Volume 51, No. 4 (December 2007)

The Intelligence Officer's Bookshelf

Volume 51, No. 4

Intelligence in Recent Public Literature
Compiled and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake
Nation of Secrets: The Threat to Democracy and the American Way of Life , Ted Gup
Sharpening Strategic Intelligence: Why the CIA Gets It Wrong and What Needs to Be Done to Get It Right, Richard L. Russell

General Intelligence
STRATAGEM: Deception and Surprise in War, Barton Whaley
Understanding Surveillance Technologies: Spy Devices, Privacy, History, & Applications (Revised and Expanded), J. K. Petersen
The US Intelligence Community: Fifth Edition, Jeffrey T. Richelson

The Lie Detectors: The History of an American Obsession, Ken Alder
Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An, Time Magazine Reporter & Vietnamese Communist Agent , Larry Berman
Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy , Vincent Bugliosi
Setting the Desert On Fire: T. E. Lawrence and Britain’s Secret War in Arabia, 1916-1918, James Barr
Skating On The Edge: A Memoir and Journey through a Metamorphosis of the CIA, Carlos D. Luria

Intelligence Services Abroad
Apartheid’s Friends: The Rise and Fall of South Africa’s Secret Service, James Sanders
CANARIS: The Life and Death of Hitler’s Spymaster , Michael Mueller
Death Of A Dissident: The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB, Alex Goldfarb with Marina Litvinenko
India’s External Intelligence: Secrets of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) , Maj. Gen V. K. Singh
The Tao of Deception: Unorthodox Warfare in Historic and Modern China, Ralph D. Sawyer with the collaboration of Mei-Chu Lee Sawyer
Ted Gup, Nation of Secrets: The Threat to Democracy and the American Way of Life (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 322 pp., endnotes, bibliography, index.
Currently a journalism professor at Case Western University and formerly an investigative reporter with Time and the Washington Post, Ted Gup has spent nearly 30 “years reporting from within the various subcultures of secrecy.” (9) The subject now obsesses him. In Nation of Secrets he attempts to make a convincing case that secrecy is threatening the nation’s democratic existence. The issue, he concludes, is pervasive and its consequences are evident throughout society, including the corporate world–the Enron scandal was the fault of excessive secrecy, not illegal business practices–and even in the media. But his central theme is excessive government secrecy and inadequate transparency. To that topic he devotes most of the book, with the CIA his favorite exemplar.
There is little new in the book. The cases and examples he summarizes have all been written about elsewhere. Take the argument that there are too many government secrets. He gives numbers in the millions, although he never says just what a secret is, how it is counted, or what a satisfactory number of secrets is. As to the CIA, he is, inter alia, upset with its classification authority, dislikes its cover regulations, and is furious with its publication review policy. He cites several examples of what he calls excessively redacted documents. What he doesn’t do is explain the constraints under which the reviews take place. The performance of intelligence relative to 9/11 comes under similar attacks, with secrecy, in his view, explaining why it happened.
Professor Gup hints at his solution to unnecessary classification when he admits, “I have revealed a number of secrets, but on occasion, where genuine national interests could be adversely affected, I have also remained silent.” (9) The reader is left wondering whether letting journalists decide what is really classified would be prudent or successful.
Richard L. Russell, Sharpening Strategic Intelligence: Why the CIA Gets It Wrong and What Needs to Be Done to Get It Right (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 214 pp.
The author is a former CIA political-military analyst who resigned just before 9/11 after 17 years, because the Agency prevented him “from honing expertise in international security affairs.” (ix) Now “unshackled,” he has put his thoughts on the intelligence profession on the record. Sharpening Strategic Intelligence does three things: First, it is a brutally candid critique of the bureaucratic and operational problems in the CIA and the Intelligence Community that led him to leave. Second, it explains why the reforms instituted after 9/11 will not by themselves solve the operational problems they were intended to correct. And finally, Russell outlines the fundamental changes required to produce accurate and timely intelligence and, incidentally, to keep others from quiting as he did.
