The Intelligence Officer's Bookshelf
Thomas E. Ricks. FIASCO: The American Military Adventure in Iraq (New York: The Penguin Press, 2006), 482 pp., endnotes, photos, index.
Thomas Ricks is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Washington Post, with many years experience covering the military. His new book, Fiasco, is a critical, although not antagonistic, depiction of the war in Iraq—there is no journalistic pit bull at work here. Ricks covers the Washington side of events to some extent, but his main emphasis is on the situation in Iraq, how it came about, and the ignored lessons of history.
Looking back to the planning stages, Ricks relates an anecdote concerning Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO), who reminded the president of the advice of two great writers on military strategy: the first from Carl von Clausewitz, who wrote: [do] “not take the first step without considering the last”; the second from Sun Tzu, “To win victory is easy; to preserve its fruits, difficult.”(59) Fiasco argues that these warnings were not taken seriously at any level. No element of the national security community escapes blame. There was “bad planning, bad leadership, bad analysis…[and] in the case of journalism, bad reporting and editing.” He adds Congress to his list for its “sins of omission.” (85)
Fiasco spends the balance of its pages documenting these assertions. Ricks discusses the period leading up to the war and offers interesting details on the Pentagon’s moves in the field of intelligence and the invasion itself. He is also concerned about events after the fall of Iraq, the reasons for the unanticipated prolonged insurgency, and what might be done about the situation.
Ricks addresses several incidents that are disturbing from an intelligence point of view. The case of CURVEBALL, the source of the Germans who lied in claiming knowledge of Iraq’s mobile biological weapons program—and its impact on Colin Powell’s UN speech—is an example. Ricks says that although doubts about CURVEBALL were presented to intelligence officials before the speech, they were ignored. In later instances, he writes of the career-limiting consequences of two factually accurate but pessimistic briefings on the insurgency situation to high-level commanders. (408–9) What Ricks does not do in either case is cite sources in the text or the endnotes. On the other hand, his overall positive comments on the Army’s lessons-learned program are documented.
Fiasco gives poignant examples of how not to deal with an insurgency that suggest there are lessons yet to be learned. (250ff) Intermixed with the criticism of the leaders and planners, Ricks includes disturbing stories from those doing the fighting that he says show the often fatal impact of poor leadership and planning. In a chapter called “Turnover” he quotes former military commanders and advisers concerning those in the Pentagon who still, in 2006, do not grasp the situation in Iraq.
Fiasco closes with some none-too-encouraging possible scenarios for the future, minus potential solutions. That is an issue he leaves to others.
Michael Isikoff and David Corn. Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War (New York: Crown, 2006), 463 pp. endnotes, index.
There is no shortage of books devoted to aspects of the war on terror. COBRA II looks at the first year of the war from a military point of view. Fiasco, above, examines some of the domestic issues but concentrates on military events in Iraq through 2005. Hubris largely ignores the fighting and focuses on domestic controversies during the entire period, many of which involve the Intelligence Community and the CIA, in particular. The principal revelation in this book concerns what the media insists on calling “the CIA leak case.” In fact, there was no leak from the CIA, as Hubris makes very clear when Isikoff and Corn reveal the State Department source of the leak concerning the then-CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson. Hubris also looks at issues concerning the run-up to the war, including the WMD controversy, bureaucratic infighting, leaks, the questionable source CURVEBALL who contributed to the substance of the Secretary of State Colin Powell’s UN speech, the roles of the principals involved, rendition, and the controversy generated by the “16 words” in the president’s 2003 State of the Union speech.
Among the surprises the authors claimed they found were US attempts to recruit Iraq’s then-foreign minister Naji Sabri and the contributions of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who mentioned Zacarias Moussaoui’s al-Qaeda training. The authors pay particular attention to several books that, they argue, contributed to less than factual assessments of the pre-war situation, with Judith Miller, the New York Times and Laurie Mylroie bearing the brunt of the criticism. The narrative is based largely on interviews and newspaper articles, and, while the topics lend themselves to the temptations of sensationalism, the account tends to avoid this approach and is relatively balanced. At this stage, no final judgment about the truth is possible. That task must be left to historians.
Lawrence Wright. Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006), 470 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.
The term looming tower in the title of Lawrence Wright’s book has a double meaning. Usama bin Laden used these words from the Koran in a video-taped speech to the 9/11 hijackers: “Wherever you are, death will find you, even in the looming tower.” The other meaning is self-explanatory. Wright tells a compelling story of the key men behind the attack; not those who flew the planes into the twin towers, but those who declared war on the non-believers and who formed al-Qa’ida. To a great extent Wright explains what caused these men to become Islamists. For each, he summarizes the events that radicalized them and the difficulties they experienced as they worked to achieve their goals.
The first is Sayyid Qutb, whom Wright calls the martyr. An Egyptian who became incensed with the decadent, promiscuous West while attending college in Colorado, Qutb returned to Egypt, joined the radical Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, and spent harsh time in jail. There he wrote a manifesto that espoused the doctrine of takfir which held that Islam was the only true religion and that true believers had the religious obligation to kill everyone—including women and children—who disagreed with the true faith. (29) Another Egyptian and eventually an al-Qa’ida leader was medical doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri, who also spent time in an Egyptian jail for involvement in the assassination of Anwar Sadat. When released, he formed a radical Islamist group called al-Jihad dedicated to imposing Islamic law. By comparison, Usama bin Laden, the third principal of the book, lived a life of privilege. Wright tells of his gradual conversion to radicalism while fighting in Afghanistan. He also details bin Laden’s health problems, denying that he has kidney problems and speculating on Addison’s disease. He also tells of the serendipitous arrival in Afghanistan of the Western-educated Saudi volunteers who became his 9/11 instruments. This event made possible, notes Wright, the implementation of plans gradually formulated by al-Zawahiri and bin Laden since their first meeting in Pakistan in 1980, when they adopted the doctrine of takfir as al-Qa’ida’s operating principle.
