Rendezvous at the Russian Tea Rooms

Title:                      Rendezvous at the Russian Tea Rooms

Author:                 Paul Willetts

Willetts, Paul (2015). Rendezvous at the Russian Tea Rooms. London: Constable

LCCN:    2015514628

D810.S8 K468 2015


  • Rendezvous at the Russian Tea Rooms provides the first comprehensive account of what was once hailed by a leading American newspaper as the greatest spy story of World War II. This dramatic yet little-known saga, replete with telephone taps, kidnappings, and police surveillance, centers on the furtive escapades of Tyler Kent, a handsome, womanizing 28-year-old Ivy League graduate, who doubles as a US Embassy code clerk and Soviet agent. Against the backdrop of London high society during the so-called Phony War, Kent’s life intersects with the lives of the book’s two other memorably flamboyant protagonists. One of those is Maxwell Knight, an urbane, endearingly eccentric MI5 spyhunter. The other is Anna Wolkoff, a White Russian fashion designer and Nazi spy whose outfits are worn by the Duchess of Windsor and whose parents are friends of the British royal family. Wolkoff belongs to a fascist secret society called the Right Club, which aims to overthrow the British government. Her romantic entanglement with Tyler Kent gives her access to a secret correspondence between President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, a correspondence that has the potential to transform the outcome of the war.– Source other than the Library of Congress.


Date Posted:      March 28, 2017

Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[1]

American embassy code clerk, Tyler Gatewood Kent, was imprisoned by the British during WWII for violating the Official Secrets Act. If that statement rings the déjà vu bell it is because the story has indeed been told before at least twice. In 1991, Ray Bearse and Anthony Read focused on Kent’s espionage in Britain and dismissed indications he had also been a Soviet agent. In 2013, Peter Rand covered the same ground but concluded there were strong clues that Kent had spied for the NKVD.[2],[3]Rendezvous at the Russian Tea Rooms agrees with Rand and adds extensive new detail to support his conclusion.

China born, Virginia native, Princeton-educated Tyler Kent was a Russian linguist of independent means. He failed to qualify for the foreign service but accepted a lowly position as a clerk in the American embassy in Moscow in the late 1930s. Despite persistent difficulties with embassy staff, he managed to advance to a position as code clerk and then began a practice of copying diplomatic traffic for his own purposes. He also had a Russian mistress, owned a gun, had a car, and was involved in the black market—all in the Stalinist Soviet Union. For these and other reasons, rather than create an incident, the embassy transferred him to London in 1939, where he continued work as a code clerk and his practice of retaining copies of classified diplomatic traffic. Kent’s political views and his desires for feminine companionship brought him into contact with Anna Wolkoff, an active anti-fascist. Wolkoff’s White Russian expatriate parents ran the Russian Tea Room in London. Kent met many of Wolkoff’s colleagues there and was recruited to help their cause. MI5 was aware of their activities, and Kent was arrested, with the cooperation of the US ambassador, Joseph Kennedy.

British journalist Paul Willetts covers this ground in much greater detail than his literary predecessors. He adds additional participants, British and Russian, together with accounts of their clandestine meetings, and the material Kent passed along. He also makes a convincing case that Kent was a Soviet agent—identifying his case officer—while in London and Moscow, and names his clandestine contacts in both countries.

But what Willetts fails to provide are sources for his facts. The extensive footnotes are descriptive and only extend remarks made in the narrative. Moreover, the additional source material he says may be found on his website does the same. Thus the reader is left with a robust tale, rich with new revelations, that has the ring of truth. But the task of documentation is left to the reader. Rendezvous at the Russian Tea Rooms is really a rendezvous with frustration.

[1] Peake, Hayden in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (22, 3, Winter 2016-17, pp. 122-123). 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

[2] Bearse, Ray (1991) and Anthony Read. Conspirator: The Untold Story of Tyler Kent. New York: Doubleday

[3] Rand, Peter (2013). Conspiracy of One: Tyler Kent’s Secret Plot Against FDR, Churchill, And The Allied War Effort. Guilford, CT: Lyons Press, An imprint of Globe Pequot Press. The Rand book was reviewed in Studies in Intelligence (57, 4, Winter 2013,2014, pp. 74,75).