To make his point that the CIA track record is one of repeated strategic incompetence, Russell enumerates nearly every failure attributed to the CIA since its creation. The result is, in terms of pages at least, Legacy of Ashes-lite (702 vs. 214); the issues covered are the same, although Russell focuses on 9/11 and the Iraq War. Sharpening Strategic Intelligence, however, is a perceptive insider view. This is not to say that he has got it right but rather that his observations deserve close attention.
The basic faults Russell identifies are “spies who do not deliver,” and “analysts who are not experts,” and he devotes a chapter to each. But he also takes a broader view. On the subject of the post-9/11 reforms, he notes that “the creation of the DNI position will do nothing to correct the fundamental and root cause of the CIA intelligence failures.” On the subject of the objectivity of the 9/11 Commission, he quotes Judge Richard Posner, who argued that allowing “several thousand emotionally traumatized people to drive major public policy in a nation of almost 300 million is a perversion of the democratic process.” In fact, Russell concludes, “The American public mistakenly believes that our intelligence problems have been fixed, when the reality is that we have created even more problems with the reforms that have been implemented.” (2-3) Sharpening Strategic Intelligence examines them in detail.
Russell recommends a number of solutions intended to improve CIA and Intelligence Community performance. None are startling, and each concentrates on the “what,” not the “how.” For example, he contends that human intelligence and analysis “will have to be retooled and nurtured somewhere under the DNI’s authority,” foreign language skills must be strengthened, and managerial incompetence eliminated. (150) He also suggests separating the analytic function from CIA and creating a new organization, without commenting on the operational and personal turmoil this would produce (148). Whatever solutions are imposed, he recommends that the “DNI and CIA director will have to move decisively against the bureaucracies that have produced a dismal showing against WMD threats for the past couple of decades.” (169)
The bottom line on Sharpening Strategic Intelligence is that it is specific on what is wrong with operations, analysis, bureaucracy, and management but very general in its suggestion for fixing the problems. But for the intelligence professional and the decision makers, it is a book worthy of close and serious scrutiny.
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General Intelligence
Barton Whaley. STRATAGEM: Deception and Surprise in War (Boston: Artech House, 2007), 560 pp.
Barton Whaley has devoted his professional life to the study of deception. In this, the second edition of STRATAGEM1–an artifice or trick in war for deceiving and outwitting the enemy and a synonym for strategic deception–Whaley presents the early results of his research in two parts. The first discusses the history, theory, and ethics of stratagem, as well as counterdeception. It includes some “speculative conclusions” concerning his theory, which he admits is only a guide and subject to “the awesome tyranny of chance.” (138). He also examines the background and deception doctrines of nine practitioners–Britain, Germany, the United States, Russia, Italy, Japan, France, Israel, and China.2
Part two contains case-study summaries of 115 instances of surprise in warfare–68 strategic, 47 tactical, that formed the basis for his work. Case A6 covers the famous “haversack ruse” supposedly conducted by Col. Richard Meinertzhagen, since shown to have been a fabrication, although the principles described are genuine.3
As he reviews the history of his work, Whaley gently points out that one of the best known explanations of deception, Robert Wholstetter’s “signals-obscured-by-noise” model, is incorrect and makes no provision for predicting deception. Whaley’s model does just that. It is a “cross-disciplinary attack” that relies on specific clues that “point to deception.” It is important to understand, however, that his model is not a step-by-step approach to the assessment or use of deception and surprise, it is a way of thinking or reasoning about stratagem. He sees the principal value of the book as a “template of how to study and analyze deception operations.” (xiii)
Although STRATAGEM is well footnoted and each case has its own bibliography, it lacks an index, which complicates its use. Nonetheless, if one is after the basics of the subject, STRATAGEM is a good place to start.
J. K. Petersen, Understanding Surveillance Technologies: Spy Devices, Privacy, History, & Applications (Revised and Expanded) (Boca Raton: Auerbach Publications, 2007), 1,007 pp.
