Title:                      Silver

Author:                  Mihir Bose

Bose, Mihir (2016). Silver: The Spy Who Fooled The Nazis: The Most Remarkable Agent of the Second World War. Stroud: Fonthill Media Limited

OCLC:    967756050



Date Posted:      April 25, 2017

Reviewed in The Intelligencer[1]

Silver was the codename for the only quintuple spy of the Second World War, spying for the Italians, Germans, Japanese, Soviets, and the British. The Germans awarded him the Iron Cross, Germany’s highest military decoration, and paid him £2.5 million in today’s money. In reality Silver deceived the Nazis on behalf of the Soviets and the British.

In 1942 the Russians decided to share Silver with the British, the only time during the war that the Soviets agreed to such an arrangement. This brought him under the control of Peter Fleming who acted as his spy master. Germans also gave silver a transmitter which broadcast misleading military information directly to Abwehr headquarters in Berlin.

Silver was one of many codenames for a man whose real name was Bhagat Ram Talwar, a Hindu Pathan from the North West Frontier province of then British India. Between 1941 and 1945, Silver made twelve trips from Peshawar to Kabul to supply false information to the Germans, always making the near-200-mile journey on foot over mountain passes and hostile tribal territory. Once when an Afghan nearly rumbled him, he invited him to a curry meal in which he had mixed deadly tiger’s whiskers[2], killing the Afghan.

[1] Reviewed in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (22, 3, Winter 2016-17, p. 135).

[2] The Balinese held the folkloric belief that the ground powder of tiger whiskers was a potent and undetectable poison for one’s foe. Surprising to see it here in a book of nonfiction.

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The Plots Against Hitler

Title:                      The Plots Against Hitler

Author:                 Danny Orbach

Orbach, Danny (2016). The Plots Against Hitler. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

LCCN:    2015043037

DD247.H5 O72 2016


  • “A new and definitive account of the anti-Nazi underground in Germany and its numerous plots to assassinate Adolf Hitler”– Provided by publisher.


  • Introduction — Opposition in flames — “That damned mare!” : the army top-brass scandal — The officer, the mayor and the spy — “In the darkest colors” : the decision of General Beck — The bird and its cage : first attempt at coup d’état — Without a network : the lone assassin — The point of no return : pogrom and war — The spirit of Zossen : when networks fail — Signs in the darkness : rebuilding the conspiracy — On the wings of thought : networks of imagination — Brokers on the frontline : the new strategy — War of extermination : the conspirators and the Holocaust — Flash and liqueur bottles : assassinations attempts in the East — Codename U-7 : rescue and abyss — Count von Stauffenberg : the charismatic turn — Thou shalt kill : the problem of tyrannicide — A wheel conspiracy : the Stauffenberg Era — The final showdown : July 20, 1944 — The shirt of Nessus — Motives in the twilight — Networks of resistance — Epilogue : knights in dirty armor : “heroes of the resistance and us”.


Date Posted:      April 25, 2017

Reviewed in The Intelligencer[1]

Israeli historian Orbach analyzes the resistance movements that opposed the Nazis. Covers the famous Operation Valkyrie plot, and gives equal treatment to other serious attempts to resist the Nazis and assassinate Hitler. The extent of the resistance efforts of Admiral Canaris (head of German Military Intelligence), will surprise many readers. Too many historians have either idolized the resisters as heroes or condemned them as self-serving criminals. Orbach concludes that the resisters were imperfect but exceptional humans reacting to the moral repugnancy of criminal Nazis acts.

[1] The Intelligencer (22, 2, Fall 2016, p. 130 ).

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Her Finest Hour

Title:                      Her Finest Hour

Author:                 Gabrielle McDonald-Rothwell

McDonald-Rothwell, Gabrielle (2017). Her Finest Hour: The Heroic Life of Diana Rowden, Wartime Secret Agent. The Hill Merrywalks, Stroud UK: Amberley



Date Posted:      April 24, 2017

Reviewed in The Intelligencer[1]

Diana Rowden was an agent with the Special Operations Executive (SOE), dropped into France alongside Noor Inayat Khan and worked in the Resistance stronghold of the Franche-Comte department. Hunted at every turn by the Gestapo, Diana worked tirelessly for the Allied war effort, sabotaging the Nazi-requisitioned Peugeot factory and providing the British military with frequent radio messages. She was betrayed by one of her own colleagues, and faced desperation in concentration camps—murdered by her captors with the end of the war in sight. This full biography, untold until now, attempts for the first time to honor Diana’s service to her country. At a time when the use of female spies was controversial and marred by establishment prejudices, Diana’s tragic life is here given full recognition. Although she was later mentioned in Dispatches and awarded an MBE and the Croix de Guerre, she has all but vanished from the annals of WWII history.

