China And Cybersecurity

Title:                      China And Cybersecurity

Author:                 Jon R. Lindsay

Lindsay, Jon R. (2015), Tai Ming Cheung, and Derek S. Reveron, eds. China And Cybersecurity: Espionage, Strategy, And Politics in The Digital Domain. New York: Oxford University Press

LCCN:    2014046287

HV6773.15.C97 C45 2015


  • “China’s emergence as a great power in the twenty-first century is strongly enabled by cyberspace. Leveraged information technology integrates Chinese firms into the global economy, modernizes infrastructure, and increases internet penetration which helps boost export-led growth. China’s pursuit of “informatization” reconstructs industrial sectors and solidifies the transformation of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army into a formidable regional power. Even as the government censors content online, China has one of the fastest growing internet populations and most of the technology is created and used by civilians. Western political discourse on cybersecurity is dominated by news of Chinese military development of cyberwarfare capabilities and cyber exploitation against foreign governments, corporations, and non-governmental organizations. Western accounts, however, tell only one side of the story. Chinese leaders are also concerned with cyber insecurity, and Chinese authors frequently note that China is also a victim of foreign cyber attacks, predominantly from the United States. China and Cybersecurity: Espionage, Strategy, and Politics in the Digital Domain is a comprehensive analysis of China’s cyberspace threats and policies. The contributors—Chinese specialists in cyber dynamics, experts on China, and experts on the use of information technology between China and the West—address cyberspace threats and policies, emphasizing the vantage points of China and the U.S. on cyber exploitation and the possibilities for more positive coordination with the West. The volume’s multi-disciplinary, cross-cultural approach does not pretend to offer wholesale resolutions. Contributors take different stances on how problems may be analyzed and reduced, and aim to inform the international audience of how China’s political, economic, and security systems shape cyber activities. The compilation provides empirical and evaluative depth on the deepening dependence on shared global information infrastructure and the growing willingness to exploit it for political or economic gain”—Provided by publisher.


  • Machine generated contents note: — Introduction — China and Cybersecurity: Controversy and Context — Jon R. Lindsay — I. ESPIONAGE AND CYBERCRIME — 1. The Chinese Intelligence Services: Evolution and Empowerment in Cyberspace — Nigel Inkster — 2. From Exploitation to Innovation: Acquisition, Absorption, and Application — Jon R. Lindsay and Tai Ming Cheung — 3. Investigating the Chinese Online Underground Economy — Zhuge Jianwei, Gu Lion, Duan Haixin, and Taylor Roberts — II. MILITARY STRATEGY AND INSTITUTIONS — 4. From Cyberwarfare to Cybersecurity in the Asia-Pacific and Beyond — Ye Zheng — 5. Chinese Writings on Cyber Warfare and Coercion — Kevin Pollpeter — 6. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Computer Network Operations Infrastructure — Mark A. Stokes — 7. Civil-Military Integration in Cybersecurity: A Study of Chinese Information Warfare Militias — Robert Sheldon and Joe McReynolds — III. NATIONAL CYBERSECURITY POLICY — 8. China’s Cybersecurity Situation and the Potential for International Cooperation — Li Yuxiao and Xu Lu — 9. Evolving Legal Frameworks for Protecting Internet Privacy in China — Xu Jinghong — 10. “Foreign Hostile Forces”: The Human Rights Dimension of China’s Cyber Campaigns — Sarah McKune — IV. PRACTICAL AND THEORETICAL IMPLICATIONS — 11. China and Information Security Threats: Policy Responses in the United States — Fred H. Cate — Conclusion — The Rise of China and the Future of Cybersecurity — Jon R. Lindsay and Derek S. Reveron — Index.

LC Subjects

Other Subjects

  • COMPUTERS / Internet / Security.
  • POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / International Security.
  • BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / International / Economics.

Date Posted:      September 21, 2017

Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[1]

“Born in a US university laboratory in the 1960s, the Internet is one of the most successful inventions in human history.” (p. 123) This acknowledgment by Ye Zheng, a senior colonel in China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), reflects the more objective non-ideological analysis found in each of the five contributions by Chinese specialists in China and Cybersecurity. Moreover, they agree, in general, with the other authors from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom about the importance of cybersecurity in foreign relations and domestic security, and the problems encountered. The latter include technical complexity, secrecy, privacy, national security constraints, and the form of government concerned. Understanding how these factors interact when they are complicated by cultural, political, economic, and military issues is the purpose of China and Cybersecurity. Each of the papers examines China’s cybersecurity program and its relationship with other nations.

In his introductory chapter, “Controversy and Context,” co-editor Jon Lindsay discusses how the Internet era has influenced China domestically and in its relationships with other nations, especially the United States. Western analysts, he suggests, see China as “the source and target of extensive cyber exploitation.” China agrees with the latter but views the former, in part, as “a thief crying, ‘Stop, thief!”‘ (p. 3) China and Cybersecurity “investigates how China both generates and copes with Internet insecurity through its close attention to its domestic institutions and processes.” (p. 4) Its 12 chapters, divided into four parts, cover the following areas: espionage and cyber crime, military strategy and institutions, national cybersecurity policy, and practical and theoretical implications.

Part I looks at the current organization, missions, and general tradecraft of China’s principal intelligence services—the Ministry of State Security (MSS) and the intelligence departments of the PLA. Cyber espionage and cyber (online) crime are also discussed. The former raises traditional issues due to secrecy, while the latter raises new challenges due to the nature of the Internet and the volume of users.

Part II argues that national security is now dependent on cyberspace and its security. Forms of cyberwarfare, “a hidden and quiet type of combat,” (p. 125) are examined, along with Chinese writings on the subject. Coercive applications as applied by the PLA, the role of information warfare militias, and the problems of civil-military integration are also assessed.

Part III deals with China’s cybersecurity and the need for policies that account for the fact that “China has the largest number of users around the world.” (p. 228) This part of the book also considers the legal frameworks required to protect the right to privacy in China, and the “ideological and institutional differences” (p. 239) between China and the United States. It concludes with a call for “a China-US bilateral dialogue” (p. 240) to sort out common problems.

The final part of China and Cybersecurity considers China’s information security threats to the United States, the reasons for the US “political and diplomatic inability” (p. b325) to deal with them effectively, and suggestions for surmounting these shortcomings.

For all but the best-informed analysts, China and Cybersecurity—a thoroughly documented treatise-offers new material and new perspectives on a topic that will be a major part of global cybersecurity for the foreseeable future.

[1] Peake, Hayden in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (23, 1 Summer 2017, p. 123). Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence, Other reviews and articles may be found online at

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1940-1944, L’histoire Secrète du Mur de l’Atlantique

Title:                      1940-1944, L’histoire Secrète du Mur de l’Atlantique

Author:                 Rémy Desquesnes

Desquesnes, Rémy (2003) 1940-1944, L’histoire Secrète du Mur de l’Atlantique: De l’Organisation Todt au Débarquement en Normandie. Fécamp : Editions des Falaises

LCCN:    2004476163

D756.3 .D47 2003

LC Subjects

Date Posted:      September 12, 2017

Rémy Desquesnes wrote extensively on events surrounding the Normandy invasion in 1944. In this book he writes about the famous “Atlantic Wall. The Atlantic Wall (German: Atlantikwall) was an extensive system of coastal defense and fortifications built by Nazi Germany between 1942 and 1944 along the coast of continental Europe and Scandinavia as a defense against an anticipated Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe from the United Kingdom during World War II. The manning and operation of the Atlantic Wall was administratively overseen by the German Army, with some support from Luftwaffe ground forces.

Hitler ordered the construction of the fortifications in 1942. Almost a million French workers were drafted to build it. The wall was frequently mentioned in Nazi propaganda, where its size and strength were usually exaggerated. The fortifications included colossal coastal guns, batteries, mortars, and artillery, and thousands of German troops were stationed in its defenses. When the Allies eventually invaded the Normandy beaches in 1944, most of the defenses were stormed within hours. Today, ruins of the wall exist in all of the nations where it was built, although many structures have fallen into the ocean or have been demolished over the years.

Material by William Grimes[1]

In 1940-1944: The Secret History of the Atlantic Wall, the historian Rémy Desquesnes called the Wachtel Report a “masterpiece in the history of intelligence gathering.” Reginald V. Jones (R. V. Jones) heading up intelligence analysts in London, marveled at the quality of information being sent back from Paris, notably a startling document called the Wachtel Report.When Mr. Jones asked who had sent the report, he was told that the source was known only by the code name Amniarix, and that “she was one of the most remarkable young women of her generation.” That young woman was de Clarens.