The American side of the story is told in terms of FBI terrorist experts Dan Coleman, John O’Neill, and to a lesser extent Michael Scheuer and Richard Clarke. Although they had been tracking bin Laden for some time, they first learned of al-Qa’ida from a Sudanese defector, Jamal al-Fadl, shortly after bin Laden declared war on the United States in 1996. While al-Qa’ida evolved and planned its terrorist operations—the first World Trade Center bombing, the attacks in Lebanon, Africa, and on the USS Cole—leading up to 9/11, the FBI and CIA came to realize that al-Qa’ida planned terrorist attacks against America itself. Despite a bin Laden double agent in their midst, the FBI comes off better than it did in The Sacred Age of Terror by former NSC analysts, Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, though Wright acknowledges that on 11 September 2001, the Bureau had only one analyst working full time on the al-Qa’ida account. But Wright shows convincingly that the failure of the FBI and the CIA to cooperate at key junctures and the failure of policymakers to take their assessments seriously gave bin Laden his success.
The Looming Tower offers by far the best explanation of the barely comprehensible radical Islamic reasoning behind 9/11. It is wonderfully written and thoroughly documented. Wright conducted more than 600 interviews in his research. The book ends with John O’Neill’s death in the World Trade Center and the disappearance of bin Laden and al-Zawahiri into the mountains.
Tyler Drumheller. On the Brink: How the White House Has Compromised American Intelligence (New York: Carroll Graf, 2006), 320 pp., index.
Tyler Drumheller’s last stop before turning in his badge and leaving CIA headquarters for good was a visit to the Agency library. He had gone there many times to think and reflect on frustrating problems. This time, he writes in On The Brink, he looked back on his entire career, and it was time to say farewell. (187ff) He goes on to say this is a book he never thought about writing until his wife suggested it. In reviews and interviews, the media has focused on the controversial episodes. One concerned the Iraqi defector held by the Germans— codenamed CURVEBALL. Drumheller came to reject CURVEBALL’s information about mobile biological weapons, though he was unable to convince the DCI of his conclusions. Another concerned his disagreements with the administration on how intelligence was interpreted prior to the invasion of Iraq.\
Little, if any, media attention has been paid to what Drumheller writes about his career and his admiration for George Tenet, who, Drumheller says, had “really wanted to make a difference for the agency” and who took the time to send his mother a get-well card after she suffered a heart attack. (201–2) Likewise, there was no mention of Deputy Director of Central Intelligence John McLaughlin’s article in the Washington Post that noted that CIA officers saw it as their “solemn duty” to work for the president “regardless of which party holds the White House…we just called it as we saw it.” (170) Other topics that have escaped attention in the media are Drumheller’s comments on the new Office of the Director of National Intelligence—which he supports—his testimony before the Silberman-Robb WMD Commission, his reaction to the Aldrich Ames case and the impact it had on operations, his efforts to adjust to the new operational environment following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and his agreement with John McLaughlin that “the issue of how to deal with terrorism is so important we should make it like a new Manhattan Project.”
The final two chapters of the book were written by coauthor Elaine Monaghan and are based on open sources she found on her own. They elaborate parts of Drumheller’s career and add detail on subjects he covered in the book. Her approach is to tell what she found and to let the reader decide on its significance.
On The Brink is a firsthand account by a respected former CIA officer and thus should be taken seriously. The story he tells is sourced in the text. He relies on the reader to decide on relevance and veracity.
Ron Suskind. The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America’s Pursuit Of Its Enemies Since 9/11 (New York: Simon Schuster, 2006), 367 pp., index.
The One Percent Doctrine tells an interesting story about the war on terror, but it is little more than Washington gossip where intelligence is often the subject. That is not to say the easy reading, anecdotal stories he tells are inaccurate—there is just no way to tell since Suskind offers no sourcing. This is significant because Suskind includes conversations among and between the leaders of the government and Intelligence Community, in quotes, on most of the major familiar issues—leaks, intelligence to please, WMDs, and dealings with Libya, etc.—that have confronted the nation since 9/11. Even the book’s title, attributed to a comment by Vice President Cheney after an intelligence briefing and referring to al-Qa’ida, appears in quotes, though Suskind was not in attendance. This “trust me” approach casts doubt on what may be new details in the book: the material on tracking al-Qa’ida’s financial transactions in cooperation with First Data Corporation being one instance. Another is Suskind’s story that al-Qa’ida planned then inexplicably cancelled a hydrogen-cyanide attack on New York, using a new delivery system—a Mubtakkar. (194ff) Then there is an entire chapter on the acquisition, delivery, and examination of a terrorist’s severed head that turned out to be the head of the wrong terrorist. True or not the inclusion of this grisly story is best explained as a publicity stunt.
From time to time Suskind presents his own views—often in the second person—about intelligence and terrorism. These views were characterized by the New York Times Book Review as “the war on terror as narrated by Dr. Phil.” This is an interesting gossipy summary on some major issues from 9/11 to 2005, but one should not abandon the quest for truth in these matters.
Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, with Benjamin Rhodes. Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006), 370 pp., appendix, chronology, photos, index.
