Volume 53, No. 4 (December 2009)

The Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf

Volume 53, No. 4

The Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf

Compiled and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake


Intelligence for an Age of Terror, Gregory F. Treverton

Of Knowledge and Power: The Complexities Of National Intelligence, Robert Kennedy

Vaults, Mirrors and Masks: Rediscovering U.S. Counterintelligence, Jennifer E. Sims and Burton Gerber (eds.)

General Intelligence

The Real Spy’s Guide to Becoming A Spy, Peter Earnest with Suzanne Harper


The Attack on the Liberty: The Untold Story of Israeli’s Deadly 1967 Assault on a U.S. Spy Ship, James Scott

My Life As A Spy: One of America’s Most Notorious Spies Finally Tells His Story, John A. Walker, Jr.

Nathan Hale: The Life and Death of America’s First Spy, M. William Phelps

The Spy Who Tried To Stop A War: Katharine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion, Marcia and Thomas Mitchell

Intelligence Abroad

Historical Dictionary of Middle Eastern Intelligence, Ephraim Kahana & Muhammad Suwaed

Kill Khalid: The Failed Mossad Assassination of Khalid Mishal and the Rise of Hamas, Paul McGeough

Russian Military Intelligence in the War with Japan, 1904–05: Secret Operations on Land and at Sea, Evgeny Sergeev

SPOOKS: The Unofficial History of MI5, Thomas Hennessey and Claire Thomas

Treachery: Betrayals, Blunders, and Cover-ups—Six Decades of Espionage Against America and Great Britain, Chapman Pincher


Gregory F. Treverton, Intelligence for an Age of Terror (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 306 pp., endnotes, index.

In his 2001 book — completed before 9/11 — Reshaping National Intelligence for an Age of Information, Gregory Treverton suggested changes needed in an era of globalization. He then prophesied that only two events might alter his recommendations: “a major terrorist attack on the United States…a global economic collapse.” (vii) This book extends his previous recommendations in light of the events since 9/11. He argues from a perspective formed by service on the Church Committee — right out of college in 1975 — the National Security Council, and as vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council when it reported to the director of central intelligence. His experience also includes service as a Rand consultant to the FBI on the Hanssen case and to congressional committees regarding the advisability of establishing a separate domestic intelligence service, and his current position as director of the Rand Corporation’s Center for Global Risk and Security.

A basic premise of the book is that US intelligence agencies generally were not ready for 9/11, after which “the task of intelligence changed dramatically.” From this it follows that the reshaping begun by reforms enacted in 2004 was only “the bare beginning” of what is needed. (1) The nine chapters of the book examine a series of changes needed in the intelligence landscape to meet the challenges presented by Islamic terrorism. These include dealing with the “tyranny of the ‘stovepipes’” — a Cold War legacy that prevented necessary cooperation among agencies — an enhanced DNI role, modifications in organization — a separate domestic intelligence agency is not recommended — and the challenges to analysts when dealing with masses of information coupled with the problem of conflating security and sharing of data. With regard to the latter point, Treverton suggests that “fresh analytic insights are likely to arise precisely from those…with a fresh perspective who have no need to know.” (12) There is also a chapter dealing with an expanded customer base — what Treverton calls the “policy tribes” — and the security issues involved. The issue of security and civil liberties in a democracy surfaces throughout the book but is dealt with in depth in the final chapter, “Rebuilding the Social Contract.” Here Treverton invokes experiences of other nations — mainly Great Britain — to argue for more transparency, accountability, and oversight. The final sentence in the book is less than optimistic on this point: “I do not fear the terrorist, I do sometimes fear us.” (261)

Intelligence for an Age of Terror is a top-down examination of the topic in the current environment, with an agenda for the future. Intelligence officers, however, while agreeing with many of the issues raised, may well conclude that proposed changes must first be tempered with a view from the bottom up.

Robert Kennedy, Of Knowledge and Power: The Complexities Of National Intelligence (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2008), 261 pp., endnotes, appendices, index.

In his 35 years of government service, Robert Kennedy has taught at the Army War College, served as a foreign affairs officer at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, was civilian deputy of the NATO Defense College, Rome, and is currently a professor at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, Georgia Institute of Technology. In Of Knowledge and Power he has applied this experience to the intelligence profession in the post 9/11 era, essentially providing a primer for management or people new to the problems of intelligence.

