The Intelligence Officer's Bookshelf

Intelligence in Recent Public Literature

Compiled and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake

General and Current Intelligence Issues

Gary Berntsen and Ralph Pezzullo. JAWBREAKER: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda - A Personal Account by the CIA's Key Field Commander (New York: Crown Publishers, 2005), 328 pp., photos, index.

Lieut. Col. “Bokhara” Burnes made two trips to Afghanistan to collect intelligence for the British government in India. He wrote a book about the first trip but was slain during the second by Afghans bent on ousting the British.[1] Gary Berntsen read the Burnes book to gain background on the Afghans and their response to foreigners, which had changed little since the 19th century. Berntsen also made two trips to Afghanistan. But he did more than collect intelligence and fortunately returned from his second to write JAWBREAKER, an account of the early attempts to support the Afghanistan Northern Alliance, attack al Qa’ida and find and kill Usama Bin Laden.

JAWBREAKER is the codeword for the CIA program that sent a number of teams into regions of Afghanistan after 9/11. The lead team headed by Gary Schroen laid the groundwork and his story is told in the book, First In (reviewed in Studies Intelligence 49, no. 4).[2] Berntsen’s team relieved Schroen, and JAWBREAKER is Berntsen’s story, providing details about his career, the CIA Counterterrorist Center (CTC), and his take on the challenges of working with CENTCOM’s Special Forces units.

Graduating one from the bottom in his high school class, Berntsen joined the Air Force on his 18th birthday and became a crash firefighter in Osan, South Korea. While there, he began taking college courses at the education center and after his Air Force service was completed, he attended the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School. Before he was commissioned, he was recruited by the CIA. As a case officer he served in the Persian Gulf, South Asia, and Europe; as an instructor he trained new career trainees and served in Tanzania. Then he joined CTC and was sent to Nairobi, where he worked with the FBI, investigating the embassy bombing there in August 1998. After an operation against al-Qa’ida in a Balkan country in 1999, Berntsen entered a Farsi course to improve his language skills for his first trip to Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the Afghan operation was aborted before its mission was accomplished and to the dismay of his Afghan colleagues, the team returned to Headquarters. Berntsen was then assigned to a South American country as chief of station. He was there on 9/11 and, over the objections of his division chief, he immediately volunteered for service with CTC which was preparing teams to support the Afghan Northern Alliance in its mission to overthrow the Taliban. He was made chief of the team designated to relieve Gary Schroen and told to kill or capture Usama Bin Laden.

Berntsen offers highly detailed and, if they are to be accepted, disturbing perspectives of numerous events. It took several weeks to assemble and equip his men, and numerous bureaucratic problems had to be overcome. When he was finally inserted, he quickly established a working relationship with the Special Forces unit supporting the mission and with the local Afghani elements. The story of how his team used high-tech equipment to designate targets for the Air Force and disbursed several million dollars in cash to encourage Afghan cooperation and to procure hard-to-get supplies makes fascinating reading. But the most interesting and, to Bernsten, most frustrating part of the action came when one of his teams claimed to have sighted Bin Laden in Tora Bora. Although wounded, Bin Laden survived 56 air strikes. Berntsen writes that when he realized he didn’t have enough men to keep Bin Laden from escaping, he called for military support from CENTCOM. The admittedly high-risk operation was denied. After expressing his displeasure, Berntsen says that, demoralized and exasperated, he was taken off the job. He then resigned and wrote JAWBREAKER. Published with many parts blacked out in the Agency’s classification review, it still tells an important story and should be read by all those who want to learn about CIA counterterrorism analysis at Headquarters and operations in the field.

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Athan Theoharis (ed.). The Central Intelligence Agency: Security under Scrutiny. Understanding Our Government. (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2006), 400 pp., photos, index.

Marquette University history professor Athan Theoharis and an impressive team of historians have written a research guide to the Central Intelligence Agency from its origins in 1947 to the end of 2004. While already out of date in terms of organization and key personnel assignments, it is the most current book available on the CIA. The first of its seven chapters, “A Brief History of the CIA,” by Immerman, professor of history at Temple University, is 84 pages. While this chapter is generally accurate, his judgments about CIA collection and analysis concerning Iraqi WMD capabilities oversimplify questions about who got what right, especially with respect to the aluminum tubes alleged to be for uranium enrichment and the putative agent dubbed CURVEBALL.

The second chapter, “The Liaison Arrangements of the CIA,” by University of Georgia professor Loch Johnson, uses the term “liaison” to describe the CIA’s often convoluted relations with fellow Intelligence Community members and Congress, as well as the traditional intelligence meaning—liaison with foreign intelligence services. He points out the complicated and difficult tasks of liaison among the various bureaucratic elements, the problems of accountability, and the monumental tasks facing the DNI.

Author John Prados discusses “Intelligence and Counterintelligence” in chapter 3. Starting with early Cold War operations, he recounts the U-2 program, the impact of defectors, the Team B exercise, various analytic estimates, and the impact of 9/11.

In chapter 4, “The Origins and Expansion of CIA Covert Operations,” Professor Theoharis covers much old ground, but it is a good summary. He does confuse the source of CIA’s authority for conducting intelligence collection, which he maintains was not specifically authorized in the National Security Act of 1947 creating the Agency. What he forgets is that the act said the CIA would absorb the missions and functions of the Strategic Services Unit (SSU), the residual OSS element, which had been performing clandestine collection overseas and had operated continuously since OSS was dissolved. Thus there was no need for more explicit language in the act.

