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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 can highly recommend this book. I have 3 copies, so that I can give a couple as gifts this summer.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
the historical CIA and the Cold WAR.(I know cause I am former U.S.Read more