Kennedy recognizes the new threats of our age, but he does not examine the mechanics of dealing with them or offer any solutions. Similarly, he identifies the difficulties posed by today’s increased volume of data, the impact of budget cuts, the criticality of training and creative thinking, the risks of cognitive bias with historical examples, and the problem of politicizing — intelligence to please — but leaves solutions to others. The final chapter, “The Struggle for Congressional Oversight,” is particularly interesting in this regard. He notes the problems of workload, lack of time to “probe the quality of intelligence,” the tendency to infuse political demands where they don’t belong, and the “willingness to take intelligence at face value.” (203) How congressional staffs can overcome these problems with their limited resources is not discussed.

With one exception, Of Knowledge and Power clearly identifies the problems facing the Intelligence Community today. The exception, is counterintelligence, a topic he doesn’t mention. Nevertheless, for an overview of what intelligence management faces, it is a good start.

Jennifer E. Sims and Burton Gerber (eds.), Vaults, Mirrors and Masks: Rediscovering U.S. Counterintelligence (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2009), 310 pp., end of chapter notes, index.

The title of this book raises a question author Jennifer Sims answers in the first paragraph. Counterintelligence (CI) functions by “exploiting, disrupting, denying, or manipulating the intelligence activities of others.” The tools employed “include security systems, deception, and disguise: vaults, mirrors, and masks.” This unusual conceptualization is indicative of the book overall. It is not about CI cases or operations, but rather considers questions of CI policy, organizational relationships and strategy, the connection between CI, civil liberties and culture, and the need for greater congressional oversight. Each of the 13 chapters takes into account these issues to some degree from various points of view — academia, law enforcement, the military, judiciary, Congress, and the professional intelligence officer.

The quality of the contributions varies. At the outset, the need for a new “national counterintelligence strategy” is assumed — but not demonstrated — nor is the difference with the current national CI strategy made clear. Subsequent chapters offer solutions to “the thorniest problems…confronting counterintelligence in democracies.” Five identified are: the “dominance of defensive CI…and the disconnect between policy makers and CI community,” the lack of a common approach to CI among various agencies, “the absence of homes for strategic CI planning and operations…in broader service to national security policy,” the lack of CI understanding and training among agencies, and the absence of oversight. (10–11)

Unfortunately, the authors have identified problems, but they have neither fully substantiated their existence nor proffered solutions for them. For example, the chapter on the theoretical basis for reform stresses the “mission-based” approach to CI. While those words may stimulate vigorous debate, the elements and value of the theory are not made clear, nor does the narrative indicate how a new mission-based approach differs from the existing mission-based approach. The chapter “Defense Counterintelligence, Reconceptualized” also invokes theory without adding clarity and discusses putative organizational CI problems without providing solutions or establishing that problems really exist. It then offers such illuminating conclusions as “counterintelligence is an inseparable subset of intelligence.”

The contribution by Judge Richard Posner, “Counterintelligence, Counterterrorism, Civil Liberties, and the Domestic Intelligence Controversy,” offers clear articulation of the issues, suggestions for resolution, and a direct challenge to the view that “any curtailment of liberty operates as a rachet, or more dramatically as placing us on a sharp downward slope, at the bottom of which is tyranny.” (278)

The final chapter offers six recommendations for improving CI in the future. The first, “do no harm,” suggests limiting the federal footprint at the local level while focusing on networking rather than creating new organizations. The second, “at the federal level, reconnect CI with national security strategy and decisionmaking,” is more ambiguous, suggesting that this can be accomplished by reducing “the influence of law enforcement directives over the role and agenda of the NCIX [National Counterintelligence Executive].” The third argues for greater diversity in the workforce. The fourth deals with the need to redesign declassification policies. The final two are concerned with improving congressional oversight.

It is not self-evident that the ultimate conclusion of the book, “reform of the US counterintelligence effort is urgent,” has been demonstrated, however. Vaults, Mirrors and Masks has raised many issues worthy of discussion, but nothing about counterintelligence has been “rediscovered.”

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General Intelligence

Peter Earnest with Suzanne Harper, The Real Spy’s Guide to Becoming a Spy (New York: Abrams Books, 2009), 144 pp., bibliography, appendices, photos, index.