Chapter 5, “Lapdog or Rogue Elephant,” is a rehash of charges of Agency abuses, some justified, some not. Author Kathryn Olmsted, history professor at University of California-Davis, characterizes the legal battle over the publication of Victor Marchetti’s book The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, as involving the “Agency’s right to censor its ex-agents.” (210) First, Marchetti was never an agent. Second, and more important, the issue was not the right to censor, but rather the obligation of employees to abide by secrecy agreements each signed when employed. Marchetti didn’t abide by his, and he lost. Olmsted also writes of “the Helms perjury conviction;” Helms was indicted for perjuring himself before a Senate committee but ultimately pleaded no contest to a lesser charge. Another irritating mistake occurs when Olmsted euphemistically characterizes Philip Agee as a “whistle blower” (210), when in fact there is published evidence to show he worked both for the Cuban intelligence service and later the KGB.[3]

Each of the principal authors contributed to the final narrative, Chapter 6, “Biographies of Important CIA Administrators,” which inexplicably includes entries on Samuel Adams, Philip Agee, Aldrich Ames, Valerie Plame, and Victor Marchetti. None of them qualify by any measure. The biographies of former DCIs and some of their deputies are useful.

There are no sources cited in this book, a peculiar omission considering it was written by scholars. Thus it must be viewed as tentative, and where a point of interest arises in its use, students should look to primary sources for validation.

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James Risen. State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and Bush Administration (New York: The Free Press, 2006), 240 pp., index.

The CIA, writes James Risen in State of War, was “created in 1947 for a singular purpose, to wage war against Soviet Communism.” (5) The reality is quite different. In the establishing act, Congress didn’t mention communism, let alone give the CIA a mission for war against anyone. It did state that “it shall be the duty of the Agency… to coordinate and evaluate intelligence…and perform such other functions and duties related to intelligence…as the National Security Council may from time to time direct.”[4]

This disparity of interpretation is illustrative of the two types of reviewer reactions to State of War. One group, typified by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas Powers in The New York Review of Books,[5] accepts as truth the book’s allegations that various elements of the Intelligence Community are engaged in: illegal domestic spying—electronic intercepts—use of torture, training assassination squads, giving nuclear secrets to Iran, prisoner renditions, and keeping the president in the dark on WMD issues, to name the more troubling topics discussed in this nine-chapter book. Powers and his like, do not mention the absence of citations and are unconcerned by the myriad unattributed quotations. For this group, the book clearly reaffirms their views on the matter. But are they correct?

Surely some are, but which ones? The second group of reviewers considers this question but doesn’t reach definitive answers either for the same reason—no sources cited. Typical of the reviews in this group is “Underestimating Intelligence: Why It’s Not Fair to Give the CIA a Failing Grade,” by author and former Clinton NSC terrorism analyst, Daniel Benjamin.[6] Though both groups discuss the same topics, Benjamin finds that “time and again in this slim book, Risen gives us reason to wonder whether we’re getting the whole story and a fair perspective.” Risen’s biased view of the US government, Benjamin concludes, is “dishonest or corrupt, or simply too stupid by half.” He goes on to suggest that while Risen’s stories may have the ring of truth, the reader should keep in mind that his reporting has had problems in the past, as, for example, in the Win Ho Lee case where “the siren call of a well-placed government source with a dramatic story of espionage and government foot-dragging proved too hard to resist” and the New York Times was forced to print an apology of sorts.[7] When Risen states that “no other institution has failed its mission as completely during the Bush years as did the CIA,” Benjamin responds, “That judgment is too sweeping and unfair” and he goes on to list a number of successes that get no serious attention in State of War, which he calls “an inexplicable omission.” Another reviewer, Farhad Manjoo, comments on the story about giving Iran critical American nuclear secrets.[8] “Risen’s story,” he says, “is hard to believe—not because I don’t want to believe him or because he’s not careful, but because it raises so many questions he doesn’t and possibly can’t answer.” What does all this mean for readers?

There are certainly elements of the truth in State of War that have been confirmed by various government and congressional statements. For example, a search of Bin Laden cohort, Abu Zubaydah, turned up two credit cards he had used. Risen claims no investigation was made to follow the terrorist money trail created by these cards. The possibility that such an investigation was made and that he was not told by the CIA or FBI or by a leaker doesn’t occur to him. Overall, Risen just asks the reader to “trust me” as to sources. Curiously, some of his fellow journalists do not like this approach and scold him for relying “heavily on anonymous sources” and for including stories “attributed to a lone leaker.” At one point, Risen admits, “the book requires the reader to make a leap of faith.”[9] What we have, then, is a collection of newspaper columns in book form that leaves the readers either wondering how much is true or rather satisfied that it proves the preconceived notions they have long held.

There is little new in State of War, and Risen’s implicit argument that he has the right to make the final choice on declassification will be a mixed source of irritation depending on where one sits. On the continuum of journalistic and societal value, State of War is less typical of the contributions of former New York Times reporter James (Scotty) Reston and more like those of author Kitty Kelly.

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Peter Berkowitz (ed.). The Future of American Intelligence (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2005), 184 pp., footnotes, index.

The five essays in this little volume, writes the editor, “refine the debate” started by the 9/11 and WMD commission reports while “deepening” the understanding of the problems presented by terrorism and the obstacles in the way of their solution. “They also put forward recommendations for effective reform.” (xiv) The result is mixed.

The contributors are both academics and former members of or consultants to the Intelligence Community. Richard Shultz’s essay, “The Era of Armed Groups”—like terrorists, insurgents, militias, and criminal organizations— discusses the characteristics and problems associated with each type, but presents nothing new.[10] Gary Schmitt, in his “Truth to Power? Rethinking Intelligence Analysis,” after noting the 9/11 Commission said little about analysis, has some suggestions to fill that gap. One involves the commission’s perception that there was a lack of “imagination” expressed by analysts prior to 9/11. Schmitt gives that comment all the attention it deserves, but does recommend parting the “sacred curtain” between analysts and policymakers. Gordon Lederman writes on “Restructuring the Intelligence Community.” After going over some history of prior attempts, he provides a good exposition of both the strengths and weaknesses of the various reform proposals but never makes it clear why the DCI, given the same authority as the new DNI, couldn’t have done the job with less turmoil.

