Library

 

The Intelligence Officer's Bookshelf

Intelligence in Recent Public Literature

Compiled and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake


This section contains brief reviews of recent books of interest to both the intelligence professional and the student of intelligence.

Bob Graham, with Jeff Nussbaum. Intelligence Matters: The CIA, the FBI, Saudi Arabia, and the Failure of American's War on Terror. New York: Random House, 2004. 296 pages, endnotes, appendix, index.

Retiring Florida Senator Bob Graham served on the Select Committee on Intelligence for 10 years, including 18 months as chairman. During his service, he co-chaired, with then-Representative Porter Goss, the House-Senate Joint Inquiry into the Intelligence Community's performance prior to the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.[1] Intelligence Matters is a summary of his role in the joint investigation, his views on the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and his recommendations for reform of the Intelligence Community.

The book is divided into two parts.  The first goes over events leading up to the 9/11 attacks and includes a very “brief history of US intelligence” (11ff), before following the trail of two of the airplane hijackers—Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar—as they prepared for 9/11. In this mix, Graham critiques the performance of the Intelligence Community players with even severity, while acknowledging that budget cuts in 2001 forced the CIA “to reduce its HUMINT staff by approximately 20 percent” (69), with foreseeable consequences in performance. His subsequent surprise when he learned from Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) George Tenet that it would take at least five years to train junior replacements is somewhat puzzling.

The second part of the book deals with the political and intelligence aftermath of 9/11. The political topics include the difficulty of getting administration support for the Joint Committee, the role of the Saudis in 9/11, the problems associated with creating a national homeland security agency, and the November 2002 elections. The intelligence aspects cover the committee hearings, the congressional leaks of National Security Agency testimony, and the discovery of FBI files in San Diego that showed, among other things, that one of the hijackers lived “in the home of an FBI asset” (160). There are comments on the now familiar weapons of mass destruction issue, which led to Director Tenet's “slam dunk” assessment in the run up to the Iraq war, and the battles over declassification of CIA data, all sprinkled with candid anecdotes about dealings with the heads of the intelligence agencies.

The last three chapters in the book will stimulate considerable debate. In his conclusions, Graham lists 11 ways that the present administration is not serving the country's intelligence interests well. In an appendix called “Lessons Learned,” he discusses “five of the major problems and challenges for American intelligence” (237). Several are general in nature and open to multiple interpretations. For example, the first charges that “we have failed to adapt to a changing adversary and global environment.” The fourth, on the other hand, is hard to understand as it criticizes the “Intelligence Community” for not implementing “the policies necessary to recruit human intelligence staff, to train them, diversify them, reward or sanction them, or maintain their skills,” policies that the community has long had in place. The final chapter contains the 19 recommendations from the joint inquiry including one that calls for reorganization of the Intelligence Community to include a “Director of National Intelligence with appropriate staff” that should be a cabinet-level appointment (255).

Senator Graham has shared some interesting insights on how things work in Washington, and, although some of his views are controversial, he more than justifies the conclusion that intelligence matters.

[Top of page]

 

Roger Ford. Steel From The Sky: The Jedburgh Raiders, France 1944. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2004. 292 pages, appendices, maps, index.

After the fall of France in 1940, the British formed the Special Operations Executive (SOE), a clandestine paramilitary organization to operate behind enemy lines and aid partisan resistance groups. Occupied France was particularly important since it was clear to all that it would have to be invaded before the war could be won and that coordinated resistance would be essential. SOE sent agents to arrange support to French resistance groups, but in many cases they were not able to assess the partisans' military capabilities. British men on the ground were needed, SOE concluded. In December 1942, a proposal for three-man liaison teams—to include Americans and Frenchmen—was approved. The Americans were to come from the recently created Special Operations Branch of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).[2] The teams were called “Jedburghs.”

Steel From The Sky is the first book about the Jedburghs. Before telling the stories of many of the teams in the field, author Roger Ford describes how they evolved organizationally. Then he recounts the seemingly endless—even in wartime—bureaucratic struggles for power within SOE, the inter-allied battles with the French and OSS over responsibilities, and the team training programs and equipment that had to be developed from scratch. He also discusses misconceptions surrounding team composition[3] and the origin of the name Jedburgh—it was next on a list of codewords, not derived from a Scottish town, as some authors have suggested.[4] Unfortunately, he does not provide source notes; however, he does mention some sources in the narrative that check out well, and he includes a useful appendix with all the Jedburgh teams listed by codename and member names.

