of them on record. Perhaps the most famous involves the new employee who begins a career at CIA Headquarters doing routine, if not menial jobs, like disposing of classified waste after it is placed in specially marked burn bags. The rookie is tasked with carrying the bag to the burn chute, shouting his badge number down the open chute to alert those below that it is coming, and waiting for confirmation of receipt after the bag is sent down. It is a long wait. Few ever admit to having performed this operation. There are a number of ingenious variations to this practical joke, and Mickolus notes several of them. Then there is the one about the administrator who grew tired of the standard distribution restriction placed on documents. Instead of “For Internal Use Only,” he chose “For Infernal Use Only.” (93) Other intelligence services get a share of attention too, as in the story (sometimes attributed to Russian sources) in which the CIA, FBI, and KGB are challenged to find a rabbit. Their differing approaches presumably speak to the ethos of each organization. (119) An example of how analysts deal with popular fiction is the now legendary spoof, at least in CIA, in which the “real CIA” dealt with the events in Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October. Mickolus devotes a chapter to that one.
A number of humorous quotes are attributed to former directors. Robert Gates is quoted as commenting that “The analysis came down firmly on both sides of the issue.” (105) John Deutch tells about the time his deputy, George Tenet, cleared a conference room during a meeting with foreign dignitaries. When only he and the director remained, Tenet told him, “your fly is open.” (105) There is also a chapter with quotes from performance appraisals. A few examples: “this officer cannot be underrated” (195); “She has become a multitalented, odd-job man;” (197) and “He is endowed with a certain lethal gentleness.” (200)
There is more—a lot more—in The Secret Book of CIA Humor. All of it will provoke at least a smile, but none of it is secret.
The Secrets of the FBI, by Ronald Kessler. (New York: Crown Publishers, 2011), 296 pp., photos, index.
In 2002, investigative journalist Ronald Kessler published The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI, a book that looked at the FBI from its beginnings to the early days of Director Robert Mueller’s tenure. The present work covers some of the same ground but focuses on elements of the Bureau not previously revealed publicly. Perhaps the most interesting are tales about the Tactical Operations Unit, which performs legal, state-of-the-art break-ins. These sometimes go awry despite excruciatingly detailed planning, which has to include imaginative escape scenarios. It is surprising that Kessler was given access to this never-before-mentioned activity.
Some stories have appeared before. These include Hoover’s secret files, the Watergate break-in, and the mole in the CIA—Karl Koecher—about whom Kessler devoted nearly an entire book.3 The Robert Hanssen case covers three chapters, with some new details, the most significant of which is the admission by the FBI agent in charge of the case that he got it wrong when he focused on Brian Kelley of the CIA as the principal suspect. More recent topics include the FBI’s response to 9/11, the Soviet illegals case, the underwear bomber, handling of terrorists caught in the United States, the problems of the computer case management system—Mueller’s biggest failure (284)—and cybercrime.
Not all the tales are about national security or counterintelligence. Kessler includes passages about congressional misbehavior and a chapter concerning a former director’s wife. The description of the Bureau’s training center, however, is instructive.
There are no source notes in Secrets of the FBI. Kessler relies on interviews, mostly of FBI special agents and Director Mueller. The writing is brisk and his tone occasionally gossipy, but Kessler is easy to read. Overall, one gets a good picture of the scope and magnitude of the varied and difficult jobs performed by the Bureau. It is an interesting book.
Words of Intelligence: An Intelligence Professional’s Lexicon for Domestic and Foreign Threats (2nd edition), by Jan Goldman. (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2011), 298 pp., end-of-chapter notes, bibliography, topical index.