Former CIA officer, Reuel Gerecht, makes some troubling observations in his “A New Clandestine Service: The Case for Creative Destruction.” After revealing that most human intelligence comes from walk-ins, not classical recruitments, a fact that is hardly new, he suggests case officers were kept from pursuing hard Soviet targets during the Cold War and that Islamist groups are now treated the same way. Gerecht presents no evidence to support this views. Later he recommends that case officers work under nonofficial cover, “really the only vehicle for penetrating Muslim radical organizations.” (134) “Only?” It is rare that absolutes apply in the intelligence business. It is worth considering whether the views in this article are sensible or widely held.

The last contribution, “The Role of Science and Technology in Transforming American Intelligence,” by Kevin O’Connell, discusses the S&T role, the new technologies, from improved polygraph equipment to space vehicles. He also mentions what the managers must understand, know, and do to prepare for and to take advantage of new developments—a difficult task. Finally he notes that very positive benefits will result from of a reinvigorated “innovation ethos.” An interesting, thoughtful and worthwhile article.

The Future of American Intelligence should prove valuable in introductory courses on intelligence.

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Sundri Khalsa. Forecasting Terrorism: Indicators and Proven Analytic Techniques (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2004), 103 pp., end of chapter notes, bibliography, illustrations, index.

US Air Force Capt. Sundri Khalsa wrote this book while attending the Joint Military Intelligence College and working as a DIA analyst. Her concept is straightforward: examine the historical record, identify the indicators of previous terrorist attacks, put them in a computer program that will monitor the likelihood of future attacks. She finds current Intelligence Community practices in this area deficient in three respects. First, she writes, contrary to the conventional wisdom, that “analysis, rather than collection, is the most effective way to improve warning.” Second, “hiring smart people does not necessarily lead to good analysis.” Third, a “systematic process is the most effective way to facilitate good analysis.” (1–3) Khalsa provides some comments to support these assertions, but little data. She never does make clear why analysis is more important than collection or, alternatively, why they are not of equal value.

The solution to the forecasting problem, Khalsa suggests, is a structured, computerized methodology, the use of which is the main topic of the book. To assist in understanding and applying the methodology, a CD is provided that illustrates the procedures in the text. The quality of the CD is not good and that does not help when trying to follow the often complicated instructions in the book. In theory, the system is dependent on the quality of the indicators identified and the various analytical prediction techniques employed. Many of the input elements are dependent on subjective estimates of variables, as for example, priority and risk assessment, and it is not made clear why this approach does not weaken the outcome. This is not a self-teaching text and classroom use may be more profitable for most.

There are a few reasons for exercising caution when reading this book. First, the author suggests that there is too much intelligence and the analyst “requires an ability to separate out…the signals from the noise.” But that is the wrong characterization of the problem. By definition, there is no signal content in noise. The analyst’s problem is separating valuable signal content from less valuable or inaccurate content, a much more difficult task. Second, in the video presentation on the CD, the author asks the viewer to keep confidential the various indicators she has developed so the terrorists won’t find out. Some editing is obviously required. Third and more substantive is the statement that 42 common warning pitfalls have been identified and that the methodology the author proposes “guards against 82 percent” of them. (1, 61) She does not say what to do about the remaining 18 percent, an uncertainty level unacceptable to many.

Captain Khalsa has developed an interesting approach to forecasting acts of terror but it needs considerable real-world testing and refinement before its operational value can be assessed.

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Jeffrey T. Richelson. Spying on the Bomb: American Nuclear Intelligence from Nazi Germany to Iran and North Korea (New York: W. W. Norton, 2006), 702 pp., end notes, photos, maps, index.

Will Iran and North Korea produce nuclear weapons? Have they done so already? Jeffrey Richelson discusses these questions in the final chapter of his new book, Spying on the Bomb. In the first 13 chapters he reviews the Intelligence Community’s track record for monitoring the nuclear programs of 11 other nations, beginning with Nazi Germany and including the Soviet Union, China, France, India, Israel, South Africa, Taiwan, Libya, Pakistan, and Iraq. In effect, he is asking whether the Intelligence Community’s historical experience is prologue to predicting the outcome of future programs. Overall, the results are mixed; the story is fascinating.

The general approach to each country is to examine what is known about where nuclear research is taking place, the sources of essential materials, the personnel involved, the level of funding, inconsistencies or gaps in the data, and the public policies of the nation concerned. In the latter instance, he establishes that most countries just lie when asked if they are developing nuclear weapons capability. The various collection methods employed to gather the needed data are described in general terms. With regard to Iran, he notes that the “United States has employed high-tech intelligence systems and human intelligence.” (506, italics added) Curiously, this is one of the very few paragraphs in the book for which a source is not cited. The structure of the book is a mix of chronological and topical, so the accounts of some countries—China, France, Iraq, North Korea and Pakistan—are spread across several chapters.

As the lead US agency, the CIA knew, with several exceptions, if and when a nuclear detonation was likely. The exceptions were surprises: the Soviet Union, India, and China. There was also a failure to learn about Pakistan’s technical support for Iran’s nuclear program. Mr. Richelson reviews some of the reasons involved but points out that with Iran and North Korea, there was sufficient data to publish formal estimates beginning in the 1990s, concluding they were committed to developing nuclear weapons; exact dates and quantities remain at issue. But, as he emphasizes, halting an ongoing program and preventing a nuclear detonation are problems that must be resolved by the international community, and this increases uncertainty with regard to a timely and satisfactory solution.

