Leland C. McCaslin
Superb Ground-level View, Less So On Context
February 23, 2011
As a former direct report to John Guenther, who served along the same lines for many years in Marine Corps counterintelligence in Europe and elsewhere, I have to admire what this author has done and certainly agree that it is useful and important perspective from a ground-level point of view.
I like the names, the photos, the details. HOWEVER, there are two contextual issues that are not well-represented in the book, which is a historical account.
First, the author was and remains unwitting of the fact that the US was funding the Red Brigades and creating a false terrorist threat within Italy in order to further consolidate the power of the fascist government in the post-war period. Only recently has all of this been exposed in the aftermath of the CIA renditions out of Italy, and testimony finally elicited from several participants in the earlier cover operations . In that context then, this book has to be seen as a partial unwitting account. For the tip of the iceberg, see Journal: Nato’s Secret Armies (It’s Not Terror if CIA Pays and Locals Do the Dirty….) at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog.
Second, everything is different now. I do not recommend this book as training handbook, but I certainly do recommend it as one of the finest ground-level views of the historical past.
Books that I prefer for this topical area of counterintelligence include:
Merchants of Treason America’s Secrets for Sale from the Pueblo to the Present
Traitors Among Us: Inside the Spy Catcher’s World
Sellout: Aldrich Ames and the Corruption of the CIA
Wilderness of Mirrors: Intrigue, Deception, and the Secrets that Destroyed Two of the Cold War’s Most Important Agents
Wedge: From Pearl Harbor to 9/11–How the Secret War between the FBI and CIA Has Endangered National Security
Widows – Four American Spies, The Wives They Left Behind, And The Kgb’s Crippling Of American Intelligence
Blowback: The First Full Account of America’s Recruitment of Nazis and Its Disastrous Effect on The cold war, Our Domestic and Foreign Policy.
Vaults, Mirrors, and Masks: Rediscovering U.s. Counterintelligence
An important point: during the Cold War, our humans were our greatest vulnerability, but we spent hundreds of billions on technical collection instead of on human counterintelligence. Today we are at a point where everyone with a brain and ethics is starting to realize that $90 billion a year for technical collection that is unprocessed and irrelevant is nuts, at the same time that everyone is realizing:
a) Neither CIA nor DIA know how to “do” human intelligence or human counterintelligence
b) Overt human social networks are vastly more important in the larger scheme of things, essential as a foundation to narrowly focused and supremely professional human intelligence. US Special Operations “push-ups done silently” just does not cut it, nor does the recent clown show in Pakistan where a CIA contractor blew up and the CIA chase car ran over another motorcyclist.
My original book, On Intelligence: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World, and my most recent monograph for the Strategic Studies Institute, Human Intelligence (HUMINT): All Humans, All Minds, All the Time, are both free online as are all my successive books on the new craft of (open) intelligence and information operations.