In this second and revised edition of Understanding Surveillance Technologies, the author describes the basic concepts of various types of electronic surveillance–radar, sonar, video, audio devices, and radio systems. In the electromagnetic category, she includes ultraviolet and infrared cameras, aerial photography, and imaging satellites. Other technologies included are ultrasound, cryptologic devices, computers, chemical and biological surveillance, wiretapping, secret writing, and techniques for genetic profiling. She describes the contemporary equipment available and discusses the legislation that guides their use.
She also looks at the historical background for the devices and techniques described, correcting, in many cases, the conventional wisdom associated with their origins. For example, she points out that radar was not invented during WW II as commonly supposed. The concept and early devices existed in the 1800s. The book is intended as a college-level guide for those working in law enforcement, forensics, military surveillance, covert operations, counterintelligence, and journalism and politics. It is well-illustrated, and, though there are no endnotes, each chapter has many references. A very valuable reference.
Jeffrey T. Richelson, The US Intelligence Community: Fifth Edition (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2008), 692 pp., end of chapter notes, photos, index.
The first edition of The US Intelligence Community (1985) had 358 pages. The 20 thoroughly documented chapters in the current edition depict the organizations–with their wiring diagrams, missions, functions, management structure, and interrelationships as presently configured. The nearly doubling of its pages reflects both the changes since 1985–most occurring since 9/11–and the amount of data available in the public domain. As a reference book, it is mainly a descriptive rather than a critical account of operations and organizations, though the final chapter does discuss “issues concerning recent intelligence performance,” including leadership, HUMINT since 9/11, secrecy, data mining, and related topics. Here Richelson suggests that the analytic functions of CIA be placed under the ODNI.
The structure of the book is functional, beginning with the nature of intelligence itself (chapter 1) and then discussing each national-level organization. This is followed by chapters and sections on collection, SIGINT, MASINT, space surveillance, HUMINT, utilization of open sources, liaison with foreign services, analysis, counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and covert action. Three chapters are devoted to the management of these functions, focusing on the changes required since 9/11, with perceptive emphasis on the value of key personnel.
Some definitional errors should be noted. In a discussion of the French FARWELL case, Richelson describes the KGB officer involved as a “defector-in-place,” an oxymoronic term no longer in use; FAREWELL was just an agent. In the same section, a mole is defined as “someone recruited prior to their entry into the service, such as Kim Philby.” (398) In fact, moles can be recruited while in the service of another intelligence organization, as in the case of Oleg Penkovskiy, for example. As to the definition of counterintelligence itself, Richelson mentions Executive Order 12333 but elects to use “the traditional notion of counterintelligence” (394), which is less specific.
Overall, the fifth edition of The US Intelligence Community is well organized and written to make a complex topic understandable. It is a valuable reference work.
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Ken Alder. The Lie Detectors: The History of an American Obsession (New York: Free Press, 2007), 334 pp.
John Larson, the first policeman in the country with a Ph.D., and Leonarde Keeler, his assistant and amateur magician, were the Gilbert and Sullivan of polygraphy. Their patron was August Vollmer, the chief of police in Berkeley, California. The device they built was quickly dubbed by the press, a “lie detector.” The interrogation technique they applied was developed by a Harvard Ph.D. in psychology, William Marston, who would later create the comic strip Wonder Woman. The objective of their work in 1921 was to provide a scientific approach that would replace subjective techniques for determining the truth, as for example, the British practice of detecting the “liar’s blush,” the Indian practice of observing suspects for “curling toes,” and the American use of “the third degree.” But the device was not the “foolproof” method claimed by the media and the resulting controversies led to the breakup of the partnership.