Spying on the Bomb, doesn’t make any predictions about future nuclear proliferation, and it dwells only lightly on the inherent political problems, as for example, the negative impact of potential appeasement of Iran and North Korea. What it does, and does well, is show how intelligence has kept track of the problem. He concludes that in the future “continued aggressive and inventive intelligence collection and analysis on Iran and North Korea’s programs and those of other rogues will be necessary to permit a clear understanding of the threat and to guide decisionmakers in choosing what course of action to take or avoid.”

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Jan Goldman (ed.). Ethics of Spying: A Reader for the Intelligence Professional (Lanham, MD: the Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2006), 407 pp., end of chapter notes, no index.

Ethics, a set of principles of right conduct or a system of moral values, is distinguished from morality, which is concerned with the goodness or badness of particular human actions. The Ethics of Spying asks whether the intelligence profession can be ethical and effective at the same time. The potential conflicts between truth, cover, and deception are considered in the contributions from 25 authors, many with experience in the profession. One author suggests there is a need for legal directives and guidance on the matter and, in addition, an approach similar to the “just-war theory.” On this point he concludes that the intelligence profession will first need a “theoretical and ethical foundation” for its decisionmaking processes. Not all the contributors agree with these arguments. Many are less theoretical and ask questions like, Should I always speak truth to power? Under what conditions should one interfere in the political affairs of other nations? What are the moral issues associated with HUMINT?

The book has four sections. The first considers ethics and the Intelligence Community. The second looks at collection and analysis, the third at covert action. The fourth section, called “Related Professions,” has contributions from authorities in other professions and two articles on “competitive intelligence,” a related field but, it may be argued, of questionable appropriateness in this book. An appendix presents some “case studies,” short, narrative moral dilemmas that will exercise the reader’s mind; no answers are given. And that perhaps is the unstated point of the book. Each person must decide what is legal and what is right.

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Maloy Dhar. Fulcrum of Evil: The ISI-CIA-Al Qaeda Nexus (New Delhi, India: Manus Publications, 2006), 402 pp., maps, index.

The term fulcrum, as used by former Indian intelligence officer Maloy Dhar, invokes a seldom used meaning of the word: an agent through which vital powers are exercised.[11] In this book, the agents or fulcrums, are the United States with its CIA (the global fulcrum), Saudi Arabia represented by Royal Saudi intelligence with its Wahhabism (the middle fulcrum), the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISID) of Pakistan (eastern fulcrum), and to a lesser extent the Soviet Union and Russia with their intelligence services (hibernating fulcrum). Dhar clearly views the CIA as the principal agent and cause of world problems because it supports US presidents as they “indiscriminately interfere” in the internal affairs other nations.[12] His somewhat warped analysis suggests care should be taken in accepting his statements about other players.

But the book has real value, despite its lack of documentation. From a Western perspective, it is essential knowledge, and especially for those who will serve in the region. In particular, there are chapters about operations in Pakistan, the intelligence encirclement of India, difficulties in Kashmir, problems with Bangladesh, and the new Afghanistan, all linked to the “fulcrums” mentioned. In the process, Dhar factors in other players, as for example Muslim elements from Bosnia and the Far East. He also describes the intelligence services of each country, their links with each other, and gives his views on how they serve their political masters. He is not afraid to discuss the more radical aspects of Islam and thus there are chapters on the Islamic Jihad and al Qa’ida. At one point, Dhar charges the “three main fulcrums of evil”—the CIA, Royal Saudi Intelligence, and the ISID—with the creation of Usama Bin Laden and the Taliban.

As a view from inside India and Islam, this is an important book. Dhar leaves the reader with an implied question: how will the West react when the Islamic nations start behaving in concert to create an Islamic world? Fulcrum of Evil provides some of the background needed to answer that question. It is important if not easy reading.

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Alfred W. McCoy. A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation from the Cold War to the War on Terror (New York: Henry Holt, 2006), 290 pp., endnotes, bibliography, index.

This is another book by University of Wisconsin history professor Alfred McCoy, the sinister guru of CIA history. His first book charged CIA complicity in the global drug trade and was dismissed by responsible scholars.[13] This one changes direction by blaming the abuses at Abu Ghraib on “CIA torture methods that have metastasized like an undetected cancer inside the U.S. intelligence community over the past half century.” (5) For the next 200-plus pages, the author conducts an unconstrained and unscholarly attack on the CIA for its “no-touch” and “extrajudicial” (whatever that is) torture policies. (7, 208) In support of his claims, he provides 60 pages of endnotes, mostly secondary sources, none of which give an example of CIA torture. As putative evidence, McCoy regurgitates three controversial instances investigated by the Church Committee in the 1970s: the MKULTRA operation that involved experimental drug testing on volunteers in the 1950s, the “KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation Manual published in 1963, and the charge that the CIA “descended into systematic torture of suspected Vietcong” during the Vietnam war. No corroborating detail or testimony is presented. In fact, he neglects to mention that the word “torture” does not appear in the manual and in the MKULTRA case, torture was not at issue. These arguments, left unchallenged, might lead readers to assume it was an example of CIA wrongdoing when in reality it is only an argument not proved—ad hominem scholarship masquerading as the truth.

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Douglas F. Garthoff. Directors of Central Intelligence as Leaders of the U. S. Intelligence Community 1946–2005 (Washington, DC: CIA, Center for the Study of Intelligence, 2005), 336 pp., footnotes, bibliography, appendices, photos, index.

During the nearly 60 years that the Intelligence Community was headed by a Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), two questions frequently arose. First, how much real control did the DCI have over the community? And second, how did he exercise the authority he had? After the 9/11 and WMD commissions issued their reports, Congress concluded, not that the DCI’s authority was inadequate, but rather that a DCI was unnecessary. A Director of National Intelligence (DNI) was the solution, and that position was established. Dr. Garthoff’s study addresses the first two questions. It is not concerned with whether the DCI, given the same authority as the new DNI, would have been a desirable alternative.