Jeannie de Clarens, an amateur spy who passed a wealth of information to the British about the development of the V-1 and V-2 rockets during World War II and survived stays in three concentration camps for her activities, died on Aug. 23 in Montaigu, southeast of Nantes, France. She was 98.

The death was confirmed by her son, Pascal.

In 1943 Jeannie Rousseau, as she was then known, was an interpreter in Paris for an association of French businessmen, representing their interests and helping them negotiate contracts with the German occupiers. She was young and attractive. She spoke flawless German. She was a favorite with the German officers, who were completely unaware that the woman they knew as Madeleine Chauffour had been reporting to a French intelligence network, the Druids, organized by the Resistance.

Getting wind of a secret weapons project, she made it her mission to be on hand when the topic was discussed by the Germans, coaxing information through charm and guile.

“I teased them, taunted them, looked at them wide-eyed, insisted that they must be mad when they spoke of the astounding new weapon that flew over vast distances, much faster than any airplane,” she told The Washington Post in 1998. “I kept saying, ‘What you are telling me cannot be true!’ I must have said that 100 times.”

One officer, eager to convince her, let her look at drawings of the rockets.

Most of what she heard was incomprehensible. But, blessed with a near-photographic memory, she repeated it in detail to her recruiter, Georges Lamarque, at a safe house on the Left Bank.

In London, intelligence analysts, led by Reginald V. Jones, marveled at the quality of the information they were receiving from Paris, notably a startling document called the Wachtel Report. Delivered in September 1943, it identified the German officer in charge of the rocket program, Col. Max Wachtel; gave precise details about operations at the testing plant in Peenemünde, on the Baltic coast in Pomerania; and showed planned launch locations along the coast from Brittany to the Netherlands.

Relying on this information, the British organized several bombing raids against the plant, which delayed development of the V-2 and spared untold thousands of lives in London.

Jeannie Yvonne Ghislaine Rousseau was born on April 1, 1919, in Saint-Brieuc, in Brittany. Her father, Jean, a veteran of World War I, was a senior official with the foreign ministry and, after retiring, the mayor of the 17th Arrondissement in Paris, on the Right Bank. Her mother was the former Marie Le Charpentier.

Adept at languages, Ms. Rousseau performed brilliantly at the elite Sciences Po, graduating at the top of her class in 1939. When war broke out, her father moved the family to Dinard, in Brittany, which he thought would be beyond the reach of the Germans.

When the occupying forces arrived, Ms. Rousseau agreed to act as interpreter for town officials and kept her ears open. “The Germans still wanted to be liked then,” she told The Post. “They were happy to talk to someone who could speak to them.”

In September 1940, an unidentified man asked her if she might be willing to share the information she gleaned from her conversations with the Germans. “What’s the point of knowing all that, if not to pass it on?” she recalled telling him, in her interview with The Post.

As German suspicions grew, she was arrested in January 1941 and interrogated at the prison in Rennes. She was released for lack of evidence and ordered to leave the region.

She returned to Paris and, soon after finding translation work with the businessmen’s association, ran into Mr. Lamarque, a former classmate, on a train. She described her job. Mr. Lamarque mentioned that he was organizing “a little outfit” to gather intelligence and invited her to join.

Shortly before the Normandy invasion in June 1944, the British tried to evacuate “Amniarix” to London for a debriefing. She and two fellow spies drove to Tréguier, in Brittany, where a contact was to guide them through minefields to a waiting boat. Unfortunately, the day before the rendezvous, their contact had been arrested.

After getting out of the car and walking toward the meeting place, Ms. Rousseau was arrested. As two soldiers walked her back to the car, she began speaking loudly in German, a tipoff that allowed one of her fellow agents to escape. The other agent refused to flee, fearing that when the Nazis found out that he was from Tréguier they would inflict savage reprisals on the town.

Ms. Rousseau was interrogated in Rennes, but prison officials did not make the connection between her real name and her assumed surname, Chauffour.

She was sent to Ravensbrück, the women’s concentration camp, where bureaucratic bungling again came to her aid. She gave her real name to camp officials, who never made the connection between her and the dossier, sent separately, that identified “Madeleine Chauffour” as part of an espionage ring.

She was later sent to Torgau, a camp in Saxony attached to a munitions and explosives factory, along with 500 other prisoners. Determined to take a stand, she approached the camp commander and announced, in German, that she and her fellow Frenchwomen were prisoners of war and that under the Geneva Convention they could not be made to manufacture weapons.

Ms. de Clarens with Reginald V. Jones, who led the team of intelligence analysts in London when she was a spy.

She was sent back to Ravensbrück, where befuddled officials, after failing to determine who exactly Jeannie Rousseau was, sent her to a punishment camp in Königsberg, which she described tersely as “a very bad place.”

It was so bad that she and two friends concealed themselves in a truck carrying prisoners with typhus back to the gas chambers at Ravensbrück. Arriving at the camp, they sneaked into the barracks.

The ruse worked only briefly. An informer gave them up, and they were sent for harsh treatment to an inner prison, where they were given half rations and assigned to the dirtiest work details.

Ms. Rousseau was close to death when the Swedish Red Cross came to the camp in 1945, in the waning weeks of the war, with a list of prisoners, Ms. Rousseau among them, whose release they had negotiated.

While being treated for tuberculosis, she met Henri de Clarens, a fellow patient who had been imprisoned in Buchenwald and Auschwitz. They married. Mr. de Clarens, a bank manager, died in 1995.

In addition to her son, she is survived by a daughter, Ariane de Clarens, and four grandchildren.

After the war, Ms. de Clarens did freelance translating for the United Nations and other organizations. She rarely spoke in public about her wartime exploits.

“After the war, the curtain came down on my memories,” she told The Post. She added: “What I did was so little. Others did so much more. I was one small stone.”

She was made a member of the Legion of Honor in France in 1955 and a grand officer of the Legion in 2009. She was awarded the Resistance Medal and the Croix de Guerre.

In 1993, the director of central intelligence, R. James Woolsey, presented her with the Seal Medallion (now Medal) “for heroic and momentous contribution to Allied efforts during World War II as a member of the French Resistance.”

Mr. Jones was at her side to receive the first R. V. Jones Intelligence Award, now given to agents whose work displayed “scientific acumen applied with art in the cause of freedom.”

[1] William Grimes, New York Times (August 29, 2017). A version of this article appears in print on August 30, 2017, on Page B16 of the New York edition with the headline: “Jeannie de Clarens, Spy Who Uncovered Rockets Used by Hitler, Dies at 98.”

Posted in World War II | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Matter of Honor

Title:                      A Matter of Honor

Author:                 Anthony Summers

Summers, Anthony (2016) and Robbyn Swan. A Matter of Honor: Pearl Harbor: Betrayal, Blame, And a Family’s Quest for Justice. New York, NY: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers

LCCN:    2017304855

D767.92 .S87 2016


An account of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the ‘scapegoat’ Admiral Husband Edward Kimmel, the failure of the top brass in Washington to provide Kimmel with vital intelligence prior to the attack, and the continuing efforts of the family to have Kimmel formally exonerated.

“We thought we knew the story well: On December 7, 1941, 2,403 Americans died when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, devastating the nation and precipitating entry into World War II. In the aftermath, Admiral Husband Kimmel, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, was relieved of command, accused of dereliction of duty, and publicly disgraced. The fact was, however, that—through sheer inefficiency—the top brass in Washington had failed to provide Kimmel with vital intelligence. Then, in the name of protecting the biggest U.S. intelligence secret of the day, they and top officials allowed the Admiral and the Army commander in Hawaii to be made scapegoats for the catastrophe. The Admiral fought to clear his name for the rest of his long life. After Kimmel’s death his sons—both Navy veterans—continued the fight. Both houses of Congress approved the posthumous restoration of the Admiral’s four-star rank, only to be blocked by the Navy bureaucracy. Today Kimmel’s grandchildren maintain the struggle—for them, it is a matter of honor. In this conversation-changing book, Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan go far beyond the fall and fight-back of one man. They unravel the many apparent mysteries of Pearl Harbor, clear President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the charge that he knew the attack was coming, and uncover duplicity and betrayal in high places in Washington. The authors, Pulitzer Prize finalists for their revelatory book on 9/11, The Eleventh Day, have conducted extraordinary research, with unrivaled access to documents, diaries, and letters. A Matter of Honor is a heartbreaking human story of politics and war—and epic history.”—Jacket.