Government-sponsored investigative commissions are not a new phenomenon. The Hoover Commission, the Doolittle Commission, the Tower Commission and the Rockefeller Commission, each produced a now forgotten report. The 9/11 Commission Report was a best seller—over 50,000 copies sold. Why the difference? The cochairmen of the commission, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, suggest two reasons, both planned: it was written for the public with clear objectives, and most of its recommendations were implemented. Without Precedent tells how they accomplished their goals.
Planning, forethought, staff selection, and cooperation were the keys to any success, say the authors. Armed with subpoena powers, the staff identified and interviewed witnesses. Their approach was non-confrontational by design. Their intent was to obtain the facts and make consensus recommendations about why 9/11 happened, whether it was or was not preventable, and what organizations were at fault? They explain how they overcame initial White House reluctance to provide documents and allow key individuals to testify in public, though they do not show why public hearings were essential. They lost the battle over interviewing potential terrorist detainees, although some of their comments were provided. That there was little expectation they would obtain the truth from such witnesses is not addressed. The authors do not shrink from controversy within the commission itself. The discussion of the so-called “Gorelick’s Wall,” which was thought to prohibit transfer of data between intelligence and law enforcement elements, is a prominent example. Similarly, they discuss claims that the Defense Department’s “Able Danger” program had identified Mohammed Atta (who allegedly met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague before 9/11), although they do not adequately explain why they dismissed the reports.
The commission members insisted that the heads of each Intelligence Community agency testify in an effort to identify what went wrong. Individual accountability was not the issue—though the authors understood many thought it should have been—but organizational performance was mentioned. They recognized, for example, that “before 9/11 no agency did more to attack al Qaeda, working day and night, than did the CIA....” and then went on to examine the policy constraints that kept them from doing more.
A continuing theme in the book is the direct involvement in the commissions’ work of family members of 9/11 victims, especially with regard to the reforms. Why their judgments on important issues such as Intelligence Community structure and agency operations deserved, and had, so much influence is left unstated. Without Precedent gives us an unusual glimpse of a government commission at work. The report card on intelligence work in the final chapter is not one any college student would want, but it makes clear what the authors think has been and still needs to be done. Whether or not the reforms implemented will work must necessarily be left for another commission to assess.
Ofira Seliktar. Politics, Paradigms, and Intelligence Failures: Why So Few Predicted the Collapse of the Soviet Union (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2004), 281 pp., bibliography, index.
As it seems with political scientists in general, Professor Ofira Seliktar of the University of Strathclyde, Scotland, has an aversion to simple declarative sentences, but she manages a few concerning events before the collapse of the Soviet Union. For example, she writes, “Washington’s failure to foresee the events in Moscow ranks high in the pantheon of predictive failures.” She then proceeds to describe a technique for avoiding the problem in the future, concluding that “theoretical analysis makes it clear that political change, whether revolutionary or incremental, is rooted in changing norms of legitimacy that underlie the collective belief system of a society.” In between, Seliktar examines various CIA and academic approaches to the problem, stressing the conflicts between the conservative and revisionist positions, the use of the “Team B” concept, and the impact of various CIA studies.
There is one reason for ignoring Seliktar’s book altogether, but at least three for giving it serious attention:
First, Seliktar quotes other works on the subject of the USSR’s collapse, but she ignores views that do not coincide with her own. The most direct example is the article by Bruce Berkowitz and Jeffrey Richelson in which they present substantial evidence that “the Intelligence Community did not fail to predict the Soviet collapse.” (emphasis in original)
- The first reason for encouraging serious attention to the book is that Seliktar claims that her methods for studying “legitimacy-driven political change” are useful “in the predictive endeavor.”
- The second reason is that the author claims her method “can be used for anticipating changes that lie ahead in the Muslim world and beyond.” (xiv)
- And finally, perhaps the most valuable reason for reading this book is that it presents an innovative approach for students and analysts alike to solve or at least study a perennial problem.
While Seliktar’s approach is complex and not well known, ignorance should not stand in the way. Be encouraged by Stanford professor Thomas Lee who writes: “if you are an enlightened person, you should be in a perpetual state of ignorance.” That is the baseline for innovative thought.
Jan Goldman. Words of Intelligence: A Dictionary (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2006), 173 pp., appendix.
The 1990 publication of The International Dictionary of Intelligence was a semantic catastrophe. It was followed by a second edition in 1996 that had some modest improvements but managed to retain many of the deluded formulations found in the first. Words of Intelligence is a definite improvement for several reasons. First, the oxymoronic term defector in place is out. Second, many of the terms included actually apply to the intelligence profession. On the other hand, too many do not. “Slam dunk,” for example, may be appropriate in a common usage dictionary, but it is not a standard intelligence term and is unlikely to be used as such in the future. Likewise, “argument,” “black,” “briefing,” “hugger-mugger,” “information,” “scenario,” “terms-of-reference,” “querying,” and “twilight information,” to give a few examples, are generic and have no special intelligence meaning. On a different note, many terms included here already appear in official publications, as, for example, “counterintelligence” in Executive Order 12333. Yet the definitions do not match. Which one should a student adopt? There is indeed a real need for a standard dictionary of intelligence terms. But even if Words of Intelligence is a step in that direction, a second edition is needed.
David Carment and Martin Rudner (eds.), Peacekeeping Intelligence: New Players, Extended Boundaries (Oxon, UK: Taylor Francis, 2006), 214 pp., end of chapter notes, photos, index.