Northwestern University history professor, Ken Adler, tells their story and describes the initial applications by the government, law enforcement, and industry. In the process he examines the technical development of the polygraph equipment, cites some questionable successes and concentrates on its vulnerabilities. Adler argues–incorrectly–that the United States is the only country to make use of the device to any significant degree. And, using only anecdotal evidence, he accuses the CIA and others of misusing the technique. As one example, he characterizes then-Congressman Richard Nixon’s request that Whittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss submit to the polygraph (Chambers agreed; Hiss declined) as “political theater.” (219)
In the end, Adler cites a number of scientific studies that judge the polygraph “does not pass scientific muster,” but he ignores contrary evidence of its current reliability and benefits when used properly.4 He concludes that when people are used as specimens with their careers and even liberty at stake, “we create monsters like Frankenstein’s.” (267) Interesting background, biased analysis.
Larry Berman, Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An, Time Magazine Reporter & Vietnamese Communist Agent (New York: Smithsonian Books, HarperCollins, 2007), 328 pp.
He fooled them all: journalists David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan, CIA officers William Colby, Lou Conein and Edward Lansdale; the South Vietnamese military intelligence service; and his employers, Reuters and Time magazine. For 20 years, American-educated Pham Xuan An was a “South Vietnamese journalist” and North Vietnamese intelligence agent with important contacts that gave him details of US policy and operations that he passed to his masters, including General Giap, who joked, “We are now in the US war room.” (14) Ironically, though he was never caught or even suspected of being a North Vietnamese agent, many colleagues in the South thought he was working for the CIA. University of California (Davis) professor Larry Berman tells a remarkable story based on access to his diaries and hours of interviews with An and those that knew him.
An’s career as an agent began in 1957 with his selection to study at Orange Coast College, near Costa Mesa, California, to learn about America and its culture. Talented and charming, he made many friends and worked on the college paper, eventually becoming its editor. Later he went to work for the Sacramento Bee. He also served an internship at the United Nations, driving across country to get there. After graduation, he was offered jobs in the States, but decided to return, as intended, in September 1959.
Although An had help establishing his cover, and arrangements were made for getting his reports out of Saigon, North Vietnam had no school for spies. He learned aspects of the business on the job and others from a book by Ronald Seth, The Anatomy of Spying: The Spy and His Techniques from Ancient Rome to the U-2 (New York: 1963) given him by Saigon correspondent, David Halberstam.5 (122) An showed his oft-read copy to professor Berman in 2002. Why did journalist Halberstam select this book? “So that An could improve his reporting skills,” Berman says. But An had already been a reporter as long as Halberstam. Halberstam died before this issue could be resolved.
Most of Perfect Spy tells of An’s role in South Vietnam from the days of President Diem to the end in 1975. An described his mission as collecting “strategic intelligence,” adding that he “was a student of Sherman Kent, and my job was to explain and analyze information.”6 (124) After the war, An insisted his friendship with Americans was genuine and not a matter of betrayal, although he admitted providing his masters with classified US materials. (17) It is true, and paradoxical, that professor Berman found no one who thought ill of An, even when they learned his true role.
After the war, An was promoted to general, made a Hero of the People’s Army, and served as interpreter for President George W. Bush during his 2006 visit. But he was never completely trusted. The implicit question was, how had he spied on the Americans for 20 years without being caught or recruited? The answer escapes Berman and perhaps the North Vietnamese as well. Even though he became an official adviser to the government, all his requests to travel abroad were denied. Professor Berman has given us a sympathetic but engrossing biography that also says a great deal about North Vietnamese and American intelligence. It is very worth reading.
Vincent Bugliosi, Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy (New York: W. W. Norton, 2007), 1,612 pp.
The assassination of President Kennedy is a wearily familiar topic to those who frequent America’s bookstalls or Amazon.com. Hundreds of books have advanced as many conspiracy theories claiming to reveal what really happened–all numbingly speculative and inconclusive. Why then, should any attention be paid to one more? Criminal lawyer Vincent Bugliosi answers that question in Reclaiming History. After 21 years researching and writing, Bugliosi demolishes with evidence and analysis the “unprincipled frauds” perpetrated by the conspiracy theorists. He names them and their books while citing detailed examples of their faulty reasoning. His conclusion, that the Warren Commission was right, is supported by overwhelming evidence in the text and among the 954 endnotes (provided on a CD with the book). Historian Max Holland wrote that the main contribution of the book is the focus on “what did not happen” as he got “to the bottom of so many stories encrusted as they are by decades of falsehoods, misrepresentation and outright hoaxes.”7 It is here that the frequent charges that the FBI and CIA played roles in the assassination are disproved and those who allege otherwise are exposed. Though the book went to press before Howard Hunt’s American SPY appeared, there is little doubt but that Bugliosi would have consigned it to the shredder. Reclaiming History is a valuable reference and should diminish, if not end, what Holland calls “conspiracy-mongering with superficially profound observations.”
