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 intelligence professionals and to students of intelligence.

Rob Johnston. Analytic Culture in the U.S. Intelligence Community: An Ethnographic Study. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, Center for the Study of Intelligence, 2005. 161 pages, footnotes, charts, no index.

Ethnology is the study of cultures by anthropologists. Rob Johnston is an anthropologist who received a Director of Central Intelligence Research Fellowship “to investigate analytic culture, methodology, error and failure within the Intelligence Community using applied anthropological methodology” (xiii). He was also to make recommendations for performance improvement where appropriate. Toward these ends he conducted 489 interviews, observed analysts on the job, and collected data from focus groups. Research began four days after 9/11: This study is the result. While it does not provide a formula for change, it does suggest a path to improvement.

Part one deals with definitions and findings. Many of the areas discussed will be familiar—bias, secrecy, time constraints, incentives, training, and tradecraft. Comments from interviewees are illuminating in their depth and variety. Dr. Johnston’s finding on tradecraft as applied to analysis, in particular, may provoke discussion. He sees analysis as a scientific process, not a “practiced skill in a trade or art,” a distinction that may influence the rigor of the analytic thought process (17–18).

Part two, the “Ethnography of Analysis,” is concerned with the culture of analysis—its terminology, variables, analytic methods, and the concept of the intelligence cycle. That he finds the traditional intelligence cycle inadequate to explain the complex processes involved is not surprising. His alternatives should inspire a lively discussion.

The third part of the study is concerned with “Potential Areas for Improvement.” Here he argues that experts predict events no better than Bayesian statistics unless secret data provide an edge. He also points out that most people misuse the term “mirror imaging,” and that there is real value in more technologically based instruction for analysts.  With regard to prospective employees, he urges that more should be done to acquaint them with the realities of the Intelligence Community and the analysis profession. The final chapter in this part provides recommendations for a “performance improvement infrastructure” that emphasizes the value of metrics and lessons-learned databases. Here he deals with what needs to be done, leaving how for another time.

Johnston has examined intelligence analysis from an anthropologist’s perspective.   The path to professional improvement that he recommends may embrace unfamiliar, even controversial, concepts, but it may also stimulate new approaches while expanding one’s vocabulary.

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Theodore Shackley and Richard Finney. Spymaster: My Life in the CIA. Dulles, VA: Potomac Books, Inc., 2005. 309 pages, endnotes, photos, index.

This book is surprising both for what it says and what it does not say, as well as for the style used to say it. Moreover, it is not quite a memoir or a biography. Shackley never tells how he came to join the CIA. For that and other background data one must read the excellent foreword by former CIA officer Hugh Tovar and the preface by Shackley’s coauthor and former CIA colleague, Richard Finney. What Shackley does do is comment selectively on various aspects of his career, including some principal assignments and his controversial but effective management style. He also includes small professional gems about the value of open source background reading before beginning a new assignment.

The non-traditional format of the book becomes apparent in chapter one, “Espionage,” which begins with a statement on the importance of HUMINT. Then, on page two, Shackley arrives in Nürmberg, Germany, to begin his first overseas assignment in 1953. He then tells how he learned the basics of agent recruiting and handling while providing some examples. In chapter two, “Counterintelligence,” he discusses the four counterintelligence principles he deems important and then illustrates them with firsthand comments on agent and defector cases familiar to many—from Michael Goleniewski, who exposed the KGB mole in MI6 (George Blake), to Kim Philby and Aldrich Ames. For reasons not clear, he includes a separate, though interesting, chapter on other defector cases later in the book. His comments on counterintelligence end with a fair appraisal of the CIA’s long-time chief of counterintelligence, James Angleton.

The third chapter, “Knavish Tricks,” covers covert action, which he says at the outset “always held a special fascination for me” (38). Here he discusses what covert action is and gives some historical examples of how it has been part of American intelligence since the revolutionary war. Then he shows that it was also a major part of KGB and CIA operations during the Cold War, although not always working flawlessly.

The balance of the book concentrates on some of Shackley’s principal assignments, while omitting others without comment. First, there is his role in Miami as Chief of Operations under his mentor, Bill Harvey, who headed Task Force W, established at the direction of Attorney General Robert Kennedy to achieve regime change in Cuba. Shackley points out that agents handled by this station were the first to locate and identify the Soviet missiles in Cuba, subsequently photographed by a U-2 in October 1962.

After a brief return to Berlin, Shackley was assigned to Laos and then to Vietnam, and he deals with these tours in considerable detail. He was clearly most pleased with his service in Laos, but it was in Vietnam that he endured the controversy surrounding the death of a Vietnamese suspected by the Army Special Forces of being a double agent. Charges that the CIA condoned the killing have been consistently denied. Shackley explains the circumstances, and his explanation correlates well with other studies of the case.[1]

In the final chapter, Shackley offers his thoughts on intelligence community reform ranging from greater use of non-official cover and a single congressional oversight committee to a director of national intelligence, a position he first advocated in 1992. For those who expected a more expansive tale of clandestine operations, Spymaster may be something of a disappointment. On the other hand, what Shackley was able to give is extremely valuable—a first-hand account by someone involved in operations at a critical juncture, with lessons for all.