LC Subjects

Other Subjects

  • Kimmel, Husband Edward, 1882-1968.
  • Pearl Harbor, Attack on (Hawaii : 1941)
  • World War (1939-1945)
  • 1939-1945
  • HISTORY—Military—World War II.
  • HISTORY—United States—20th Century.
  • Pearl Harbor (Hawaii), Attack on, 1941.
  • HISTORY—Military—World War II.
  • HISTORY—United States—20th Century.
  • Military campaigns.

Date Posted:      September 13, 2017

Reviewed by Peter C. Oleson[1]

The debacle of Pearl Harbor has been investigated, studied, and analyzed repeatedly over the last three-quarters of a century. Summers and Swan have brought a new perspective to the topic. Their book, largely focused on Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, the Navy’s Pacific commander-in-chief at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, is divided into two parts: Catastrophe—the events leading up to the successful Japanese surprise attack; and Consequence—the actions taken against Kimmel and Lieutenant General Walter C. Short, the Army’s Hawaii commander, subsequently. It is an engaging book with much detail not contained in earlier works. The declassification of some government records and access to the Kimmel family’s own archives makes A Matter of Honor well worth reading.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was both a strategic and tactical surprise. Kimmel’s family letters reveal he expected war, as did many leaders in Washington, including Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Harold R. Stark. What few in leadership positions imagined was that Japan would attack the United States. In her seminal analysis of Pearl Harbor, Roberta Wohlstetter wrote that an attack was seen as unlikely as Japan could not expect to win such a war.[2] This preconception blinded many. When asked by Kimmel, his Battle Force Commander, Vice Admiral William Pye, advised that Japan would not attack, stating “we are too big, too powerful, and too strong.” (p. 228) While some expected a conflict it was the Philippines that concerned most, not Pearl Harbor. During 1941, the several warning messages sent to commanders in the Pacific never mentioned Hawaii as a possible Japanese target. Even when news of the Pearl Harbor attack reached Washington, DC, Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, initially thought the report in error—it must have been the Philippines. Such was the prevailing mindset.

Pearl Harbor was believed to be a strong bastion, impervious to attack. Even though Kimmel and his predecessor, Admiral James O. Richardson, had repeatedly requested additional resources to defend Pearl Harbor, including torpedo nets, barrage balloons, and patrol and fighter aircraft, none were forthcoming. In 1941, the priority for military equipment was for the Atlantic and Lend Lease for Britain. Kimmel was ordered to transfer ships, aircraft, and trained flying crews (which were in short supply) to the US mainland, weakening Hawaii’s defenses. In the Pacific priority was given to Lieutenant General Douglas MacArthur, and new equipment, including B-17 long-range bombers, were sent to the Philippines.

The Navy in Hawaii had too few long-range patrol planes. And they suffered from parts shortages. Consequently, it was only able to conduct limited patrols, most of which were concentrated south and southwest of Hawaii toward the Japanese occupied Marshall Islands. The Japanese attack force approached from the north. The Army’s radar was new “No one understood it,” and it was “not trusted at the time” (p. 77). While radar successfully detected the incoming Japanese aircraft on December 7, inexperienced personnel and a Sunday morning relaxed attitude contributed to a failure to provide tactical warning of an attack.

The authors, benefitting from long-delayed declassification of government records, lay out in considerable detail the mishandling of intelligence prior to the attack.[3] For intelligence professionals this detail is instructive. Extreme secrecy surrounding the interception and reading of Japanese codes, personal proclivities by some flag officers, the lack of cooperation between the Army and the Navy and their cryptologic units, the prevailing disdain for intelligence by higher-ups in both services, poor communication between the State Department and the military, the lack of cryptanalysis and language translation resources, and inefficient organization and procedures all contributed to the failure to warn of a possible attack on Pearl Harbor.

MAGIC, the codeword for the breaking of Japanese codes, was held to a small circle of Washington leaders. It was not shared with Kimmel or Short. Ironically, because there was a Navy cryptanalysis unit in the Philippines, MAGIC intercepts were shared with MacArthur and Asiatic Fleet commander, Admiral Thomas C. Hart. MAGIC was also shared with the British Royal Navy and the Government Code and Cipher School at Bletchley Park, Britain’s unified signals intelligence organization. Naval cryptanalysis station Hypo at Pearl Harbor was directed to focus on the Japanese Navy’s Flag Office code. It was never broken.

Japanese diplomatic messages (codenamed PURPLE) were broken in late summer 1940 by the Army’s Secret Intelligence Service. The Navy and Army vied for providing PURPLE to the White House. Eventually a compromise was reached with each service assuming responsibility for alternate days. However, no one knew who had seen what. There were problems with processing a heavy flow of PURPLE messages. Work was done in great secrecy due to the 1934 Communications Act making interception of messages illegal. Neither the Army nor Navy had many experienced cryptanalysts. Lack of Japanese language translators added to the problem; in 1941, the Navy had only six, the Army fewer. The process for handling MAGIC was inefficient. Sometimes messages were long delayed in being delivered.

Warning came from other sources as well. The American ambassador in Tokyo, Joseph Grew, reported in January 1941 of rumors of war plans. The Office of Naval Intelligence dismissed his reports. CNO Admiral Stark subsequently sent a message on February 1 to Kimmel stating, “no move against Pearl Harbor appears imminent for the foreseeable future” (pp. 63-4). (Curiously, the authors report that Grew’s messages were culled from the State Department’s files following the attack.)

Japanese intelligence had prepared well for the coming conflict.[4] The FBI and the counterintelligence elements of the Office of Naval Intelligence and of Army intelligence missed the implications of the intelligence they had. When the British made their double agent Dusko Popov, available to the FBI, Hoover’s reports to President Roosevelt addressed the new technology of microdots and how the FBI “discovered” them, not the substance of the Nazi’s extensive tasking for intelligence on Pearl Harbor. The arrest in California of Japanese spy Itaru Tachibana revealed a clear focus on Pearl Harbor, but the dots were not connected; no one in Hawaii was notified. While Honolulu Japanese consulate employee Takeo Yoshikawa was known as a spy, the consulate telegrams were not decrypted and analyzed routinely until after the attack, even though the US had broken the consulate code throughout 1941. Cryptanalysis priorities lay elsewhere.

One consulate message that was decrypted in Washington stood out. A September 24, 1941 tasking to Takeo Yoshikawa was to divide Pearl Harbor into sectors and describe which ships were in each. He was also tasked to increase the frequency of reporting. Office of Naval Intelligence personnel wanted to alert Kimmel but were overruled. In a turf war within the Navy Department, in the Spring of 1941 Rear Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, the head of the War Plans division and a close associate of CNO Stark, had claimed responsibility for sending classified information to naval commanders. It is unclear whether he overruled sending the September 24 message. Regardless, Kimmel did not receive this intelligence.

The shallowness of Pearl Harbor led many to believe that airborne torpedo attack was impossible. Not the Japanese, who had studied the successful British air attack, using modified shallow water torpedoes, on the Italian fleet in Taranto. US Navy Lieutenant Commander John Obie, an undercover observer with the Royal Navy, reported on the British success. His reports were ignored by the Office of Naval Intelligence. Kimmel had requested anti-torpedo nets, but no one in Washington thought them necessary.

Whether one assigns the major cause of failure to warn Hawaiian commanders of a potential Japanese attack to the inability to detect appropriate “signals” from the background “noise,” or a deafness resulting from repeated but imprecise warning messages (the “Cry Wolf” syndrome), or lack of national preparedness, the authors identify multiple causes. One idea they debunk is the revisionist conspiracy theory that President Roosevelt and unidentified cronies conspired to lead the US into World War II by withholding warning of the Japanese attack.[5]

The unique part of Summers’ and Swan’s book is the examination of what transpired after the attack. Changes came rapidly. A week after Pearl Harbor the Office of Naval Intelligence took back responsibility to collate and disseminate intelligence from Rear Admiral Turner’s division. The Army took over the decryption of PURPLE diplomatic messages allowing the Navy’s cryptanalysts to attack the Japanese Navy’s operational code, known as JN-25. By early 1942 the Naval Communications Security section, OP-20-G, responsible for the interception and decryption of Japanese signals, had made progress in reading JN-25, which resulted in US advantages in the Battle of the Coral Sea (May 4-8, 1942) and the stunning success in the Battle of Midway (June 4-7, 1942). Admiral Stark was relieved as CNO and exiled to Europe, to be replaced by Admiral Ernest J. King. Both Admiral Kimmel and Lieutenant General Short were relieved of their commands in Hawaii.[6] At the insistence of Secretary of War Henry Stimpson their relief was simultaneous. Stimpson was concerned that relieving Short first would reflect blame on the Army, which was responsible for the defense of Pearl Harbor. President Roosevelt on December 16 announced a commission to investigate the debacle of Pearl Harbor.