The study discusses every DCI from the first, ADM Sidney Souers, to the last, Porter Goss. It focuses on how the DCI interpreted and worked to fulfill his “community” role. It also examines how his position as head of the CIA influenced his relationship with the other members of the community. Dr. Garthoff finds that the statutory key to the DCI role was embodied in the requirement to “coordinate” both operations and the results presented to the president. Just what “coordination” meant in terms of influencing organizational behavior is discussed at length in the first chapter which covers the first four DCIs as they attempt unsuccessfully to resolve the issue. Successive DCIs faced variations of the same problem because each new president had his own ideas about coordination authority. Their attempts at solutions are explored and explained in well documented detail.

The last chapter of the study, “Final Observations, contains some insightful thoughts on trying to solve problems with new organizations when people-oriented solutions are called for. It also examines the fundamental changes in approach to community control necessitated by 9/11. This study is historically valuable, especially for those seeking to understand Intelligence Community management.

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Andy J. Byers. The Imperfect Spy: The Inside Story of a Convicted Spy (St. Petersburg, FL: Vandamere Press, 2005), 256 pp., endnotes, appendices, photos, index.

Andy Byers tells an awful story well. George Trofimoff was born in 1928 of Russian parents in Berlin. After growing up in a foster home in Germany, he dodged the draft in 1944 and made his way to France and then America in 1947. He enlisted in the army in 1948, became a citizen in 1951, and was commissioned in the reserves in 1953, though on active duty he served only in enlisted status. His first overseas assignment was to Germany where he interrogated Soviet defectors. After tours in the Far East, he became a civil servant when he completed his obligation. With two marriages under his belt, he returned to Germany in 1961. While working in Frankfurt screening mail from behind the Iron Curtain, he was reunited with his foster brother, Igor, who had become a metropolitan in the Russian Orthodox Church. Trofimoff worked and lived very well in Germany for the next 30 years, eventually becoming a supervisor in the Joint Interrogation Center at Nuremburg and a colonel in the army reserve. He retired in August 1994 and made plans to settle in Florida with his fourth wife. On 14 December 1994, shortly before his departure date, Trofimoff and Igor were arrested by the German Criminal Police (BkA) for espionage against NATO and the Federal Republic of Germany. Two days later they were set free for lack of evidence. Trofimoff and his wife quickly left for Florida where they settled in a gated community, and George continued his habits of grand living, but this time with insufficient funds. He soon began bagging groceries in a supermarket.

By July 1997, when Trofimoff was deeply in debt, he received a ray of hope in the form of an unsigned letter from “Igor Galkin” implying a source of funds may have turned up. After three years of gentle persuasion, including face-to-face recorded meetings in a motel, where he finally discussed in detail his past services for the KGB and his hopes for future compensation, Trofimoff agreed to meet Igor in Tampa to receive $20,000. He was arrested for espionage by the FBI on arrival and has been in jail ever since.

The story of how the BkA and the FBI learned about Trofimoff in the first place and how the FBI made their arrest stick is told in The Imperfect Spy. Author Andy Byers, a retired army colonel and West Point graduate, was George’s friend and next door neighbor in Florida. He learned from interviews and court documents that Trofimoff’s days were numbered after Vasili Mitrokhin defected to MI6 in 1992. Mitrokhin’s debriefing provided sufficient evidence for suspicion, but not prosecution under German law. In the United States, there is no statute of limitation on espionage, and the FBI conducted a brilliant three-year sting operation to collect direct evidence from Trofimoff himself. Instead of negotiating a plea, he adopted the “Alger Hiss defense,” as former CIA operations officer, Fred Wettering described his defense in the preface. Retired KGB major general Oleg Kalugin, Trofimoff’s onetime handler, testified at the trial, sealing Trofimoff’s fate.

The story of why he did it; how he worked for his foster brother, a KGB agent; and the damage he inflicted makes exciting reading. The Imperfect Spy is a distressing story, but a worthy contribution to counterintelligence literature.

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Paul Gannon. COLOSSUS: Bletchley Park’s Greatest Secret (London: Atlantic Books, 20065), 562 pp., endnotes, appendices, photos, index.

With the publication of The ULTRA Secret in 1974, the British government acknowledged that during WW II codebreakers at Bletchley Park had read Germany’s secret military communications by decrypting the code produced by the Enigma cipher machine.[14] More accounts followed and it soon became the conventional wisdom that codebreaking was a major factor in winning the war— and it was.[15] But Enigma’s role was only part of the story, as the British government knew very well. However, with the focus on Enigma, the other part remained secret for a few more years. Credit for breaking Enigma went to a young Cambridge mathematician, Alan Turing, who, according to some accounts, designed a decoding machine called the BOMBE that did the job.[16] Others attributed the feat to Turing’s work on a programmable codebreaking device called COLOSSUS. As COLOSSUS the book makes clear, the true purpose and technical characteristics of the machine were the secrets the British wished to protect. But leaks occurred, and in 1984 the British officially resolved some of the confusion by admitting COLOSSUS was designed to decrypt codes produced, not by Enigma, but by the far more sophisticated, Geheimschreiber or secret writing machine used only for Hitler’s strategic communications. Turing’s role was not mentioned.[17] And so, as late as 1997, authors were still attributing the Enigma decryptions to Turing’s almost nonexistent work on COLOSSUS.[18]

Author Paul Gannon sorts out the differences in the BOMBE and COLOSSUS, describes their actual contribution to the war effort, and clarifies the true role of Alan Turing. The first two parts of the book describe the intercept and decryption processes. The third contains 17 appendices that describe the technical aspects of codebreaking.