In his preface to The Craft of Intelligence, Allen Dulles, tells of listening to his family discuss the Boer War and then writing his own pro-Boer views on the matter. Discovered by his elders, the views were published as a booklet, misspellings and all. At the age of eight, he was fond of telling young officer trainees, he was taken seriously; it was a lesson he said he never forgot. Retired CIA case officer, Peter Earnest has not forgotten it either. The Real Spy’s Guide is a serious book aimed at those who may at some point in their formative years consider becoming an intelligence officer — a spy in popular parlance.

The seven chapters explain why spying is necessary, what spies do and do not do, the qualifications required, the terminology used, and how to apply to the intelligence agency of your choice — the internet, of course — Web addresses are included. Several chapters end with short multiple-choice quizzes to help readers decide if they have the “right stuff” and what career options — espionage, analysis, technical, support — fit best. For those considering an overseas career in the CIA, the chapter on training discusses tradecraft — surveillance, recruitment techniques, working under cover, bugs, dead drops, codes and the like. There is also a chapter that answers the question: what do I do until I am old enough to apply? The importance of foreign language and writing skills are stressed. In each chapter are short stories of actual espionage cases that emphasize the risks and excitement one may expect.

The Real Spy’s Guide answers questions often asked but seldom answered in one place. Students, teachers and parents will find it useful.

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James Scott, The Attack on the Liberty: The Untold Story of Israel’s Deadly 1967 Assault on a U.S. Spy Ship (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009), 374 pp.

On 8 June 1967, in the middle of the Six-Day War between Israel and Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, Israeli aircraft and torpedo boats attacked the USS Liberty while her crew was collecting SIGINT in international waters off the Gaza Strip. It was a clear day, the 350-foot Liberty was sailing at 10 knots and flying a large US flag. The ship’s name was on the stern, and its number was on the bow. Except for several small caliber machine guns, the Liberty was unarmed. Israeli aircraft fired rockets and cannons and dropped napalm bombs. The torpedo boats launched at least five torpedoes, one of which tore a 34-foot hole in the bulkhead and decimated the cryptologic center staffed mainly by NSA linguists. The attack lasted about an hour. Thirty four were killed, 171 were wounded. These basic facts are no longer disputed.

Shortly after the attack, the survivors were sworn to secrecy, told to stay away from the press, and then decorated — in secret. The Liberty’s captain, William L. McGonagle, was awarded the Medal of Honor, but the president refused to follow tradition and make the presentation. The security restrictions notwithstanding, books questioning the official position that the attack was an accident began appearing in 1968 and have reappeared periodically since then. Some were written by survivors. The Attack on the Liberty is by the son of a survivor.1

James Scott’s account is an expanded version of events based on interviews with crew, letters, and recently released government documents. He makes clear that the survivors all thought the attack was intentional, though the reason was obscure. The Israeli government insisted it was an unfortunate accident. Initially, some officials in the US government accepted this explanation. But eventually, many — CIA Director Richard Helms, CIA Deputy Director Admiral Rufus Taylor, Admiral Thomas Moorer, presidential adviser Clark Clifford, and Secretary of State Dean Rusk — to name a few, concluded it could not have been accidental. Many members of Congress agreed but would not take a public position and declined to conduct hearings or an investigation. The short Navy hearing was conducted before some of the wounded could testify. The panel initially tended to blame the crew. The only person who really mattered, President Johnson, accepted the Israeli account and that became the official result.

The sad impact of the attack on the lives of the survivors is evident. The situation was aggravated when Israelis at first blamed the attack on the Liberty, then reversed themselves and agreed to pay reparations to survivors and families. But they delayed payment for more than 10 years. In the end, Scott speculates on two important points. First, he looks at the strategic impact of lessons not learned by keeping details of the attack secret. For example, he asks whether a Navy-wide review of the facts might have prevented the capture by North Korea of the USS Pueblo seven months later. Second, and more important, he considers possible reasons the president behaved as he did — the stresses of the Vietnam War, the need for Jewish support in America, and support in Congress are just three possibilities.

As with all incidents, there are at least two sides. Scott makes all the positions clear, though there is little doubt he agrees with the crew. The Attack on the Liberty is skillfully written and admirably documented, but it leaves little hope that the complete truth will be known any time soon.

John A. Walker, Jr., My Life As A Spy: One of America’s Most Notorious Spies Finally Tells His Story (New York: Prometheus Books, 2008), 340 pp., no index.