The Roberts Commission, named after its chair-man, Supreme Court Associate Justice Owen Roberts, was almost immediately controversial. The authors describe it as “flawed.” No one interviewed initially in Washington was put under oath. No transcripts were kept. It remains unclear whether or how much the commission had access to MAGIC materials. Later when Admiral Kimmel testified he was denied any counsel. Roberts refused to correct stenographic errors. It was a “Star Chamber” proceeding. (p. 268) One commission member, retired Admiral William Standley, was prevented from dissenting only by the intervention of President Roosevelt. As Admiral King wrote in 1952 the Roberts Commission was to find “scapegoats to satisfy popular demand.” (p. 328) Its short report, produced in a month, accused both Kimmel and Short of failure to confer and dereliction of duty. It was only in April, 1942 that Kimmel learned of the existence of MAGIC and the fact that it had been withheld from him. In June 1941, he had traveled to Washington from Hawaii in part to obtain assurances that he was receiving all pertinent intelligence. He was so assured by Rear Admiral Turner.

In the summer of 1944 a Naval Board of Inquiry was held into the Pearl Harbor affair. Thanks to Captain Laurence Safford, one of the Navy’s principal cryptologists, Kimmel knew a lot about MAGIC. Navy Secretary Forrestal initially refused the board access to MAGIC, but relented under pressure. Astounded by what they learned about MAGIC and how it had not been shared the board members cleared Kimmel of any failures and faulted CNO Stark. But Forrestal directed the results be kept classified, and the public statements released were misleading. Not until September 1945, after the war, was the board’s complete report made public. The Army’s Pearl Harbor Board in 1944 was manipulated when Chief of Staff Marshall ordered Major General Sherman Miles, the Army’s G-2, not to disclose MAGIC-related information. 1944 was an election year. General Marshall intervened with Republican presidential candidate, Thomas Dewey, to not raise issues that might reveal the fact of the breaking of Japanese codes.

In September 1945 Congress announced a congressional investigation of Pearl Harbor, spurred in part by adverse news reports out of the naval and army inquiries. The Boston Herald had called the Naval Board of Inquiry the “American Dreyfus Case.” (p. 315) Admiral Kimmel testified for six days. In its July 1946 report[7] Congress criticized the Army and Navy departments for not sharing MAGIC. Congress also passed a law permitting the restoration to their highest rank of any retired flag officers. The Navy’s list omitted Admiral Kimmel, who had been forced to retire as a Rear Admiral.

In the post-war period, many voices have been raised advocating the restoration of rank for Admiral Kimmel, who died on May 14, 1968. The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association in 1990 resolved this should occur. The Naval Academy Alumni Association and the Admiral Nimitz Foundation have also so advocated. Most telling is the petition for restoration of rank signed by 36 navy admirals, including a former Chairman of the JCS, four CNOs, and 10 CINCPACs. A 1995 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the matter elicited the Department of the Navy response that there had been no effort to scapegoat Admiral Kimmel. An earlier 1991 Army Board of Corrections decision restoring Lieutenant General Short’s rank was overturned by a deputy secretary of defense. President Clinton failed to act on a provision of the Defense Authorization Act providing for Admiral Kimmel’s posthumous promotion. During the Obama Administration Kimmel family appeals to the Department of Defense and Department of the Navy were turned down. What is not known is the reasoning for these rejections. Summers and Swan make a strong argument that the Kimmel case remains a travesty of justice some three-quarters of a century after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

[1] Oleson, Peter C. in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (23, 1 Summer 2017, pp.113-116 ). Peter C. Oleson is editor of the popular “The Guide to the Study of Intelligence” article series released serially in Intelligencer, also online on AFIO’s website, and appearing in October 2016 as a 788-page printed book of the same name, available from Amazon and also on AFIO’s website store. Oleson is a formerassociate professor of intelligence studies, University of Maryland University College. Prior to his time teaching, he was assistant director of DIA, involved in policy, resource, and acquisition matters. He served as senior intelligence policy advisor to Under SecDef for Policy. Was one of eight charter members of Defense Intelligence Senior Executive Service. After leaving government worked in industry developing defense and intelligence systems. From 1990 to 2008 was President of Potomac Strategies & Analysis, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in technology applications, C3I systems development, and strategic planning. Has taught about intelligence extensively on the faculties of CIA University and the National Defense Intelligence College. He previously served as Director of AFIO’s Academic Exchange program.

[2] Wohlstetter, Roberta (1962). Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press

[3] It should be noted that not all records concerning Pearl Harbor have been declassified. For example, the authors note that some FBI files, despite a Freedom of Information Act request, have not been released. Other records, which may have reflected badly on the government were destroyed intentionally by the State Department and Army intelligence in the aftermath of the attack.

[4] See Oleson, Peter C. “From Axis Surprises to Allied Victories: The Impact of Intelligence in World War II,” in Oleson, Peter (2016), ed. AFIO’s Guide to the Study of Intelligence, Association of Former Intelligence Officers, pp 81-126. Also at

[5] The failure to separate the “signals” of a possible attack from the “noise” of all of the information available to analysts and commanders is a major point made by Wohlstetter in her 1962 study (referenced above). In a thoughtful study of Pearl Harbor, Lieutenant Colonel Robert F. Pacine, concluded that Pearl Harbor was more a failure of national preparedness than of intelligence. Pacine, Robert. Pearl Harbor: Failure of intelligence? Air War College, April, 1997.

[6] It is ironic that despite knowing of the attack several hours prior on Pearl Harbor, MacArthur had issued no alert to his forces. His air forces were caught on the ground and destroyed. MacArthur was not relieved of command; he was promoted and received the Medal of Honor.

[7] Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack, Congress of the United States (1946). Investigation of The Pearl Harbor Attack Report: A Concurrent Resolution Authorizing An Investigation Of The Attack On Pearl harbor On December 7, 1941, And Events And Circumstances Relating Thereto. Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office.

Posted in World War II | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Maximum Harm

Title:                      Maximum Harm

Author:                  Michele R. McPhee

McPhee, Michele (2017). Maximum Harm: The Tsarnaev Brothers, The FBI, And The Road to The Marathon Bombing. Lebanon, NH: ForeEdge

LCCN:    2016049146

HV6432.8 .M33 2017

LC Subjects

Date Posted:      September 12, 2017

Maximum Harm: The Tsarnaev Brothers, the FBI, and the Road to the Marathon Bombing by Michele R. McPhee

Review by John D. Woodward, Jr.[1]

Michele McPhee is an old-fashioned, hard-working, street-smart investigative journalist who is determined to get to the bottom of things. Those skills are evident in Maximum Harm, McPhee’s riveting account of the troubled Tsarnaev family and how the brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, became terrorist mass murderers, setting off two bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on 15 April 2013; and, in the aftermath, killing a police officer and causing mayhem. Her impressive research included numerous interviews with local law enforcement officers who helped work the case. She also mined the public record, including the legal filings for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s criminal case. Although many of these legal filings remain under court-ordered seal and thus inaccessible to the public, McPhee makes these potential limitations on her research clear.

McPhee was born and raised just north of Boston, graduated from the University of Massachusetts Boston, and covered the Boston Police Department as a journalist. She hosts a radio show on a Boston station and lives in East Boston. McPhee loves Boston. She bleeds Boston. So, it comes as no surprise that, like many other Bostonians, she regards the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing as if it were a direct, personal attack on her or her family.

Understandably then, McPhee is not shy about offering her theories on the case. She concludes that the FBI or some US government agency recruited Tamerlan as an operative in late 2010. She believes that he likely provided one of these with information that helped take down a New England drug gang in Operation Run This Town. She also believes this connection helps explain why authorities did not vigorously investigate him as the likely suspect in the September 11, 2011 gruesome triple homicide in Waltham, Massachusetts. Subsequently, in her view, the FBI or other US government agency used Tamerlan as a “mosque crawler” to report on Muslim radicals in the Boston area. Finally, McPhee also strongly suspects that the Tsarnaev brothers had help in manufacturing the bombs used in the Boston Marathon attacks, and she identifies Daniel Morley as the likely bomb maker. Coincidentally—or not—Morley had worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in a campus building close to the parking lot where Tamerlan murdered MIT Police Officer Sean Collier on 18 April, during the Tsarnaevs’ attempted escape three days after the marathon bombing.