This work is much improved over the first edition, although the unforgivable inclusion of the term “defector-in-place” does not even mention that for oxymoronic reasons it is no longer common usage. A less severe boo-boo is equating the term “asset” with “agent.” Most of the entries have obvious application to the intelligence profession. But some are questionable: “wounded in action” and “Cassandra” are examples. Several terms are omitted, most notably the CIA Publications Review Board and its equivalent in agencies outside the CIA. In the same category, the often controversial term “contractor” was nowhere to be found. Occasionally an entry’s definition comes as a shock. “Chamber” is an example; it is defined as a “large excavation,” when some in the profession might reasonably have expected a reference to codebreaking. Another category worthy of attention in the future is terminology that has different meanings in US and British lexicons; “assessment” is an example. Readers should be cautioned not to accept these definitions as final, although they are reasonable points of departure.
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The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11 and Osama Bin Laden, by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan. (New York: Ballantine Books, 2011), 603 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.
How could it have happened? The answer has been sought since 9/11. Journalists Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan spent a decade assembling and analyzing the mass of often conflicting public documentation. Their result is a story containing a maddening mix of turf battles, gaps in data, misinterpretations, conspiracy theories, incompetence, and solid fact.
The Eleventh Day is structured chronologically in seven parts. Part 1 surveys the attacks on 9/11 from the perspectives of those most immediately involved: terrorists, flight crews, air traffic controllers, passengers, first responders, victims on the ground, government workers, and the president. Part 2 examines the conspiracy theories that quickly arose to explain what happened: the collapse of “the Twin Towers was in reality caused by explosives planted in the building;” (94) There were no suicide pilots on those September 11 jets;” (95) and “The idea that the Pentagon had been struck by a Boeing airliner on 9/11…was nonsense, a loony tale,” to mention only three. (97) The authors present considerable evidence to show these theories are wrong. Part 3 looks at how America responded: the reaction against Arabs; the US intelligence agencies’ claims and recriminations over who did what and when; and the beginning of the hunt for Bin Ladin. Parts 4 and 5 describe in great depth the roles of those who plotted the attacks and those who carried them out. The short, six-page Part 6 deals with a series of events on 10 September that occurred—or should have occurred—and their actual and potential influence on the attacks: crucial messages were ignored or not understood; President Putin that warned that “they are getting ready to act;” (358) terrorist movements were ignored; and the government was in some instances complacent.
The final part—73 pages—addresses “Unanswered Questions.” The authors discuss “multiple and serious questions and yawning gaps in our knowledge, of which the public knows little or nothing.” (365) For example, they discuss the assertion—ignored by the 9/11 Commission, they point out—that “US intelligence officials had a face-to-face meeting with Osama bin Laden in early July 2001.” (366) Then comes a journalistic favorite, the question of when the CIA gave its intelligence about two of the hijackers to the FBI. (375) The authors also raise questions about what foreign intelligence services had links with al Qaeda. Finally, they comment on conflicting statements issued following the death of Bin Ladin. They even address the discord surrounding a mosque planned near Ground Zero. The questions raised may be of historical interest, but the only short-term conclusion they invite is that there will be more books on 9/11.
The Eleventh Day gives a good summary of what is known and not known about 9/11, although it is a bit too conspiracy oriented. It also makes clear that coordinated intelligence at all levels is a vital element in international security. In general, it is a valuable effort.
Historical Dictionary of Atomic Espionage, by Glenmore Trenear-Harvey. (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2011), 242 pp., bibliography, chronology, appendices, no index.
British intelligence analyst Glenmore Trenear-Harvey has written a useful compendium of espionage personalities and events associated with nuclear weapons from the 1930s to the present. In general, the entries provide summaries of activities of most of the key players and major cases. One omission is the case of Engelbert Broda, who spied for the Soviets while in England during the WW II. For reasons not explained, this dictionary does not include references, such as were found in earlier contributions to this series. And while there are fewer errors than in previous Historical Dictionaries, fact-checking remains an editorial problem that might be solved by an insistence on footnotes. For example, Elizabeth Bentley did not provide her detailed statement in September 1945 (23); that occurred in November of that year. Morton Sobell was not released from Alcatraz Prison; he was released from a prison in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.4 The first U-2 overflight of the Soviet Union took place in 1956, not 1955. (xiv) Finally, Lavrentiy Beria was made chairman of the Soviet atomic weapons program in 1944, not 1940.5
Still and overall, the Historical Dictionary of Atomic Espionage is a good place to start for those studying atomic espionage.