The United Nations does not have an intelligence element. It does have an Information and Research Unit (IRU) but only with advisory authority. When it undertakes peacekeeping operations, military units, government civilian organizations, and non-governmental organizations perform interrelated missions. How do these elements know where it is safe to go, when the military units need to be involved, who can be trusted and who cannot, who is in charge locally and who has overall authority to assign information gathering missions, and force protection responsibilities? If the information gathered is ambiguous, who decides what is to be accepted as truth? The 14 contributions to this book examine these issues and recommend a number of theoretical models to help answer these questions. None are simple, all require voluntary cooperation, the key to current mission accomplishment. And, the solutions discussed, such as “effects based planning” (EBP), are not supported by operational field testing. In short, though it defines the problem well, Peacekeeping Intelligence does not pretend to recommend practical solutions. Thus, it deals with only half the problem.
Dominic Streatfeild. Brainwash: The Secret History of Mind Control (London: Hodder Stoughton, 2006), 440 pp., endnotes, index.
The term “brainwashing” entered the American lexicon in an article by journalist and onetime CIA officer Edward Hunter in the Miami Daily News on 24 September 1950. It was Hunter’s variation of the Chinese term xinao, meaning “cleaning the brain.” Author Dominic Streatfeild explains that Hunter conceived the term after interviewing former Chinese prisoners who had been subjected to a “re-education” process. He went on to apply it to the interrogation techniques the KGB used during purges to extract confessions from innocent prisoners.(15) From there, variations were conceived—mind control, mind alteration, behavior modification—and they eventually found their way into the world of fiction in the book The Manchurian Candidate (1959) and the movie of the same name in 1962.
In Brainwash, Streatfeild follows the brainwashing research supported by government funds from the 1950s to the present. The initial motivator, he writes, was the idea that if the communists were doing it successfully, the West had better learn what was involved. Streatfeild summarizes the legitimate research conducted by the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Denmark and some of the unfortunate and well-known results. He discusses experiments with subliminal learning, induced amnesia, sleep deprivation, and the use of drugs, LSD, in particular. None of the cases produces scientifically predictable results, which explains why the studies were eventually abandoned. One elaborate case in Denmark thought to be the consequence of hypnotically-induced suggestion that involved bank robbery and murder turned out to have been a deception. There is a chapter on the CIA’s Monster Plot that involves claims by defectors of drug-induced attempts to obtain confessions.
The final chapter looks at the application to interrogation of some of the methods mentioned and comments on the characteristics of a good interrogator. One conclusion is that “Barristers—who might be expected to make the best interrogators of all—proved useless. They were too analytical.” As to the assertion that interrogators are “born not made,” Streatfeild quotes an interrogator who worked in Khandahar and Bagram airbases in Afghanistan: “Rubbish.” In a brief discussion of torture he quotes an American: [the] “reason the United States doesn’t torture is not because it doesn’t work. It is simply wrong.” (395-6) Brainwash is a valuable treatment of a historical and contemporary topic.
Ronald J. Olive. Capturing Jonathan Pollard: How One of the Most Notorious Spies in American History Was Brought to Justice (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2006), 256 pp., photos, index.
His towering arrogance got Jonathan Pollard into jail and it keeps him there— eligible for parole years ago, he refuses to apply, demanding instead clemency or a pardon! In Capturing Jonathan Pollard, retired Naval Investigative Service (NIS) officer Ronald Olive, the man who headed the investigation that led to Pollard’s arrest, gives a portrait of the self-styled super agent, from his Texas birth in 1954 to his repeated unsuccessful demands for clemency. Olive tells of this son of privilege who attended Stanford University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. There, he amused his classmates with his espionage fantasies—he claimed to be a Mossad colonel—but he wasn’t taken seriously. When Pollard’s application to the CIA was rejected, he went to the NIS and found a home in its Anti-Terrorist Alert Center (ATAC). Olive tells how, with the help of his fiancé who became his wife, Pollard went on to become the most prolific supplier of highly classified documents for a foreign government in US history. Olive spends the bulk of the narrative on how Pollard came under suspicion and how he got caught. There are details on the technical surveillance, the bureaucratic battles among investigative elements, the Pollards’ abortive attempt to defect to Israel, Olive’s elicitation of Pollard’s confession, and the plea-bargain process.
Olive also considers damage-assessment questions. For example, even though Pollard only worked at espionage for about 18 months before his arrest in 1985, and recognizing that he was a clumsy practitioner of the tradecraft—the book has many examples—Olive asks, could this period have been reduced or prevented entirely? He finds reasons to answer “yes” to both possibilities. His most remarkable finding is that Pollard was given TS/SCI access without ever being formally cleared; his background investigation was never completed. (263) A close second is the fact that Pollard once temporarily lost his classified access because of mental problems. Instead of dismissal, his access was restored when Pollard threatened to complain. Olive describes other important details about the case, including the fact that Pollard spied for more than one country and that his wife was directly involved—she received five years in prison. Olive also notes that former president Clinton confirmed in his memoirs that DCI George Tenet did indeed threaten to resign if Pollard were pardoned in response to Israeli requests. (247).
Capturing Jonathan Pollard is a well-documented, first-hand account of a benchmark espionage case. Within are important lessons for serving officers and those who aspire to join the profession.
Michael Occleshaw. Dances In Deep Shadows: Britain’s Clandestine War In Russia (London: Constable Robinson, Ltd., 2006), 360 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.
