In this the first book ever written about the CIA's Office of Technical Service, former director Robert Wallace (a real-life Q, straight out of the James Bond films) and internationally renowned intelligence historian H. Keith Melton offer an unprecedented look at the CIA's most secretive operations and the devices that made them possible. Against a backdrop of geopolitical tensions- including the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the current War on Terror-the authors show how the CIA carries out its missions employing amazingly inventive tools. Illustrated with images never before seen by the public-and featuring everything from micro cameras to wired kitties to exploding pancakes-Spycraft is both a fantastic encyclopedia of gadgetry and a revealing primer on the fundamentals of high-tech espionage.
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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May 27, 2008
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Excerpt from Spycraft by Robert Wallace
The weapons of secrecy have no place in an ideal world.
--Sir William Stephenson, A Man Called Intrepid
On a quiet autumn evening in 1942, as World War II raged across Europe and Asia, two men sat in one of Washington's most stately homes discussing a type of warfare very different from that of high-altitude bombers and infantry assaults. The host, Colonel William J. Donovan, known as "Wild Bill" since his days as an officer during World War I, was close to sixty. A war hero whose valor had earned him the Medal of Honor, Donovan was now back in uniform. Donovan responded to the call to duty and put aside a successful Wall Street law practice to become Director of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and America's first spymaster.
Donovan's guest, for whom he graciously poured sherry, was Stanley Platt Lovell. A New Englander in his early fifties, Lovell was an American success story. Orphaned at an early age, he worked his way through Cornell University to ascend the ranks of business and science by sheer determination and ingenuity. As president of the Lovell Chemical Company, he held more than seventy patents, though still described himself as a "sauce pan chemist."
Donovan understood that the fight against the Axis powers required effective intelligence operations along with a new style of clandestine warfare. Just as important, he appreciated the role men like Lovell could play in those operations. "I need every subtle device and every underhanded trick to use against the Germans and the Japanese--by our own people--but especially by the underground in the occupied countries," he had told Lovell a few days earlier. "You'll have to invent them all... because you're going to be my man."
The wartime job offered to the mild-mannered chemist was to head the Research and Development (R&D) Branch of the OSS, a role Donovan compared to that of Professor Moriarty, the criminal mastermind of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. Lovell, although initially intrigued by the offer, was now having doubts and came to Donovan's Georgetown home to express those reservations. He had been in government service since that spring at a civilian agency called the National Development and Research Committee (NDRC). Created by President Roosevelt at the urging of a group of prominent scientists and engineers, the NDRC's mission was to look into new weapons for what seemed to be America's inevitable entry into the war. Lovell had joined the NDRC to act as liaison--a bridge--between the military, academics, and business. But what Donovan proposed now was something altogether different.
The mantle of Professor Moriarty was, at best, a dubious distinction. An undisputed genius, the fictional Moriarty earned the grudging respect of Holmes by secretly ruling a vast criminal empire of London's underworld with brutal efficiency and ingenuity. In his role as Professor Moriarty of the OSS, Lovell would oversee the creation of a clandestine arsenal that would include everything from satchel concealments to carry secret documents and subminiature spy cameras to specialized weapons and explosives. These were the weapons to be used in a war fought not by American troops in uniform, but by soldiers of underground resistance movements, spies, and saboteurs.
Spying and sabotage were unfamiliar territory for both America and Lovell, who had made his fortune developing chemicals for shoe and clothing manufacturers. America, Lovell believed, did not resort to the subterfuge of espionage or the mayhem of sabotage. When the United States looked into the mirror of its own mythology, it did not see spies skulking in the shadows of back alleys; instead, it saw men like Donovan, who faced the enemy in combat on the front lines.
"The American people are a nation of extroverts. We tell everything and rather glory in it," he explained to Donovan. "A Professor Moriarty is as un-American as sin is unpopular at a revival meeting. I'd relish the assignment, Colonel, but dirty tricks are simply not tolerated in the American code of ethics."
Donovan, as Lovell would later write, answered succinctly. "Don't be so goddamn na�ve, Lovell. The American public may profess to think as you say they do, but the one thing they expect of their leaders is that we be smart," the colonel lectured. "Don't kid yourself. P. T. Barnum is still a basic hero because he fooled so many people. They will applaud someone who can outfox the Nazis and the Japs... Outside the orthodox warfare system is a great area of schemes, weapons, and plans which no one who knows America really expects us to originate because they are so un-American, but once it's done, an American will vicariously glory in it. That is your area, Lovell, and if you think America won't rise in applause to what is so easily called 'un-American' you're not my man."
Lovell took the job. Donovan knew what he wanted, but even more important, he knew what was needed. He had toured the secret labs of Great Britain that created just such devices. He also maintained close ties with the British Security Coordination (BSC), England's secretive intelligence organization in North America, through which the United States was already funneling weapons to assist in the war effort. Even the mention of Sherlock Holmes's ruthless criminal adversary may not have been a chance literary allusion. Two years earlier, in 1940, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill signed into existence the Special Operations Executive (SOE) with the instructions "Now go out and set Europe ablaze!" SOE's mandate was unconventional warfare, including the arming of resistance fighters in the war against Germany. Its London headquarters was an undistinguished office building on Baker Street, the same street as Sherlock Holmes's fictional address.