In his foreword, prisoner # 22449-037 explains that he began this book in 1994 as an apology to his children, as an acknowledgement of regret to the nation, and as a means of making public “in exhaustive detail” the real reasons for his traitorous behavior. For those uninterested in the detail, the disingenuous Walker asks readers to believe these reasons: (1) his exposure to vast amounts of government secrets, (2) President Kennedy’s assassination by “powerful government officials,” and (3) the failure of the US Navy to defend the USS Liberty. But he goes on to argue that in spite of these factors, he never would have spied had it not been for the “the fraudulent cold war” and his unsuccessful marriage, for which he assigns blame to his wife’s “blatant infidelity.”

There is very little new in this book, in which he tells two stories. The first concerns his decision to give secrets to the Soviets in the late 1960s, how he did it for so long, the roles of those he recruited to help him, how he got caught, and why his actions actually contributed to peace. The second story concerns his family life, which he pictures as rather normal except for his wife’s behavior. Both are covered in more detail by Pete Earley in Family of Spies, which is based on interviews with Walker and some of the KGB officers involved — by far the best treatment of the case. Earley’s depiction of Walker’s family life is one of constant conflict and abuse by Walker, an aspect absent from Walker’s account. The one new detail Walker adds occurs in a short chapter titled “A CIA Mole.” In it he claims that he had told the KGB he was thinking of applying to the CIA after he left the Navy. Worried about the polygraph, he says the KGB gave him the name of a KGB mole in the CIA who would help him avoid the ordeal. Walker offers no evidence for this apocrypha. John Walker is eligible for parole in 2015 if he survives the diabetes that has cost him his eyesight.

M. William Phelps, Nathan Hale: The Life and Death of America’s First Spy (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2008), 306 pp., endnotes, bibliography, index.

Nathan Hale was America’s first spy. On 22 September 1776, age 21, he was hanged by the British in Artillery Park, New York City. Forts, parks, and schools, have been named in his honor. In 1925 a stamp (1/2 cent) was issued with his likeness. Three statues were sculpted in his memory, one stands at Tulane University Law School, another at New York City Hall, and the most famous, by Bela Lyon Pratt, at Yale University, from which Hale graduated in 1773. Six copies of the Pratt likeness have been made, one stands in front of CIA headquarters. At least 100 books have told Hale’s story; what, one might ask, can another add to the tale?

The simple answer is a lot. Phelps has formed a more complete account in one book than any other of Hale’s life, from his early days on the family farm, to his life at Yale, his short career as a teacher begun at age 18, and his equally brief service in the revolutionary army. Phelps draws on letters to and from family and friends, diaries, the Yale archives, and contemporary accounts. The portrait that emerges is one of a young man who decided that life as a farmer was not for him and for whom teaching became a passion. At Yale he joined the Linonia Society, a group of scholars that met to discuss “slavery, astronomy, literature, women’s rights, and other important social and academic issues.” (17) His later correspondence with Yale classmates provides much detail about his life as a young man and his decision to serve his country in time of war.

Three episodes are of particular interest in this account. Hale’s meeting with Washington and his decision to volunteer to go behind British lines to collect tactical intelligence, the mission itself, and his last words before being hanged. There are several versions of Hale’s meeting with Washington, and Phelps evaluates each. His treatment of the espionage mission dismisses claims that Hale was captured in New York City and presents a well-documented account of the circumstances that led to his capture just before he was due to return to his unit after having acquired the intelligence he set out to collect. The most controversial element of the Hale story continues to be the words he spoke before giving his life. Phelps recounts the various versions that have appeared in the literature. Acknowledging that there is no first-hand account, he concludes that the line most often attributed to him — “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” — is probably only a “paraphrase of what Nathan actually said.” (192)

Hale’s hanging was meant as an example to all those considering espionage against Britain. But the greater result was the creation of a martyr, hero-patriot who set a standard by risking his life for intelligence service to his country.

Marcia and Thomas Mitchell, The Spy Who Tried To Stop A War: Katharine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion (Sausalito, CA: PoliPoint Press, 2008), 210 pp., endnotes, photos, index.