The abdication of the Tsar in March, 1917 and the Bolshevik revolution in November of the same year caused the Western allies fighting the Germans to adopt policies designed initially to keep Russia in the war and to prevent German troops from being transferred to the Western front. While the Bolsheviks negotiated peace with Germany at Brest-Litovsk in 1918, the allies dispatched troops to Murmansk and Arkhangelsk in Eastern Russia with the putative mission of keeping military supplies sent to the Tsar’s armies from falling into German hands. Later, more troops were sent to Siberia to protect the Russian railroad system. At the end of the war, in what became known as the allied intervention, the allied military units in Russia were augmented slightly and committed to the ultimately unsuccessful support of anti-Bolshevik forces in the civil war that followed. From then on, the Soviet Union claimed that the military intervention, accompanied by subversive political and monetary plots, was designed and conducted to overthrow the Soviet government. Dances in Deep Shadows argues that, despite some historical ambivalence on the point, this was indeed the case. Moreover, author Occleshaw suggests that the role of allied intelligence services, particularly Britain’s, was far greater than heretofore acknowledged.
Occleshaw shows that the British government was intent in 1917 on financing a proxy war with anti-Bolshevik “Russian forces as surrogates to achieve British aims” (28) and formed elaborate financial networks to accomplish the task. The implementer of the policy was Director of Military Intelligence (DMI) LTG George Macdonogh, who had the support of the foreign office (29). Many of the characters working toward this goal will be familiar to readers of Soviet intelligence history. Sidney (“Ace of Spies”) Reilly, Boris Savinkov (Russian terrorist), Lt. Col. George Hill (later of SOE), special foreign office envoy and “secret agent” Robert Bruce Lockhart, Xenophon Kalamatiano (America’s agent in Russia), and Lt. Col. Richard Meinertzhagen (famous for his “haversack ruse” in Palestine), to name a few.
Using recently released documents from the Public Records Office, Occleshaw verifies what these intelligence officers did under orders from the British and American governments to attempt to oust the Bolsheviks. Several special or irregular military elements were formed to support the anti-Bolshevik armies, but all failed due to communication, subordination, and weather problems. Similarly, Sidney Reilly’s subversive plans, though colorful, came nowhere near the success attributed to it in the literature. Bruce Lockhart, though a prominent player in the plots to overthrow the government, was not very influential either, and Occleshaw takes him to task for trying to shape history in his favor with inaccurate diary entries mentioned in his best selling memoirs.(182–83) In one area, code breaking, the allies had an advantage resulting from the defection of a Russian code clerk: “from the middle of 1918, the communications of the Soviet State were an open book to British intelligence.”(94) But in the end, neither good intelligence, small special forces elements, nor code breaking could overcome the lack of ground troops, and the allies would not provide more. This, plus the haggling among Russians vying with each other for power, gave the Bolsheviks victory. As Occleshaw sees it, when it comes to wars, intelligence is not the defining activity.
R. A. Ratcliff, Delusions of Intelligence: Enigma, ULTRA, and the End of Secure Ciphers (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 314 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.
For years after WWII, German historians and retired military officers refused to believe the Allies had read the most secret Nazi codes—every single one. After all, the German cipher experts conducted several wartime studies of cryptographic security and found the principal systems secure. At the same time, the Germans were unable to break British and American codes. Author R. A. Ratcliff asks why the situation developed as it did, could it happen again in today’s digital world, and what measures need be taken to assure crypto-security?
Delusions of Intelligence begins by looking at the wartime SIGINT systems of the protagonists. Ratcliff discusses German security measures, the principal encoding equipment, the Enigma and the Geheimschreiber, and the involved personnel and organizations, including the lines of authority, and the counterintelligence factors. On the Allied side she covers similar topics while describing the huge advantage available to the side reading the enemy’s mail. Of special interest is why the Allies maintained their cryptographic secrets so long after the war and the overly rigid wartime measures the Nazis implemented to protect their “secure” systems.
The “End of Secure Communications” portion of the subtitle is something of an over statement. Without examining the technical aspects of contemporary secure codes, the author describes current crypto vulnerabilities brought on by the improper use of passwords and sloppy internet behavior, etc. Furthermore, she makes clear what can happen when crypto-security is evaluated with the wrong criteria. A major lesson is that despite brilliant codebreakers, the principal reason the Enigma code was broken was that it was not used properly, and that danger remains today. Despite her illustrations and thorough documentation, she provides no basis for concluding communications cannot be secure in the future.
Robert W. Pringle. Historical Dictionary of Russian Soviet Intelligence: Historical Dictionaries of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, No. 5 (Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2006), 364 pp., appendices, bibliography, chronology, no index.
The Scarecrow Press has a mixed record of accuracy in its series of historical intelligence dictionaries. By this measure, No. 5 is in the positive column. Author Bob Pringle had a distinguished career in the various disciplines of intelligence with the US Army, the State Department, and the CIA. This contribution to the profession is a valuable reference work, especially for students, analysts and readers unfamiliar with the role intelligence services played in Russian history. The introduction and the chronology provide an excellent summary of Russian and Soviet political and security organizations and operations from Ivan the Terrible to the present. Appendix I shows the evolution of the various organizational names applied to the Soviet Security Services from the Cheka to today’s SVR. The other appendices list the names and dates of service of the chairmen. Here Pringle includes Pavel Sudoplatov, not listed by other authors, who was chairman for a few weeks in 1938. There are separate lists of chiefs of the Foreign Intelligence Directorate and the organizations to which it was subordinated. Although the military intelligence arm of state security receives less attention, there is an appendix listing its directors from 1918 to the present. Also included are details on the loss of life in the Stalin era, a discussion of the Venona decryptions, the agent losses caused by Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, and a discussion of Soviet deception operations. The bibliography contains a valuable essay on the intelligence literature with entries divided into topical categories.