Ford leaves no doubt that SOE was as anxious not to share responsibility as OSS Director Donovan was adamant that they do so. This conflict, along with other problems, resulted in a bureaucratic decision not to deploy any Jedburgh team before the invasion of France. Ford considers this decision a serious operational flaw, since it limited the operational missions that could be executed. A major post-invasion complication came when the French demanded that command be turned over to French team members when on French soil, an unanticipated development that caused considerable confusion.

In the end, more than 90 Jedburgh teams—four with two members only—were inserted into France, Belgium, and Holland. Events moved so fast that those in the latter two countries were not needed for their original purpose. Most of the book is devoted to telling the team stories in eight parts corresponding to the regions of France where they operated. Logistical and communication problems were a common complaint. Nearly all the operations are mentioned, although the amount of detail is limited by the records available. Three examples are included to illustrate the missions involved.

The first Jedburgh team—designated HUGH—was inserted on 6 June 1944. It had a dual mission of liaising with the resistance and assisting a British Special Air Service (SAS) unit already in western France. HUGH's commander viewed SAS—which he called “Sad Athletic Sacks”—as a support and tactical liability. Thus, he concentrated on the partisan mission, although he discovered that that included dealing with a power struggle between two French resistance groups. In the end, the team was modestly successful in channeling German troops by destroying bridges and railroads.

The JUDE mission turned to near catastrophe when an alert message noting 40 “friends” were on the way was misinterpreted to mean 40 people, not aircraft. The drop zone was a busy place, and the chaos increased when the demolition supplies being delivered exploded on impact. The partisans were not well trained and the American Seventh Army did not receive the help it expected as it advanced up the Rhone Valley.

Team BRUCE was an example of diminished operational effectiveness because it was not inserted until the night of 14 August. To make matters worse, it missed the drop zone by 30 kilometers. Comprising Maj. William Colby (later a director of the CIA), a French lieutenant, and a French senior enlisted radio operator, it eventually linked up with the DONKEYMAN resistance network that was reluctant to conduct operations. The reason became clear later when it was learned that the network was headed by a German double agent. As the favorable course of the war in France became evident, the role of the resistance diminished and BRUCE ended up gathering intelligence rather than fighting Germans. The double agent prudently decided to revise his loyalties.

While Ford stops short of concluding that the Jedburgh program made a significant difference to the war effort and leaves no doubt that the Jedburghs themselves were dissatisfied with the quality of support in the field, his final assessment of the program is that “for an endeavor essentially experimental in nature . . . it was a considerable success” (256).

Whether or not the reader agrees with his conclusions, Ford has provided a thorough assessment of the program.

[Top of page]

 

Clarence Ashley. CIA SpyMaster. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, Inc., 2004. 350 pages, endnotes, photos, index.

When Clarence Ashley analyzed strategic missile capabilities for the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1960s, he knew nothing of George Kisevalter, a case officer who had handled the first Soviet GRU agent run by the CIA. It was only in 1973, after both had left the Agency, that they met and became business associates in Virginia. A close friendship developed and, as he learned more about Kisevalter's adventures, Ashley realized there was a life story here that needed to be told. It took considerable persuasion, but, in 1991, with the Cold War over and classification no longer a major barrier, Kisevalter finally agreed to be interviewed and recorded, and the foundation for CIA SpyMaster was laid.

George Kisevalter's career in intelligence was anything but typical by today's standards. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, he moved to the United States in 1916 when his father, a reserve officer in the Russian Army, was appointed by the Czar to purchase weapons. After the Bolshevik revolution, the Kisevalters were stranded and eventually became US citizens. Young George went to Stuyvesant High School in New York, where he studied mathematics and chemistry and won the New York State Chess Championship in his spare time. In 1926, he entered Dartmouth College—a classmate of Nelson Rockefeller, to whom he sometimes lent money. During the 1930s, Kisevalter married, joined the army reserve, and worked at various engineering jobs in New York. He spent most of World War II in Alaska where he was involved with the lend-lease program supporting the Russian war effort. David Chavchavadze—later to serve with Kisevalter in the CIA—was his top sergeant.