On 31 January 2003, British GCHQ employee and Chinese Mandarin linguist, Katharine Gun, read an e-mail from NSA that she decided described “illegal intelligence operations against UN Security Council members that would have an impact on the upcoming invasion of Iraq.” (7) “I must admit that the decision to leak the e-mail was instantly in my mind” Gun told the authors; she never invoked the internal security procedures established for such a situation. (9) Instead, she leaked the e-mail to a friend, and its prompt publication caused a furor in Britain. When first questioned in the inevitable investigation, she denied responsibility, but after her conscience got the better of her she confessed. Dismissed from GCHQ, she was taken to court, but the government withdrew the case, arguing it could not reveal the secrets necessary to prosecute.

The Mitchells, in an admittedly pro-whistle-blower account, fill in the details and assail the media in the United States for the less-than-extensive coverage of the case received here. They relate Ms. Gun’s life from her birth in Taiwan to her GCHQ career and the trying ordeal to which she subjected herself. The underlying theme of the book is that a whistle-blower’s “conscience tells us we must reveal what we know,” especially when it is judged to be misleading or false. (171) It then goes on to advise the governments involved on the approach they should be taking in the Middle East.

The Spy Who Tried To Stop A War is an apologia for Katharine Gun that explicitly encourages others to decide on their own that they know best when it comes to security.

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Intelligence Abroad

Ephraim Kahana and Muhammad Suwaed, Historical Dictionary of Middle Eastern Intelligence (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2009), 359 pp., bibliography, no index.

The authors of this latest contribution to the Scarecrow Press Historical Dictionary of Intelligence and Counterintelligence series are Israeli academics specializing in national security issues. In their preface, they identify the geographic area they consider and set out their objectives: discuss the important intelligence events, organizations, and principal players that have influenced the current situation in the region. An overview of the events covered can be quickly assessed by scanning the chronology and the introduction, which outline the use of intelligence from ancient times until the present.

The 325-page dictionary is arranged alphabetically and mixes personalities and organizations. In most cases the national intelligence organizations are listed by country and described in their incarnations from their origins until the present. There are separate entries for the nuclear weapon programs of Iraq, Iran, and, surprisingly, Israel, but not for Pakistan — there is no entry for India, or Afghanistan for that matter. The CIA is mentioned frequently but it does not have a separate entry, though some of the officers who played roles in various events do. Similarly, the Israeli Security Agency (ISA), also known as the Shin Bet, is included but does not have its own entry, though the Mossad does. There are also entries covering the numerous terrorist organizations that threaten regional stability and non-Muslim nations — al Qaeda is found under ‘Q.’ There is an entry for the Yemen Civil War, but it does not discuss its intelligence organizations or terrorist activities. A good index would have been helpful in locating the many players and organizations.

As with the previous volumes in this series, no sources are cited in the entries, and errors have crept in. For example: Dudley Clarke was not a brigadier and did not “replace General Wavell;”2 (1) and William Buckley was the CIA chief of station, not a “US Army colonel.” (205) There is an extensive bibliography that includes mostly English sources — books, articles and Web sites — though some Israeli and Arabic citations are included.

Overall this is a valuable contribution for those concerned with intelligence in the Middle Eastern countries.

Paul McGeough, Kill Khalid: The Failed Mossad Assassination of Khalid Mishal and the Rise of Hamas (New York: The New Press, 2009), 477 pp., endnotes, chronology, photos, index.

In October 1997, Sheik Ahmad Yassin, the 61-year-old quadriplegic leader of Hamas in the Gaza strip, arrived home after serving nearly eight years of a life sentence in an Israeli prison. The early release of the terrorist leader was not an Israeli government gesture of goodwill; the Israelis were pressured by King Hussein of Jordan with the support of President Bill Clinton. The triggering event was a failed attempt to assassinate Hamas leader, Khalid Mishal, in Amman, Jordan, on 25 September 1997. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had approved the mission, and Mossad, given the task, bungled it badly.

Australian Middle East specialist, Paul McGeough, tells how the assassins went about “methodically rehearsing” the operation, with one exception: the delivery appliance — the liquid poison “bullet” hidden in a camera-like device — had not been used in such a mission before. The operational concept was to pass Khalid in the street, hold the “camera” near his ear, and release the poison that was supposed to kill him several days later, after the assassins, dressed as tourists, had returned to Israel. But the delivery was off target. Khalid’s bodyguards caught two of the team with their fake Canadian passports. They were exposed as Israelis and detained. Two others took refuge in the Israeli embassy. As Khalid became sick, he was taken to a hospital, but the doctors could not determine what was wrong. Informed of the Israeli attempt, King Hussein, furious that the attack had taken place in Jordan, phoned Netanyahu and demanded an antidote or the captives would be tried. Then, for good measure, he called President Clinton and asked for his help — which he got. In the negotiations that followed, Yassin’s release was arranged, the antidote was reluctantly provided, Khalid survived, and Hamas achieved greater status than it had ever enjoyed.