As for FBI involvement, McPhee isn’t the first to advance the argument that Tamerlan was working in some clandestine capacity for the FBI. She points out that Dzhokhar’s defense attorneys stated in court filings for his trial that the FBI attempted to recruit Tamerlan. Also, Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen, in her account of the Boston Marathon Bombings, The Brothers, wrote that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar’s mother, Zubeidat, insisted that FBI agents tried to recruit Tamerlan.

US government officials have denied that Tamer-Ian was an FBI asset. When Senator Charles Grassley specifically asked this question after the bombing, FBI Director James Comey publicly denied that the Bureau had tried to recruit Tamerlan.

Counterterrorism officials have, at least implicitly, also denied that Tamerlan was an FBI asset. The March 2014 unclassified US House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee report “Road to Boston: Counterterrorism Challenges & Lessons From the Marathon Bombings” makes it clear that, as early as March 2011, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) contacted the FBI to express its concern that Tamerlan was becoming radicalized and that “he might return to Russia and join extremist groups there,” which is exactly what Tamerlan ended up doing. According to the House report, FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) investigators interviewed Tamerlan and his parents in Cambridge, but “the FBI did not find any evidence of terrorist activity.” Similarly, in its April 2014 public report, the Intelligence Community Inspectors General confirmed that the JTTF conducted an assessment of Tamerlan but closed it three months later “having found no link or nexus to terrorism.”

These very carefully worded statements—that the FBI had not “recruited” Tamerlan and that there was no “evidence” that Tamerlan was involved in “terrorist activity”—do not conclusively resolve the question whether Tamerlan was in fact cooperating with the FBI or another US government agency before the Boston bombings.

Despite these official denials, McPhee is not a conspiracy theorist wearing a tin-foil hat. Rather, her research has led her to conclude that these official denials do not withstand scrutiny. Many local Boston cops don’t believe the official FBI denials either, reflecting their deep-seated distrust of the Bureau, dating back to the 1980s when corrupt FBI officials in the Boston Field Office forged a criminal conspiracy with Whitey Bulger and his Winter Hill Gang. And, as McPhee makes clear from her sleuthing, there are good reasons to suspect that the FBI would have wanted to recruit Tamerlan in a clandestine capacity as, for example, a confidential informant to report on Islamic radicals. These reasons include the FBI’s counterterrorism modus operandi and facts peculiar to the Tsarnaev case.

As for the Bureau’s MO, the record shows that a preferred FBI approach for developing and making its terrorism cases is using informants. In a July 2014 report, Human Rights Watch analyzed post-September 11, 2001 counterterrorism cases in the US resulting in conviction. The conclusion: “[N]early 50 percent of the more than 500 federal counterterrorism convictions resulted from informant-based cases; almost 30 percent of those cases were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot.” So at a minimum, the FBI uses informants for its successful counterterrorism cases about half the time.

With this MO in mind, McPhee has the reader play the role of the FBI special agent assigned to the Boston Field Office counterterrorism unit. First, at a minimum, Tamerlan Tsarnaev came to this special agent’s attention courtesy of the Russian FSB’s early 2011 warning that he was becoming radicalized (although McPhee suspects it was much earlier). The FBI special agent would see a young immigrant who spoke fluent Russian, English, and a Chechen dialect. Second, at a minimum, the FBI special agent would know Tamerlan’s mosque in Cambridge, Massachusetts, because it had been a previous target for counterterrorism investigators.

Moreover, the special agent would have been able to learn that Tamerlan had been arrested in 2009 for assaulting his former girlfriend, Nadine Ascencao, and that he now had a new, American-born wife, Katherine Russell. Ms. Russell had converted to Islam at her husband’s urging, took to wearing the hijab, and gave birth to a baby girl four months after their marriage. The FBI special agent on the case didn’t interview either of these women in Tamerlan’s life, nor did he visit the mosque. Moreover, Tamerlan, the new family man who didn’t spend much time with his family, never really had steady legal employment. Aside from needing income, Tamerlan also wanted US citizenship. As McPhee summarizes it, “Tamerlane was a perfect candidate for recruitment by the US government.”[2]

So, if we believe the FBI’s official denials, the Bureau was not trying to develop and recruit Tamerlan as a confidential informant, despite his background, language skills, and apparent access. Such an outcome is hard to fathom, as McPhee persuasively argues.

First, she rightly calls attention to Tamerlan’s extended travel to Russia in 2012. She notes that the JFK airport authorities did not flag him for additional screening as he boarded his Moscow-bound flight, even though Tamerlan was on two US government watch lists (the Treasury Enforcement Communications System, TECS; and the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, TIDE) at the time.

While in Russia for six months, Tamerlan traveled to the north Caucasus, to the Russian Republic of Dagestan, which borders Chechnya to the east. (The Tsarnaevs were ethnic Chechens who had lived in Dagestan before seeking asylum in the US.) He spent considerable time with his mother’s second cousin, Magomed Kartashov, the founder and leader of the “Union of the Just,” a supposedly non-violent organization condemning US policies toward the Muslim world and advocating for the establishment of a caliphate with sharia law.[3] (The Russians later jailed Kartashov on terrorist related charges.) According to McPhee, Tamerlan also clandestinely recorded some of his conversations with Kartashov.[4] Although the reasons for recording are not clear, one can speculate that such recordings with a “suspected terrorist” in Dagestan could be a way for Tamerlan to impress his US government handlers, or even to respond to tasking by those handlers.

While in Russia, two men with whom Tamerlan was associated, Palestinian Mahmud Mansour Nidal and Canadian William Plotnikov, were both marked as terrorists. Nidal had supposedly recruited a brother and sister as suicide bombers for an attack at a Dagestan police checkpoint that killed 14 people. Knowing that the authorities were seeking him, Nidal nonetheless came out of hiding to meet several times with Tamerlan in May 2012 near the main Salafi mosque in Makhachkala, Dagestan’s capital. On May 19, Russian security forces killed Nidal.

Tamerlan texted regularly with Plotnikov, “his longtime internet friend,” and they shared striking similarities.[5] Both were young Russian-born men with a fondness for mixed martial arts and boxing who were becoming radicalized. The Canadian literally took to the forests of Dagestan with other Islamic terrorists. Tamerlan took a trip there to meet with him in early July 2012. Whether or not this meeting transpired, Russian security forces killed Plotnikov at his rural hide-out on the night of July 13. At a minimum, to McPhee, such close association with Islamic terrorists is suspicious; at most, the demise of these two terrorists shortly after meeting with Tamerlan is suggestive of Tamerlan’s cooperation with counterterrorism officials.

Second, the otherwise unemployed Tamerlan then managed to come up with 2,050 euros (~$2,500) in cash to purchase a one-way Aeroflot ticket from Moscow to JFK to Logan, departing Moscow on July 17, 2012. As Congressman William Keating summarized it, “Now he [Tamerlan] came back to the US after the person he met with [Nidal] reportedly was killed, and the other person who was known to him [Plotnikov] was killed. So he sort of beat feet and went home.”

When he returned “home” to the US on July 17, 2012, after having spent six months in a troubled region of the world, his arrival seemingly triggered no US government alerts.

Finally, McPhee is convinced that the Tsarnaev brothers received help making the bombs set off in the marathon attack, as well as the bombs later thrown by Tamerlan at police during the subsequent manhunt and shoot-out in Watertown. Although McPhee does not believe that the bomb-making assistance was related to Tamerlan’s cooperation with the FBI, it does further illustrate the flaws in the official investigative story line that the brothers acted entirely alone throughout. Why does McPhee believe the brothers had help making their bombs? She builds a good circumstantial case.

First, by the US government’s own admission, the bombs used were sophisticated and the FBI didn’t think the two brothers could have made them on their own. In court documents, the government prosecutors noted, “These relatively sophisticated devices would have been difficult for the Tsarnaevs to fabricate successfully without training or assistance from others.”

Second, the brothers supposedly made the bombs by purchasing fireworks and manually extracting the finely grained black powder. But if the brothers made the bombs, one would expect to find some explosives residue on their persons, clothes, three vehicles used by them, or their living areas. None was ever found, according to FBI records. In fact, in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s court proceedings, FBI Supervisory Special Agent David McCollum, a chemical forensic examiner and explosives expert, testified “I do not, based on our analysis, think we can tell where these bombs were built.”