In 1944, Kisevalter was transferred to military intelligence at Camp Ritchie, Maryland, where he worked on Soviet intelligence projects. Because he was also fluent in German, he was sent to Fort Hunt, Virginia, in 1946 to interview Reinhard Gehlen, who would later head the German BND, about his knowledge of Soviet intelligence. After being discharged, Kisevalter worked for a few years in an enterprise that harvested alfalfa, until a childhood friend suggested that he go to work for the CIA. In 1951, he became a GS-14 branch chief in the Soviet Division, assigned to operations in the Far East. It was on his return from a trip to Hong Kong in 1953 that he became involved in one of the most famous CIA cases.

The story of Pyotr Popov has been told elsewhere,[5] but the version that Kisevalter told Ashley adds details. Popov, a GRU major, was a walk-in at the CIA station in Vienna. His successful handling required someone with the ability to speak peasant Russian and develop his confidence—Kisevalter was just the man. The case lasted nearly six years before ending in Moscow where Popov was imprisoned, tried, and executed. Ashley draws on the firsthand accounts of other CIA officers involved to show the value of Popov's contributions and tell how the case reached its end.

The next major case in Kisevalter's career involved another GRU walk-in, this time a colonel named Oleg Penkovskiy, who was handled jointly with the British Special Intelligence Service. Considered one of the most important Soviet agents ever recruited, Penkovskiy provided information that was critical to the resolution of the Cuban missile crisis.[6] The pressures of the case created problems for Kisevalter, but he played his part through the last meeting with Penkovskiy in Paris. Kisevalter followed the final days of the case from CIA headquarters. Ashley's comments on Penkovskiy's arrest, trial, and execution are based on interviews with other participants.

Kisevalter had one more, albeit oblique, contact with the Penkovskiy case. Only one participant, British businessman Greville Wynne, tried to enhance his personal status in the affair when he wrote a book, claiming, among other exaggerations, that Penkovskiy had been flown overnight to the United States to meet President Kennedy.[7] British author Nigel West called Wynne a liar and was sued for his trouble.[8] West asked Kisevalter to testify on his behalf. Testimony in open court was not possible, but Kisevalter knew that West was right and gave a deposition to that effect. The case ended with Wynne's death before it came to trial.

The years between the Penkovskiy case and Kisevalter's retirement in 1970 saw him involved in a number of agent recruitments in various parts of the world, which Ashley describes. The most important, and by far the most controversial, concerned two KGB walk-ins. The first, Anatoli Golitsyn, precipitated a CIA hunt for a KGB mole and claimed that the second walk-in, Yuri Nosenko, was a fake defector. Ashley reviews the cases in detail based on his conversations with Kisevalter and Nosenko. He concludes that Kisevalter “never accepted the case for a mole in the CIA or the argument that Nosenko was planted by the KGB” (283), although he acknowledges that he did not volunteer his opinion even after he learned of Nosenko's incarceration under harsh conditions. After the case was officially resolved, Kisevalter and Nosenko became friends.

Kisevalter's final assignment was to the CIA training facility for new officers. Few there will forget his formal lectures or his informal conversations. Promoted to super grade (GS-16), the first case officer to achieve that rank without serving as a manager, he also received the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the Agency's highest award. There was one more honor to come his way: In 1997, when the CIA celebrated its 50th anniversary, Kisevalter was designated one of 50 Trailblazers for his many contributions to the profession, the only case officer so recognized. Less than two months later, he was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.

CIA SpyMaster is a sympathetic biography of a unique CIA intelligence officer who served his adopted country with honor and dedication.

[Top of page]

 


Norman Polmar and Thomas B. Allen. SPY BOOK: The Encyclopedia of Espionage, 2nd Edition. New York: Random House, 2004. 719 pages, bibliography, appendices, photos, chronology, glossary, no index.

Among the various encyclopedias of espionage,[9] this one is the most up to date and, with the corrections made in this edition, the most accurate, despite the fact that it persists in including the oxymoron defector-in-place. The more than 3,500 intelligence-related entries—cases, personalities, terminology, organizations—are arranged alphabetically and contain brief cross references to related items in the book. In general, the material is not sourced, although there are occasional references to specific books. A number of errors remain uncorrected and one should be cautious if detail is important to one's task. A few examples make the point: the date of Yuri Nosenko's first contact with the CIA (1962, not 1963); calling Nosenko a double agent; and the statement on page 430 that The Penkovskiy Papers were “black propaganda.” In the latter case, while the source of the papers was disguised, their content was accurate, and thus they fail the black propaganda test. The entry on Philby also has many errors: He was not recruited at Cambridge as alleged (nor were any of the other four members of the Cambridge ring); he was not “the third man in the Cambridge spy ring” (he was the first); several details of his Vienna days are wrong; his second wife never worked at Bletchley Park; KGB officer Konstantin Volkov was not a defector; and James Angleton was neither the head of the CIA's Office of Strategic Operations, nor the one who convinced the Director of Central Intelligence that Philby was a Soviet agent.