The final part of the book tells how Khalid took advantage of these circumstances to eliminate his competition within Hamas and eventually become its leader. Khalid did not achieve this objective without a battle with Arafat and Fatah and terrorist attacks on Israel. McGeough describes in considerable detail the complex infighting and the roles played by the United States, the Arab nations in the area, and Iran. In the process he provides biographic background on the principal players on both the Hamas and Israeli sides. The story is fascinating and well told. Kill Khalid exposes the intricacies of dealing with Middle East nations and factions, is well documented, and a most valuable contribution.

Evgeny Sergeev, Russian Military Intelligence in the War with Japan, 1904-05: Secret Operations on Land and at Sea (New York: Routledge, 2008), 252 pp., endnotes, bibliography, appendix, photos, index.

The second episode of the 1983 TV series, Reilly, Ace of Spies, starring Sam Neill as Sidney Reilly, dramatized the story of Reilly’s role as a British secret agent in Port Arthur prior to the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese war in 1904. Reilly is shown warning the British and the Russians of the upcoming Japanese attack — they ignored him — while at the same time giving crucial secrets to Japan that made the surprise attack a success. It was splendid entertainment, but sorry history. In his thoroughly documented Russian Military Intelligence in the War with Japan, historian Evgeny Sergeev sets the record straight from the Russian point of view and at the same time tells the story of the development of Russian military intelligence.

While acknowledging a role for secret agents — Reilly is mentioned in passing — Sergeev’s account first describes Russian military intelligence prior to the war. He goes on to show what Russia knew about Japan’s military and political intentions and why the surprise attack succeeded — a success due in part to Japan’s many secret agents in Port Arthur. He then depicts the role of Russian military intelligence (tactical and strategic) in the naval and land battles that followed — all won by Japan. At the same time, he explains, specially trained military and naval attachés — conducted operations in most countries in Europe and Asia to keep abreast of and influence diplomatic developments and weapon purchases headed for Japan. The attachés were supported by “shoulder-strapped” diplomats — co-opted in today’s terminology — who were very successful in breaking Japanese codes.

For political reasons, the Japanese made the initial overtures for peace at a point when Russian losses were so costly militarily and financially that the Tsar was forced to accept President Theodore Roosevelt’s offer to mediate. While Sergeev addresses the political factors involved in this first clash of Western and oriental empires, his emphasis is on the impact of the war on Russian military intelligence and the reforms — tactical and strategic — that the Bolsheviks would institute and capitalize on when they came to power.

Russian Military Intelligence in the War with Japan uses Russian primary sources that became available after the collapse of the Soviet Union and Japanese sources that have not appeared in English. In exploiting these sources, Sergeev makes evident why Soviet military intelligence had the upper hand in foreign intelligence in the early years of the Soviet Union. Sergeev has produced a fine history of the intelligence war and the lessons the Soviets learned.

Thomas Hennessey and Claire Thomas, SPOOKS: The Unofficial History of MI5 (Gloucestershire, UK: Amberley Publishing, 2009), 662 pp. endnotes, bibliography, photos, index.

For Americans, the term spooks suggests Halloween, horror movies, and perhaps spies. In Britain, the BBC drama series of the same name about MI5 is what jumps to mind. SPOOKS, the book, is also about MI5 but from a non-fiction, historical perspective. It is not the first book on the subject, John Bulloch and Nigel West made previous contributions.3 Its reign as the most recent was shortlived, with the publication this fall of Christopher Andrew’s “authorized” history, Defend The Realm.4 Given that MI5 and MI6 both have marked 100th anniversaries this year, it is odd that there is no preface to explain why SPOOKS was published at this time. A glance at the endnotes suggests the authors capitalized on the recent release of MI5 files to the National Archives — most of the extensive notes cite specific Security Service documents.