The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds: A Tale of Espionage, the Silk Road and the Rise of Modern China, by Eric Enno Tamm. (Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint, 2011), 496 pp., endnotes, bibliography, maps, index.
Carl Gustaf Mannerheim was born in Finland when it was a Russian province. He began his government service as a junior officer in the Imperial Russian Army and ended it as a marshal and the sixth president of independent Finland (1944–46). A major event in the middle of his career occurred in 1906, just after he had returned from Russia’s surprising defeat in the Russo-Japanese war. The Imperial Russian Army did not want to be surprised again. Then Colonel Mannerheim was tasked to undertake a secret, overland mission to China to assess its warmaking capability, while making similar judgments about the other countries encountered en route. Traveling undercover as a member of a scientific society, Mannerheim took two years to complete the trip. He wrote a detailed report of his findings that was eventually published as a book.6 After reading the book, author Eric Tamm decided to make the same trip, retracing, as nearly as possible, the original route. The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds tells both his and Mannerheim’s stories.
Tamm’s narrative approach is to alternate quotes from Mannerheim’s report about a topic or area with his own observations. Obtaining a Chinese visa or travel permit is one example. The process requires the phonetic transliteration of a Western name into Chinese characters, syllable by syllable. Thus Mannerheim became “the horse that leaps through clouds,” a much admired image in China. (156–57)
Along the way, Mannerheim and his assistants encountered French spies, who wanted to learn what he was doing as he travelled through the “stans” of Eurasia, China itself, and Tibet, where he met the Dalai Lama—even then a sensitive issue with the government of China. He was at all times closely observed by local security elements. Tamm set out alone, but locals attached themselves along the way, some helpful, some not. He was arrested twice. He, too, confronted local security elements except, curiously, in Afghanistan.
Tamm adds biographical detail about Mannerheim’s early life and his role in WW II. But the basic lessons the book teaches are the difficulties of operating undercover in a hostile environment and the value of firsthand observation when one wants to learn about a country. A side benefit is the look at local cultures and attitudes toward the West that remain unchanged from Mannerheim’s day.
The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds is a well-told, thoroughly documented, and fascinating story that illustrates the many changes that have occurred along the Silk Road since the early 20th century and how much has remained the same.
The Shah, by Abbas Milani. (New York: Palgrave, Macmillan, 2011), 488 pp., endnotes, index.
The name “Iran” has been used by that country’s inhabitants since the days of the Sassanian empire (224–651BC). The Greeks called it Persia, the name used by Western states until 1935, when the then king, Reza Shah Pahlavi, asked that they use “Iran.” The king had had himself crowned 10 years earlier, in 1925. The ostentatious ceremony included an entourage of military and political supporters led by his six-year-old son, Crown Prince Mohammad Reza. On that day “the leisurely pace of life of Mohammad Reza…came to an end.” (34) In The Shah, Iranian-born Stanford University Professor Abbas Milani provides an elegantly written biography of the man who became the second shah of Iran and a look at his impact, which persists to this day.
This is not the first biography of the Mohammad Reza, but it is the first written without court “guidance” or by a detractor. Milani gives an unadorned account of a young man, “home-schooled with tutors,” who was sent to Switzerland, where he learned French and was exposed to “European aristocratic affluence.” (42) Other biographers have written that this “was an extraordinarily unhappy period for the Crown Prince.” (51) Milani disagrees, and so did Mohammad Reza’s sister, who would write that the crown prince was happy in the European environment, impressed “by the democratic attitudes he had seen at school” and “how he had come to realize for the first time how much economic and social disparity there was among the Iranian people of Iran.” (52)
Mohammad Reza returned to Iran in 1936. While gradually becoming involved in the political issues of the day, he found time to marry an Egyptian in Cairo. He returned with his bride in November 1939. By this time the war in Europe had started, and the political situation in Iran was challenged by the Germans and their new allies, the Soviets. Iran tried to appease the Nazis and watched the Soviets closely—at one point, 12 Iranian officers were charged “with espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union.” The British and Americans were also in the mix, vying for oil rights and for opposing gestures to the Nazis. The Germans had sent “advisors,” and while the shah vacillated with regard to German presence, conspiracies abounded. (65–68) By August 1941, Britain and its new ally, the Soviet Union, deemed inadequate the first shah’s attempts to deal with the German threat in the oil fields, and the Brits invaded Iran. The ultimate consequence of the turmoil that followed was the shah’s abdication and the reluctant assumption of power by his son.