As with most reference works of its kind, the thematic emphasis is on the conflict between the Soviet Union/Russia and the Western nations and their intelligence services, although there are relatively long entries on China and Japan and a short new entry on terrorist intelligence. No mention is made of information warfare or the problems that e-mail and the World Wide Web have created for counterintelligence. Recent cases added to this edition include: Robert Hanssen, Katrina Leung (PARLOR MAID), and Ana Belen Montez (the Cuban agent in DIA).[10]

Despite the deficiencies noted, in the absence of a documented casebook on intelligence, Polmar and Allen have provided the next best thing. The authors also present a chronology of wars and events mentioned in the book that spans the period 1800 BC to the present. The reference work should be of value to students, professors, and general readers.

[Top of page]

 

Peter Lance. Cover Up: What the Government is Still Hiding about the War On Terror. New York: Regan Books, Harper Collins Publishers, 2004. 360 pages, endnotes, appendices, photos, index.

In his impressive previous book, 1000 Days For Revenge, that deals with the intelligence failures prior to 9/11, author Peter Lance suggests en passant that the explosion of TWA 800 could have been a terrorist act, not the result of frayed wiring. In Cover Up, he argues that “terror mastermind Ramzi Yousef ordered the bombing of TWA 800” from his supermax prison cell in order to induce a mistrial in his own case (5). It gets worse: Lance also charges that he warned the FBI and the Department of Justice about the TWA 800 bombing and they did nothing—cover up. The government's reaction may not seem so unusual when it becomes clear that Lance's source was a supermax inmate colleague of Yousef, connected to organized crime and also an FBI informant. Finally, Lance is furious because he provided the 9/11 Commission with questions and his supporting materials and they ignored them all. At the end of the book, he is far afield in criticizing the commission for the “catastrophic mistake” of invading Baghdad and the consequent al-Qa'ida threat (254).

Who is right here? The secondary sources are not much help. Neither are the uncorroborated interviews. Cover Up is speculation mixed with sour grapes until real evidence is produced.

[Top of page]

 

Janet Morgan. The Secrets of Rue St. Roch: Intelligence Operations Behind Enemy Lines in the First World War. London: Allen Lane, 2004. 408 pages, endnotes, appendix, photos, index.

The 7th Baron Balfour of Burleigh died in 1967, but it was not until 1995 that his son, John, the 8th Baron, and his wife, Janet Morgan, finally opened the sealed Wellington chest that contained the story of his father's intelligence activities during World War I. The records were impressive: agent names, photos, codes, case files, even the story of an agent dispatched behind enemy lines in a balloon. John had seen the contents briefly years before and his father mentioned them on occasion. But it was not until his wife prodded him that the discovery was finally made. How had Lord Balfour—or Capt. George Bruce, as he was in 1917—become involved in espionage? Who had he worked with? What had they done? Where had they done it? John and his wife decided to find the answers. They began by extracting all the names and addresses in Lord Balfour's records and then locating and interviewing surviving participants or family members. After nearly 10 years and many travels, they pieced together the story of what came to be called the Luxembourg network and Morgan reveals them all in The Secrets of Rue St. Roch.

During World War I, a time when espionage networks were standard tradecraft, British military intelligence ran some 6,000 agents in Europe, all tasked with finding out what Germany was doing militarily and economically. On the counterintelligence side, a series of Permit Offices were established in cooperation with the French security service, to interview persons who had managed to cross the German border into France and determine whether they were innocent travelers or potential spies. One of these offices, staffed by only four officers and an administrative assistant—the multilingual Miss Dorothy Done—was located in a “narrow five-storey building . . . guarded by an orderly” at No. 41 Rue St. Roch (9). It was from here that Capt. Bruce would create and operate a very successful troop- and train-monitoring network working out of Luxembourg.