James Barr, Setting the Desert On Fire: T. E. Lawrence and Britain’s Secret War in Arabia, 1916-1918 (London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc., 2006), 362 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, maps, index.
Thomas Edward Lawrence (of Arabia) was an eccentric student, archeologist, intelligence officer, author and ascetic historian who declined a knighthood before a motorcycle accident ended his life at age 47. While studying history at Oxford in 1907 he seldom attended classes. His knowledge was acquired by traveling alone in the Middle East, studying crusader fortifications, military history, and learning the language and customs of the Arab tribes–an ideal background for an intelligence officer. He passed his exams with honors. When WW I broke out in 1914, Lawrence, too short (about 5 feet 4 inches) for the combat arms, was commissioned and assigned to the intelligence element in Cairo, the so-called Arab Bureau. There, his analyses displayed insights far beyond those expected of a second lieutenant. In 1916, when the Ottoman Empire entered the war on Germany’s side, the sultan called for an Islamic jihad against all non-Muslims except Germans. In response, Britain decided to support an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire to counter the German-Turkish threat. Because of his knowledge of the region and the tribal customs, Lawrence was tasked with contacting the Arab leaders and gaining their cooperation. Setting the Desert On Fire tells how he accomplished this mission and how this inexperienced army officer became a major military player in what became known as the Arab Revolt.
Lawrence’s life story has been told many times before. A bibliography of his own writings and those about him consumes 894 pages.8 James Barr has taken a narrow approach, concentrating on Lawrence’s role in the Arab Revolt. He describes Lawrence’s development, application and impact of guerrilla warfare tactics, which had not been part of British military doctrine. He also emphasizes Lawrence’s role in the political consequences of victory sorted out in London and Paris. Barr also examines the consequences–lasting until the present–of the violation of promises to the Arabs when Britain and France dictated the postwar creation of the Arab states in the Middle East. But, unlike other accounts, Barr puts Lawrence’s contribution in perspective by including the very significant role of other players, often overshadowed by the legend of Lawrence of Arabia.
Barr concludes that the Arab Revolt and Britain’s failure to honor its initial promises created “a reservoir of deep resentment,” or as Osama bin Laden stated in 2001, “Our nation has been tasting humiliation and contempt for more than eighty years.” The legacy of the Arab revolt, Barr argues, “remains unforgotten, and largely unforgiven.” (314) Setting the Desert On Fire provides a valuable perspective for those concerned with the Middle East.
Carlos D. Luria, Skating On The Edge: A Memoir and Journey through a Metamorphosis of the CIA (Salem, NC: BooksurgePublishing, 2006), 114 pp., photos, endnotes, no index.
In this short but well written memoir, retired CIA officer Carlos Luria acquaints the reader with his early life in prewar Germany, his wartime experiences at school in England, his emigration to the United States, and his “sailing years” after retirement. In between, we learn of his career in the CIA. His first assignment was in Germany, where he served both under nonofficial and official cover. He describes his adventures working in Berlin with defectors, handling East German agents, and his role in the Berlin Tunnel operation. On his return to the States, he was assigned to the Technical Services Division (TSD, forerunner of today’s Office of Technical Service) as executive officer, a position he held until his retirement in 1980. As one of the few case officers in TSD, he tells of his role in some important cases–Oleg Penkovskiy, Ryszard Kuklinski, and A.G. Tolkachev, to name three.