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Richard Posner. Preventing Surprise Attacks: Intelligence Reform in the Wake of 9/11. Lanham, MD: Bowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2005. 218 pages, footnotes, index.

The editor of the New York Times Book Review asked US Court of Appeals (Chicago) Judge Richard Posner to review the 9/11 Commission Report.[2] Judge Posner found the report, despite some flaws, to be “a lucid, even riveting, narrative of the attacks, the events leading up to them, and the immediate response to them . . . an improbable literary triumph.”[3] When author Peter Berkowitz[4] suggested he expand the review into a book, he accepted the challenge.

The result is an articulate assessment of the 9/11 Report recommendations and the consequent rapid congressional and White House response manifest in the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004.[5] At the outset, he finds some aspects of the report troubling. For example, he suggests that investigative findings should have been sufficient, with recommendations left to the professionals. He sees this as “the same mistake as combining intelligence and policy” (6). Similarly, he is concerned that the insistence on report unanimity “deprives the decisionmakers of a full range of alternatives” and leads to “second choice alternatives” (7). Finally, he suggests that the participation of relatives of the 9/11 victims was an unnecessary distraction.

But the central issues of the book have to do with the history of surprise attacks, and the kind of intelligence needed to meet that and other threats. The chapter on surprise provides a thoughtful background for the chapters on the principles and organization of intelligence. His conclusion is straightforward: “Surprise attacks cannot reliably be prevented” (97). “The best one can hope for,” he suggests, “is that an intelligence service be able to anticipate most surprise attacks . . . with fewest false alarms” (107).

In his chapter on principles of organization, the judge makes clear that “reorganization is a questionable response to a problem that is not a problem of organization.” When the consumers and producers of intelligence are not clamoring for reorganization,” Posner concludes, “those on the outside should not impose it.” Although he favors separating the counterintelligence mission from the FBI, he is a realist and recognizes that this is unlikely to happen.

Beyond the thoughtful analysis and practical suggestions, it is worth noting that Preventing Surprise Attacks makes a fine text for a course on national intelligence. It covers the basic topics, is thoroughly documented with open sources—several from CIA authors and Studies in Intelligence articles—and is short enough to please any student. A very valuable addition to the literature.

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Jayna Davis. The Third Terrorist: The Middle East Connection to the Oklahoma City Bombing. Nashville, TN: WND Books, 2004. 355 pages, endnotes, index.

In his analysis of the events leading to 9/11, author Peter Lance includes a chapter on the Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on 19 April 1995.[6] Although his investigation was not complete, he did find that witness statements suggesting “a Mideast connection to the blast . . . [were] circumstantial but worthy of review.” Jayna Davis’s The Third Terrorist provides that review. Former Director of Central Intelligence R. James Woolsey’s dust jacket comment notes that “ . . . Jayna Davis’s near-decade of brave, thorough, and dogged investigative reporting effectively shifts the burden of proof to those who would still contend that McVeigh and Nichols executed the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing without the support of a group or groups from the Middle East.”

Davis’s story concentrates on one additional participant—called John Doe #2 by the FBI and whom she identifies—who was seen by several witnesses with McVeigh prior to and on the day of the bombing. But her investigation also identified 11 other suspects with varying degrees of involvement. Evidence for their participation comes from 38 sworn affidavits from witnesses who, with a few exceptions, did not know each other. Davis convinced a former FBI special agent; State Department, CIA, and DIA counterterrorism analysts; and TV and newspaper journalists—including from the Wall Street Journal, which conducted its own investigation[7]—that her evidence was solid and worthy of a response from the government. But all that her persistence achieved was the loss of her job as an investigative reporter for the Oklahoma City NBC-TV station.

The Third Terrorist takes the reader through the author’s painstaking collection of evidence that is dismissed by the federal authorities. It is well written, thoroughly documented, and a good example of research in open sources.

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Nigel West, ed. The Guy Liddell Diaries—1939–1945: MI5s Director of Counter‑Espionage in World War II, Vols. I & II. London: Routledge, 2005. 629 pages, appendix, glossary, index.

In the movie Five Fingers, James Mason played a Nazi spy codenamed “Cicero,” who, as the valet of the British ambassador in Turkey, photographed secret Foreign Office documents during World War II. The film was an early example of Oliver Stone history: Little beyond the spy’s name was factual. Cicero’s memoirs told his side of the story, including his successful escape, but he did not know how MI5 became suspicious of him.[8] The Guy Liddell Diaries fill that gap and many others.