Two of the most successful “No. 41” agents were difficult recruitments for different reasons. Madame Lise Rischard was visiting her daughter in Paris from Luxembourg when spotted by the Permit Office. A distinguished lady married to a doctor, she had never given thought to espionage. But problems arose when she tried to return to Luxembourg and she learned that only Capt. Bruce could help . . . for a consideration. Albert Baschwitz was a Belgian noncommissioned officer who volunteered his services to Bruce through the mail. After a series of adventures, he eventually joined Rischard in Luxembourg, traveling clandestinely by balloon—perhaps the first agent insertion by that method.

Morgan tells the story of how these amateur spies successfully established a train monitoring network, many members of which were recruited by the once-reluctant Rischard. Bruce and his colleagues also developed their own agent codes and subsidized a Luxembourg newspaper routinely sent to Paris—Der Landwirt—which ran coded messages and served as a communication channel. At other times, face-to-face meetings were arranged in Switzerland. In those days, agents had to learn on the job, and they earned high marks.

In the telling of this unusual espionage story, Morgan provides historical context about the war and the Luxembourg network's role in it. She also describes the often complicated arrangements with the other British and French intelligence services whose cooperation was essential—Capt. Mansfield Cumming, the first “C,”[11] crosses her stage from time to time. But more than all that, she delivers a fascinating narrative of a time when case officer and agent problems were much the same as today, but the pace of life was much slower. As Sir Colin McCall—himself a former “C”—writes in the preface, Janet Morgan “highlights some important truths . . . the vital need for trust between the players, and, as part and parcel of this, the constant need for the human touch in addressing people's problems and anxieties.”

The Secrets of Rue St. Roch is a story of classic military intelligence delightfully told by an author with an unusual sensitivity for the subject—intelligence history at its best.

[Top of page]

 

Rosemary Dew, with Pat Pope. No Backup: My Life as a Female Special FBI Agent. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2004. 302 pages, endnotes, index.

When government employees with exemplary records experience persistent industrial-grade sexual harassment on the job, they may seek recourse through channels, become whistle-blowers, or resign. By 1990, FBI Special Agent Rosemary Dew had tried the first option without success, decided against the second, and so, reluctantly, resigned after nearly 13 years as an FBI special agent. It would be another 13 years before she wrote of her experiences. Why did she wait so long?

No Backup has two parts, both well documented. The first covers the author's Bureau career that began in 1977, when, as a recently divorced mother of two, she entered the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia—one of the first four females to become special agents. After graduation, she was assigned to law enforcement duties in the San Francisco Bay area where she surveiled members of the Weather Underground, was stalked by a lunatic who thought he was being followed by the CIA and NSA, posed as a prostitute searching for Black Panther fugitives, and interviewed survivors of the mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana. Her next assignment was to the Defense Language School to learn Russian, after which she was transferred to the Washington field office where she worked successively as a member of the counterintelligence and counterterrorism squads. In 1985, she became the seventh woman in FBI history to be named a government manager (GM-14) and supervisory special agent in the counterintelligence division at headquarters. It was there that, among other projects, she supervised the Bureau's role in investigating the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship. In 1987, Dew became a field supervisor in the Denver office, where she worked against white supremacists and on counterintelligence cases involving the illegal flow of embargoed technology and participated in a presidential protection detail for the first President Bush. Her final assignment was to the FBI's Inspection Staff.

The book describes several constants in her relatively brief but promising career. The positive ones include rapid promotion, awards, and commendations. The major negative aspect, which becomes a central sub-theme of the entire book, was the pervasive and persistent sexual harassment from a few male special agents, which began with the training at Quantico and continued at every stop along the way. It was one such incident during her final assignment—related in embarrassing detail (191–220)—that precipitated her abrupt resignation. And, as she makes brutally clear, citing specific incidents, she did not endure this treatment alone.

In part two of the book, Dew discusses what she learned about the FBI from its creation to the present. She reviews the Hoover legacy with its emphasis on law enforcement and the consequences that has had for counterintelligence. In the process, she examines the effect of the Bureau's reluctance to cooperate with other intelligence agencies, the impact of several discomforting recent espionage and terrorist cases—including those of Richard Miller, Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen, and Katrina Leung—and the failures associated with 9/11. Since she was not involved, she merely gives views based on her experience. In a chapter titled “Scared of Change,” Dew makes a series of specific recommendations aimed at long-range FBI improvement. While she acknowledges steps by the current FBI director intended to implement some of her suggestions, she leaves room for doubt that major change will occur in the near term.

