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Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA's Spytechs, from Communism to al-Qaeda Hardcover – May 29, 2008
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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.
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
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Even animals,such as:bats, cats and rats were employed in this world of clandestine operations.We get a detailed story about the modus operandi of two of the most famous spies who worked for the West:Oleg Penkovsky and his "worthy succsessor" Adolf Tolkachev.Both of them saved the US Intelligence and taxpayer billions of dollars.
The books has two main sections.The first one is about the spytechs and the second is about the fundamentals of the spycraft.
My main reservation about this book is about its editing which was done -somehow- perfunctorily.However,you will enjoy every page of this reliable, impeccably -searched, readable, fascinating and revealing book.The real bonus is an array of never-before-seen photos and diagrams and the authors' message is conveyed clearly:without this kind of James-Bond's-Q-masterminded technology, the West would have lost the Cold War.
The other thing is this:in our Digital Age everything becomes obsolete in a very short time, thus ,those engaged in this trade should never stop racking their brains in order to create novel devices to be used against the adversary.
This book is a must-read for pros and buffs of espionage and Cold War history.
I think this book is fascinating, it's like a sudoku puzzle with very little hints. Its filled with intrigue and deception and that's just the writing style. There seem to be so many statements where something is said only for you to think: "hold on, if that was then and there was 10 years lead over commercial, what does that mean for now?" and of course there are no answers. So the style is great and right where it should be for this style of book.
There was at least one review on amazon that mentioned this was quite dry in places. I tend to disagree. This isn't a Tom Clancy novel, but considering how much potential there was for this to be dreadful, I think the authors did very well indeed. That doesn't mean this is a thrill a minute, but it maintains a consistent pace with lots of great insights and correction over the embellishments that Mission Impossible and James Bond offer. Overall, it probably is actually closest to early Tom Clancy stuff, without the story line.
Also, the title is honest and doesn't avoid saying that the CIA has made mistakes. Some instances it accepts it as a CIA issue, others they were following orders, and other instances again things just didn't work out for unknown reasons. Overall this makes the book feel honest and what you get is a decently lengthy book with the bulk being 25 chapters on operational procedure and technology as well as the history thereof. There isn't a great overwhelming depth to it in terms of politics, and although there is plenty of detail, it doesn't get bogged down in setting the scene of why an operation was happening so much as what the meat of the operation was. In many ways that is what I feel stopped the book from becoming dry, because really, that's not what this title should be about.
Who will enjoy this title? I suspect young adults and teenagers will probably get the most out of it, because although it sets the record straight as far as what the CIA and other organisations could do, it does keep a lot of the magic there, albeit slightly different magic. Also keep in mind that this book is focused on technology and techniques that are either well known or slightly outdated, and for the most part clearly so. So the primary timeframe for most of this is Cold War, with some forays into more current events, however these are few and very quick. I don't think this should be disappointing, but expected, still given the lack of political context this might be very confusing for very young people who don't know about the Cold War. Overall I really enjoyed the title, it read at a decent pace which was much better than I expected, and was definitely worth the time. On the whole I would say the content matched my expectation and I'd argue that really is a great outcome for the authors, not because of my high expectations but because they presented their material well to give a sense of there not being loose ends.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
the historical CIA and the Cold WAR.(I know cause I am former U.S.Read more