Without telling anyone besides his trusted secretary, Margo Huggins, Guy Liddell dictated his thoughts on the day’s events from August 1939 to June 1945. The resulting 12 volumes were declassified in 2002. The entries reveal wartime counterintelligence operations, the MI5 turf battles with MI6 and SOE, the conflicts between J. Edgar Hoover and the MI6 station in New York headed by William Stephenson, and some surprises. In the latter category, we learn that Cicero was not the only penetration of the embassy in Ankara. There were two others: One was the ambassador’s chauffeur; the other was never identified. On the home front, many entries describe the intricacies of the double-cross system and its use of the ULTRA signals intercept material from Bletchley Park to monitor the effectiveness of the deceptions. Not all went smoothly for Liddell—there were three internal inquiries into possible MI5 penetrations. But he survived, although one mole, Liddell’s assistant, Anthony Blunt, was not suspected and only exposed as a Soviet agent in 1964. Besides Blunt, the familiar names Kim Philby and Guy Burgess are mentioned from time to time, but there is not a hint that Liddell suspected that they, too, were Soviet agents.

To set the stage, editor Nigel West has added an introduction with biographic details of the cello-playing Liddell. He has also included clarifying comments regarding names and acronyms. For reasons of space, some of the administrative diary entries are excluded.[9] Nevertheless, the result is a unique slice of counterintelligence history valuable to historian, student, and espionage aficionado alike.

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Richard C. S. Trahair. Encyclopedia of Cold War Espionage, Spies, and Secret Operations. Westwood, CT: Greenwood Press, 2004. 472 pages, bibliographic essay, glossary, chronology, index.

At least seven dictionaries and encyclopedias of intelligence have been published since 2000.[10] While their quality varies, the current offering is a strong competitor for a position near the bottom of any ranking. Many of the errors involve dates: for example, James Angleton was not head of counterintelligence at the CIA from 1951 to 1973 (9); his tenure was from 1954–1974. Cambridge spy Anthony Blunt did not confess in 1963; it was 1964 (21). The British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS/MI6) was formed in 1909, not 1946 (415). OSS was disbanded in September not December 1945 (51). And Vitaly Yurchenko defected in August not September 1985 (345).

Other entries combine errors of facts and dates, as for example the description of the Elizabeth Bentley case. Trahair writes that she went to the FBI in August 1945 and agreed to become a double agent within the Communist Party of the United States of America (16–17). She did neither. She went to the FBI in November 1945 and made a detailed statement after which she briefly and unsuccessfully worked against the NKVD. Furthermore, the statement that Bentley’s “efforts initiated the case against Alger Hiss” is incorrect; that honor goes to Whittaker Chambers.

Then comes the category of plain factual error: George Blake was not “a double agent employed by the British secret service SIS,” nor was he in the SOE (25); he was just a KGB penetration agent or mole. Other examples abound: Whittaker Chambers never went to Moscow (46); Donald Maclean was not assigned to work on the “development of the atom bomb” (180); Cambridge spy Kim Philby was not a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain; Anthony Blunt was not “the first of the KGB’s Magnificent Five”(264), he was the fourth agent recruited; and William Casey was never “OSS station chief in London” (45). Another completely erroneous and confusing comment on the OSS states that it was “the temporary organization of eight intelligence agencies under the direction of William J. Donovan . . . renamed OSS” in April 1942 (65). In a similar vein it is hard to explain why Trahair thought former NSA employee Ronald Pelton ever worked for the Canadian Security Service (346). A final example in this category is the statement in the chronology that “MI5 leaked the secret Zinoviev letter.” Foreign office chief historian Gill Bennett shows in her study of the affair that it was a conscious decision of the government through SIS/MI6.[11]

In several cases, Trahair defies his own sources. One example will suffice: Soviet agent Judith Coplon was not, as alleged, an “employee of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)” (53). She worked for the Justice Department, as is made abundantly clear in the definitive book on the case, The Spy Who Seduced America, which is cited as one of his sources.[12] Lastly, the glossary entries deserve a health warning. There is no such thing as a “defector-in-place”; the term is an oxymoron. The term “double agents” is used inaccurately: Of the 28 “double agents” listed on page xiv, 22 are incorrect. The curious glossary entry for Arnold Deutsch says he recruited his own NKVD bosses, Alexander Orlov and Theodore Maly, and was “running the Woolwich Arsenal spy ring”—all untrue.

Only a few of the many errors and discrepancies are mentioned here. All could have been avoided with the exercise of due diligence. But that burden should not be placed on the reader, especially a student. Caveat Emptor.

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Al J. Venter. Irans Nuclear Option: Tehrans Quest for the Atom Bomb. Philadelphia , PA: Casement, 2005. 451 pages, endnotes, appendix, photos, index.

In October 2003, Iran acknowledged that it was indeed producing weapons-grade uranium as part of a two-decades-long clandestine nuclear program. Journalist Al Venter is convinced that the Islamic republic is on a march toward the acquisition of nuclear weapons and makes a strong case in Iran’s Nuclear Option. A native of South Africa, he witnessed that country’s development of an atomic bomb, and he devotes a chapter to the parallels that emerge.