[1] Reviewed in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (22, 3, Winter 2016-17, p. 134).

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Navy SEALs

Title:                      Navy SEALs

Author:                  Don Mann

Mann, Don (2017) and Lance Burton. Navy SEALs: The Combat History of the Deadliest Warriors on the Planet. New York: Skyhorse,



Date Posted:      April 21, 2017

Reviewed in The Intelligencer[1]

Mann and Burton take the reader through the inception of the Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDU) and Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) during World War II, their testing and development in Korea and into the Vietnam War, where the SEALs truly laid the groundwork for their legendary status, and on into the present day. The authors highlight the major steps and operations along the way, discuss the training and what it takes, and explore some of the most important moments in SEAL history.

[1] Reviewed in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (22, 3, Winter 2016-17, p. 134).

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The Darkening Web

Title:                      The Darkening Web

Author:                 Alexander Klimburg

Klimburg, Alexander (2017). The Darkening Web: The War for Cyberspace. New York: Penguin Press

LCCN:    2017008579



  • “No single invention of the last half century has changed the way we live now as much as the Internet. Alexander Klimburg was a member of the generation for whom it was a utopian ideal turned reality: a place where ideas, information, and knowledge could be shared and new freedoms found and enjoyed. Two decades later, the future isn’t so bright any more: increasingly, the Internet is used as a weapon and a means of domination by states eager to exploit or curtail global connectivity in order to further their national interests. Klimburg is a leading voice in the conversation on the implications of this dangerous shift, and in The Darkening Web, he explains why we underestimate the consequences of states’ ambitions to project power in cyberspace at our peril: Not only have hacking and cyber operations fundamentally changed the nature of political conflict–ensnaring states in a struggle to maintain a precarious peace that could rapidly collapse into all-out war–but the rise of covert influencing and information warfare has enabled these same global powers to create and disseminate their own distorted versions of reality in which anything is possible. At stake are not only our personal data or the electrical grid, but the Internet as we know it today–and with it the very existence of open and democratic societies. Blending anecdote with argument, Klimburg brings us face-to-face with the range of threats the struggle for cyberspace presents, from an apocalyptic scenario of debilitated civilian infrastructure to a 1984-like erosion of privacy and freedom of expression. Focusing on different approaches to cyber-conflict in the US, Russia and China, he reveals the extent to which the battle for control of the Internet is as complex and perilous as the one surrounding nuclear weapons during the Cold War–and quite possibly as dangerous for humanity as a whole. Authoritative, thought-provoking, and compellingly argued, The Darkening Web makes clear that the debate about the different aspirations for cyberspace is nothing short of a war over our global values”– Provided by publisher.


  • The body of cyber — Mind over matter — Everyone can be a god — Ruling the domain — Pin-striped cyber — No one but us — Attack to excess — Strategic innuendo — Russia’s invisible war — Of siloviki and cyber crime — Pwnage diplomacy — The Chinese cyber dream — Manning the great firewall — Handling the barbarians — Parsing cyber power — The great cyber game — An end-to-end world — Conclusion — Epilogue.


Date Posted:      April 20, 2017

Reviewed in The Intelligencer[1]

In the beginning, the Internet seemed an unqualified good: a way to share information, increase pro-ductivity, and experience new freedoms and diversions. Klimburg was a member of those idealists. Two decades later, all of us face the reality that our invention has evolved into an unprecedented weapon and means of domination. It is the main stage for global confrontation for this century.

In this new arena of conflict, brilliant individuals and informal networks have the capacity to bring ostensibly stable societies to their knees—but also save them from destruction—and nations are reconceiving information as the ultimate weapon and configuring their defenses accordingly.

Klimburg presents the urgent reality that we are vastly underestimating the far-reaching consequences of states’ aspirations to project power in cyberspace…a development as complex and troubling as the advent of nuclear weapons during the Cold War—and quite possibly as dangerous for humanity as a whole.