Writing from memory, Luria gets a few details wrong. For example, the first operational meeting with Penkovskiy was in London, not Paris. (57) And Edward Howard was fired, not hired, in 1983 (69). Luria was also concerned with the events surrounding the Church Committee hearings and, for reasons not explained, employs “fictitious” testimony to comment on the domestic mail opening operation.
Sprinkled among his stories are comments on TSD’s technical and tradecraft advancements and his humorous account of the “dead rat-dead drop” briefing to a Senate subcommittee. Luria concludes his chronicle with some reflections on the “crucial contributors to the 9/11 failures…none of which will be affected by legislation or organizational changes.” (72) Skating On The Edge is a balanced, honest, firsthand account of CIA life definitely worth reading.
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Intelligence Services Abroad
James Sanders, Apartheid’s Friends: The Rise and Fall of South Africa’s Secret Service (London: John Murray, 2006), 539 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.
Graham Greene’s novel The Human Factor9 tells the story of MI6 officer Maurice Castle, recently returned from service in South Africa. His assignment had required extensive contacts with BOSS, that nation’s intelligence service, which Castle describes as unscrupulous and often brutal. Readers wonder, was it really as bad as Castle said or did Greene exaggerate his description of BOSS for literary purposes? James Sander’s book leaves no doubt that, if anything, Greene understated the South African intelligence reality under BOSS.
Apartheid’s Friends recounts the origins of South Africa’s domestic and foreign intelligence services after WW II. Sir Percy Sillitoe, then-director general of Britain’s Security Service (MI5) helped the country in forming Republican Intelligence (RI), a domestic security organization that mirrored Britain’s MI5. In August 1968, the then-politically independent nation reformed the RI into the Bureau for State Security. The media promptly replaced the “for” with “of,” and the service has been known as BOSS ever since. BOSS was given responsibility for foreign intelligence while retaining the domestic security mission. In 1979, BOSS became the National Intelligence Service (NIS), and later the South African Secret Service (SASS) under the post-apartheid regime. Domestic security was separated from the NIS in the 1980s and placed in a new organization, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA)–it retains that title today. Under the current government, additional intelligence elements were formed to create South Africa’s own intelligence community.
Sanders, who describes himself sparsely as an “academic and journalist,” uses case studies, official documents, academic journals, and press accounts in his comprehensive review of the evolution of the South African intelligence services. It is the story of constant and intense internal organizational and bureaucratic conflict, clandestine operations including the “Z Squads,” which conducted assassinations, and the often testy relations with military intelligence, all shaped by the politics of apartheid. Dealing with these events was complicated by the attempts of friendly foreign nations to influence South African policies. Although MI6 and MI5 are prominently featured, the CIA gets detailed though balanced attention. The most controversial topic in this connection addresses the accusation that the CIA is to blame for the arrest of Nelson Mandela in 1962. Sanders looks at all sides and cites his sources. Also mentioned is the South African support of the CIA in Angola and the case of KGB illegal Yuri Loginov, who was arrested by the RI and interrogated intensively without confessing to spying against South Africa. The one new detail Sanders adds to the Loginov case is that the West German intelligence service not the CIA, as was reported by Tom Mangold in his biography of James Angleton,10 suggested Loginov be traded to the Soviet Union for agents in its custody. Sanders also provides an interesting version of the pressures applied to South Africa to give up its nuclear program–which it eventually did.
Although several individual accounts of South African intelligence operations have appeared previously,11 Apartheid’s Friends provides the most detailed and best documented treatment of the evolution of intelligence in South Africa.
Michael Mueller, CANARIS: The Life and Death of Hitler’s Spymaster (London: Chatham Publishing, 2007), 388 pp., endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.