After brief consideration of the history of the republic and the consequences of the Islamic revolution in 1979, Venter looks in substantial detail at how close the Iranians are to building the bomb—he concludes nobody really knows—and who is helping and has helped them. On this last point, he argues that “at the heart of Iran’s ongoing nuclear programs stands Russia,” though there are also links to Pakistan and North Korea. He quotes sources who worked at the International Atomic Energy Agency who are very critical of the “weak-kneed” approach taken by the agency to its inspection responsibilities. The idea that Iran’s nuclear program is “designed to meet only the country’s energy needs and has absolutely no military use” is dismissed on considerable evidence, not the least of which is Iran’s almost “unlimited supplies of oil” (125).

Perhaps the most disturbing element of Venter’s analysis is the discussion of the alternatives available to the West should Iran declare or demonstrate nuclear capability and belligerent intent. What could and would Israel do? Iran is much farther from Israel than Iraq and the Iranian nuclear facilities are well dispersed. Moreover the location of all its facilities may not be known. Then there is the question of Iran’s relationship to al-Qa’ida and other terrorist groups and rogue states—would they be permitted access to bombs under certain conditions? The intelligence required to prevent these acts, he suggests, will be almost impossible to acquire in light of the near inability to penetrate terrorist secrecy. Diplomatic efforts to deflect Iran’s nuclear ambitions do not seem promising either, although the author sees some hope in the Libyan precedent. Venter cannot be faulted for glossing over an alarming, even frightening, situation. Iran’s Nuclear Option is well documented and makes clear that the failure of the West’s anti-proliferation program will also produce options, all unpleasant.

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Paul Sperry. Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington. Nashville, TN: Nelson Current, 2005. 359 pages, endnotes, index.

The 9/11 Commission report reached the conclusion that “Our enemy is twofold: al-Qa’ida, a stateless network of terrorists that struck us on 9/11; and a radical ideological movement in the Islamic world . . . which has spawned terrorist groups and violence across the globe” (xxiv). Infiltration looks at what these groups plan to do and how they intend to do it.

Author Paul Sperry lets the Islamist radicals answer the first question. According to Abdurahman M. Alamondi, founder of the American Muslim Council, “the goal of Muslims in America is to turn the U.S. into an Islamic State, even if it takes a hundred years” (xi). One-time University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian adds that “What is needed is the dismantling of the cultural system of the West . . . . Our presence in North America gives us a unique opportunity to monitor, explore and follow up. We should be able to infiltrate the sensitive intelligence agencies or the embassies to collect information” (xxiii).

From the 1930s on, the communists in America had similar goals. They tried to achieve them through subversion of the government. The Islamists, suggests Sperry, will try that, too, but they have one big advantage—radical religion. While recognizing the unyielding devotion of its followers, Infiltration does not argue the spiritual aspects of Islam. First, it shows how the religion influences the Islamists, as opposed to the non-radical adherents. Then the author focuses on the principal advantage of functioning within a religion in the United States—tax exempt terrorism. The chapters on the terror support network will be of special interest to intelligence community readers, particularly those portions describing the financial and educational enterprises along Route 7 in Virginia.

Sperry tackles some politically sensitive topics such as the practical side of racial profiling, the conflict over human rights and security, the fifth column of terrorists in various government organizations, and the current state of the Homeland Security Department. Sprinkled throughout the book are stories that illustrate how difficult it is to deal with the Islamists who know US law well. In the final chapter, Sperry provides two lists: One gives the reasons why the “death-loving jihadists” are “the perfect enemy” (312); the second gives 10 ways to defeat “the perfect enemy,” but no guarantees. Sperry sees the United States “hacking at the branches of terrorism rather than striking at the roots” (328). In short, Infiltration identifies the problems well and is worth serious attention for that reason alone. It leaves to the analysts and decisionmakers the determination as to the best solutions.

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Katherine A. S. Sibley. Red Spies in America: Stolen Secrets and the Dawn of the Cold War. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004. 370 pages, endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.

Katherine Sibley holds the history chair at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Her book is about domestic counterintelligence in America from the 1930s to the present. Three points are worth noting at the outset. First, it is well documented, including FBI and Soviet material only recently released. Second, it is well written. Third, all of the cases have been written about in other books, but Sibley looks at them from a new perspective.

To provide background, Sibley begins with a survey of Soviet espionage from the end of World War I to the late 1930s. She concludes with a chapter on Soviet spying in America since World War II. The four chapters in between deal with Soviet espionage in the period from the late 1930s to the end of the war. Most other books that study US counterintelligence during this same period focus on the Cold War aspects of the cases since that is when they came to public attention and, in certain instances, to trial. This approach has left an impression that FBI counterintelligence did not really attack the Soviet espionage threat until after World War II. The reality, as Sibley sees it, is otherwise. In her words, the FBI “recognized the growing infiltration of Soviet spies before the Cold War and made limited, but nevertheless pioneering efforts to stop them.”