The key to understanding the general differences in the Enigma/BOMBE and Geheimschreiber/COLOSSUS systems, writes Gannon, is the recognition that the former deciphered Enigma encrypted messages intercepted in Morse code, while the latter decrypted messages transmitted and intercepted in analog form—radio waves—a more technically challenging, difficult-to-break, and expensive system. Using the Enigma required three men (two could do it), one to type the message into the Enigma machine, another to record the encrypted output one letter at a time, and a third to transmit the result in Morse code— a slow off-line system. Reception required the reverse operations before the BOMBE helped determine the settings needed to decrypt the message. With the Geheimschreiber, the message was encrypted as it was typed and the result was automatically punched on paper tape, which was then transmitted. This was the system of choice for the high-volume sensitive traffic from headquarters to the field. Enigma was used at division level and below. The intercepts that kept the Allies aware of German planning and operations prior to and after D-Day were Geheimschreiber, not Enigma, decryptions. The scientists who built COLOSSUS to decode the Geheimschreiber traffic never saw the German device. It was all done based on theory, as was Friedman’s work on the PURPLE code.[19]

In the process of explaining the origins of COLOSSUS, Gannon tells how Britain got in the SIGINT business and gives some examples of its early successes and failures. He also includes background data on the principal players and their contributions. This book is a comprehensive treatment of an important and, heretofore, not well-understood subject. A readable, thoroughly documented, valuable contribution.

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

Lt. Col. Will Irwin (Ret). The Jedburghs: The Secret History of the Allied Special Forces, France 1944 (New York: Public Affairs, 2005), 323 pp., endnotes, bibliography, appendices, photos, index.

Colin Beavan. Operation Jedburgh: D-Day and America’s First Shadow War (New York: Penguin, 2006), 432 pp. photos, maps, index.

Just before D-Day, 1944, the German army had 25 divisions stationed along the French coast, backed-up by 16 infantry parachute divisions and 10 armored divisions plus seven more mechanized divisions in reserve.[20] The French resistance, with thousands of poorly equipped and inadequately trained members, was charged with impeding the progress of the reserve, mechanized, and armored divisions that were to come to the aid of the coastal defense forces. To enhance the chances of success, the Allies created specially qualified three-man teams and dropped them behind German lines after the invasion to provide coordination between the resistance elements and the invasion forces. The idea for the all-volunteer teams originated with the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) in 1942. The codeword selected for the program was “Jedburgh.” The team members referred to themselves as “Jeds.”

Although mentioned in many books about WW II special operations, Jedburgh operations did not received detailed attention until the three works above were published. There is general agreement among them in some areas, and differences of approach in others. Areas of agreement include origin of the term “Jedburgh” (the word’s turn came up in the codeword list), recruitment, training, and some unbelievable bureaucratic battles among the Allies. They also agree on the compositions of the teams: they dispel the conventional wisdom that each team had one British, one French, and one American member and show that the mix of people depended on the circumstances.[21]

The differences occur in the appendices of each book. Beavan lists only the team composition (name, rank, nationality). Ford adds columns for insertion dates and worknames, the latter being used between the member and headquarters. The table in Irwin’s book also includes insertion dates while adding a column for remarks about deployment and casualties. Each author’s coverage of team operations varies. In Steel from the Sky Ford has relatively short descriptions about many teams—some mentioned only in the indices of the other books. Irwin, on the other hand, tells the story of six representative Jedburgh teams in considerable detail while mentioning others that interacted with them. Beavan’s approach is in between.

It is difficult to measure how well the teams performed. Qualitatively, their losses were less than predicted, and they were praised at all levels of command. The books describe how the Jeds arranged for supply drops, trained hundreds of partisans, kept at least eight divisions from reaching the invasion beaches and frequently engaged German troops.[22] Support for the teams is another matter. It is clear that the teams would have been more successful had they been deployed sooner and had overcome the difficulties caused by traitors among the partisans, as well as problems with inadequate supplies and communications with headquarters. In his afterword, Ford says that aspect deserves “serious criticism.” Quantitatively, no records were kept of the number of weapons and equipment supplied to the resistance, of the bridges blown, of the Germans killed; a few estimate are given. The after action reports and unit histories do not have this kind of detail.

Although Ford notes that his book is based mainly on newly released materials from the British archives and some personal interviews, his failure to include source notes reduces the scholarly value of his otherwise impressive contribution. Irwin and Beavan rely on interviews with former Jeds, memoirs, and primary sources, all of which are cited in endnotes. Beavan includes a brief epilogue and a lengthy preface that digresses into gratuitous attacks on the CIA for its postwar covert action programs and the War on Terror. The preface also pays tribute to his grandfather, an OSS officer who worked with the Jeds but was not part of the Jedburgh teams. Beavan’s claim that his grandfather was later the head of all CIA clandestine operations is incorrect.

Irwin’s epilogue is the most comprehensive, interesting and informative. It tells what happened to many of the Jeds—future actors, financiers, classical scholars, doctors, a DCI, or CIA analysts, and Special Forces officers. He also includes key members of SOE and military participants who contributed to the success of the Jedburgh program.

The stories about this unique group of brave volunteers, who had no prior special forces experience and who were selected because of their language skills and ability to deal with adversity, leave no doubt that they earned the long overdue recognition given in these volumes.

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Intelligence Around the World

Ali Akbar Dareini (ed.). The Rise and Fall of the Pahlavi Dynasty: Memoirs of Former General Hussein Fardust (New Delhi: Motilal Babarsisass Publishers, 1999), 463 pp., endnotes, photos, maps, no index.