[1] Reviewed in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (22, 3, Winter 2016-17, p. 134).

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Hate Spin

Title:                      Hate Spin

Author:                 Cherian George

George, Cherian (2016). Hate Spin: The Manufacture of Religious Offense And Its Threat To Democracy. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press

LCCN:    2016014335

K5304.6 .G46 2016


  • Hate spin as politics by other means — By what rules? : human rights and religious authority — God, Google, and the globalization of offendedness — India : Narendra Modi and the harnessing of hate — Indonesia : democracy tested amid rising intolerance — United States : exceptional freedoms, fabricated fears — Pushing back, through media and civil society — Assertive pluralism for a world of irreducible diversity.


Date Posted:      April 20, 2017

Reviewed in The Intelligencer[1]

“In the era of the rise of manufactured outrage, George sheds light on a politics of grievance … through a narrative structure that moves seamlessly across several continents.”[2]

“Hate speech: Scholars have documented it. Politicians have tried to legislate it. And activists have sought meaningful ways to counter hate speech without violating freedom of speech. But only Cherian George has provided a deep, theoretical approach that connects the nuance of the debates in ways that are translatable across cultural, religious, and political lines. Hate Spin goes beyond easy labels to understanding the way media are misappropriated to fuel hatred and violence, impinging on democracy along the way. Unlike other scholars, George expands beyond a single religious tradition or medium.”[3]

[1] Reviewed in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (22, 3, Winter 2016-17, pp. 138-139).

[2] Michael Signer, Lecturer, University of Virginia, author of Demagogue: The Fight to Save Democracy from Its Worst Enemies

[3] Debra Mason, Professor, School of Journalism, University of Missouri

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The Woman Who Smashed Codes

Title:                      The Woman Who Smashed Codes

Author:                 Jason Fagone

Fagone, Jason (2017). The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies. New York: HarperCollins

OCLC:                    981547889



Joining the ranks of Hidden Figures and In the Garden of Beasts, the incredible true story of the greatest codebreaking duo that ever lived, an American woman and her husband who invented the modern science of cryptology together and used it to confront the evils of their time, solving puzzles that unmasked Nazi spies and helped win World War II. In 1912, at the height of World War I, brilliant Shakespeare expert Elizebeth Smith went to work for an eccentric tycoon on his estate outside Chicago. The tycoon had close ties to the U.S. government, and he soon asked Elizebeth to apply her language skills to an exciting new venture: code-breaking. There she met the man who would become her husband, groundbreaking cryptologist William Friedman. Though she and Friedman are in many ways the “Adam and Eve” of the NSA, Elizebeth’s story, incredibly, has never been told. In The Woman Who Smashed Codes, Jason Fagone chronicles the life of this extraordinary woman, who played an integral role in our nation’s history for forty years. After World War I, Smith used her talents to catch gangsters and smugglers during Prohibition, then accepted a covert mission to discover and expose Nazi spy rings that were spreading like wildfire across South America, advancing ever closer to the United States. As World War II raged, Elizabeth fought a highly classified battle of wits against Hitler’s Reich, cracking multiple versions of the Enigma machine used by German spies. Meanwhile, inside an Army vault in Washington, William worked furiously to break Purple, the Japanese version of Enigma—and eventually succeeded, at a terrible cost to his personal life. Fagone unveils America’s code-breaking history through the prism of Smith’s life, bringing into focus the unforgettable events and colorful personalities that would help shape modern intelligence. Blending the lively pace and compelling detail that are the hallmarks of Erik Larson’s bestsellers with the atmosphere and intensity of The Imitation Game, The Woman Who Smashed Codes is page-turning popular history at its finest.

Date Posted:      April 19, 2017

Reviewed in The Intelligencer[1]

The origins of code-breaking during WWI. In 1912, while Shakespeare expert Elizebeth Smith was working for an eccentric tycoon with ties to the government, she was introduced to both code-breaking and visionary cryptologist William Friedman, who became her husband. Fagone details Smith’s unique contributions to cryptology, which included helping to capture gangsters during Prohibition and exposing Nazi spies in South America.

[1] Reviewed in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (22, 3, Winter 2016-17, p. 134).

Posted in cryptography | Tagged , , | Leave a comment