To substantiate this position, she reviews selected prewar and wartime cases of military industrial espionage, the initial indications of atomic espionage, the role of the American communist party, the congressional involvement, the political circumstances that contributed to the Soviet successes, and how the FBI dealt with the unanticipated threat during wartime. A key issue is how the cases came to the attention of the Bureau. She explains that some leads came from informants in the communist party and surveillance of its members. Other cases grew out of investigations into the personnel of the Soviet purchasing organization in America (AMTORG), based on leads from a foreign intelligence service. Still others developed after a disgruntled NKGB officer sent Director J. Edgar Hoover an anonymous letter identifying the personnel in the New York and Washington residencies. Where cases could have been handled better—for example, the failure to act on Walter Krivitsky’s and Whittaker Chambers’s attempts to expose Soviet espionage prior to the war— she says so candidly. But a key aspect of the FBI counterintelligence program is omitted: The FBI was in a reactive mode. As Red Spies In America perhaps unintentionally shows, when espionage cases did turn up, little was done until after the war. In short, the Soviet espionage networks worked without major disruption during the war and were only shut down after it ended. Professor Sibley’s thesis is not proved.

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Alexander Kouzminov. Biological Espionage: Special Operations of the Soviet and Russian Foreign Intelligence Services in the West. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2005. 192 pages, bibliography, appendix, glossary, index.

In 1982, the Biological Faculty of Moscow State University selected Alexander Kouzminov for doctoral study. Even before he received his Ph.D., he joined the KGB’s foreign intelligence service. In 1992, after a promising and exciting 10 years, he resigned when KGB corruption continued after the end of the Soviet Union. After two years of civilian life in Russia, he and  he wife emigrated to the West.

Kouzminov decided to write this book because he is concerned that Russia is pursuing a biological warfare capability and perhaps even testing agents on unsuspecting nations. He speculates that in addition to the SARS epidemic that began in Hong Kong, the “inexplicable infections that affected wild and domestic stock as well as humans in China . . . in 1997, foot and mouth disease in England in 2001, two plague epidemics in Western India in September and October 1994 . . . are likely results of secret biological research experiments or accidental releases of new anti-crop and anti-livestock weapons into the open environment” (150). Despite international agreements to terminate such programs, he is convinced that they continue in Russia and the West and are a danger to the world. Unfortunately, he offers no documentation, a major weakness of the book.

Biological Espionage provides a detailed description of Directorate S—the KGB action element for these programs—and the tradecraft associated with the recruiting, training, and handling of illegals. He also describes how the KGB/SVR places illegals in businesses in the principal Western countries and what they are trained to do. And although he suggests the program is still very active and useful, the cases mentioned lack specifics and documentation.

True names do appear from time to time as in the case of Vitali Yurchenko, who defected to the CIA in Rome in August 1985 only to redefect on 2 November of the same year. Kouzminov states flatly that Yurchenko was given psychotropic drugs after his “successful ‘action-movie-escape’ from the CIA’s control” to make sure he had not been “recruited as a double agent.” Then comes a shocker: Kouzminov declares that Yurchenko was given the Order of the Red Star for his successful CIA “infiltration operation” (107). The reader is left to ponder the inconsistency.

Kouzminov is sincere in his warnings about the dangers of biological warfare. As to what should be done, he offers little more than hope that the “world community of scientists” will cooperate and prevent bio-warfare from becoming a weapon of international terrorism. His arguments should not be dismissed out of hand, but without documentation of any kind they cannot be accepted as fact.

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David Christopher Arnold. Spying From Space: Constructing Americas Satellite Command and Control Systems. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2005. 209 pages, endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.

“Once it goes up, who cares where it comes down?” said the lyrics of Tom Lehrer’s Harvard drinking song about rocket scientist Werner von Braun. David Arnold answers that question in this book on satellites in space. From the first successful Corona flight in 1961 to the present, the Air Force Satellite Control Facility (AFSCF) and its successor organizations have communicated with satellites, giving them instructions, keeping track of their orbital conditions, and helping to make sure they land on target.

As told by David Arnold for the first time, AFSCF started by addressing common sense questions about making satellites do what is needed once in orbit. The solutions required totally new techniques and technology, contractors, and organizations. Using the rapid developments in satellite systems in the 1960s as his baseline, Arnold describes the systems’ evolution, the contractors involved, and the ground-tracking-stations’ hardware, location problems, and routine operation.

Interspersed with the technical and hardware issues, Arnold devotes considerable attention to the persistent turf battles that occurred among internal air force elements as well as various national level organizations. Some involved competition for a larger part of the space mission and, thus, budget. Others involved the Air Force’s preference for an all blue suit operation when the links to the National Reconnaissance Office and the CIA made that impractical. Arnold deals with these and other stories, revealing details that influence day-to-day operations that are seldom discussed.

Without the ability to control satellites in space, the National Reconnaissance Program could not have succeeded. The AFSCF met that need, and David Arnold’s story of how they did it is well documented and well told.

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Michael Turner. Why Secret Intelligence Fails. Dulles, VA: Potomac Books, Inc., 2005. 217 pages, endnotes, bibliography, glossary, index.