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Conspiracy of One

Title:                      Conspiracy of One

Author:                 Peter Rand

Rand, Peter (2013). Conspiracy of One: Tyler Kent’s Secret Plot Against FDR, Churchill, And The Allied War Effort. Guilford, CT: Lyons Press, An imprint of Globe Pequot Press

LCCN:    2012051752

D810.S8 K467 2013


Date Posted:      March 28, 2017

Reviewd by CIA[1]

Tyler Kent was born in 1911 in China, where his father, a member of Virginia’s gentry, was serving in the Foreign Service. After Kent’s early education in several European countries, where he acquired a taste for the diplomatic lifestyle, the family returned to Washington, DC, where Kent, by then a handsome young man, attended St. Albans School. From there he went to Princeton. Leaving after three years, he continued his education in Madrid and Paris, graduating from the Sorbonne skilled in six languages. Kent returned to Washington in 1932. By then he was self-centered, arrogant, anti-Semitic, socially inept, and egotistical. He applied in the middle of the Great Depression for the Foreign Service, only to learn that there were no openings. Eventually, thanks to Ambassador William Bullitt—making a decision he would regret—Kent was given a clerical position in the Moscow embassy, becoming the only clerk clothed by Brooks Brothers. Another attempt to become a Foreign Service Officer faltered when Kent failed the oral examination.

Conspiracy of One tells of Kent’s progress from ordinary clerk to code clerk during the mid- to late 1930s. Despite his boring, low-level job and the restrictions of Stalinist Moscow, Kent acquired a gun and a car, lived on the economy, and maintained a studio where he photographed his Soviet-furnished mistress in the buff. Kent also began keeping copies of official messages for “historical purposes.” While these facts might suggest that Kent was working for the NKVD, his State Department superiors, if they were aware of his activities, never pursued the issue. In 1939, Kent was transferred to London to be the code clerk in the US embassy there. He arrived in London with a suspected German agent MI5 was expecting, and both were put under surveillance. Kent was subsequently seen having an affair with the Russian émigré wife of a British soldier and meeting with another suspected German agent, the Baroness Anna Wolkoff.

In 1940, MI5 suspected that Wolkoff had given Kent evidence of her fifth column activities for safekeeping, and approval was obtained from the American embassy to search Kent’s flat. Kent was caught in bed with his mistress, and the search yielded evidence against the Baroness. But to everyone’s surprise, except Kent’s, the searchers also discovered hundreds of classified US embassy cables, many of which were private exchanges between Churchill—not yet prime minister—and President Roosevelt. Churchill was pressing for US war support, which was then illegal in the United States, and Roosevelt was shown to be sympathetic while running for a third term. Kent, an anti-interventionist, planned to use the cables to thwart Roosevelt’s reelection. Author Peter Rand explains how the British kept the fact of the Churchill-Roosevelt correspondence quiet while persuading Ambassador Kennedy to waive Kent’s diplomatic immunity so that he and Wolkoff could be tried in camera; both were convicted.

This is not the first book about the Kent affair,[2] but it is the first based on Kent’s personal papers and on interviews with some of the participants and their descendants. Thus Rand has added details about MI5’s role and suspicions that Kent’s Russian émigré mistress was a Soviet agent. Rand concludes with a summary of Kent’s life after his release from prison at the end of the war—he married a wealthy lady, publicly defended his actions, and ended his days in a trailer park in Arizona.

[1] CIA, Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf, Historical

[2] Bearse, Ray (1991) and Anthony Read. Conspirator: The Untold Story of Tyler Kent. New York: Doubleday

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The OSS in World War II Albania

Title:                      The OSS in World War II Albania

Author:                  Peter Lucas

Lucas, Peter (2007). The OSS in World War II Albania : Covert Operations And Collaboration With Communist Partisans. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co

LCCN:    2007006379

D802.A38 L78 2007


  • “This volume describes how the OSS aided the Communist-led Partisans in an attempt to weaken the Nazi cause in Albania and neighboring Italy. The book presents a look at the small core of hardened men who comprised these highly specialized teams. Interviews with still-living participants and onsite research make this book a unique resource”–Provided by publisher.


Date Posted:      March 28, 2017

This book and OSS: Red Group 2—A Fisherman Goes to War are reviewed here by Complied and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[1]

These two books, published long ago but only recently come to our attention, are about little known OSS operations. Both fill gaps in OSS history.

In his foreword to The OSS in World War H Albania, Fatos Tarifa, the former Albanian ambassador to the United States (2001-2005), makes an extraordinary claim: “This is an outstanding work and the first of its kind.” (p. 1) He is correct on both counts.