Although Donovan eventually persuaded Lovell to join the OSS, the chemist's initial assessment of the American public's dim view toward espionage was not unfounded. From the beginning, the idea of an American intelligence service was controversial. One senator proclaimed, "Mr. Donovan is now head of the Gestapo in the United States." In the best tradition of Washington's bureaucratic infighting, the person in charge of the State Department's Passport Office, Mrs. Ruth Shipley, insisted on stamping "OSS" on the passports of Donovan's personnel traveling overseas, making them perhaps the most well-documented secret agents in the history of espionage. To remedy the situation, which had reached a deadlock between the OSS and the State Department, FDR himself had to intervene on the young agency's behalf with the stubborn Mrs. Shipley.
The media of the day was no more charitable, often treating the OSS dismissively. The Washington columnist Drew Pearson called the nascent spy agency "one of the fanciest groups of dilettante diplomats, Wall Street bankers, and amateur detectives ever seen in Washington." More colorful phrases were penned by Washington's Times-Herald society columnist, Austine Cassini, who breathlessly wrote:
If you should by chance wander in the labyrinth of the OSS you'd behold ex-polo players, millionaires, Russian princes, society gambol boys, scientists and dilettante detectives. All of them are now at the OSS, where they used to be allocated between New York, Palm Beach, Long Island, Newport and other Meccas frequented by the blue bloods of democracy. And the girls! The prettiest, best-born, snappiest girls who used to graduate from debutantedom to boredom now bend their blonde and brunette locks, or their colorful hats, over work in the OSS, the super-ultra-intelligence-counter-espionage outfit that is headed by brilliant "Wild Bill" Donovan.
Cassini made it all sound like good clean fun. A bastion of pampered blue bloods, the OSS seemed no more dangerous than a country club cotillion. But at a time when less privileged sons and husbands were fighting and dying in the South Pacific and North Africa, the levity in the words "gambol boys" and "dilettante detectives" was almost assuredly bitter reading for many. Not surprisingly, the organization's acronym was soon transformed into the less than flattering "Oh So Social" by career military officers and draftees alike. The fact that an early OSS training facility was based at the plush Congressional Country Club, located just outside Washington, only served to reinforce the notion of privilege and elitism.
If OSS seemed a bastion of aristocrats and bankers, it was not without reason. Donovan worked on Wall Street in the days leading up to World War II. When he became Coordinator of Information (COI), an OSS predecessor, in 1941, Donovan staffed the organization from circles with which he was familiar--the New York legal, business, and financial worlds--along with graduates from the nation's finest universities. However, there was more to this than simply establishing an "Old Boys' Club" of espionage. Prior to World War II, travel opportunities for abroad and learning foreign languages were largely limited to the privileged. As a result many of those recruited came with intimate knowledge of the European landscape, including the cities and towns of France, Germany, and Italy, from past travels. Others had done business in Europe before the war and could re-establish contacts.
Less visible than the privileged blue bloods were the refugees, those recent immigrants and first-generation native-born Americans (many of them academics) who also joined the ranks of the OSS. Unlike the Wall Street bankers and ex-polo players, these recruits brought day-to-day knowledge of foreign cultures, along with clothing, identity papers, and language skills.
Even as it became the target of Washington infighting and attracted the derision of newspaper columnists, Donovan's organization expanded rapidly. If the United States was going to enter what Rudyard Kipling called "the Great Game" of international espionage Donovan needed to move quickly. Spurred on by the urgency of war, the OSS would share clandestine responsibilities with the Allies. The London Agreements, negotiated in 1942 and 1943, established a protocol for clandestine cooperation between OSS and the SOE, defining each side's role, down to the development of weaponry and financial responsibilities. Theaters of secret operations were divided between the United States and Great Britain. OSS had responsibility for China, Manchu-ria, Korea, Australia, the Atlantic Islands, and Finland, while SOE covered India, East Africa, the Balkans, and the Middle East. Western Europe would remain primarily British, with U.S. representation.
As "junior partner" in this joint wartime venture, Donovan needed to build not only America's first spy agency, but one capable of waging a global intelligence war. This was no easy task. Whatever espionage legacy remained from previous wars was largely out of date or forgotten. He would have to assemble the organization from the ground up with assistance from the British. The United States provided technology while Britain offered experience and counsel, training Americans in the craft of intelligence.
The blue bloods, so easily dismissed by the society columnists as frivolous playboys and genteel sports-men, learned quickly from their British tutors.
"Ah, those first OSS arrivals in London!" wrote veteran British intelligence officer Malcolm Muggeridge. "How well I remember them arriving like jeune filles en fleur straight from a finishing school, all fresh and innocent to start work in our frowsty old intelligence brothel. All too soon they were ravished and corrupted, becoming indistinguishable from seasoned pros who had been in the game for a quarter century or more."
As the British schooled that first generation of American spies, American ingenuity was about to trans-form espionage. Lovell's new R&D unit was officially established on October 17, 1942. General Order No. 9 in early 1943 described its mission as the invention, development, and testing of "all secret and special devices, material and equipment for special operations, and the provision of laboratory facilities." R&D was divided into four divisions: Technical, Documentation, Special Assistance, and Camouflage. Each would work closely with Division 19 (originally codenamed Sandman Club) of the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), which served as their link with contractors in the private sector. Division 19 maintained its own testing laboratory at the Maryland Research Laboratory (MRL), located on the site of the Congressional Country Club.