Michael Turner, a former CIA analyst and now professor of international affairs at Alliant International University, San Diego, has written an intelligence primer that is very nearly up to date. It ends just before the post of Director of National Intelligence was filled. He wrote the book because, as an analyst, he could “discern little difference between what made for success and what sparked failure.”  He does not indicate whether he resolved the dilemma (xiii). His thesis is “that the roots of intelligence failures are embedded in the intelligence cycle and can only be addressed by measures that confront specific dysfunctions in the intelligence process” (13). The book is devoted to validation of this point by discussing the organizational players; reviewing the traditional intelligence cycle and the bureaucratic linkages involved in its functioning; and pondering some analytic techniques—for example, “total information awareness(TIA) and Doug MacEachin’s “linchpin” approach. In chapter three, “Pitfalls of American Intelligence,” Turner sets out the “historical forces and structural imperatives [that] together have created a uniquely American ‘intelligence ethos . . . .’” By way of clarification, he adds that this refers to “a series of cultural principles”—each of which he discusses—that are specific to “the highly secretive and shadowy world of intelligence.” The “deleterious aspects of the eight principles combine with bureaucratic pathologies to account for the majority of intelligence failures. Structural pathologies permeate the entire intelligence process, making them the most significant barriers to successful intelligence” (50). While this chapter lacks a degree of intuitive lucidity, others discuss issues—separation of intelligence from law enforcement, the approaches taken by foreign intelligence services, collection, and dissemination—with less mind-numbing elegance.

On the point of what caused some of the intelligence failures mentioned, he is careful not to argue that corrections will come only with organizational change. He argues that “the human element has as much to do with failures of secret intelligence as do structural factors.” But then he muddies the issue by suggesting that “taking human failings into account does little good, however, for an intelligence process that intrinsically contains the seeds of failure” (145). Why this should be so, and what to do about it if it is, is not made clear.

In the end, the reader is left with a good summary of the elements of the intelligence profession and a number of issues that should stimulate thinking. But we never do learn just why secret intelligence fails.

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Gary Kern, ed. Walter G. Krivitsky: MI5 Debriefing & Other Documents on Soviet Intelligence. Riverside, CA: Xenos Books, 2004. 229 pages, bibliography, glossary, index.

In 1939, Walter Krivitsky, one of the first GRU defectors to the United States, wrote a book on Soviet espionage and testified before Congress on the subject. In both cases, he named some Soviet agents and indicated he knew others in America. The State Department debriefed him on passport matters, but the FBI declined to investigate his counterintelligence claims. Had they done so, Alger Hiss, the atom spies, the Cambridge Five, and many other moles in our government, all of whom were neutralized after the war—would have been identified. Krivitsky made the same offer to the British, and they had him sent over in early 1940. He gave them more than 100 agents, at least two of whom were code clerks. Before he could testify again before Congress, Krivitsky was found shot dead in the Bellevue Hotel (now, The George) near Union Station, Washington, DC.

The British waited more than 60 years to declassify the report of Krivitsky’s debriefing, done by MI5 officer, Jane Archer. Author Gary Kern obtained a copy of the Krivitsky debriefing and has reproduced it in this book together with his congressional testimony and some material related to Krivitsky’s stay in France after his initial defection.[13] The MI5 debriefing contains the sketchy references to the Philby and Maclean (some say Cairncross) so often mentioned in the literature. There are also specific references to NKVD Gen. Alexander Orlov, already in the United States. Neither MI5 nor the FBI followed up. The case of Orlov is particularly maddening since he had helped recruit Philby (and handled him in Spain), Burgess, and Maclean. Furthermore, several of the KGB agents who would become atom spies in America had worked for Orlov. Yet he remained in hiding until 1953. Besides the MI5 debriefing, Kern has included Krivitsky’s views on analysis, and his testimony before Congress.

These are primary source documents. One can learn from them how an interrogation is conducted, what items should be covered, and how they should be reported. They should be of great interest and real value to students, counterintelligence analysts, and all those who continue to marvel at the early days of counterintelligence in America.

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Mikel Dunham. Buddha’s Warriors: The Story of the CIA-Backed Tibetan Freedom Fighters, the Chinese Invasion, and the Ultimate Fall of Tibet. New York: Penguin, 2004. 434 pages, footnotes, bibliography, index.

In 1970, John MacGregor, better known to some at the time as CIA officer John Waller, published a book on the early history of Tibet.[14] In 1997, retired CIA officer Roger E. McCarthy published his book,[15] which describes his role in support of the CIA’s assistance to the Tibetan resistance to China’s occupation of Tibet, which began in 1950. Now author-artist Mikel Dunham has told another side of the Tibetan resistance story, for the first time from the point of view of the Tibetan participants.

The Chinese occupation of Tibet was gradual. By 1957, the CIA was training and supplying the resistance. But the Chinese kept increasing the number of their troops and in 1959 the Dalai Lama was forced to flee. The CIA program came to an end when Nixon and Mao agreed to establish diplomatic relations in the early 1970s. China made cessation of the Tibetan support a condition of recognition (382). Today, there are more Chinese in Tibet than Tibetans (6).