Author Peter Lucas, himself of Albanian descent, originally went to Albania intending to write a biography of Enver Hoxha, the Albanian dictator. When he came across a picture of Hoxha marching in Albania’s WWII victory parade, one of the men with him was identified as Capt. Tom Stefan, the OSS liaison officer to Albania. Unaware that such a position existed, Lucas decided to abandon the Hoxha story, and pursue the OSS involvement. He went on to interview survivors, examine archival records, and visit safehouses employed in Albania.

Lucas soon learned that the British also had a liaison team in Albania, several of whose members had written memoirs with little detail about the OSS role. Both teams were aware the partisans were communists, but they were fighting the Nazis—the common cause justifying Allied provision of communications, supplies, and intelligence—and Lucas tells how it was done. He also discusses the sometimes awkward relationship between Britain and the United States as both competed for influence with Hoxha. But The OSS in World War II Albania mainly focuses on the exploits of several OSS team members. Lucas devotes chapters to each, devoting the most space to Captain Stefan, son of Albanian parents, who spoke Hoxha’s same dialect and established a relationship, which was initially close, with the leader.

After the victory parade, Stefan’s relationship with Hoxha deteriorated, a circumstance arising from politics, Hoxha’s increasingly severe treatment of his enemies, and Stefan’s marriage to an Albanian without Hoxha’s permission. When the OSS officer was called home, Stefan smuggled his wife aboard the plane, ending his latent hopes of returning to Albania in a diplomatic post. After being rejected by the State Department for service as an Albania expert, Stefan’s marriage deteriorated, and he ended up dying homeless in Los Angeles.

With his photographs and superb documentation—both Albania and American—The OSS in World War II Albania provides a fine contribution to the OSS literature.

OSS: Red Group 2 is a memoir of David Boak’s service with an operational group (OG), the combat element of OSS. The overall story of the OGs appeared in Albert Lulushi’s recent book, Donovan’s Devils.[2] Boak’s contribution is a firsthand account of one man’s service with partisans in North Africa, England, France, India, Burma, and China with his unit “Red Group 2.”

Boak takes us from his fishing days in New Jersey, to college in North Carolina—interrupted by the war—to ski troops in Colorado, and finally to his adventures in OSS that began in early 1944. After service behind the enemy lines in France after the invasion, it was off to the Far East via California. He arrived in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater in April 1945. By the time he reached China, after driving the Ledo Road from India, the war was nearly over. But he managed one assignment in conjunction with Chinese guerrillas behind Japanese lines and a few skirmishes after the war was over because the Japanese army hadn’t gotten the word. Then, after more than six weeks afloat, Boak finally reached the “land of the Big PX” (p. 215) and could go fishing again.

OSS: Red Group 2 concludes with some pertinent observations on what the Army forgot about guerrilla warfare after WWII and what it took to relearn it all again during the present difficulties. Boak has a good sense of humor and tells his story well.

[1] Hayden Peake in The Intelligencer (22, 2, Fall 2016, pp.  124-125).  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

[2] Lulushi, Albert (2016). Donovan’s Devils: OSS Commandos Behind Enemy Lines: Europe, World War II. New York: Arcade Publishing

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OSS Red Group 2

Title:                      OSS Red Group 2

Author:                 David G Boak

Boak, David G. (2011). OSS Red Group 2: A Fisherman Goes to War

OCLC:                    711753426



Date Posted:      March 28, 2017

This book reviewed at The OSS in World War II Albania: Covert Operations and Collaboration with Communist Partisans


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The Soviet Union: Partisan Warfare And Political Warfare, Chapter 20

Title:                      The Soviet Union: Partisan Warfare And Political Warfare, Chapter 20

Author:                 Paul W. Blackstock

Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. “Chapter 20: “The Soviet Union: Partisan Warfare And Political Warfare”. Detroit: Gale Research Co.

LCCN:    74011567

Z6724.I7 B55


Intelligence service–Bibliography.


Subversive activities–Bibliography.