McPhee identifies the bomb-making accomplice as Daniel Morley, who came to police attention when they were summoned for help in an emotionally disturbed person (EDP) call in June 2013.[6] The mentally unhinged Morley, who lived with his mother and her boyfriend in Topsfield, threatened to burn the residence down. After entering the residence, the police found bomb-making materials; ball bearings and green hobby wire, similar to the ones used in the Tsarnaev bombs; illegal firearms; ammunition; and a top for a box containing a six-quart Fagor pressure cooker, the exact size and brand that the FBI experts said had been detonated at the finish line of the marathon two months earlier. Only one store in the greater Boston area sold these hard to find pressure cookers. Morley’s whereabouts were unaccounted for from the morning of Marathon Day until he returned to Topsfield two days later claiming he had gone fishing.

Interestingly, the Essex County district attorney never pursued bomb-threat or related charges against Morley. Rather, Morley admitted himself to Tewksbury State Hospital for extended treatment, where he was released in June 2015. Morley and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were students at Bunker Hill Community College in 2008 and were involved in mixed martial arts and visited the same boxing gyms, such as the Somerville Boxing Club. Exactly if and how well Tamerlan and Morley may have been acquainted remains conjecture. Morley had previously been arrested as part of anarchist protests in New York.

The official law enforcement account concludes that the Tsarnaevs went to the MIT campus, saw Col-lier’s MIT police vehicle, killed Collier, intending to steal his service handgun. McPhee speculates that the Tsarnaev brothers travelled to the MIT campus to meet with Morley likely to get more bombs before heading to New York, where they intended to wreak havoc. McPhee also believes that Morley robbed a 7-Eleven store near the MIT campus that evening. Despite good surveillance camera footage of the robber, that robbery remains unsolved.

For anyone interested in learning more about the Boston Marathon Bombing, Maximum Harm is a fast-moving, highly readable, if controversial, account of this terrorist attack. McPhee offers her candid views of what she thinks really happened and is careful to source her supporting evidence. Just as Masha Gessen was at her best writing about the long-standing struggles of ethnic Chechens in Russia, McPhee is at her strongest when she is writing about the complex law enforcement investigation and the court proceedings, relying on her well-developed local sources.

While her case is built on circumstantial evidence, McPhee has raised enough red flags to warrant greater scrutiny of this terrorist event. Unfortunately, much valuable information remains classified by the US government or is otherwise inaccessible due to court order or other factors. For example, several potential witnesses have been deported and at least one is dead. Ibragim Todashev, a fellow Chechen and friend of Tamerlan’s, emerged as a suspect in the triple homicide in Waltham. An FBI special agent shot seven times and killed the 27-year-old Todashev when he allegedly became violent as the special agent and a Massachusetts state trooper were interviewing him at his Orlando, Florida, apartment in May 2013. Todashev was a mixed martial arts expert with a history of violence. It is hard to understand why the interview took place at night in the murder suspect’s apartment, as opposed to a neutral location, and why there were only two officers in the room with him.

One doesn’t have to accept all of McPhee’s assessments. The US government can be dysfunctional and can make mistakes with terrible consequences. Counterterrorism investigators did not think Army Major Nidal Hassan, the Fort Hood murderer who killed 13 people in 2009, was a threat. The US Intelligence Community in 2002 thought Saddam Hussain was an imminent WMD threat, when he was not. And while McPhee has mastered law enforcement ins and outs; she is not as knowledgeable about the working of the US Intelligence Community. Nonetheless, McPhee does convincingly make the case that all the events surrounding the Boston Marathon Bombing, which were designed to cause maximum harm to the public, deserve maximum disclosure so the public may know what really transpired.

[1] John D. Woodward, Jr, in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (23, 1 Summer 2017, pp.108-112). John D. Woodward jr. is a professor of the practice of international relations at the Boston University Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies. He is a retired CIA officer with extensive overseas service, and writes on national security, terrorism, and technology policy issues. From 2003 to 2005, he was the director of Department of Defense biometrics, and received the US Army’s third-highest civilian award for his efforts in counterterrorism. He is an attorney and lectures and writes regularly. He is a longtime AFIO member. © 2017 John D. Woodward, jr.

[2] McPhee, p. 109

[3] Simon Shuster, “Dagestani Relative of Tamerlan Tsarnaev is a Prominent Islamist,” Time (May 8, 2013), at

[4] McPhee, p. 105

[5] McPhee, p. 119

[6] McPhee, p. 39

Posted in Terrorism | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Deep Undercover

Title:                      Deep Undercover

Author:                 Jack Barsky

Barsky, Jack (2017) with Cindy Coloma. Deep Undercover: My Secret Life And Tangled Allegiances As A KGB Spy in America. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

LCCN:    2016048505

UB271.R92 B37753 2017


  • The making of a spy — The training of a spy — The embedding of a spy — The death of a spy — The catching of a spy — The redemption of a spy.

LC Subjects

Date Posted:      September 7, 2017

Reviewed by Kristie Macdrakis[1]

Everyone loves a good spy story. But it can be hard to tell if the story is fact or fiction; this is especially the case with spy memoirs. Jack Barsky’s page-turning memoir, Deep Undercover, has a ring of authenticity to it. Most of the book is written using recreated dialogue, but is it true?

Part of Mr. Barsky’s story was told by 60 Minutes and it reads like the best of spy fiction: While he was a prize-winning chemistry student in East Germany, the KGB recruited Mr. Barsky to become an illegal agent abroad. An illegal is one of Russia’s most secret agents. The spy is sent to the target country under an assumed identity and is told to build a life acquiring all the necessary documentation.

In this case, Albrecht Dittrich was transformed into Jack Barsky through a birth certificate of a dead United States citizen. After Mr. Dittrich arrived he was told to obtain a library card, a driver’s license, a Social Security card and a passport in order to become “legal.” The book provides an inside look into the making of a spy, his experiences, his inner thoughts, his assumed identities and KGB spycraft. Above all, it shows how life as a deep cover spy affected his personal and family life.

Reader’s familiar with the illegals program as depicted in the TV show The Americans (based on the real story of 10 captured Russian illegals in 2010) may be aware that illegals integrated themselves into American society; they may not be aware of the pre-deployment training. In Mr. Barsky’s case, it took eight years from the time he was recruited at the university in 1970 until he arrived in the United States in 1978 to become operational, including four-and-a-half years of intensive training.

Spy training took place in Jena, East and West Berlin, Canada, and Moscow where he learned basic spycraft like how to send and listen to messages with a short-wave radio, prepare secret messages, develop photographic skills, and service a dead-drop. Most importantly, he was tutored about Western ideology, culture, language, TV and human contacts. In fact, the KGB mantra was “contacts, contacts, contacts” reflecting their emphasis on human intelligence. Mr. Dittrich was also provided with an English language tutor in East Germany and during his two-year stay in Moscow before his deployment.

In fact, one of the most striking aspects of the story is how long it took to train him and the KGB’s long-term investment. This style of espionage seems unique to the KGB and the East Bloc. US intelligence, for instance, tends to operate with shorter recruitment periods and probably never had an illegal planted in the Soviet Union.

Spy life, however, took a toll on his personal life. There were long periods of loneliness and isolation. The KGB also frowned on relationships with women, even though he had a “weakness for the fairer sex.” He married an East German woman who tolerated his long absences abroad; they only saw each other every two years. She even gave birth to Mr. Barsky’s baby boy and raised him alone. Meanwhile, he married a woman in New York City who bore him a daughter who he adored and bonded with.

Mr. Barsky does not know why the KGB recruited him, but his science background fit their drive to expand scientific-technical intelligence during the 1970s. He majored in computer science at Baruch College, became the valedictorian and worked in IT, an intelligence acquisition focus. Mr. Barsky writes very little about what he actually passed on to his KGB handlers save to mention an acquired software program. Most of the “spy story” reads like an immigrant makes good story from lowly bike messenger to top executive.

His case is remarkably similar to that of Werner Stiller, who was also an East German, though he was recruited by the Stasi’s Sector for Science and Technology in 1972 while he was a physics student. He eventually defected to West Germany, landed in America, was debriefed by the CIA, received a new identity, earned an MBA, learned English, got married five times, and left his two children in East Germany. Some of his memoirs turned out to be false to confuse the enemy. Even if spies aren’t born with duplicitous personalities, the double life leads to personal and professional betrayals and a kind of schizophrenia.