The story of what happened in between is well told by Dunham. The resistance fighters he interviewed recall their reaction to the American training and assistance program. They also address, if not explain, how they could take up arms when their religion, Buddhism, the ultimate advocate of nonviolence, prohibits such behavior. The impetus, in part, was practical: “How could the Dalai Lama be protected if we had no weapons . . . ?” (191). The warriors the CIA trained were parachuted back into Tibet to help the resistance on the ground. The American weapons and supplies were much needed, but fighting tactics remained Tibetan, including the custom of never taking prisoners (219). As a consequence of possible Chinese retaliation, they all agreed to accept poison capsules that could be used in the event of capture. Even after 1970, a resistance element operated out of a base in Nepal near the Tibetan border until the Nepalese government was pressured by the Chinese into closing it down, too.

The CIA pullout was disheartening to Americans and Tibetans alike—they did not think a diplomatic solution was possible. Despite the diplomatic complications created by dealing with the various nations involved with the Dalai Lama’s fate—India, China, Nepal, Bangladesh, and the United States— the politicians had won the day. Dunham ends the book with his interview of the Dalai Lama. When asked why he thought America agreed to help, the Dalai Lama replied: “I do not think that they came to help out of genuine sympathy or genuine concern . . . .” But when it came to individuals, he added, “they developed some kind of genuine feeling. That I appreciate.”

Buddha’s Warriers is a valuable work for several reasons. First, it makes clear how difficult opposing China can be, on both military and political fronts. Second, it demonstrates that an inadequately supported covert action cannot succeed. Third, it provides a seldom seen example of the human side of the covert action operation in Tibet. Finally, it shows the dedication and bravery of the CIA officers who worked long and hard to accomplish a difficult mission under perilous circumstances.

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Jennet Conant. 109 East Palace: Robert Oppenheimer and the Secret City of Los Alamos. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005. 424 pages, note on sources, photos, index.

New employees were told only to report to 109 East Palace Avenue, Santa Fe, New Mexico. There they received their security badge and transportation to the Los Alamos laboratories some 60 miles away, where they would work on the Manhattan Project. The story of the building of the atomic bomb has been told before, both from a technical and bureaucratic perspective. Jennet Conant tells the same story, in non-technical terms, but her focus is on life in the “secret city” as it was then—the leaky faucets, the need for barbers, the ever present security hassles, and, especially, the often prickly personal relationships between wives and scientists and the military.[16]

Los Alamos was built on a mountain top “to keep . . . information from getting out” (101). The Army was responsible for physical security; the FBI, for personnel security. That both failed came as a postwar shock, especially to those who thought so highly of Klaus Fuchs as a babysitter.[17] Conant provides a new look at how army intelligence and the FBI attempted to prevent breaches. No one was exempt from scrutiny. New York Times reporter, William L. Laurence, the only journalist to visit the site, required a personal letter from Maj. Gen. Leslie Groves, the Manhattan Project director. At one point, military intelligence Capt. Peer de Silva, who would later find a rewarding career in the CIA, reported that “J. R. Oppenheimer is playing a key part in the attempt of the Soviet Union to secure, by espionage, highly secret information which is vital to the United States.” Gen. Groves was concerned, but decided Oppenheimer was “absolutely essential to the project.” To ease reservations over Oppenheimer’s loyalty, Groves appointed de Silva head of security at Los Alamos.

109 East Palace is based on interviews and papers from former workers. Conant shows how in times of adversity and austere living conditions, much can be accomplished.

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Kenneth M. Pollack. The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America. New York: Random House, 2004. 529 pages, endnotes, bibliography, maps, index.

Nineteenth century Britain concluded that “Persia . . . was destined by her geographical situation to play a part in the future history of the East altogether disproportionate to her size . . . .”[18] In The Persian Puzzle, former CIA analyst Ken Pollack shows that Persia—today’s Iran—has exceeded this prediction and become not only a major factor in the world political balance, but the nemesis of the United States as well.

To comprehend why this is so, Pollack argues that one must understand the history and perspective of both countries before trying to formulate solutions to current problems. Toward this end, he reviews the 7,000-year history of the Persian empire and the major events that shaped the nation that became Iran. For Iranians, he suggests that the critical determinant of the country’s relationship with America was the 1953 coup that overthrew the Mossadegh government and restored the Shah to power. That this event plays such an important role may come as a surprise to those who lived through it¾ Americans are “serial amnesiacs,” Pollack suggests (xxi). For Americans, on the other hand, the defining image of Iran is the hostage crisis of 1979–81. The Persian Puzzle examines the impact of these differing perceptions on the relationship of the two countries for each administration since 1980. The book stresses that all attempts to improve relations since the hostage crisis have failed. Nevertheless, with Iran in the terror business and pushing on the nuclear weapons door, solutions must be found¾war is not recommended.

In his final chapter, Dr. Pollack completes the Persian puzzle as he has defined it, only to suggest that having the finished picture does not provide a solution to the problems it depicts. It does, however, clarify them to some extent and he offers a series of policy options to that end. The Persian Puzzle makes clear how Iran’s political, religious, and military history influences how it thinks and acts the way it does. It then leaves to our leaders the task of resolving differences in an atmosphere shaped by historical rage.