For the next decade, the young shah endured “a baptism by fire.” (89) He survived an attempt on his life; attempted to reconcile with the clergy, whose role his father has tried to limit; and dealt with economic problems that caused riots and political controversies. Those controversies were aggravated by the British and the Soviets, who attempted to influence the young shah’s appointments. His precarious grasp on power during the early 1940s was evident when he hosted the 1943 Tehran Conference, where, he later wrote, “the Big Three paid me little notice.” (111) His problems with the secular nationalist politician Mohammed Mossadeq began in 1944, when the latter pushed through a bill prohibiting any new oil concessions during the war. As the shah dealt with his political problems, his marriage ended in divorce in 1947. Then there was the challenge of dealing with the insurgent Tudeh Party, which was sponsored by the Soviet Union. The shah’s fight against communism did not end when the Soviets left Iran under pressure from President Truman in 1952. By then the shah was struggling to break the British oil monopoly while countering newly elected Prime Minister Mossadeq’s attempts to nationalize the industry. This led to the shah’s temporary abdication and the now famous Operation AJAX—the CIA name; the British called it BOOT—to oust Mossadeq and restore the shah to the throne.
Milani’s treatment of AJAX/BOOT covers familiar ground, with two exceptions. The first is his aversion to Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA officer heading up AJAX. Milani casts him as “having a tendency toward self-adulating exaggeration.” As evidence, he points out first that Roosevelt’s memoir claimed “he had picked Kim Philby as a double-agent when he first saw him.”7 Then he mentions Roosevelt’s use of political connections in Iran for personal gain. (177) The second exception is his position on the CIA role in the 1953 coup. He does not doubt that the British and American operatives planned “a series of events.” He just questions whether they were decisive: “there is still some ambiguity about what actually sealed Mossadeq’s fate on August 19.” (172, 186)
Milani depicts the final 15 years of the shah’s reign as a mix of political maneuvering—foreign and domestic—and autocratic modernization, which included the troubled, though extravagant, private life of an insecure king who had come to believe he had a divine right to rule. Domestic security was beefed up by the intelligence service SAVAK, and Milani presents cases of ferreting out moles in fascinating detail. He covers the shah’s relationships with several US presidents and touches on his overtures to the Soviet Union, which disturbed Washington. In the end, the shah’s attempts to develop a nuclear program, battle Islamic extremism, do business with Iraq, and subordinate human rights to the needs of the state brought about another revolution that forced him to flee forever.
Milani’s biography includes new material from both Western and Iranian archives. He shows that there was indeed a basis for the shah’s chronic distrust of those with whom he was forced to do business, and that his methods of dealing with his opposition led to his demise. The Shah is a fair treatment of a complex man ill-suited for his role in life. Perhaps the book’s most important contribution is the background it provides to explain why Iran’s history is still influencing present-day events.
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The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda, by Ali Soufan with Daniel Freedman. (New York: W. W. Norton, 2011), 572 pp., no index.
An Islamic hadith (a statement or act attributed to the Prophet Muhammad) mentions undefeatable warriors from the Khursan region carrying black banners at “the Islamic version of Armageddon.”8 They symbolize the fanatical religious element of radical jihadist ideology. Osama bin Laden signed his declaration of jihad in Khursan; al Qaeda banners are black. (xvii) For author Ali Soufan, they are warning flags to the West. His book explains why.