Despite the omissions in what he acquired for the Soviets, Mr. Barsky’s memoir shines light on a signature Russian program. Mr. Barsky so successfully imbedded himself in America that he became one of us and chose to stay with his family rather than return to the Soviet Union when he was recalled. Mr. Barsky’s combination of academic intelligence and street smarts likely helped him avoid jail time when he cooperated with the FBI after they discovered him.

[1] Macrakis, Kristie in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (23, 1 Summer 2017, pp. 107-108) Kristie Macrakis, the author or editor of five books, teaches at Georgia Tech. She also serves with AFIO’s Atlanta, GA Chapter. This review first appeared in the Washington Times.

Posted in Soviet Spies | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Lenin on the Train

Title:                      Lenin on the Train

Author:                 Catherine Merridale

Merridale, Catherine (2017). Lenin on the Train. New York, New York: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Company

LCCN:    2016043803

DK254.L443 M37 2017

Scope and content

  • “A gripping, meticulously researched account of Lenin’s fateful rail journey from Zurich to Petrograd, where he ignited the Russian Revolution and forever changed the world. In April 1917, as the Russian Tsar Nicholas II’s abdication sent shockwaves across war-torn Europe, the future leader of the Bolshevik revolution Vladimir Lenin was far away, exiled in Zurich. When the news reached him, Lenin immediately resolved to return to Petrograd and lead the revolt. But to get there, he would have to cross Germany, which meant accepting help from the deadliest of Russia’s adversaries. Germany saw an opportunity to further destabilize Russia by allowing Lenin and his small group of revolutionaries to return. Now, drawing on a dazzling array of sources and never-before-seen archival material, renowned historian Catherine Merridale provides a riveting, nuanced account of this enormously consequential journey–the train ride that changed the world–as well as the underground conspiracy and subterfuge that went into making it happen. Writing with the same insight and formidable intelligence that distinguished her earlier works, she brings to life a world of counter-espionage and intrigue, wartime desperation, illicit finance, and misguided utopianism. This was the moment when the Russian Revolution became Soviet, the genesis of a system of tyranny and faith that changed the course of Russia’s history forever and transformed the international political climate”– Provided by publisher.


  • Dark Forces — Black Markets — Red Lake — Scarlet Ribbons — Maps and Plans — The Sealed Train — Leaderless — Lenin in Lapland — From the Finland Station — Gold — Fellow Travellers.

LC Subjects

Other Subjects

  • HISTORY / Europe / Russia & the Former Soviet Union.


  • “Published simultaneously in the UK by Allen Lane, London”–Title page verso.

Date Posted:      August 31, 2017

Reviewed by Joseph C. Goulden[1]

Lenin on the Train is reviewed along with The Russian Revolution[2] in this article.

In the spring of1917, the German spy service sensed a sure-fire means of persuading Russia to make a separate peace and exit The Great War. Czar Nicholas II had abdicated in the face of mass protests that swept the streets of Petrograd, the then-capital, and signs of war-weariness were increasingly evident.

German eyes fell upon Vladimir Lenin, an aspiring Communist leader in exile for decades. He was considered to be a man of extraordinary ruthlessness—a “one-man demolition crew” who would wreck Russia’s war effort, in contrast with the moderates then in the vanguard of revolution.

But Lenin was in exile in Switzerland, and the only feasible route back to Russia was through Germany and territories which it controlled. Lenin was so desperate to return that he considered posing as a deaf-mute Swede (until his wife reminded him of his habit of talking in his sleep—in Russian).

But the spy chiefs found a solution: Lenin and selected followers would transit Germany in a sealed train that would be declared “an extraterritorial entity.” Once in Finland, smugglers would take them across to Petrograd.

The remarkable story of Lenin’s odyssey—and the bloody chaos he would inflict on the world—are told in striking works by Catherine Merridale, a noted historian on the human consequences of the Soviet era; and the academic Sean McMeekin [see Ref 2, below]. They offer a richly documented look at the Russian Revolution, now marking its centennial year.

Oddly, the two historians present differing accounts of Lenin’s 2,000 mile train ride into history. They agree that his 32 member party was crammed into two cheap-seat cars (with a single toilet) for the two-week journey, and that there was much wrangling over smoking. Merridale portrays a non-stop journey. McMeekin, conversely, has the group changing trains while in Germany, and making several stops, one to permit Lenin to address Russians soldiers held in a prison camp. No matter; the train ride was an audacious stunt.

A minor glitch arose at the border. Although a British intelligence estimate had written off Lenin and friends as “fanatical and narrow minded,” and of no particular danger, a British agent at the border argued against letting them continue. Finnish authorities insisted that a country had the right to admit its own citizens, so Lenin passed in Russia.

Within an hour of his arrival, Lenin gave a fiery two-hour speech denouncing the “piratical imperialist war” and the moderates who were forming an interim government. His program was so extreme that Pravda, the party organ, refused to print it. No matter; his oratory provided the expected spark.

Further, Lenin’s pockets sagged with German gold. He spent millions of dollars on propaganda aimed at convincing Russian troops to stop fighting. (The energetic McMeekin unearthed long-hidden files on secret German financing that escaped destruction.) London’s spies spent their own fortune on propaganda; intelligence buffs should enjoy accounts of this covert warfare.

Lies have long shelf lives: a million Russian rubles went to leftist writer John Reed for his acclaimed 1919 book Ten Days That Shook the World[3], which in 1981 was the basis for Warren Beatty’s historically-laughable movie Reds.

In short order, Lenin added a new ingredient to what had begun, more or less, as a grass-roots revolution. His contribution was terror—directed first at the relatively moderate leadership he replaced but rapidly expanded to include anyone who objected to his harshness. Lenin opted for terror to cleave away opponents—and he continued that course long after the government he established was on a secure footing. (The secret police organization that morphed into the KGB was his creation.) Further, his determination to overthrow western democracies put the Soviet Union at odds with much of the world through the end of the Cold War.

Was Germany’s decision to return Lenin to Russia a valid strategy? Winston Churchill gave back-handed approval in acknowledging “the desperate stakes” facing Germany. But he added, “Nevertheless it was the most grisly of all weapons. They transported Lenin in a sealed truck like a plague bacillus from Switzerland to Russia.”

In the end, the totalitarian state which Lenin created carries responsibility for uncountable millions of deaths—many of them his own people who he perceived as enemies. And indeed, Lenin made an early—and costly—peace with Germany in early 1918, surrendering Ukraine, portions of Poland, Finland and various other territories—in all, one-fourth the territory of the old tsarist empire. Fortunately, an exhausted Germany collapsed after a 1918 final campaign.

Two superb reads, and in the end, tragic ones: of how a demagogue shaped world history for the worst for almost a century.

[1] Goulden, Joseph C. in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (23, 1 Summer 2017, pp. 105-106). Joseph C. Goulden’s 1982 book, Korea: The Untold Story of the War, was published in a Chinese-language edition in 2014 by Beijing Xiron Books. He is author of 18 nonfiction books. Goulden is a long-time reviewer of espionage and spy books for The Washington Times, for AFIO’s Intelligencer, for law journals, and other publications. Some of the reviews appeared in prior editions of The Washington Times or The Washington Lawyer (DC Bar Association) and are reprinted in the Intelligencer by permission of the author. Goulden’s most recent book [as of 2016] is Goulden, Joseph C. (2012). The Dictionary of Espionage: Spyspeak into English. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications.

[2] McMeekin, Sean (2017). The Russian Revolution: A New History. New York, NY: Basic Books

[3] Reed, John (1919). Ten Days That Shook The World. New York, Boni and Liveright

Posted in Russian Revolution | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Ten Days that Shook the World

Title:                      Ten Days that Shook the World

Author:                  John Reed

Reed, John (1919). Ten Days that Shook the World. New York, Boni and Liveright

LCCN:    19005341

DK265 .R38

Date Updated:  Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The October Revolution in Russia caught westerners by surprise. It caught also the Russian military command, the Tsar, and even Lenin by surprise. John Reed was there, and this book is his reporting on what now is poorly understood even to this day. Most people think that the portrayal in Dr. Zhivago is the true story, and sometimes truth is stranger that fiction. Or the other way around. Here is a review of Reed’s book by Mick Hume[1] that I find outstanding (published Friday 26 October 2007).

On the ninetieth anniversary, American journalist John Reed’s pulsating first-hand account of the October Revolution remains a powerful antidote to our historical amnesia about what happened in Russia in 1917.