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Rose Mary Sheldon. Intelligence Activities in Ancient Rome: Trust in the Gods, but Verify. London: Frank CASS, 2005. 317 pages, end of chapter notes, bibliography, maps, index.

Few would dispute the thesis of this book: “Intelligence has been practiced in some form throughout Roman history.” Even so, Professor Sheldon has assembled extensive documentation to substantiate her position. She shows how the Romans learned from experience that trust in “the inspection of the livers of sacred animals . . . [or] the consultation of oracles” (vi) were not sources of reliable intelligence. In the republican period, armies gradually developed their own ad hoc methods of collection. And despite some near failures—as when Hannibal and his elephants surprised their enemies by transversing the Alps—this approach helped the Romans to win battles and build an empire. Over the centuries, as Sheldon recounts, the Roman approach to intelligence evolved from low level exploratores (military spies and scouts) to the more experienced speculatores (military couriers and clandestine agents) (165ff). She shows how these functions improved with the advent of the first state postal-messenger service, the circus publicus, and how the creation of professional informers, or delatores, served to protect empire officials. By 284 AD, the end of the period covered by the book, there exists the more quasi-formal “Roman secret service” or Frumentarii (250ff), which is eventually replaced by the dreaded agents in rebus (domestic security agents) (261ff). Detailed chapters cover the evolution of Roman military and domestic intelligence, although the author stresses that the Romans never had a formal, centralized intelligence organization as an institution of government. She does not make clear, however, whether that fact cost the Romans anything. In her concluding remarks, Sheldon takes up “David Kahn’s law,” which states, “Emphasizing the offensive tends toward neglect of intelligence” (284). Her arguments in support of this law are not persuasive. Intelligence Activities in Ancient Rome is a comprehensive account that demonstrates the Romans faced many of the same problems—bureaucratic and technological—that confront today’s professionals. But when considering the sub-title, the reader is left wondering whether the astute Romans would have found it better to “verify” first and “trust in the gods” later.

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[1]See, for example, David Corn, Blond Ghost: Ted Shackley and the CIA’s Crusades (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994), 195ff.

[2]9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (New York: Barnes and Noble, 2004).

[3]Richard Posner, “The 9/11 Report: A Dissent,” New York Times Book Review, 29 August 2004: 1.

[4]Peter Berkowitz, Terrorism, the Laws of War, and the Constitution: Debating the Enemy Combatant Cases (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2005).

[5]Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, Title VI, § 6001 (a).

[6]Peter Lance, 1000 Years For Revenge: International Terrorism and the FBI—The Untold Story (New York: HarperCollins, 2003), 308ff.

[7]Micah Morrison, “The Iraq Connection,” Wall Street Journal, 5 September 2002.

[8]Elyesa Bazna, I Was Cicero (New York: Harper and Row, 1962). Bazna, an Albanian, was Cicero’s true name.

[9]The British National Archives Web site provides access to every entry for a per-page fee.

[10]Norman Polar and Thomas Allen, SPY BOOK (New York: Random House, 2004); Rodney Carlisle, ed., The Encyclopedia of Intelligence and Counterintelligence (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2005); Allan Swenson and Michael Benson, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the CIA (Indianapolis, IN: Alpha Books, 2003); Richard Bennett. Espionage: The Encyclopedia of Spies and Secrets (London: Virgin Books, 2002); Denis Collins, SPYING: The Secret History of History (New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc., 2004); John Simeone and David Jacobs, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the FBI (Indianapolis, IN: Alpha Books, 2003)—all of which have been reviewed by Studies in Intelligence.

[11]Gill Bennett, History Notes: “A most extraordinary and mysterious business”: The Zinoviev Letter of 1924 (London: Foreign & Commonwealth Office, General Services Command, 1999), 40.

[12]Marcia and Thomas Mitchell, The Spy Who Seduced America: Lies and Betrayal in the Heart of the Cold War—The Judith Coplon Story (Montpelier, VT: Invisible Cities Press, 2002)—reviewed in Studies in Intelligence 47, no. 2 (2002).

[13]Gary Kern, A Death In Washington: Walter G. Krivitsky and the Stalinist Terror (New York: Enigma Books, 2004). This is the most complete and well-written case study on a Soviet defector ever to be published in English. If reading only one counterintelligence case study, this is the one to chose.

[14]John MacGregor. TIBET: A Chronicle of Exploration (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970).

[15]Roger E. McCarthy. Tears of the Lotus: Accounts of Tibetan Resistance to the Chinese Invasion, 1950– 1962 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 1997).

[16]Jennet Conant is the granddaughter of James B. Conant, director of the National Defense Research Committee and deputy director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development during World War II. He worked closely with Oppenheimer.

[17]For reasons not explained, Harvard graduate and Soviet agent Ted Hall, who was at least as damaging as Fuchs, is not mentioned.

[18]Brig. Gen. F. J. Moberly. Operations in Persia 1914–1919 (London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1987), ii.


Hayden B. Peake is the curator of the CIA’s historical Intelligence Collection.


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Historical Document
Posted: Apr 15, 2007 09:30 AM
Last Updated: Jun 26, 2008 12:28 PM