After spending his teenage years in Lebanon during its civil war, Ali Soufan moved to the United States and attended Mansfield College in Pennsylvania. As Soufan considered what to do after graduation, a mentor suggested the FBI. His fraternity brothers bet he wouldn’t apply. Proving them wrong, he joined the Bureau in 1997 and left sometime after 2005. In between, he participated in several major investigations, including of the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. But his primary role was as an interrogator. Black Banners focuses on this aspect of his career. His approach to interrogation excluded the use of enhanced techniques, a subject he comments on at length—he argues the techniques don’t work and only make things worse. His interrogations took advantage of his fluency in Arabic and his detailed knowledge of Islam.
Black Banners also provides background on al Qaeda and the rationale behind the radical Islamic movement. Readers get a firsthand view of the thinking and motivations of the many terrorists he interrogated, some familiar, many not. But the book has limitations. There are no source notes, it contains many reconstructed conversations, pseudonyms are used in some cases, dates and places are often omitted, and a substantial amount of the narrative is blacked out. The redactions, including open-source testimony, were imposed by the CIA, and Soufan is very critical of the Agency’s justifications.
If Soufan is sending a message beyond the difficulties encountered by FBI agents in dealing with terrorists and the fanatical zeal driving al Qaeda followers, it is that enhanced interrogation will not extract intelligence from detainees. This is a valuable book worth close attention.
The Craft We Chose: My Life in the CIA, by Richard L. Holm. (Mountain Lake Park, MD: Mountain Lake Press, 2011), 568 pp., photos, index.
In February 1965, 29-year-old Richard Holm arrived at Brook Army Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, in an unmarked plane. Burn surgeon Captain Timothy Miller was told Holm was a missionary who had suffered severe burns in Africa. Miller suspected there was more to the story, but he turned his attention to his patient, who could not see and could barely speak. His recovery would be long and difficult. Holm lost one eye and could barely see out of the other. Multiple painful surgeries followed. As Miller, now chief of Plastic Surgery at UCLA Medical School, observes in his foreword to this book, “you cannot avoid hurting a burn victim on a daily basis.” Holm “dealt with the pain by making jokes.” (11) A year later Holm was flown to Walter Reed Army Hospital, where he received a corneal transplant and finally saw Miller. By then, Miller had learned that his “missionary” patient had been injured in an airplane crash while on a CIA operation. The Craft We Chose tells that story and details other adventures from Holm’s 35-year Agency career, which spanned 11 directors.
The first edition of Holm’s memoir, The American Agent, was published in the United Kingdom in 2003.9 This revised and expanded American edition adds new material about the crash of his T-28 in the northeastern Congo. Holm was badly burned, and a local witch doctor applied a tribal salve that kept him alive until a Belgian helicopter rescued him. The first chopper crashed, but the second one got him out. The Air Force sent a Boeing 707 to bring him the rest of the way home.
Holm’s CIA career began in 1960 with a visit to the Agency recruiting office in Washington, DC. He had just completed his service with the Army Counterintelligence Corps in France. The offer of a promised-to-be-upwardly mobile position in the file room was politely but firmly declined. He pressed for something more exhilarating, using his fluency in French, overseas experience, and college degree as leverage. Given the option to wait and join the clandestine service when openings became available, he accepted. After completing the operations course in late 1961, he volunteered for paramilitary training, realizing that meant an assignment in Southeast Asia. He served two years in Laos and Thailand and describes the challenges of recruiting and running local tribesmen to collect intelligence while adapting to a changing political environment at home.
Holm liked working in the field and after returning to Washington was pleased to learn he would be sent to the turbulent Congo in 1964. His description of the Agency’s mission there and operational hurdles he encountered are a vivid account of what young officers can expect when working in newly created nations. It was this assignment that was cut short by the plane crash.
The Craft We Chose tells how, after more than two years of extensive reconstructive surgeries and rehabilitation, and with the help and encouragement of his colleagues, including CIA Director Richard Helms, Holm decided to return to the Agency and continue his career.
