Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA's Spytechs, from Communism to Al-Qaeda.
Wallace, Robert (Author) and Melton, H. Keith (Author) and Schlesinger, Henry R. (Author)
May 2008. 576 p. Dutton, hardcover, $29.95. (9780525949800). 327.1273.
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.
Booklist, May 1, 2008
Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIAs Spytechs from Communism to Al-Qaeda
Robert Wallace and
H. Keith Melton with Henry R. Schlesinger, foreword by George J. Tenet. Dutton, $29.95 (576p) ISBN 978-0-525-94980-0
Todays CIA is regularly criticized for emphasizing technology at the expense of human intelligence. In this history of the agencys 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 books 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 equipmentfor clandestine audio surveillance, for examplehas 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)
Publishers Weekly Review, April 14, 2008
Wallace, Robert & others. Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA's Spytechs from Communism to Al-Qaeda. Dutton. Jun. 2008. c.576p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-0-525-94980-0. $29.95. POL SCI
Modern espionage requires more than a fast car and a shaken martini; it demands suitable equipment with which to gather, store, and transmit information. Wallace, former director of the CIA's Office of Technical Services (OTS), and H. Keith Melton (CIA Special Weapons & Equipment: Spy Devices of the Cold War), together with Henry Robert Schlesinger (coauthor, Brooklyn Bounce: The True-Life Adventures of a Good Cop in a Bad Precinct), present this well-written account of the ingenious items and procedures developed by the OTS to support field agents. The details of operational activity are as engrossing as the descriptions of the equipment, military and otherwise—e.g., miniature cameras and radios, obscure drugs, tiny weapons, secret compartments, and forged documents—depicted here in 100-plus fascinating diagrams and photographs. Readers can find more photos of such artifacts on the CIA's virtual museum tour. Endnotes and a glossary of relevant terms round out the book, which complements Jeffrey T. Richelson's historical The Wizards of Langley: Inside the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology. Suitable for all libraries. (Index not seen.)
Daniel K. Blewett, Coll. of DuPage Lib., Glen Ellyn, IL
Library Journal, April 15, 2008
Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA's Spytechs from Communism to al-Qaeda." by Robert Wallace and H. Keith Melton with Henry Schlesinger. Dutton.
It's hard to decide what's more compelling in this marvelous book--the "wow" factor of the mass of new detail on technical support for covert operations, or the "zowie" consideration that it was ever approved by the CIA for publication. In fact, it almost wasn't. DCI George Tenet approved the tentative draft, which his successor, Porter Goss, promptly revoked. In a series of eight letters Goss declared that except for pages 1-34 (all of which discussed old OSS WWII operations) the rest of the 774-page was "inappropriate for public disclosure." Fortunately Goss was ousted and when Michael Hayden came in the Publications Revier Board withdrew the blanket disapproval, niggling only over a few sensitive items. "In the end," says Wallace, "no significant deletions were required from the original."
What a break for intelligence aficianados, for the book, written by a man who as head of the Office of Technical services played a central role for years, is an unprecedented contribution to understanding the role of technology in clandestine operations. It's frankly amazing what detail the co-authors were permitted to print. Wallace makes it startlingly clear that the driving forces in technical development were the need for communications, listening and optical devices, and the capability of operating in Moscow.
All this detail makes for a fun read. Years ago OTS prided itself in developing a microphone in a bullet which could be fired into a tree--and still function. Now, OTS has pioneered face-recognition and iris-scan software, as well as almost totally undetectable embedded chips. The 40,000 documents covertly photographed by Polish General Ryszard Kuklinski, America's best penetration of the Soviet military, could far more securely be transmitted in music or video cd's today. When taking his job Wallace was told that "OTS is America's 'Q,' sort of," a reference to the technical genius in the James Bond films. The "sort of" referred to the fact that unlike in the movies, when OTS gear failed, an agent might end up in prison--or dead!
But gee-whiz technical toys were not the primary reason for OTS success. The key factor was Wallace's insistence that rather than an isolated group of laboratory technicians or scientists, OTS serve as an integral part of clandestine operations. OTS staffers work alongside clandestine case officers in the field, sharing in their most dangerous tasks. In one classic instance, an OTS technician repeatedly descended a manhole in the middle of Moscow to maintain a tap on a major Soviet military communication line. The OTS ethic, said one veteran, is, "We work for the Chief of Station."
A little known aspect of the OTS's technical operations is the cross-fertilization with American industry, a two-way street of benefit to both. In many instances OTS has gone to manufacturers for assistance in solving certain problems. Tit-for-tat, OTS technical breakthroughs are often later incorporated into commercial products. Many Americans would be surprised to hear that OTS lithium battery innovations now power their Blackberry or iPod. Much of the electronic and photo gear at Radio Shack and Best Buy originated in OTS laboratories. One Soviet KGB chief asked in despair how the KGB could begin to compete technologically with an OTS working so intimately with American industry.
Experience demonstrates that technology is an open-ended competition. The innovative KGB microphone in the American seal in the US embassy is an embarrassing example. The KGB surprised OTS with its ability to decode white noise in subcarrier signals on IF transmissions. In fact, the entire field is in the throes of a digitally-determined revolution. Agents are able to conceal information in blogs or chat sites; everywhere there's exponential acceleration in information processing, with even some of the smaller intelligence services like Cuba getting into the act.
The good news is that the OTS contribution to espionage is now firmly established. Congress recognizes its value; budgets have gone up steeply. CIA case officers around the world value the OTS contribution. One veteran Moscow case officer noted that it was only due to OTS that "we in Soviet operations eventually won the intelligence war against the KGB in Moscow." Powerful praise, indeed.
Bruce van Voorst, former National Security Correspondent for Newsweek and Time Magazines.