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Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA's Spytechs, from Communism to Al-Qaeda Paperback – May 26 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; 1st Plume Edition edition (May 26 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452295475
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452295476
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 3.4 x 21.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #215,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"Reveals more concrete information about CIA tradecraft than any book."
-The Washington Times

"This is a story I thought could never be told."
-James M. Olson, former chief of CIA counterintelligence

"The first comprehensive look at the technical achievements of American espionage from the 1940s to the present."

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Inside This Book

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First Sentence
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. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa84dfa74) out of 5 stars 108 reviews
72 of 74 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa7fd821c) out of 5 stars This is a unique book and a great read. June 4 2008
By Avid Reader - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I have been reading books about spies and espionage for over 40 years and this book is one of the best I have ever read. It is a great combination of true spy stories and never before told descriptions of some of the special technology used by spies. Reading this book is like having a peek into the laboratory of the real Q from the James Bond movies. The book was written by an author who obviously knows this business like few others. It will be enjoyed by those who like a good spy story as well as those who have a professional interest in espionage and in technology. A must read for anyone who wants to know how the spies really do their work.
42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa7b526cc) out of 5 stars THE REAL WORLD OF COLD WAR SPIES' GADGETS June 6 2008
By Paul Gelman - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the most important periods of modern history was that of the Cold War, between 1945-1991.This war was unconventional,and it was maily hidden from the public on both sides of the conflict.The main action took place in the field of intelligence.The main players in this war of mirrors-the Great Game of the 20th century-were spies.
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.
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa8e07750) out of 5 stars Best book yet on this topic June 4 2008
By Pete M. - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Often, books on this type of topic are either really dry reading, or they are so novel-like that you wonder how much of it is "made up". Spycraft strikes a nice balance between interesting facts and history and good stories. The authors (Mr. Wallace and Mr. Melton) are certainly among the most qualified people around to discuss TSD/OTS history, so there are no worries about authenticity of the material.
I can highly recommend this book. I have 3 copies, so that I can give a couple as gifts this summer.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa7e7cae0) out of 5 stars The Whole Story July 17 2008
By Blackball - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is the Whole Story

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.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa83d7fb4) out of 5 stars Fascinating Trie Life Accounts of Gadgets & Spies June 15 2008
By Stazkirovka - Published on
Format: Hardcover
A superbly written and exquisitely detailed book, rich in texture illuminating a fascinating recounting of the myriad of ways in which technology has aided case officers to accomplish what practitioners term "impersonal communications" exchanges with their agents (spies.) The multi-hued stories unveiled in this book pull back the curtain to illustrate amazingly creative ways in which gadgetry, both seemingly mundane as well as state of the art operational technology have facilitated the clandestine passage of secrets from spy to case handler.

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.