So why did she write the book now? Because she realized, as she observed the FBI since 1990, that others were still experiencing the same problems—too little had changed. And, further, in a time of great need, she hoped her voice might help others see the need for reform itself.

After leaving the Bureau, Dew became a nurse, worked as a defense consultant, developed antisubmarine software programs, served on a presidential advisory committee on information technology and national security, and became a chemical weapons inspector. And, this talented woman has written a very interesting book.

[Top of page]

 

Paul Pillar. Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy. 2nd edition. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2004. 272 pages, endnotes, index.

The ideas and principles discussed in the first edition of this book, published before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, have not changed. The 43-page introduction to this edition addresses post-9/11 questions: “What really has changed, and what has not? And what are the opportunities and pitfalls of the surge of interest in counterterrorism?” (viii). One presumable change, suggests Pillar, is the argument of some analysts “that terrorism was not a significant threat to the United States and that its costs were low and manageable” (xi).[12] This despite the February 2001 statement to Congress of then-Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, in which he “placed international terrorism and specifically al-Qa'ida at the top of the list of dangers” (xxxviii). Thus, 9/11 did not cause a change in the Intelligence Community's awareness of the terrorist threat, Pillar concludes; rather, it increased public awareness of the threat.

Other topics covered in this edition include the reaction to 9/11 in Congress and the investigations by the congressional committees. Pillar also stresses the importance of the “cell-by-cell, terrorist-by-terrorist disruption of terrorist infrastructures;” the substantial disruption of “al-Qa'ida since 9/11 . . . an organization markedly less capable than it was two years ago—although still capable enough . . . .” (xli); and the costs of terrorism as shaped by the US response to the threat. He acknowledges that no compromises can be made with extremists, but suggests there made be some avenues worth approaching with other countries.

Pillar, a former deputy chief of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center, argues that the concept of a war on terrorism is less like World War II and more akin to the war on drugs or the war on poverty—i.e., amorphous and hard to pin down. A principal theme of the book builds on that point: “Minimizing terrorism against US interests depends on the health and wisdom of overall foreign policy,” as well as a strong military. In this regard, he advocates getting foreign partners involved. Overall, this book presents a temperate and discerning analysis with practical insights aimed at dealing with a problem that is part of our daily life and yet persistently resists attempts to stamp it out.

[Top of page]

 

Russell Miller. Codename TRICYCLE: The True Story of the Second World War's Most Extraordinary Double Agent. London: Secker & Warburg, 2004. 290 pages, endnotes, appendices, photos, index.

The World War II British double-agent operation run by MI5—first made public in John Masterman's book, The Double Cross System—was one of the most successful undertakings of its kind for two principal reasons: First, the agent-handling tradecraft was excellent; second, the British had broken the Abwehr—the German Security Service—codes used to send instructions and comments to their “agents” so that London had nearly perfect feedback, a genuine basis for trusting the more than 20 double agents. One of the early recruits, Dusko Popov, was a multilingual Yugoslav lawyer solicited by the Abwehr in Belgrade in mid-1940 to work against Britain and eventually America. Popov reported the approach to MI6, which handled overseas operations, and, after careful screening, was given the codename TRICYCLE. In 1974, he published his autobiography, Spy Counterspy, which made several controversial claims. Foremost among them was that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had known about the planned attack on Pearl Harbor beforehand but had failed to warn the country. Only marginally less outrageous were Popov's claims to have been the model for James Bond.

Journalist Russell Miller adds new details to the TRICYCLE story based on recently released documents in British and US national archives and papers provided by the Popov family. He provides many interesting new facts about the Double Cross System and TRICYCLE's handing by MI5, although analysis of their significance in some cases is open to challenge. An example concerns the claim, made by Popov in his book and Miller in his, that TRICYCLE was “the inspiration for” or “rather in the mould of” James Bond (5). Yet the quotations from British intelligence files that Miller cites as evidence raise their own doubts. Miller's assessments that Popov had a greater attraction for women “than might be expected from his personal appearance,” had the facial characteristics of a “Mongolian Slav,” was “a careless dresser,” and was “short, and not handsome” (6) are not suggestive of the James Bonds known to movie goers.[13]

There are also some inaccuracies about the British intelligence players that he mentions. For example, his comment that “Kim Philby . . . ran MI6 operations on the Iberian peninsula” (50) is untrue; Philby was a counterespionage officer and he studied, but did not run, operations.