Hussein Fardust was a childhood friend of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the last shah of Iran, one of the few non-family members Reza trusted throughout his life. They attended schools together in Iran and Switzerland, and after the prince assumed the throne in 1941, Fardust was sent to Britain for intelligence training. On his return he became head of the Special Information Bureau, an organization akin to Britain’s Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). At one point he was also deputy chief of the SAVAK (Iran’s secret police) and was responsible for its reorganization.

Fardust’s memoirs give a detailed look at some familiar and less familiar events in Iran’s history from the other side. He begins with the Anglo-Iranian oil relationship, moves to the 1953 coup and the background to the overthrow of Mossadeq, describes the shah’s extensive cooperation with Western intelligence— mainly CIA and MI6—and Iran’s relationship with its Middle East neighbors, including Israel, and the long war with Iraq. There are several chapters on Iran’s intelligence services in which their organization and operations are described in greater detail than in any other English-language source. In 1977, public protests began in part because of the shah’s corrupt government, the “use of torture and political persecution” by SAVAK, and near 50-percent inflation. (377) Whether the shah grasped what was happening is unclear, though Fardust does say, “No one dared to tell the truth to the Shah.” (543).

The politics of the frustrating but inevitable collapse of the regime are described, as is the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini, which led to the revolution and the shah’s permanent departure. The takeover of the American embassy is barely mentioned (Fardust was gone by that time). In a bid to escape the executioner he went into hiding, though he was arrested after five years and confined to his house. It was then that he wrote his memoirs, but he died in 1987 of a heart attack before finishing them. The translator has added some details about Fardust’s final days and in the process noted that the Islamic regime was quick to establish its own Intelligence Ministry. This book is filled with essential background on Iran, a country that is often hard to understand.

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Jonathan Walker. Aden Insurgency: The Savage War in South Arabia 1962-1967 (Staplehurst, UK: Spellmount Limited, 2005), 332 pp., end of chapter notes, bibliography, appendix, glossary, photos, index.

In 1838, British naval elements created a coaling station on the peninsula of Aden on the southwestern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. In 1938 it became a British Crown Colony, and by 1962 it was part of a larger region called the Federation of South Arabia. In 1967, after a 4-year insurgent revolt, the federation became the People’s Republic of South Yemen. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Aden became part of present day Yemen. Aden Insurgency summarizes the transition from colony to independence. The major focus of the book is the ultimately unsuccessful British political and military struggle to keep from spreading to South Arabia and Aden an insurgency that began in 1962 and was inspired by Egypt and supported by communists.

After its experience in the 1956 Suez Crisis, Britain was reluctant to respond overtly to a request from the king of Yemen to help quash the 1962 revolt against the government. But some parts of the British government were willing to provide clandestine support. The Colonial Office and MI5 favored this course, while the Foreign Office and MI6, then headed by Sir Dick White, were less than supportive—their “battles” at White’s club are described. Walker provides considerable interesting detail on how British Special Forces and MI6 elements were activated to participate “unofficially” in training, advising, and fighting with the South Arabian Army (SSA) to subdue the insurgency.

The British were successful in the north, but in South Arabia they were unable to prevent formation of a National Liberation Front (NLF) supported by various tribal factions. These forces initiated sustained terrorist attacks against the British and any locals who supported them. This form of intimidating the federation forces was successful; prior knowledge of NLF operations was poor. In June 1967, despite some rumbles of impending revolt, the federation and the British were surprised by a mutiny of SSA soldiers that was eventually joined by the Aden police. The major Aden city, Crater, was occupied. British attempts to dislodge the insurgents failed. Many British soldiers were killed and, for political reasons, the British imposed a ban on entering mosques where the terrorists stored their weapons and ammunition. Thus curtailed, the end was near.

Although the British had announced in 1963 their intention to leave Aden in 1968, the insurgents kept up their bombings and assassinations of civilians and military until the actual British departure. An NLF spokesman explained the policy as follows: “Some may ask, why fight for independence when the British will grant it freely? Comrades, true independence is not given away but taken.” (278) Walker concludes that the insurgents wanted to show the world “that it was they who were evicting the British.”

Aden Insurgency, is well written and thoroughly documented by recently released Foreign Office files and personal interviews. It provides another element of the Middle East puzzle and makes some powerful lessons about fighting terrorism.

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H.V.F. Winstone. Gertrude Bell (London: Barzan Publishing, 2004), 504 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index. (revised edition)

It is well known that during WW II, five Cambridge University graduates, led by Kim Philby, served as espionage agents for the KGB. Less well known is the precedent set during WW I by five Oxford University graduates serving as intelligence officers in the Arab Bureau, headquartered in Cairo. There was, of course, an important distinction—the Oxford group was loyal to the British government. Led by David Hogarth, the other members were Kinahan Cornwallis, T. E. Lawrence, W. A. Ormsby-Gore, and Miss Gertrude Bell, the first women officer in British military intelligence.

Winstone’s biography tells the story of this most remarkable upper-class, privileged, eccentric Victorian lady who had the temerity to attend Oxford at age 17 and, two years later (1888), to graduate with a first class degree in history. She then began her travels, circling the world twice then climbing the Swiss Alps, before traveling to Persia, where she studied Farsi and archeology. Returning to London, she wrote a book about her travels before returning to Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) to conduct archeological digs. She would explore the desert with only a tribal guide. Even in the desert she wore long English dresses and fashionable hats. Tea was served at four o’clock in china tea service. Meals were equally formal wherever she was. After learning Arabic she developed a lifelong affinity with the Arab people and the Muslim culture. The respect and affection was reciprocated by Muslim leaders and scholars.