Date Updated:  March 28, 2017


Armstrong, John A. (1964) ed. Soviet Partisans in World War II. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press

Kirkpatrick, Lyman B. (1972) and Howland H. Sargeant. Soviet Political Warfare Techniques; Espionage And Propaganda in the 1970s. New York: National Strategy Information Center

Labin, Suzanne (1967). The Techniques of Soviet Propaganda. A Study Presented By The Subcommittee To Investigate The Administration Of The Internal Security Act And Other Internal Security Laws Of The Committee On The Judiciary, United States Congress, Ninetieth Congress, first session. Washington, DC: U.S. Govt. Print. Off

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Title:                      Rezident

Author:                 Robert K. Baker

Baker, Robert K. (2015). Rezident: The Espionage Odyssey f Soviet General Vasily Zarubin. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse

LCCN:    2014914199


Date Posted:      March 27, 2017

Complied and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[1]

If the era of the whistleblower didn’t begin on 7 August 1943, it was certainly presaged by an anonymous letter addressed to “Mr. Hoover” that arrived that day atFBI headquarters. Among other revelations, it named all the KGB (NKVD) of ficers serving in the Washington rezidency, including Vasily Zubilin (true name Zarubin), the Rezident responsible for KGB operations in America during World WarII.

FBI counterintelligence specialist and Russian linguist Robert Baker had been aware of the letter, and when it became public in 1995 it came to mind after he interviewed Zarubin’s daughter Zoya—herself a former KGB of ficer—in 1996 as part of his FBI duties. After his retirement in 1999, and with Zoya’s and her brother Peter’s cooperation, Baker began the research that resulted in Rezident.

Zarubin is well-known to enthusiasts of intelligence history for his frequently mentioned wartime service in the United States, where he coordinated the work of the Soviet Union’s spies. Baker tells the rest of Zarubin’s fascinating story. Born in 1894, he served in both the czar’s[2] army and the Red Army, from whence in 1919 he was recruited into the Cheka and rose to the rank of major general. In between, he was stationed in China, Finland, Demark (his first assignment and as an illegal), France, Germany, and his first duty in the United States (also as an illegal).

Zarubin managed to survive the Red Terror purges in the late 1930s. In 1940 he was assigned to a Polish prisoner of war camp near Katyn, where a mass execution of Polish of ficers took place. Baker found no evidence that Zarubin participated in the so-called Katyn massacre ordered by Stalin, as some have charged. (p. 351)

In July 1941, after the expulsion of the Soviet rezident in the United States—an interesting story in itself Zarubin arrived to replace him. For the next four years, accompanied by his third wife, Liza—also an

experienced NKVD officer, whose story Baker includes in some detail— the Zarubins worked diligently to run some of the most famous agents ever to serve the Soviet Union under the noses of the FBI.

Baker goes over Zarubin’s cases at length. The Moscow investigation that followed the receipt of the anonymous letter absolved Zarubin of malpractice but turned up an administrative problem that led to his recall in 1944. After a later investigation ended well, Zarubin was given awards and made deputy chief of the first chief directorate, where he served until retirement in 1948. Baker suggests retirement was not Zarubin’s choice but the result of one of Stalin’s anti-Jewish campaigns. (p. 552) After Stalin’s death, Zarubin periodically was called back to train new officers. He died in 1972 of a heart attack.

Rezident is thoroughly documented with Western and Russian sources—VENONA, books, and interviews—and supplemented with what Baker calls “administrative sections” that consider attributes of the Zarubin story that add background but can’t be firmly attributed. Baker also adds detailed historical descriptions of events surrounding Zarubin’s career that add helpful context. Baker has done a fine job showing how the KGB/NKVD functioned against its “imperialist” enemies through the life of one of its most effective officers.

[1] Hayden Peake in The Intelligencer (22, 2, Fall 2016, pp.  123-124).  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

[2] I prefer “Tsar”.

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The Israeli Secret Services And The Struggle Against Terrorism

Title:                      The Israeli Secret Services And The Struggle Against Terrorism

Author:                 Ami Pedahzur

Pedahzur, Ami v(2009). The Israeli Secret Services And The Struggle Against Terrorism. New York: Columbia University Press

LCCN:    2008025949

HV6433.I75 P47 2009


  • The emergence of Israel’s counterterrorism doctrine — The path to the defensive model and back — Rescuing hostages — The Lebanese puzzle — New challenges from the West Bank and Gaza — The global challenge of Iran and Hezbollah — New rivals, old responses — A war against an elusive enemy — The second Lebanon war and beyond — Fighting the terrorism plague.