The dictionary portion of the book comprises relatively short descriptions, listed alphabetically, of cases, individuals and organizations. Specific sources are not indicated and the entries are generally reliable. Where errors occur, most are relatively minor. For example, John Cairncross was recruited by James Klugman, not Guy Burgess. Similarly, former CIA officer Edward Lee Howard was no longer an intelligence officer when he volunteered to work for the KGB. Lastly, there is an entry entitled “The Lucy Ring,” a title that never existed except in the minds of journalists; it was formally called the “The Rote Drei” or the Red Three. Then there are errors that should have been resolved by the editor. One example is the entry for KGB agent George Blake, who was recruited to SIS during WWII, not after. The Blake entry in the Historical Dictionary of British Intelligence (same publisher) gets it right and the series editor should have spotted the inconsistency.
The Historical Dictionary of Russian Soviet Intelligence does have one serious shortcoming, the responsibility of the publisher, not the author. For a country with a centuries-long tradition of security service operations, this book omits too many important cases and intelligence organizations, especially those occurring after the Russian revolution. A few examples should make the point: the GRU defector Hede Massing, whose testimony helped convict Alger Hiss; Oleg Nechiporenko, Lee Harvey Oswald’s contact in Mexico; Col. (USAR) George Trofimoff, a KGB agent for more than 20 years; Yuri Rastvorov, KGB defector in 1953; Noel Field, one-time State Department officer and colleague of Alger Hiss who defected in Hungary rather than face prosecution; and Nikolai Khokhlov, a KGB officer who defected rather than carry out his assignment to assassinate a Soviet dissident and was later poisoned with thallium in an unsuccessful KGB attempt at payback. While space is always a consideration, the limits imposed here, including the lack of an index, weakened an otherwise good work.
Nevertheless, the Dictionary does provide a good start for those studying the Russian and Soviet intelligence services. It is a useful reference volume.
Julie Phillips. James Tiptree Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2006), 469 pp., endnotes, bibligraphy, photos, index.
Captain Alice Davey was the only female among 50 army technical specialists sent to Europe in June 1945 to acquire technical secrets from the defeated Germans. Her commanding officer, Col. Huntington Denton “Ting” Sheldon— Eton and Yale—was impressed and suggested to his assistant, Capt. Walter Pforzheimer, that he invite her to dinner at the officer’s club. Ting and Alice were married in September; the second time for both. After the war the colonel and his wife went to Washington, where Ting did some temporary work for the Central Intelligence Group before moving to New York City. There he looked for full-time work, and Alice toyed with journalism. Ting, a Wall Street banker before the war, wanted to try something different. They settled on raising chickens in New Jersey. It didn’t take long to realize this was not their life’s work. Using his Washington contacts, Ting returned to the CIA as the chief of Current Intelligence; Alice joined as a junior analyst and photo-interpreter. But the excitement level of desk work was not high enough, and she soon attended the operations course, only to return to a headquarters desk. She left the Agency after three years. Ting stayed for nearly 20.
Alice decided to get her college degree and attended American University, graduating at age 43, with a degree in psychology. By 1967, age 51, she had earned her Ph.D., and she had a career as a research psychologist. Still not satisfied, she returned to the writing that gradually became the center of her world. By that time she had learned that “women had to be very careful in order to speak at all,” (4) but that was a burden unknown to men, so she decided to adopt a masculine pen name and writing style. One day while grocery shopping with Ting, she saw a jar of Tiptree jam and James Tiptree, the science fiction writer, was born; Ting added the “Jr.”
Author Julie Phillips tells of Alice Sheldon’s life careers as a wife and author. Both were tumultuous. There were separations in the marriage and periods of depression on both sides, though they worsened with time for Alice. Tiptree’s readers, however, never suspected the author was a women, and she maintained the ruse until the mid-1970s, and then only close friends were told. Sheldon continued to correspond with fans and other authors, leading them to believe Tiptree had a secret identity, probably with the CIA. Phillips uses these letter-friendships to tell the Tiptree side of Sheldon’s life—the side that exposed the illusion that women could not write with a male voice. The end came in an unusual and tragic way. The Sheldons had long promised to die together. In May 1987 they did, in a murder-suicide.
Raymond L. Garthoff. A Journey Through the Cold War: A Memoir of Containment and Coexistence (Washington, DC: Brookings Institute Press, 2001), 416 pp., footnotes, index.
Matthew Smith’s Memoirs of Secret Service (published in London in 1699) is the earliest example of the espionage memoir, a relatively common occurrence in the contemporary literature of intelligence. Most such memoirs have been written by former clandestine service officers and focus on stories of spying. Books by intelligence analysts are not uncommon, but they often address perceived injustices. Less frequently have analysts written about their entire careers, as did Robert Gates in From The Shadows. A Journey Through the Cold War follows the Gates exemplar, with a story that spans the entire Cold War.
In 1950, with degrees from Princeton and Yale and a specialization in Russian studies, Ray Garthoff went to work for the RAND Corporation. Seven years later, CIA recruited him to work as an analyst in the Office of National Estimates. Here its chief, Sherman Kent, instilled in him the idea that the intelligence analyst is one who should “not try to lead or follow policy.” (44) The Agency at that time, was less “open,” even for overt employees, so he also maintained a cover position as a Foreign Affairs Advisor to the Department of Defense. In 1961 he transferred to the State Department, where he spent the balance of his career.
Among the many fascinating projects he worked on were the Oleg Penkovsky case, the Berlin and Cuban missile crises, the U-2 program, Soviet ICBM deployment, and the SALT negotiations. He was at various times counselor for political-military affairs in the US Mission to NATO, deputy director of political-military affairs at State, a senior foreign service inspector, also at State, and ambassador to Bulgaria. His fluency in Russian resulted in many trips to the Soviet Union, where he dealt with détente and related matters. The ever suspicious Soviets never did accept his assertions that he had left the CIA.