By May 1967, Holm was working in the Far East Division, studying Chinese, learning to play tennis again, and starting a family. Then came a tour in Malaysia and two in China. His descriptions of these assignments show what it is like to recruit and handle agents while dealing with routine station operations. Holm returned to Headquarters in 1981 for a career-broadening assignment on the Congressional Affairs Staff. But it didn’t last long. In January 1982, he was selected by the director of operations to take over what was then called the “Terrorist Group,” a 17-person unit that was the only element in the Agency tracking global terrorism. After quickly changing the name to the “Counter Terrorist Group” (CTG), (404) Holm spent the next two years expanding the team to meet operational demands. William Buckley—who would later be kidnapped and killed in Lebanon—and William Daugherty, one of the three CIA officers the Iranians had taken hostage in 1979, soon joined the group. Analysts from other Agency elements were also added. After two years on the job, Holm had quadrupled the size of the CTG. He then left for Brussels.
Holm served undercover most of his career, but while in Brussels, he was named in the press by Bob Woodward. William Casey had asked Holm to brief Woodward, off the record, when he was still chief of the CTG, but Woodward failed to honor the conditions of the meeting. Among other complications this event created was the need to explain to his children what he really did, a situation confronted by most clandestine service officers at some point.
After Brussels, Holm returned to Headquarters to head the Career Management Staff of the Directorate of Operations. His discussion of this position, which he held for two years, gives readers a good view of how the careers of operations officers are managed.
Holm’s last overseas assignment was in Paris. He writes of developing a relationship with Ambassador Pamela Harriman and of the problems created when one of his officers was exposed to the French during an operation. The incident led to a series of controversial investigations and unwanted press exposure.
At the end of his Paris assignment, Holm returned to Headquarters, where he received the Agency’s highest award, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, and then retired. In the final chapter, Holm reflects on his long career and the changes that have occurred since he first signed on. Of the many lessons he learned, he stresses that “We sometimes need to deal with individuals who aren’t much better than those we are battling.… We simply can’t infiltrate the worst of the worst using only instruments that are pure as the driven snow.” (544)
The Craft We Chose is a unique contribution to the literature of intelligence, demonstrating what can be done when one has talent, is motivated, and refuses to be overcome by adversity.
The Interrogator: An Education, by Glenn Carle. (New York: Nation Books, 2011), 321 pp., index.
Glenn Carle joined the CIA after graduating from Harvard. After a number of overseas tours, he was working at Headquarters when he was assigned to interrogate a high-value detainee captured shortly after 9/11. Carle had no formal training as an interrogator, but he was fluent in the language of the detainee and was experienced in dealing with agents overseas. In The Interrogator, Carle explains how the assignment changed his life and that of the detainee identified by the pseudonym CAPTUS.
Like many memoirs, this one lacks source notes.10 That is not necessarily a problem since authors seek to express a viewpoint on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, as most media commentators do every day. It is often the case, however, that unsourced memoirs are associated with controversy, and The Interrogator falls in this category. Part of the controversy stems from what Carle judges to be unwarranted redactions, blacked-out words, phrases, and paragraphs deemed by publication reviewers to endanger sources and methods. (291)
The more important controversial aspect, however, is Carle’s reaction to an implicit order to employ, or at least not interfere with others employing so-called enhanced interrogation techniques to get CAPTUS to talk. Carle argues that his superiors had concluded CAPTUS knew a great deal about al Qaeda plans and says they applied pressure on him to learn just what the detainee knew by using enhanced interrogation techniques if necessary. The situation is complicated by two factors. First, Carle disagrees with the use of the techniques because, he says, they don’t work; he asserts that more conventional, low-key approaches do. Moreover, Carle cites CIA documents that he claims state that it is not CIA policy to employ such techniques if they amount to torture. Second, Carle writes that extended interrogations of CAPTUS led him to conclude the detainee was not the source others thought him to be and thus couldn’t provide the intelligence they anticipated. When Carle refused to go along with the use of harsh techniques, he was withdrawn from the case and sent home. Carle notes, by way of vindication, “that CAPTUS had been, at last, released,” an action not afforded to high-value targets.