The book’s introduction recalls the terrorist attacks in London in July 2005, the failure of MI5 to prevent them, and the important “life and death” role of the Security Service. The 37 chapters that follow cover in great detail the origins of the service and the many espionage and counterterrorism cases — mainly “The Troubles” in Ireland — with which it has been involved. Chapter 37, A New World Disorder: 9/11 to 7/7 and Beyond, draws more on parliamentary reports and other open sources, as no MI5 documents have been released covering these events. The short final chapter, Reflections, summarizes MI5 achievements, its continuing respect for individual liberties, and emphasizes that its successes will only be revealed by future historians.

Perhaps inevitably in a work of this magnitude, a few errors have crept in. For example, the VENONA project was not the consequence of Finnish intelligence discovering NKVD codebooks in 1939. (519) Likewise, Guy Burgess did not join the communist party while at university or any other time (550), Kim Philby defected in 1963, not 1967 (552), and Oleg Gordievsky was not a double agent. Other shortcomings are its very small print and narrow margins — which are not conducive to easy reading — and a grossly inadequate index.

SPOOKS offers a comprehensive view of MI5’s early years. There is plenty of material here to stimulate the scholarly research necessary to judge its accuracy.

Chapman Pincher, Treachery: Betrayals, Blunders, and Cover-ups—Six Decades of Espionage Against America and Great Britain (New York: Random House, 2009), note on sources, bibliography, appendix, index.

In his 1981 book, Their Trade Is Treachery, British journalist Chapman Pincher claimed that Soviet intelligence had penetrated the British government to an extent greater than previously thought. The most sensational charge levied was that former MI5 Director-General Sir Roger Hollis was suspected of being a Soviet mole while on active duty. Pincher expanded his case in 1984 in another book, Too Secret Too Long. His source, not revealed at the time, turned out to be Peter Wright, a disgruntled MI5 retiree who published his own book with amplifying details, Spycatcher, in 1987, after winning a long court battle with the government. That same year, in his book Molehunt, intelligence historian Nigel West took an opposing view on Hollis. In 1990, Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky argued that Hollis had been “mistakenly accused.”5 There the matter has rested until its resurrection in this book by the 94-year-old Pincher. Treachery is a 600-page speculative treatise devoted to the conclusion that Hollis may have been a GRU agent throughout his MI5 career, or, at the very least, concealed his relationship with the Communist Party before he joined the service.

Treachery is a chronological account of Roger Hollis’s life and career in MI5. Pincher discusses many of the cases in which Hollis was actively involved or declined to play a role, and points out what he suggests are numerous incidents in which Hollis protected GRU agents in Britain, all the while very likely passing counterintelligence data to the GRU. He admits there is no “smoking gun evidence” of Hollis’s guilt and relies on a succession of coincidences that, if true, could make his case. But it is not until the final four chapters that Pincher really strengthens his case. In those chapters he reveals information in a 1996 book by an Estonian émigré in the UK, Einar Sanden,6 that reports a debriefing of a GRU agent who claimed Hollis was recruited as an agent while he was in China in the 1930s. That is not conclusive evidence, but it does raise legitimate doubts and deserves scholarly followup. There the matter now rests.

Treachery has no endnotes, but Pincher does provide a 13-page “Note on Sources” that explains how he went about his work. He states that most of his allegations are based on MI5 documents recently released by the British National Archives and those wishing to check his data should consult the primary sources he lists in the bibliography. Despite its length and his detailed analysis, Treachery does not close the case on the Hollis saga. But it is a fascinating book and illustrates the challenges faced by counterespionage officers in every service.

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1 Anthony Pearson, Conspiracy of Silence (London: Quartet Books, 1968).

2 See Thaddeus Holt, The Deceivers: Allied Military Deception in the Second World War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004).

3 John Bulloch, The Origins and History of the British Counterespionage Service MI5 (London: Arthur Barker, Ltd, 1963); Nigel West, MI5: British Security Service Operations, 1909–1945 (London: The Bodley Head, 1981) and A Matter of Trust: MI5, 1945-72 (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1982).

4 Andrew’s book was released too late for review in this issue of Studies.

5 Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky, KGB: The Inside Story of its Foreign Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1990), p. 27.

6 Einar Sanden, An Estonian Saga (Cardiff, UK: Boreas, 1996).

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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 its factual statements and interpretations.

Posted: Jan 26, 2010 11:44 AM

Last Updated: Jan 26, 2010 11:44 AM