As with most analysts, Garthoff had contact with the clandestine side of the Agency, and he devotes a chapter to its role. Here he relates his experiences with Stig Wennerström, a Swedish intelligence officer who was arrested and jailed after it was learned he was a long-term KGB agent. In the States, Garthoff worked with many memorable Cold War players—Allen Dulles, Ray Cline, Henry Kissinger, and presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Carter, and his younger brother, Douglas, a senior Soviet analyst at CIA, to name a few. In 1980, Amb. Garthoff retired to continue his research and writing at the Brookings Institution, but he maintained links to the State Department and the CIA. The final chapters of his book offer his views on post Cold War matters, including the impact of the Aldrich Ames case.
A Journey Through the Cold War is anything but boring. The story is absorbing and shows what rewarding careers analysts can have.
Harold Lloyd Goodall Jr. The Need To Know: The Clandestine History of a CIA Family (Walnut Creek , CA: Left Coast Press, Inc., 2006), 399 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.
This book is the fourth written by a person whose father or grandfather was a CIA officer while the authors were active Vietnam protesters. Each author experienced great personal conflict after learning their parents’ true role. Professor Harold Goodall Jr., director of the Hugh Downs School of Human Communications at Arizona State University, tells a most unusual story about the father he never knew well, who “worked for the government.” After his father’s death, Goodall found a diary his dad had kept for him with a copy of The Great Gatsby. The diary entries mentioned Allen Dulles, William Colby, James Angleton, Frank Wisner, Kim Philby, and Bill Harvey, among others associated with the CIA and the world of intelligence. It suggested the part of Harold Goodall’s life his son had never known. The book tells of his efforts to fill the gaps.
In fact, Goodall never manages to learn whether his father ever worked for the CIA. In telling what he did learn, Goodall includes chapters with irrelevant detail about Angleton, including the outrageous claim that Angleton imprisoned [Oleg] Penkovsky for four years in the basement at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Since Penkovsky never visited the United States, this claim casts doubt on the value of the author’s research. On Philby, Goodall just can’t get his facts straight. His claim that Angleton was one of Philby’s students is an egregious mistake that basic scholarship would have avoided. Goodall goes on to suggest that his father may have been interviewed by Philby, but he admits it is only supposition.
Most of the book is filled with a chronology of his family’s often troubled life—his own less than stellar performance as a youth being just one factor—at various assignments in Europe and the United States. These recollections contain excessive comparisons with the life of Gatsby, that confuse rather than elucidate. At various points he digresses on the topic of the Church Committee hearings, the assassination of JFK—“probably the result of a conspiracy” (381) and the origins of Warren Air Force Base, where his father once worked. If his father did work for the CIA and chose not to tell his son, the consequences in this case were troubling. The disjointed portrayal of the Woodall family—which would have been atypical of a CIA family—in A Need To Know most assuredly is not a role model for those contemplating CIA careers. Besides, it is inaccurate, speculative and dull.
Alexander Rose. Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring (New York: Bantam, 2006), 370 pp., endnotes, bibliography, maps, index.
Readers of intelligence history may well ask, “What more is there to be said about George Washington and his spies?” There is a comprehensive account in John Bakeless’s, Turncoats, Traitors, and Heroes and excellent summaries in other histories on the topic. Morton Pennypacker’s, General Washington’s Spies: On Long Island and in New York (1939) takes a narrower view, concentrating on the Culper Ring that operated in New York and Long Island. The Culper Ring is precisely the main topic of Rose’s book, and the author justifies the repetition by citing newly discovered documents that in some cases change the conventional interpretation of famous events and in others add new details about the stresses agents endured.
The first example of this is Rose’s rendering of Nathan Hale’s espionage career, which introduces the book. Hale, though not part of the Culper Ring, earned his place in history by being Washington’s first agent. Rose reduces, with new evidence, the speculation surrounding two episodes in Hale’s well-known story—the circumstances of his capture and what he said just before he was hanged. The new story of his capture by a British officer in civlian dress, on Long Island, not in New York, is based on a document that came to light in 2000. As to Hale’s famous last words, Rose writes that they “were certainly not ‘I regret only that I have but one life to lose for my country.’” He bases this conclusion on a contemporaneous diary entry not cited elsewhere, and his analysis in a long, detailed footnote of well-documented contributions by reputable historians. (290–92)
The prelude to the story of the Culper Ring is continued in a chapter describing events after Washington’s retreat from New York and his pivotal surprise attack on Trenton. Rose briefly tells of the struggle to acquire intelligence while the British occupied Philadelphia, and he highlights the work of agent John Clarke, a player scarcely mentioned in other accounts. The balance of the book tracks the Culper Ring’s coming into being and describes the valuable services—tactical intelligence, deception operations, naval movements, reports on enemy morale and logistics—it rendered when the army surrounded New York after the British retreat from Philadelphia. Washington’s first agent in what was to become the Culper Ring, Lt. Caleb Brewster, was a volunteer. More were needed quickly and the responsibility for finding them soon devolved on Major Benjamin Tallmadge, who recruited the ring leaders Abraham Woodhull (codenamed Samuel Culper) and Robert Townsend (Samuel Culper Jr.). Other members included Hercules Mulligan, the colorful tailor to British officers, and James Rivington, a New York coffeehouse operator and newspaper publisher. While Tallmadge served as the day-to-day controller, Washington was frequently a direct participant, offering specific direction and sometime correction. The Culper Ring developed now familiar tradecraft on-the-job. This included the use of safe houses, penetrations, codes, secret writing and couriers—communication was a constant problem. Their work contributed to Washington’s surprise movement to Yorktown and the victory there over Cornwallis. The final chapter tells what happened to the ring’s members after the war—none ever revealed their spying. Rose’s documentation is exemplary—mainly primary sources that often provide personal details about the agents not included elsewhere. Washington’s Spies is well written, eminently readable and the best account of the Culper Ring to date.