Miller's difficulties increase when he turns to the American side of the TRICYCLE story. Tasked by the Germans to go to the United States and establish agent networks and find answers to a questionnaire provide by the Abwehr, Popov, in coordination with British intelligence, arrived in New York on 10 August 1941 where he contacted the MI6 station and the FBI. The questionnaire was in the form of a microdot, the first that the Bureau had ever seen. It contained several questions about the naval base at Pearl Harbor. According to Miller, “until the end of his life, Popov was convinced that Hoover, motivated by personal animosity [toward Popov], was responsible for ignoring the clear warning that he had brought with him to the United States that Japan was going to attack Pearl Harbor” (115). The “personal animosity” charge followed from Hoover's disapproval of the “Balkan playboy” cover persona that Popov executed with skill and persistence.[14] In his book, Popov claims that Hoover did not even send the questionnaire to the White House, the War Department, or the Navy Department. In his well-documented study of these questions, intelligence scholar Thomas F. Troy shows beyond any doubt that Popov is wrong: The questionnaire was sent to the principal agencies involved, although they did nothing.[15] Troy also suggests that if the Pearl Harbor message was as clear as Popov and some historians later claimed, the British would not have relied on a low-level double agent to be the messenger. Miller cites MI5 comments that the Pearl Harbor data should have been transmitted separately, but “no one ever dreamed Hoover would be such a bloody fool” (254–55). He suggests another interpretation might be that the British did not want the Americans to take preventive action that might keep them out of the war and, thus, used TRICYCLE as a courier knowing he was unlikely to get much attention. Miller does not resolve this issue, although he lays out the various sides well.

Codename TRICYCLE adds much new material about Popov's personal life before World War II and in the European business world after the war, but it neglects to mention the prison term he served for financial irregularities. And although Popv was unquestionably a valuable double agent for four years, nothing in the book or his file supports the author's contention that TRICYCLE was the “most extraordinary double agent” in the Second World War. Most experts would give that accolade to Juan Pujo, codenamed GARBO. Finally, the careless errors and many undocumented comments place the book in the easy-to-read-but-of-limited-scholarly-value category.

[Top of page]

 

Jean M. Humez. Harriet Tubman: The Life and the Life Stories. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2003. 471 pages, endnotes, bibliography, appendices, photos, index.

In the first modern biography of Harriet Tubman (nee Ross), Jean Humez documents the story of this famous slave born in Maryland in about 1820. Best known for her work with the Underground Railroad in the 10 years preceding the Civil War, Tubman also served as a Union scout or spy in South Carolina through most of the war. Although she never learned to read or write, she learned the tradecraft of the clandestine life the old fashioned way and was never caught.

The bulk of the book is devoted to stories of Tubman's life, before, during, and after the war, which she dictated to others or were reported by journalists and friends. The details of her spying days are told in one chapter. It is not clear just how she came to serve the Union Army in the Sea Islands off South Carolina and Georgia, but records show that she was working out of Beaufort, South Carolina, in May 1862. Union troops mounted expeditions from the Islands and Tubman did the preliminary scouting. Her most famous operation was the Combahee River Raid in which she commanded a group of scouts with results that led to the capture of 800 slaves from their southern owners. She also found time to be a nurse in the hospitals and, toward the end of the war, went to Washington to reveal their deplorable conditions.

Humez has collected many stories and anecdotes about Tubman and provides an extensive bibliography of primary sources. Although documentary gaps in her life story remain, Harriet Tubman's service to the Union is solidly recorded, and this volume is a fitting tribute to a remarkable life.

[Top of page]

 

Paul Todd and Jonathan Bloch. Global Intelligence: The World's Secret Services Today. New York: Zed Books Ltd., 2003. 240 pages, end-of-chapter notes, appendix, index.