When the British interests in the Middle East were threatened during WW I, the government established the Arab Bureau, staffed it with regional specialists and tasked it to provide analyses of the social, geopolitical, and military relationship among the Arab nations and tribes.[23] Gertrude Bell was well known and had by then written extensively on all but the military topics. While in London, in June 1915, she was recruited, inexplicably, by the Director of Naval Intelligence, Captain “Blinker” Hall (whom she knew socially), to serve with Army military intelligence in Cairo as a member of the Arab Bureau which was nominally “under the Foreign Office, but funded by the War Office and controlled by the Admiralty.” (278) She was subsequently transferred to Basra, where she remained until the British army took Baghdad.

After the war, Bell attended the Paris Peace Conference, where she had a profound disagreement with President Wilson over Iraq’s future. At his request, she prepared studies supporting her position.[24] She advocated creating Arab nations supported by the British. Winston Churchill, secretary of state for the colonies, initially favored British withdrawal from Iraq. But at the Cairo conference of British Middle East officials in March 1921, Churchill came to adopt the Bell position (and that of Lawrence) of setting up an Arab regime in Iraq advised by British officers. Bell also played a significant role in securing the throne for Feisal ibn Hussein, who called Bell “Lady of the Court.” Arabist and friend H. St. J. Philby (Kim Philby’s father) called her “the maker of Iraq.” She also tried to help Baghdad’s Muslim women, who were largely confined indoors, holding tea parties for them and arranging a series of lectures from a woman doctor. Bell would spend the remainder of her life in Baghdad, where she established the Iraqi National Museum and became honorary director of antiquities. A plaque in her honor on the museum greeted the US army when it arrived in 2003.

Much is known about Bell’s worldview and personal life from the great volume of her letters that survived her. Winstone uses them and the reminiscences of her friends and critics to create a wonderful story about this most admirable woman, who never married. Her two major love affairs ended in tragedy, as did her life, which she ended in Baghdad at age 58.

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[1] Lieut. Col. Sir Alexander Burnes, C.B., Cabool: Being A Personal Narrative of a Journey to, and Residence in that City in the Years 1836, 7, and 8 (London: John Murray, 1842).

[2] Gary Schroen. First In: An Insider's Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan (New York: Ballantine Books, 2005).

[3] See for example, Pete Earley, Confessions of a Spy, The Real Story of Aldrich Ames (New York: Berkley Books, 1998) and Oleg Kalugin, The First Directorate: My 32 Years in Intelligence and Espionage Against the West (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994).

[4] The National Security Act of 1947, Public Law 253, 26 July 1947, Sec. 102 (d) (5).

[5] Thomas Powers, “The Biggest Secret,” Vol. 53, No. 3, February 23, 2006. Powers is best known for his book, The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979).

[6], 9 January 2006. Benjamin co-authored two books on terrorism with Steven Simon: Next Attack: the Failure of the War on Terror and a Strategy for Getting It Right (New York: Henry Holt, 2005), The Age of Sacred Terror (New York: Random House, 2002).

[7] Cynthia Cotts, “The Times Backs Off Cox Report, Wen Ho Lee Allegations,” The Village Voice, September 15–21, 1999.

[8] Sean-Paul Kelley, “Iran’s Risen Nuclear Threat,” 11 January 2006:

[9] Romesh Ratnesar, “The Book Behind the Bombshell,” TIME, Tuesday, 3 January 2006.

[10] Richard H. Shultz, Jr., Director of International Security Studies Program at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, is a consultant to the government.

[11] American College Dictionary, Third Edition, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992).

[12] The only source he cites for this judgment is the book, The Secret Team: The CIA and its Allies in Control of the United States and the World, by Col. Fletcher Prouty, USAF (Ret.), whom he incorrectly calls a “former CIA agent” (22). The late Prouty was the father of all conspiracy theorists and was an advisor to, and a character (Mr. X, played by Donald Sutherland) in, Oliver Stone’s movie, JFK.

[13] Alfred W. McCoy, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade (Brooklyn, NY: Lawrence Hill Books, 2003), 681 pp. This is the third edition of this book originally published in 1972.

[14] Fred Winterbotham, The ULTRA Secret (New York: Harper & Row, 1974).

[15] See, for example, Anthony Cave Brown, Bodyguard of Lies.

[16] David Kahn, “The Code Battle,” Playboy, December 1975.

[17] F. H. Hinsley, et al., British Intelligence in the Second World War (London: HMSO, 1984) Volume 3, Part I, 479–81. Correct unofficial accounts of the role of COLOSSUS appeared as early as November 1982; see for example, David Kahn, Kahn On Codes (New York: Macmillan, 1982), 52.

[18] Paul Strathern, Turing and the Computer (London: Arrow Books, 1997), 8.

[19] Ronald Clark, The Man Who Broke Purple: The Life of Colonel William F. Friedman, Who Deciphered the Japanese Code in World War II (Boston: Little Brown, 1977).

[20]I.C.B. Dear and MR.D. Foot (eds.). The Oxford Companion to World War II (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 853.

[21] Ibid., 638.

[22] M. R. D. Foot. SOE In France (London: HMSO, 1966), xxii.

[23] After the war some of her analyses were published with an introduction by Bell’s former colleague, Sir Kinahan Cornwallis. Copies available at:

[24] Her study commissioned by Wilson was titled The Civil Administration of Mesopotamia. It was published as a white paper in 1920. The review described, inter alia, the social conditions in Iraq's tribal areas and remains a widely used source of information.


Hayden B. Peake is the curator of the CIA Historical Intelligence Collection. He served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. He has been the Intelligence Officer's Bookshelf reviewer since 2002.

All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed in this article are those of the author. Nothing in the article should be construed as asserting or imploying US government endorsement of an article's factual statements and interpretations.

Historical Document
Posted: Apr 15, 2007 10:16 AM
Last Updated: Jun 26, 2008 07:27 AM