German journalist Michael Mueller begins his biography of Wilhelm Canaris, head of the Nazi’s foreign intelligence service, the Abwehr, by noting that after 60 years and several other biographies, the real Canaris eludes the printed word. One reason for this, he suggests, is the perpetuation of errors accepted as fact. Another is that “the wealth of archival material” that must be examined “is so enormous that little of it has yet been assessed.” This book, he admits, “neither answers all the questions, nor resolves all the contradictions.” (xv) Quite right he is. Moreover, the book does not correct or even identify previous errors or erroneous impressions. Second, he omits at least one important and well documented operation–the case of Madame Szymanska,12
one of Canaris’s voices to the West through MI6 and OSS. And third, Mueller’s description of Canaris’s life and career–especially his role in the resistance to Hitler that cost him his life–though interesting, adds nothing new. Finally, the mission and structure of the Abwehr, which varies from book to book, is not clarified by Mueller; an appendix on this point would have helped greatly. In sum, the real Canaris still eludes the printed word.
Alex Goldfarb with Marina Litvinenko, Death Of A Dissident: The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007), 369 pp.
Alexander Litvinenko joined the KGB domestic security directorate in the 1980s and remained in its successor organization, the FSB, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In November 2000, with the help of American Alexander Goldfarb, he defected to Britain and settled there with his wife Marina and their children. Six years later he was poisoned in London with polonium-210. In a dramatic final statement from his deathbed, Litvinenko charged his former Russian employers with responsibility for his murder. He died on 23 November 2006. The subsequent investigation identified several foreign suspects but never explained the source of the extremely hard-to-get polonium-210. These events and the unanswered questions left in their wake have been well covered in the world media.13 Publication of a book by two participants in the case gave hope of learning new details–it didn’t happen. Marina Litvinenko adds little beyond her name. Goldfarb, a sometime employee of anti-Putin oligarch, Boris Berezovsky, himself a major player and Litvinenko supporter, raises only more speculation in the final chapter, in which he asks: where did the polonium come from? A fair but not a new question that he cannot answer. As to why the polonium was detected in several places in London and in Europe, he suggests that it was an “operation…that went wrong.” (341) In a final speculation, Goldfarb sees a connection between the poisoning of former Russian prime minister Yegor Gaidar in Dublin and Litvinenko’s attack in London a few days earlier. But he doesn’t know what the connection is and leaves the reader wondering too. Death Of A Dissident, unburdened by answers, broods on coincidence and implies the return of the KGB when what is needed is a rigorous scholarly treatment of this unusual case.
Maj. Gen. V.K. Singh, India’s External Intelligence: Secrets of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) (New Delhi, India: Manas Publications, 2007), 185 pp., bibliography, index.
At first General Singh was adamant: changing the title of his book was unthinkable. But when his publisher Googled The RAW Experience and got more than 36 million hits like “loving food.com,” “Gourmet RAW.com,” “down and dirty…,” etc., the general surrendered. The story he tells does not reveal the origins of this less-than-intuitive official designation of India’s foreign intelligence service (R&AW).14 General Singh is concerned with larger issues, as for example, moles, procurement mismanagement, politicization of intelligence, oversight, leadership and accountability.
He begins with a summary of his career in government, 35 years of which were spent in the Army Signal Corps. His twilight tour assignment was a rotational to R&AW, where he headed the Telecom Division for four years. As an outsider, he found deficiencies in many of the existing R&AW administrative and operational communication practices, and he is candid in describing the corrections he implemented. He also devotes a chapter to a suspected penetration of the service by a high-level mole and “the chinks” that were exposed “in the counterintelligence apparatus of the country’s external intelligence agency.” (143ff) The final two chapters are devoted to more general and unresolved problems–interservice rivalries, mission ambiguity, lack of accountability and the absence of a suitable supervisory mechanism. The solutions in these areas, he argues, are too important “to be left to spies.” (175)
General Singh has given us insightful views of India’s intelligence community that are worthy of serious attention and have much in common with the services of other democratic nations.
Ralph D. Sawyer with the collaboration of Mei-Chu Lee Sawyer. The Tao of Deception: Unorthodox Warfare in Historic and Modern China (New York: Basic Books, 2007), 489 pp.