Date Posted:      March 27, 2017

Reviewed by Yehuda J. Lev[1]

Having read quite a few books on security and terrorism, topics that fascinated me during my civil service career with the Government of Israel, I was looking with interest for an Israeli author with an impressive security background that would for once provide balanced criticism of the Israeli counterterrorism struggle.

I believe that Mr. Pedahzur has done justice to this topic in his book, The Israeli Secret Services & The Struggle Against Terrorism, despite the fact that his service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) was much like mine: he was a medic. Mr. Pedahzur is not an acclaimed, retired warrior from Mossad (the Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations, one of three main Israeli entities tasked mostly with activities outside of Israel), or Shabak (an acronym for the General Security Service, known also as Shin Bet, which specializes in intelligence gathering within Israel and the occupied territories, but occasionally operates in Israel’s neighboring countries). And yet his book is well written and superbly researched, and reads almost like a thriller. In my own career, I served in the Israel National Police (INP) and in various assignments that allowed me more than a fleeting peek into the Israeli Intelligence Community (IC). I was pleasantly surprised to find this book finally tells the truth about a painful and problematic topic: Israel’s struggle with terrorism.

Pedahzur has not just written another book about Israel and its six decades of being plagued (mostly) by Palestinian terrorism. He takes the reader through the country’s history since the end of World War I, a war in which Jews aided the Allies by spying on forces of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Israel gained its independence in 1948, and since then its history has been marked by a struggle with terrorism. Pedahzur attempts to observe this effort mostly from the war model, which also reflects the counterterrorism policies of the United States and other countries. The “war model,” or “War on Terror,” deals with policies that increasingly have undermined civil liberties and human rights, and at the same time evaded or ignored the underlying causes of terrorism, thus increasing the terrorist threat. This model deals mostly with the involvement of various IDF Special Forces units, and how they were deployed against what essentially is seen as revolutionary, or guerrilla, warfare. Pedahzur, however, is careful to omit almost no one who takes part in the counterterrorism struggle, and when applicable observes it from two other perspectives: judiciary, which deals with terrorism as a criminal act, and reconciliatory, which handles it through politics and diplomacy.

Israeli politicians and leaders are quite often prominent figures who have retired from the IDF or IC; thus, there is little wonder that for over sixty years the country has dealt with terrorism using the war model. One of Pedahzur’s observations is that Israel’s reputation as one of the best, most experienced terrorism opponents may not entirely be deserved. In an undated interview, he posed the question of why terrorism against Israelis has intensified and become more deadly over the years if Israel is indeed such a counterterrorism superpower. Pedahzur proposes that time and again the policymakers erred by using various military commando units, barely trained in counterterrorism warfare, instead of a superbly trained police counterterrorism commando group such as the Special Police Unit Yehidat Mishtara Meyiuhedet (or Yamam, by which I was trained in several counternarcotics operations). Until recently, Yamam was always second to one of the IDF surveillance commando units (Sayarot). Pedahzur covers the everyday tasks of the units belonging to the Army Military Intelligence (Sayeret Matkal), and a variety of other special military units, including Mossad. He explains each unit’s routine duties, as well as its performance in counterterrorism operations. Through detailed descriptions of specific hijackings, kidnappings, and hostage situations, Pedahzur illustrates the success or failure of the unit(s) that took part in the operation, and describes the action’s place in Israeli history.

I feel obligated to say that even sage Israelis frequently harbor incorrect conceptions of the participation and performance of these units in counterterrorism situations. Moreover, they are often wrong about which unit was involved in a certain operation. For example, after the Ma’alot hostage crisis on May 15, 1974, it was widely published that Sayeret Golani conducted the assault, when in reality, as Pedahzur notes, Sayeret Matkal carried it out. Another example of erroneous information involved the 1976 hostage rescue effort at Entebbe, during which Yoni Netanyahu, commander of the ground assault troops, was shot in the throat and died almost instantly. The media glorified his death, claiming he was shot in the chest and died over an hour later while being aided by a doctor and surrounded by his warriors. It is widely accepted that the Israeli media are truthful but naturally somewhat biased, so sometimes might not disclose all the known facts and thus leave room for speculation. Dover Tzahal, official IDF spokesman, carefully avoids outright lies, but at times issues only partially true statements. He and the civil media seem to have tacitly agreed to delay or suppress certain national security-related facts. Only a minimal number of state security-related news articles are suppressed, but Dover Tzahal’s announcements have the highest credibility and exert the strongest influence on public opinion. After any successful or failed counterterrorism operation, it is usually Tzahal who breaks the news.