Paul Todd is a British Cold War historian specializing in the Middle East. Jonathan Bloch is a London businessman and one-time contributor to Dirty Work 2: The CIA in Africa, edited by Philip Agee. Their current book looks at the world of intelligence after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They assume that the end of the Cold War left intelligence agencies scrambling for work, never realizing that the mission finds the agency, not the other way around. Their book covers a wide range of intelligence and terrorism issues and countries. One chapter considers, among other topics, whether terrorism and intelligence are Siamese twins. There is also a chapter on surveillance technology stressing the privacy and civil rights aspects. Several chapters comment, in order, on US intelligence, the European Union, Russian intelligence, Israeli security issues, and what the authors call “intelligence in the South,” meaning the Middle East and South Asia. Among other conclusions for life in the era of globalization, Todd and Bloch suggest “self-tasking” agencies of the United States and Britain would do better emulating Canada and Australia, where oversight is given a much higher priority. Global Intelligence presents ideas and alternative views worth consideration.

[Top of page]

 

[1] US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and US House Permanent Select Committee On Intelligence, Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activities Before And After The Terrorist Attacks Of September 11, 2001, S. Rept. No. 107-351, H. Rept. No. 107-792, 107th Congress, 2d session, December 2002.

[2] Created by OSS Director William Donovan for the same purpose as SOE, OSS/SO Branch had virtually the same organization as its British counterpart.

[3] Some authors have stated that each team was composed of one Briton, one American, and one Frenchman. See, for example, Norman Polmar and Thomas Allen, SpyBook: The Encyclopedia of Espionage, 2nd ed. (New York: Random House, 2004), 339. But, as Ford notes, the only requirement was that men from each of the three main countries participate in the program; only seven teams had one member from each country. Teams were constructed to meet local conditions. See John Mendelsohn, Covert Warfare: Intelligence, Counterintelligence and Military Deception During the World War Era, Vol. 3: OSS Jedburgh Teams (Part 1) (New York: Garland Publishing Incorporated, 1989), ii.

[4] Polmar and Allen, 340.

[5] See, for example, William Hood, MOLE (New York: W. W. Norton, 1981) and John L. Hart, “Pyotr Semyonovich Popov: The Tribulations of Faith,” Intelligence and National Security, 12/4, October 1997: 44–74.

[6] Jerrold L. Schecter and Peter S. Deriabin, The Spy Who Saved The World: How a Soviet Colonel Changed the Course of the Cold War (Washington, DC: Brassey's, 1995).

[7] Greville Wynne, Contact on Gorky Street (New York: Atheneum, 1966).

[8] Nigel West, The Friends (London: Weidenfeld, 1998). West noted that at the time not even America had a plane that would accomplish the feat, but Wynne remained adamant.

[9]  The worst of the bunch is Richard Bennett's, ESPIONAGE :An Encyclopedia of Spies and Secrets (London: Virgin Books, 2002). A close second, only because it is outdated, comes from Leo Carl, The International Dictionary of Intelligence (McLean, VA: Maven Books, 1990).

[10] See also a review of Spy Book by D. Cameron Watt, Intelligence and National Security, 16/1: 348–49, that is not critical of the errors, but does enumerate at some length the omission of many British sources and European espionage cases. For a review that lists some of the errors not mentioned here, see J. Ransom Clark, International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, 11/2: 239–42.

[11] Chief of British foreign intelligence.

[12] Pillar cites Larry C. Johnson, “The Declining Terrorist Threat,” New York Times, 10 July 2001: A19, and John Mueller and Karl Mueller, “Sanctions of Mass Destruction,” Foreign Affairs 78 (May–June 1999): 44.

[13] I met Dusko Popov after his book was published in 1974. There was nothing in his appearance or manner to suggest that he was the role model for James Bond and he indicated that that was publisher hype. He did say that an episode in Ian Fleming's Casino Royale was close to his own experience at a casino during the war that he thought Fleming had witnessed. Miller mentions this on page 89, but does not give a source.

[14] Hoover's final insult to Popov was delivered in a Reader's Digest article in April 1946 in which it was explained “how the FBI ‘discovered' the existence of microdots.” The Balkan playboy was mentioned as the unknowing carrier of the discovery made by the FBI laboratory (248). Miller retaliates by including, as fact, a statement that Hoover “was exposed as a closet homosexual and . . . cross dresser” (92), among other undocumented insults.

[15] Thomas F. Troy, “The British Assault on J. Edgar Hoover: The Tricycle Case,” International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, 3/2, Summer 1989: 169–209.

 

Hayden B. Peake is the curator of CIA's Historical Intelligence Collection.

 

[Top of page]


Historical Document
Posted: Apr 15, 2007 08:35 AM
Last Updated: Jun 26, 2008 02:23 PM