It is 90 years since the 1917 October Revolution that brought the Bolsheviks to power in Russia and changed the world. It is almost impossible in today’s atmosphere of political sleepwalking to imagine what it might have been like to find ourselves in the midst of such revolutionary ferment. In the absence of a time machine, I recommend reading Ten Days that Shook the World.

This most famous first-hand account of those tumultuous times was written by John Reed, a radical American journalist reporting from Russia for the socialist paper The Masses. Reed, as the English historian AJP Taylor later put it, “though not engaged physically in the Bolshevik revolution, was engaged morally. This was his revolution, not an obscure event in a foreign country.” Ten Days… was published in 1919 with a one-paragraph introduction signed “Nikolai Lenin (Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov)”, who wrote: “Unreservedly do I recommend it to the workers of the world.”

Ninety years on, we appear to be suffering a powerful historical amnesia in relation to the Russian Revolution. Reading history backwards, most commentators now discuss it only as the prelude to Stalin’s Soviet gulags or even Hitler’s Holocaust. On the other side, a minority still hold a romanticized view of the revolutionary ideal—see the Hollywood liberals’ take in the 1982 Oscar-winning epic Reds, in which Reed is played by, err, Warren Beatty.

To an old libertarian Marxist like me[2], however, neither of these ahistorical views will do. The October Revolution can only be understood by placing it in the context of the real unresolved crisis facing Russian society at the time. Those who wish to make sense of these events need to view them in what we used to call their historical specificity, rather than somehow trying to rediscover ourselves in a fantasy version of the past.

Reed’s book hums with historical specificities of the short period when the provisional government, which had come to power after the fall of the Tsarist regime in February 1917, was overthrown and replaced by a revolutionary government led by those whom he calls “the Bolsheviki”. A reader unfamiliar with the history might find bewildering the copious references to long-forgotten individuals, newspapers and political parties: the Bolsheviks, the Mensheviks – both former wings of the Russian Social Democratic and Labour Party – the Menshevik Internationalists, Socialist Revolutionaries, Left Socialist Revolutionaries, etc etc. But this is no Monty Python’s Life of Brian-style caricature of leftish splits and factions. The delegates and party members packed into all-day-and-night sessions are fiercely debating practical questions about launching an insurrection, dealing with their enemies, and organising a new society.

Reed’s historical narrative is a far cry from the widely-accepted version of the October Revolution as a sort of coup staged by an unrepresentative handful of Bolsheviks. By contrast, the story that unfolds here is of the Russian masses, driven to the edge by the hardships of hunger and the Great War, often finding themselves further along the revolutionary curve than the left (with the notable exception of Lenin). While the Bolsheviks were fighting for the acceptance of their slogan “Bread, Peace and Land”, Reed shows that the soldiers, sailors, workers and peasants were already putting it into practice, opposing the war and taking over the factories and the farms. As the revolutionary ferment rose, so did support for the Bolsheviks, who were swept to victory in elections to powerful new bodies such as the second all-Russia congress of Soviets.

Reed portrays the revolution as a product not of any plot but of deep social tensions waiting to explode, describing the capital Petrograd on the eve of revolution as “the great throbbing city under grey skies rushing faster and faster towards – what?” He paints a picture of a city where waiters began to refuse tips because they were not serfs and a red flag fluttered from the statue of Catherine the Great; where hungry militants stockpiled guns while all-night gambling clubs served champagne and high-class prostitutes wore furs.

When the moment came, the events known as the storming of the Winter Palace hardly lived up to that dramatic image. Reed gives a first-hand account of how the Military Revolutionary Committee more or less walked in and took over the reins of government, issuing orders that nobody was to loot the treasures that now belonged to “the people”. But that was only the beginning. A bitter and often bloody struggle ensued against the opponents of the Bolshevik revolution, and Reed is not blind to the setbacks and tragedies, such as the “wine pogroms” when Red Guards fired on drunk and rioting soldiers who had raided the vintage cellars of the rich.

Yet Reed’s account returns time and again to the theme that it was the support of the masses, desperate for an end to the war and the famine and for freedom, which pushed the revolution forward through all barriers. He writes with impassioned admiration of how the people of Petrograd answered the new government’s call to defend the city from the threat of attack by counter-revolutionary Cossack forces:

“As we came out into the dark and gloomy day, all around the grey horizon factory whistles were blowing, a hoarse and nervous sound, full of foreboding. By tens of thousands the working people poured out, men and women; by tens of thousands the humming slums belched out their dun and miserable hordes. Red Petrograd was in danger! Cossacks! South and south-west they poured through the shabby streets towards the Moskovsky Gate, men, women and children, with rifles, picks, spades, rolls of wires, cartridge belts over their working clothes…. Such an immense, spontaneous outpouring of a city was never seen! They rolled along torrent-like, companies of soldiers borne with them, guns, motor-trucks, wagons – the revolutionary proletariat defending with its breast the capital of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Republic!”

Later, on a trip to Moscow, Reed describes the Red Square funeral of 500 workers and peasants who had died in the fighting there, as thousands came from across the city with “a river of red banners” to bury their dead heroes where tsars lay, against the Kremlin walls, in a huge grave dug overnight by volunteers. The powerful Orthodox church would have nothing to do with such a ceremony, of course – but, observes Reed, the supposedly priest-ridden Russians had created a solemn and meaningful ritual of their own: “I suddenly realised that the devout Russian people no longer needed priests to pray them into heaven. On earth they were building a kingdom more bright than any heaven had to offer, and for which it was a glory to die…”

Towards the end of Ten Days…, Reed concludes quite soberly that the Bolsheviks had not come to power by compromise with the ancien régime, or by “the organised violence of a small clique. If the masses all over Russia had not been ready for insurrection it must have failed”: “The only reason for Bolshevik success lay in their accomplishing the vast and simple desires of the most profound strata of the people, calling them to the work of tearing down and destroying the old, and afterwards, in the smoke of falling ruins, cooperating with them to erect the framework of the new.”

After helping to found the Communist Party of the USA, Reed returned to Soviet Russia but died of typhus there in 1920. He was buried in Red Square, in the Heroes’ Grave. So he never lived to see that “Bolshevik success” turn into the defeats and horrors of the Stalinist era. The disjuncture between the revolutionary movement he describes and what it became is made unwittingly clear in Ten Days…, where Reed mentions Stalin only once, briefly, while Trotsky is ever to the fore. This later led to the book being banned by the Soviet regime; it would be hard to think of a higher recommendation for any work than that Stalin did not want you to read it.

There is no space here to go into the many factors, domestic and international, that meant the October Revolution ultimately failed to realise the “vast and simple desires” of the people, never mind build a better world. But should that mean that we must, with the genius of hindsight, judge Reed wrong to have become so caught up in the revolutionary spirit of Russia’s October? I hope not. All experiments and innovations run the risk that things will go wrong, far more so when they take place in society rather than in a laboratory. Does it follow that we must simply give up on the idea of a political struggle for social change? Or should we instead reflect on how better to go about building a new society?

In the movie Reds, I recall one rather cheesy post-revolution scene where “Reed” wants to go back to America to visit his wife. The Bolshevik apparatchik Zinoviev tells him, “You can go and see your wife anytime. But you can never come back to this moment in history.” And neither can we, even if we wanted to. But it still might be worth seeking lessons for our world in the story told in Ten Days….

For example, one lesson for today might be about our attitude to youth culture. We live in an age when there is endless worry and breast-beating over the risks allegedly facing young people, and how they need more help and protection from adult life. Ninety years ago, however, most of those playing the most active part at the forefront of the revolution were teenagers. Reed describes the Red Guards as boys. Yet when it mattered, they proved old enough and tough enough to assume responsibility for taking over and changing their country.

Perhaps we might also reflect on the broader importance of revolutions that “shook the world” and shaped history, for better and for worse. As the English revolution of the 1640s helped inspire political developments into the eighteenth century, and the American and French revolutions of the late eighteenth century proved the motor for much change in the nineteenth, so did the Russian Revolution of October 1917 influence the reforms and reactions that dominated the twentieth century. What force will shake our world and take it forward in the twenty-first century? There is no sign of any social revolutions as yet, unless one counts the “green revolution” that in some ways seems to want to turn the clock back. We shall have to see.

In the meantime, to paraphrase that earlier and more succinct reviewer of Reed’s book, unreservedly do I recommend it to the readers of the world.

[1] Reprinted from:

[2] This is Mike Hume writing, certainly I am no Marxist.

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