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Tiger Trap: America’s Secret Spy War with China Hardcover – June 14, 2011

4 out of 5 stars 74 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Wise (Spy) leads readers into the "the wilderness of mirrors that is counterintelligence" for this history of Chinese espionage against the U.S. He reveals how Chinese intelligence has used ethnic Chinese in the U.S. to penetrate American counterintelligence and steal American nuclear weapons data. While Wise explores a spectrum of Chinese spying efforts, from Sun-Tzu's The Art of War to cyberspies, he homes in on two sensational cases, code-named Parlor Maid and Tiger Trap, that epitomize their tactics. Parlor Maid was the colorful Katrina Leung, a Chinese-American double agent who slept with her FBI handlers while stealing their secrets, and Tiger Trap refers to the FBI's operation to expose China's moles inside America's nuclear weapons labs. Wise's conclusion is sobering—"China's spying on America is ongoing, current, and shows no sign of diminishing"—and his book is a fascinating history of Chinese espionage that should appeal to a diverse readership. (June)
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"Wise's conclusion is sobering--'China's spying on America is ongoing, current, and shows no signs of diminishing--and his book is a fascinating history of Chinese espionage that should appeal to a diverse readership."
-Publishers Weekly

"David Wise has done it again. This time it's China. He's taken us deep into the American efforts to root out Chinese spies here and abroad. As always, Wise is the master - writing with clarity and style abou thte murky and consequential underworld of nuclear espionage."
- Tom Brokaw

"David Wise is a master of the nonfiction thriller and, once again, he delivers a fact-filled inside account, with sources named and no one spared, including some very amorous and reckless FBI agents.   There is an important message in Tiger Trap -- about the often overlooked threat posed by China's demonstrated ability to dig out America's most important military and economic secrets."
-Seymour M. Hersh

"David Wise has given us a rare combination in today's literary world -- a book that is great reading, while at the same time shedding light on a subject whose seriousness should concern every thinking American."
- Jim Webb, U.S. Senator from Virginia, author of Born Fighting, Fields of Fire

"Extraordinary. A stunningly detailed history of China's spy war with us - from sexy socialite double agents to "kill switches" implanted offshore in the computer chips for our electric grid. Wise remains the master."
R. James Woolsey, former Director of Central Intelligence

"Forget Moscow rules, Lubyanka Prison, and KGB assassins.  Today’s most threatening web of spies is spun out of Beijing and reaches from Silicon Valley to the Pentagon.  David Wise has written a dead-on accurate narrative of major PRC cases against American targets.  He names names, details agent tradecraft, and takes you into the courtroom and even a jail cell to witness the final unraveling of these sensational cases.  You will never think about Chinese espionage the same way again. " - Peter Earnest, Executive Director of the International Spy Museum

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (June 14, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547553102
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547553108
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #271,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
David Wise writes with direct, swiftly moving prose and adds new information to the record; however, the analysis of Chinese intelligence activities is flawed and readers will not be able to place Chinese intelligence activity into context after studying this book.

Wise contributes new information in a couple of areas. He adds more detail about Gwo-Bao Min (Tiger Trap) than was previously available and weaves together the disparate threads connecting Chinese espionage allegations on West Coast. Wise fills in some of the gaps left in previous treatments. Wise also pulls together a good deal of information on the recent espionage cases in the last five years, which would only be available to a lay reader after several hours of research.

Unfortunately, Wise chooses not to take a step and look at the information he so assiduously collected. Instead, he relies on retired FBI agents, who repeat old platitudes about Chinese intelligence methods----platitudes that may never have been true to begin with. This might be tolerable if Wise himself had not collected a lot of data contradicting his opening chapter. Most Western observers believe Chinese intelligence methods are wildly different than Western or Russian models. They think, among other points, China relies on amateur collectors rather than professional intelligence officers, does not pay for secret information, and does not develop formal intelligence relationships.

Yet Wise charts the tale of the Chinese intelligence officer at the heart of recent espionage cases, involving Chi Mak, Kuo Tai-shen, James Fondren, and Gregg Bergersen. Chinese intelligence recruited these sources and paid them in exchange for US defense secrets. Why did they spy? Greed. Venality.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The ongoing struggle - whether acknowledged or not by our governments - of America with China is the subject of several books, and the cyber attacks and espionage of China against Western targets has gotten a fair amount of coverage. And that subject is even covered in this book's last chapter.

