The fascinating history of American espionage in our century, its devastating failures, its continuing essential role in a society that values openness over secrecy. Based on extensive interviews and documentary sources.
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My reaction to reading this book in1994. This book is not as good as G.J.A. O’Toole’s more detailed and longer Honorable Treachery. This book is also based on a premise that O’Toole convincingly refutes: that the Founding Fathers would be horrified by our modern foreign and domestic intelligence apparatus. Still, this is a pretty fair minded, balanced book. It does not try to say that the Soviet Union and communism posed no threat to America. Indeed this book not only talks about the ruthless origins of the Cheka (at least as much detail as any one thing gets in this book) but their execution squads rounding up White Russian collaborators who worked with the Anglo-American expedition to Russia, their dummy fronts in WWII Eastern Europe (they served the dual function of providing future communist leaders and getting Allied aid as well as attracting potential revolutionaries to be rounded up after the war), and their operations in America before, during, and after WWII. O’Toole’s book ends with the Bay of Pigs while this one extends the history up through Iran-Contra. Both books cover the WWI through WWII period and the political fighting to whom would conduct American intelligence operations in what sphere. There is a lot of interesting trivia here. J. Edgar Hoover’s career – especially his opposition to imprisoning the Nisei is covered, and it’s clear the using of intelligence agencies for domestic spying and blackmail of political opponents begins not with Nixon but Franklin Roosevelt. I’ve read Laidlas Farago’s The Game of the Foxes but forgot the extent of FBI counter-intelligence operations – successful ones – against Abwehr agents in the Western Hemisphere. I liked reading about America’s amateur spies (including a baseball player conducting photo reconnaissance on Tokyo before an exhibition game and Ernest Hemingway who proposed bizarre schemes of his own). Not only is the FBI’s COINTELPRO mentioned (at least the authors mention that right wing groups were targeted even if the main emphasis is on civil rights and left wing groups) but so is a murder case involving three Green Berets charged with killing a South Vietnamese prisoner. There is some discussion of Special Operations Group corruption in Vietnam. The authors choose to see this (and they may be right) as a continuation of CIA emphasis on operations (subversion and assassination) which lead to a certain narrow focus on what constituted an intelligence success (sort of confusing tactics – be it assassination or a coup – with strategy – preserving U.S. interest) and a tendency to conduct operations and not just gather intelligence. They trace this legacy to the “bang and boom” philosophy of the OSS and claim that agency's operations generally were not that successful. This flies in the in the face of Eisenhower’s statement about the value of OSS operations prior to D-Day and Detachment 101’s operations in Asia. Still, even then, OSS was showing a CIA-like involvement in politics. It supported, to the disgust of France, Ho Chi Minh in WWII. There also some interesting comments by ex-CIA director and OSS veteran William Colby on the slapdash, badly organized quality of many OSS operations. Like O’Toole’s book, this work talks on the futility and wastefulness of Hoover and other anti-Communists pursuing and watching the overt communists of the American Communist Party and other groups who were largely harmless while paying little or no attention to the covert and thoroughly professional and dangerous Communist agents in America almost immediately after Russia’s Red Revolution. But I don’t buy the extension of their argument that left-wing student groups and certain left-wing groups shouldn’t have been watched. (The Weathermen escaped certain charges against them because the NSA wouldn’t admit to their surveillance of them.). In intelligence work, it is not only military secrets that are traded in or political secrets discovered or economic intelligence that is sought. There are also agents of influence...
one On the Road to Shevogarsk
three We Cannot Afford to Be Sissies
four Black Jumbo in the Ether
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