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Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA's Spytechs, from Communism to Al-Qaeda Paperback – May 26, 2009


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Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA's Spytechs, from Communism to Al-Qaeda + The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; 1st Plume Edition edition (May 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452295475
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452295476
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #151,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Today's CIA is regularly criticized for emphasizing technology at the expense of human intelligence. In this history of the agency's Office of Technical Services, Wallace, its former head, and academic specialist Melton (Ultimate Spy) refute the charge with exciting content and slam-bang style. The book's chief value is its perspective on the synergy of technology and tradecraft. From WWII through the Cold War and up to the present, the authors say, technical equipment—for clandestine audio surveillance, for example—has been an essential element of agent operations. In the post–Cold War information society, technology plays an even more significant role in fighting terrorism. Agents remain important, along with their traditional skills. Increasingly, however, they support clandestine technical operations, especially infiltrating and compromising computer networks. The authors persuasively argue that employing and defending against sophisticated digital technology is the primary challenge facing U.S. intelligence in the 21st century. Their position invites challenge, but it cannot be dismissed. 32 pages of photos, over 100 b&w illus. throughout. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Wallace is well positioned to write this organizational and operational history of the CIA’s Office of Technical Service; he was OTS director from 1998 to 2002. The tales he tells are not out of school (the CIA permitted this book’s publication), but they will lure readers fascinated by the cloak-and-dagger aspects of espionage. Regaling readers with the paraphernalia CIA case officers use in running their agents––audio devices, miniature cameras, secret writing, disguises, codes, dead drops, etc.––Wallace and his coauthors well capture the spy-versus-spy dynamic. Tapping cold war battles between the CIA and the KGB, the authors’ narratives show how spy gear must be tailored to specific locations and the agent’s personality. The ingenuity this tasking has required of the OTS constitutes the pride and soul of Wallace’s presentation, which describes the custom designs delivered to the field for various operations. Amply illustrated with photographs and diagrams, Wallace’s work conveys the critical minutiae of clandestine activity, where one slipup can kill an agent, to spy buffs and CIA applicants alike. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Fascinating topic that is well illustrated throughout the book.
Book Shark
Reading this book is like having a peek into the laboratory of the real Q from the James Bond movies.
Avid Reader
This book is a must-read for pros and buffs of espionage and Cold War history.
Paul Gelman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on June 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I have been reading books about spies and espionage for over 40 years and this book is one of the best I have ever read. It is a great combination of true spy stories and never before told descriptions of some of the special technology used by spies. Reading this book is like having a peek into the laboratory of the real Q from the James Bond movies. The book was written by an author who obviously knows this business like few others. It will be enjoyed by those who like a good spy story as well as those who have a professional interest in espionage and in technology. A must read for anyone who wants to know how the spies really do their work.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Paul Gelman on June 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the most important periods of modern history was that of the Cold War, between 1945-1991.This war was unconventional,and it was maily hidden from the public on both sides of the conflict.The main action took place in the field of intelligence.The main players in this war of mirrors-the Great Game of the 20th century-were spies.
I have maintained for a long time that it was the secret services of the East and the West that were responsible for preventing a Third World War.Paradoxically, this was achieved by this hidden war which was played in the misty dead drop sites of Berlin, Vienna, Moscow ,Washington,London and other less famous espionage sites. These were the heydays of hundreds of thousands of spooks-some more famous than the others.Most of them- especially the professional ones- have used a variety of means in order to accomplish their assignments successfully.
In a very interesting and detailed book- perhaps the best there is today on this fascinating subject-the two authors elaborate on the many gadgets the CIA has developed and employed in this battle of wits.There was a special department within the CIA which was responsible for this.What was considered to dwell only in the imagination of authors and scriptwriters was for real.The mentors of the CIA(and its predecessor -the OSS) were their British cousins who have taught their colleagues some useful lessons in the field of espionage.The CIA have surpassed their masters creating for many decades a miscellany of low-and especially high-tech astounding ,innovative technologies.Among them there were cameras, microphones,concealment devices, physical and psychological diguises,ivory letter-opening devices,combustible notebooks, special dead drop rocks,microdot viewers,audio transmitters and bugs.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Pete M. on June 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Often, books on this type of topic are either really dry reading, or they are so novel-like that you wonder how much of it is "made up". Spycraft strikes a nice balance between interesting facts and history and good stories. The authors (Mr. Wallace and Mr. Melton) are certainly among the most qualified people around to discuss TSD/OTS history, so there are no worries about authenticity of the material.
I can highly recommend this book. I have 3 copies, so that I can give a couple as gifts this summer.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Herzog on July 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is the Whole Story

Robert Wallace is a good friend and a former colleague.

Cold War intelligence operations and those who managed and ran them were always highly compartmentalized so that only a handful knew the whole story.

Now, with access to former Soviet intelligence files, many things have become more clear. Still, it is for writer/practitioners like Wallace to give us a fascinating and until-now-unknown view of the long U.S. - Soviet standoff.

This book is a great read, hard to set aide. It should be must reading for anyone who wants facts about how technology supported (and sometimes failed) American (and Soviet) intelligence operations during those long and expensive years. Interested college students and their teachers can rely on this text. It is painstakingly researched and noted.

The Agency understandably has a tough pre-publication review process and I am pleasantly surprised to see how much of Wallace's material has been allowed to see print. Although I often knew only a little of the many specifics he writes about, there is no doubt that this is the whole story, satisfying and often surprising even to the Old Timers who were involved.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Stazkirovka on June 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A superbly written and exquisitely detailed book, rich in texture illuminating a fascinating recounting of the myriad of ways in which technology has aided case officers to accomplish what practitioners term "impersonal communications" exchanges with their agents (spies.) The multi-hued stories unveiled in this book pull back the curtain to illustrate amazingly creative ways in which gadgetry, both seemingly mundane as well as state of the art operational technology have facilitated the clandestine passage of secrets from spy to case handler.

The authors are among the foremost experts in the field of technology supported tradecraft and thus provide a long overdue "insider's knowledge" optic to seldom witnessed actions playing out behind the scenes in some of the most critically important spy cases since the start of the Cold War. The stories which recount the technical support given to CIA penetrations of the Soviet government and intelligence services like Aldof Tolkachev (alias "TRIGON") and Dimitry Polyakov (alias "Top Hat") are terrific additions to open source literature. In addition, this remarkable book has exceptional photographs of the actual gadgetry used in spy operations and comes with a very useful glossary for those who may not be familiar with espionage lexicon

Highly recommended addition for the bookshelf of any serious minded student of espionage history. "Spycraft" is simply the best book which covers technology support to the art of espionage. A genuine page turner.
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