Pedahzur concludes that the long-term aim of destroying Palestinian terrorism was not only unsuccessful, but led to intensified terrorist attacks. He also states that Israel has been only partially successful in deterring enemy attacks. The author claims “the psychological effect (of Israeli combat expertise) on Palestinian and Lebanese fighters was of no great consequence. Not only were they not deterred from continuing to strike at Israel, but their efforts also intensified over the years…” (p. 6). Other counterterrorism experts have asserted that Israel’s military and political bureaucracies have been far too slow in adapting to changes within terrorist organizations, and thus have coped poorly with splinter cells and small terrorist groups—even with larger entities such as Hizbollah and Hamas. As a result, relatively small terrorist organizations with limited funding can terrorize Israel, especially with weapons of mass destruction. In addition, the country has been slow to develop technology and urban warfare tactics for combating terrorists, despite the fact that its military industry is one of the most fertile in the world.

I would like to briefly compare the results of Israel’s counterterrorism efforts and those of the United States in Afghanistan following 9/11. As stated earlier, over the six decades of its existence Israel has fought terrorism with limited results. It has suppressed terrorism periodically, but never conclusively. Similarly, the United States—after ten long years of battling the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other parts of the world with a large modern army, including special units and innovative technology—has failed to liquidate Afghan terrorism. Most analysts claim that al-Qaida has been dramatically weakened and splintered. Yet today it affiliates itself with other Salafi terrorist groups that have taken part in an unknown number of post-9/11 attacks, such as the 2004 railroad bombing in Spain, the 2005 subway bombing in the UK, and the foiled 2006 plan to simultaneously blow up ten aircraft on their way to the United States. Hundreds of thousands of Salafi and Shia Muslims worldwide fund and support Middle Eastern, East African, and Asian terrorist groups, as well as international al-Qaida and other Salafist groups. The notion of defeating America, as well as annihilating Israel and all Jews, is almost invariably sounded.

Israeli and American efforts to liquidate terrorism have thus far failed. Pedahzur correctly sees terrorism as a psychological tactic aimed at the public, which in turn influences leaders and decision makers through electoral pressure. A fast and devastating response to a terrorist attack serves to reassure the public, possibly moderately boosting morale. Besides being a temporary “Band-Aid,” however, such responses truly benefit only the political leaders (p. 8).

The public’s influence does not stop with politicians. It trickles down to the intelligence community and military and plays an important role in funding and disbursement. Pedahzur explains this well in relation to Israel’s IC and military units deployed in counterterrorism efforts. The issue is better understood in terms of the constant turf fighting among elements of the Israeli counterterrorism community. The special ops units of the IDF and IC are secrecy-oriented. Most of their operations are so secret, in fact, that the units almost never receive overt credit for their success. Counterterrorism is a field in which participation and success hit the media very quickly, and thus the unit gets its credit much in the fashion of the U.S. Navy Seals following the liquidation of Usama bin Ladin. Hence, the military units compete with one another. This competition is also prevalent among Shabak, the Military Intelligence Directorate (Aman), Mossad, and, to a much lesser extent, the police, whose role was not mentioned in this book despite the fact that police investigators routinely participated in the arrests and interrogation of terror suspects at least until 1991 (when I left the INP). The immediate outcome of this competition among intelligence units and organizations is the familiar unwillingness to share knowledge and cooperate.

Pedahzur is correct in stating that this unfortunate feature of the Israeli IC can have a devastating influence on the struggle against terrorism. Even though certain lessons of 9/11 have been learned and changes made in the American IC, cooperation and information sharing have been limited. This “malaise” among security services is common in most democracies, and unlikely to be completely resolved. Although this unhealthy competition may distract security organizations from their original tasks involving state security and undermine national strategic interests, some may view such competition as a sign of healthy agility. I do not.

[1] Yehuda J. Lev, in Journal of Strategic Security (5, 1, Spring 2012, pp. 85-88). Lev is Lieutenant Colonel, Israel National Police (Retired)Recommended Citation: Lev, Yehuda J.. “The Israeli Secret Services & The Struggle Against Terrorism by Ami Pedahzur. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010).” Journal of Strategic Security 5, no. 1 (2012): 85-88. DOI: Available at:

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