Giliam de Valk. Dutch Intelligence: Towards a Qualitative Framework for Analysis, with Case Studies on The Shipping Research Bureau and the National Security Service (BVD) (Rotterdam, Holland: BJu Legal Publishers, 2006), 416 pp., footnotes, appendices, index.
The ambitious objectives Giliam de Valk set out to achieve are simply stated: “How can the quality of intelligence and security agency reports be measured? What factors influence the quality of a report and how can high-quality reports be achieved?”(2) The word ‘Towards’ in the subtitle suggests that a complete answer was not obtained and that is correct. Nevertheless, the study is worthwhile because the questions are important, and attempts to deal with them deserve serious attention. De Valk sets out to identify and apply what he calls “ex ante” criteria, that is to say, performance measures developed before quality analysis takes place that, if met, will assure a high-quality result. The method seeks to assess the quality of intelligence produced, not how it was eventually used.
De Valk discusses the six narrative criteria he developed in chapter five. For each he provides other qualitative sub-indices or measures for determining report quality. The nine subsequent chapters apply the six criteria to several real world intelligence reports, some from a civilian organization and some from the Dutch security service (BVD). Although the techniques he develops are complex, the conclusions reached (375) are surprising for their simplicity. For example, one stresses the value of feedback, another the need for clarity of form, and another for source validation. This leads to the question of whether the study was necessary, since the outcomes are standard measures in most services. Perhaps it is the approach that is worth attention, but that judgment is best left to the analysts.
De Valk’s study is impressively documented, but he has yet to validate his approach using an extensive database. He makes clear the there is more research to be done applying qualitative performance measures to equally subjective intelligence data.
Dwight Hamilton. Inside Canadian Intelligence: Exposing the New Realities of Espionage and International Terrorism (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2006), 264 pp., appendices, photos, index.
At first glance, Inside Canadian Intelligence is a deceptive book. For example, it has four authors, not one. Second, the experience of three authors is in military intelligence. The fourth author is a journalist. Each writes several of the 14 chapters in the book. The functional topics covered include the terrorist threat, military preparedness, counterintelligence, the role of the RCMP in protecting Canada, immigration problems and policies, the limits of surveillance (electronic and physical), and the demands on the army, including special forces. Other topics include the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and its relationship to the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), the overall intelligence controlling body that reports to Parliament.
For reasons not stated or made clear, there is an entire chapter on the 1985 Air India case, in which two Air India jets were blown up—one over the Atlantic, the other at Narita airport in Japan. The focus is on the government’s handling of the long-running investigation and hints of improprieties of participating intelligence agencies. The final chapter presents a “conceptual framework” for improving preparedness for “destabilizing attacks” in the future and a rather pessimistic assessment of what will happen if no preparations are made. While the authors are obviously experienced, their positions and recommendations for changes in Canadian intelligence would have greater impact had they provided sources. Still, it is interesting to see that the problems they discuss are common to intelligence services in many countries.
See for example the sections of the book that describe the battles for Fallujah, pp. 330ff. See also John Keegan’s review in the Wall Street Journal, 16 August 2006.
 Michael R. Gordon and Gen. Bernard E. Trainor, Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq (New York: Pantheon Books, 2006). Reviewed in “Bookshelf,” Studies in Intelligence 50, no. 4 (2006).
See above review and Ahmed S. Hashim, Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency in Iraq (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006) and Bob Woodward, State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III (New York: Simon Schuster, 2006).
The Koran, 4th Sura, “The Women” (7.8). In some translations “looming” becomes lofty. The video was found on a computer in Hamburg after the attacks. See: Dexter Filken, New York Times, “The Plot Against America,” 6 August 2006.
For comments on the 9/11 Commission’s inadequacies, see: James Ridgeway, The 5 Unanswered Questions About 9/11: What the 9/11 Commission Report Failed to Tell Us (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2005). For additional views on Without Precedent see: James Bamford, New York Times Book Review, 20 August 2006.
See, for example, Sam Adams, War of Numbers: An Intelligence Memoir (Hanover, NH: Steerforth Press, 1994) and John A. Gentry, Lost Promise: How CIA Analysis Misserves the Nation, An Intelligence Assessment (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1993).
The others are: John H. Richardson, My Father The Spy: An Investigative Memoir (New York: HarperCollins, 2005); Colin Beavan, Operation Jedburgh: D-Day and America's First Shadow War (New York: Penguin Group, Inc., 2006); and James Carroll, House of War: The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006).
John Bakeless, Turncoats, Traitors, and Heroes (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1959). See also George O’Toole, Honorable Treachery: A History of U. S. Intelligence, Espionage, and Covert Action From The American Revolution To The CIA (News York: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1991).
Morton Pennypacker, General Washington’s Spies: On Long Island and in New York (Brooklyn, NY: The Long Island Historical Society, 1939). See, too, the 1948 supplement to this book (same title, 42 pp.), which has a completely different, equally positive, explanation of Nathan Hale’s capture. Author Lynn Groh’s book, The Culper Ring (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1969), is written for young readers and is not documented.
All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed in this article are those of the author. Nothing in the article should be construed as asserting or implying US government endorsement of an article’s factual statements and interpretations.