While The Interrogator concentrates on the CAPTUS case, readers also learn how operations officers deal with strains on family life and the consequences of career-changing decisions. In his afterword, Carle reiterates his views on enhanced interrogation and argues that the Agency should adhere to the policies expressed in the interrogations manuals because they are effective and because following them is the right thing to do.
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The Art of Betrayal: Life and Death in the British Secret Service, by Gordon Corera. (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2011), 472 pp., endnotes, photos, index.
“It’s such dirty business that it’s only suitable for gentlemen,” said an unnamed old-school member of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). The KGB agreed and successfully recruited a number of young British gentlemen. The Art of Betrayal begins after WW II—when “MI6 was a gentlemen’s club and gentlemen could always be trusted.”(71) It was a time when young gentlemen were in positions of power, the service didn’t officially exist, a woman’s place was in the secretarial pool, and the chief was known only as “C.” By the time the book ends, recruiters openly visit universities, the chief gives public talks in true name, women have headed stations, and adversaries steal secrets by using the internet or oppose the government through acts of terror. (71)
Gordon Corera, security correspondent for the BBC, covers some familiar ground but with a slight change in emphasis—“at the heart of this book lie the personal accounts of men and women” who have served in “different ways in different countries.”(2) His story begins in the early 1950s in Vienna, where a would-be defector is sent back across the curtain to perform an assignment in order to earn his freedom; he is never seen again. Those were dangerous days for agents, when intelligence about the Soviets was scarce and “the Whitehall mandarins frequently expressed their frustration at the poverty of information” as they struggled to foresee Stalin’s next move.
Corera goes on to tell how MI6 gradually improved its capabilities, how it learned to cooperate with the Americans and their Office of Policy Coordination (a component eventually absorbed into the CIA’s Directorate for Plans), how 23 year old Daphne Park (later a baroness) defied custom and became an important case officer, and how Kim Philby managed to wreak havoc until his dismissal in 1951. The story continues with operations in Africa after the colonies gained independence. Then Corera shows how the Penkovsky case became a turning point for MI6 as it began to develop its modern espionage expertise under Harold Shergold, while the molehunt brought on by KGB defector Anatoliy Golitsyn complicated the service’s attempts to deal with Soviet penetrations in the Admiralty, the government, and MI6 itself.
The Philby case surfaces again when Corera examines its impact on MI6 and the KGB. “In the end I suspect Philby made a mockery of everyone, particularly ourselves,” wrote his former controller, Yuri Modin. (247) Things improved in the late 1970s with recruitment of Oleg Gordievsky, and Corera looks at that case in detail. With the end of the Cold War, MI6 began to focus on new threats, while mindful that the KGB was still active under a new name. There was a new degree of openness, as the UK ambassador discovered when his Russian driver gave an interview admitting he spied on the British for the KGB. It was also the time, Corera writes, when Vasili Mitrokhin escaped to Britain with copies of KGB files that put a full stop to many old cases and some new ones. Overseas, MI6 began to operate once again in Afghanistan, a country that had bested Britain in two wars in the 19th century. Corera reveals that MI6 was authorized to help the CIA find Osama bin Laden, with the stipulation that he be well treated if captured. In the end, “not enough intelligence came through to make it worthwhile.” (313) But the most significant events for MI6 were the decisions to become legally avowed in 1994 and to build a new headquarters. There was “a little sorrow” by some old-timers, Chief Sir Colin McColl said of the former, and some ridicule about the headquarters, an unusual building dubbed “Lego house.”
After a discussion of the intelligence controversy surrounding Britain’s role in the run-up to the Iraq War, Art of Betrayal ends with some reflections on the changes that have occurred since WW II and observes that “the world of Daphne Park…Philby, Penkovsky and Shergold is still there if you look hard enough.” (401) A fine overview, well told and well documented.
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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.