China's more traditional espionage activity has been less well covered and that is the subject of this book which ranges in time from the possible 1960s affair of Richard Nixon with a Chinese agent to 2009 espionage prosecutions. Wise bounces back and forth in time as he covers two major cases of Chinese espionage: a double agent for both the FBI and the MSS - China's organization for gathering foreign intelligence - and a Chinese-American scientist suspected of providing details of America's most sophisticated nuclear weapons to China. Because Chinese espionage operations often seem to overlap somewhere, these two cases, code named Parlor Maid and Tiger Trap respectively, also introduce us to other cases including perhaps the most famous - the matter of the reputedly innocent Wen Ho Lee.

There are several points of interest in Wise's caroming narrative.

First, while Wise cites the often heard metaphor that Chinese intelligence operates by dispatching a horde of agents against a target, each collecting a tiny bit of intelligence, rather than the high tech methods of American intelligence gathering, what is more interesting is the criteria for their agents. They chose not to deal with emotionally damaged people who have sex, drug, and money problems or operate out of a desire for revenge. (Though some recent Chinese spy prosecutions seem to partly contradict this.
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Format: Hardcover
David Wise has done himself the favor of picking fairly interesting source material. The treatment of the subject is not as comprehensive as the description would suggest; rather, these are several vignettes about Chinese espionage in the US, followed by an extremely cursory look at cyber-espionage at the end.

The book suffers somewhat from Wise's tendency to beat you over the head with reminders of who's who and from his hamfisted writing style (for instance: "There were 'anomalies,' as counterintelligence agents call suspicious or unexplained problems," or "He felt a little like the lone sheriff in High Noon. But this wasn't a Hollywood western. If he screwed up, Mueller would know just whom to blame"). The book also has a strong bias on FBI/CIA sources with little attention paid to the Chinese perspective. That may have been inevitable but it is a loss.

The introductory thesis also seems to have been written for a different book. Wise contends that the Chinese MSS, unlike the CIA or KGB, prefers to gather information from the many Chinese students, tourists, and businesspeople who travel to the US every year, rather than relying on moles or defectors. It may or may not be true, but nothing related in the book supports that thesis (in fact, the cases cited would seem to show just the opposite), making its inclusion bizarre.

Ultimately, this book is worth reading only if you are interested in the subject matter, as the craft leaves something to be desired.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
David Wise's "Tiger Trap" is an interesting but somewhat unsatisfying attempt to document Chinese espionage against the United States. Unfortunately, with the majority of the book focused on 1980s and 1990s espionage cases, the book feels almost anachronistic as the PRC's motives, goals, and methods have clearly changed since the early Reagan administration. There is still worthwhile material here, but 3 stars is a fairly generous rating partially thanks to the fact there's not much else out there and partially because he does a fairly decent job explaining methods.

There's been a lot made recently in the popular press about cyberwarfare likely linked to Chinese sources, and the less covered state-sponsored (or at least sanctioned) intellectual property theft also is worth some attention. Regrettably, Tiger Trap barely covers either of these genuinely germane issues. There's certainly material out there on the subject, but Wise adds very little if any new insight on it.

Instead, Tiger Trap focuses on a couple of cases that are several decades old, most prominently a Chinese double agent who infiltrated the FBI. As such, dated tales of poorly supervised FBI agents and a glaring lack of intelligence resources devoted to the PRC 30 years ago aren't particularly compelling. One slightly redeeming footnote is the Wen Ho Lee case, where Wise points out just how badly the FBI and the DOE bungled things - the actual charges eventually brought against Lee are shown to be ludicrous - but whose conduct elsewhere appears extraordinarily suspicious and whose employment in a job requiring security clearance is a condemnation of the cooperation among intelligence agencies prior to September 11th.

Still, there are worthwhile insights here, and give credit to the author for not marketing a sensationalistic book. It's just that it could have been a lot better had Wise spent as much time in the last few years as he did in the past. 3 stars.
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