Ralph Sawyer’s first book on the history of Chinese intelligence, The Tao of Spycraft, was written to help correct what he perceived to be a general “lack of interest in China’s achievements in the thorny field of intelligence.” He adds that a detailed historical treatment is needed for two reasons. First, “no nation has practiced the craft of intelligence or theorized about it more extensively than China.” Second, the current government in China employs the ancient precedents and practices that have proved successful for thousands of years.15 The result was a very detailed account of the techniques employed long before the Christian era by Chinese warring states. These methods were informed by the principles elucidated in Sun Tzu’s Art of War and concentrated on the theory of agents, evaluating men, and the importance of terrain. In The Tao of Deception, or the way of the unorthodox,16 Sawyer extends his approach to espionage, surprise and deception in warfare.
Since Chinese warfare is and has been guided by fundamentally different principles–with the emphasis on the unorthodox–from those applied by European military tacticians, Westerners must learn the oriental approach, and Sawyer provides examples drawn from events throughout the dynastic periods (2853 BCE-1911). Sawyer acknowledges the use of deception in the West, but he contends it is not yet as integrated into military thinking and planning as it is in China. The final chapter discusses deception’s applicability to intelligence operations in today’s Peoples Republic of China, including their implications for possible future conflict. The book is extensively documented with both Chinese and English sources, many of the latter translations from Chinese.
Neither of Sawyer’s volumes is easy reading–they are not introductory texts. And for readers unfamiliar with Chinese history and language, the task is doubly difficult. The names and relationships require considerable concentration. Nevertheless, for those who are concerned about China’s historic and contemporary approaches to intelligence and deception operations, it is worth the effort.
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1. See George Constantinides, Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography (Boulder, CO: 1983), 480-81, for a review of the first edition. For reasons not explained, it was never published and existed only in typescript form.
2. Although Sun Tzu is mentioned from time to time, the references to China do not mention historical views on the unorthodox in warfare.
3. See Brain Garfield, The Meinertzhagen Mystery: The Life and Legend of a Colossal Fraud (Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2007).
4. See, for example, John Sullivan, Gatekeeper: Memoirs of a CIA Polygraph Examiner (Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2007).
5. Seth was a British author and WW II intelligence officer thought to have been a German double agent, although he was cleared after the war.
6. CIA officer Ed Lansdale acquainted An with Kent’s Strategic Intelligence for American Foreign Policy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1949).
7. Max Holland, “Assassination Chronicle,” Wall Street Journal, 19 May 2007: 8.
8. Philip O’Brien, T.E. Lawrence: A Bibliography (New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2000), 2nd edition, revised and updated. For a comprehensive treatment of Lawrence of Arabia, see: Jeremy Willson, LAWRENCE: The Authorized Biography of T.E. Lawrence (New York: Atheneum, 1990).
9. Graham Greene, The Human Factor (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978).
10. Tom Mangold, Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton: The CIA’s Master Spy Hunter (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991).
11. See for example, Gordon Winter, Inside BOSS: South Africa’s Secret Police (London: Penguin Books, 1981); and Riaan Labuschagne, O n South Africa’s Secret Service: An Undercover Agent’s Story (Alberton, South Africa: Galago Books, 2002).
12. See Jozef Garlinski, The Swiss Corridor: Espionage Networks in Switzerland During World War II (London: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1981).
13. See for example, Martin Sixsmith, The Litvinenko File: The True Story of a Death Foretold (New York: Macmillan, 2007)
14. R&AW has been reduced to RAW by the Indian Press. One of the first books about RAW, Asoka Raina, Inside RAW: the Story of India’s Secret Service (New Delhi, 1981), 12, mentions the “search for a name” but adds only that R&AW was selected from a long list.
15. Ralph D. Sawyer, The Tao of Spycraft: Intelligence Th eory and Practice in Traditional China, xiii.
16. Sawyer uses the word tao (pronounced dow as in DowJones), the general meaning of which is the “way” or “guiding principle,” as the essential or guiding principles of the craft of espionage and deception.
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Historical Document
Posted: Dec 11, 2007 11:50 AM
Last Updated: Jun 25, 2008 07:51 AM