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)
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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