Historical Dictionary of International Intelligence

Title:                  Historical Dictionary of International Intelligence

Author:                Nigel West

West, Nigel (2006, 2015). Historical Dictionary of International Intelligence. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press

LCCN:    2005036220

UB250 .W48 2006


Date Updated:  September 28, 2016

Nigel West is one of my heroes. He has never been a spy, nor is he academically certified as an intelligence expert. He served as a member of Parliament in the UK, became fascinated with the world of spying, became a journalist, and finally a respected researcher in the field once dubbed espionage.

The practice of intelligence has never been more important nor more sophisticated than it is today. Its coming-of-age began during WW II, which saw the birth of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in the United States and the XX Committee to supervise the activities of double agents in Great Britain, and during the Cold War, where its rapid technological advances forever changed intelligence-gathering methods. Today, with the growing concern for terrorism, intelligence is more vital than ever and is needed not only by major powers but virtually all countries.

In this time of change, it is essential to consider the evolution of intelligence, which is the primary perspective of the Historical Dictionary of International Intelligence. This volume includes a list of acronyms, a chronology, a bibliography, and hundreds of cross-referenced dictionary entries on the agencies and agents, operations and equipment, tradecraft and jargon, and countries. No military reference collection is complete without it.

In addition to the excellent definition of terms Nigel West presents a list of acronyms in this book.

Caveat. Perpendat itaque lector cavendum (civilis).[1]

Reviewed by Joseph C. Goulden[2],[3]

While most intelligence operations would seem at first glance to have an international component, intelligence historian Nigel West has chosen cases where the international element is dominant. This new edition of the Historical Dictionary of International Intelligence has 130 additional pages that include events that occurred since 2005, when the first edition was published. Examples include the 10 SVR sleeper agents arrested in the United States, the Litvinenko polonium poison case in London, the entry on drones, the raid that killed Usama Bin Ladin, an entry on the Ukraine and its intelligence service, plus a number of entries on terrorism. Many other items have been updated. These include the Peter Lee, Philby, and Pollard cases, and the entries on Northern Ireland, the CIA, Mossad, SVR, and most other intelligence services.

A few errors have crept in. Penkovsky was not “rebuffed as a likely provocation” (p. 19)—the officer sent to make contact just failed. Not all those listed under the heading DCI held that post, and Michael Morell was the acting DICTA. And Rufina Philby was the fourth, not third, of Kim Philby’s wives. (p. 269)

As has become a tradition with West’s historical dictionaries, this one has a fine and expanded bibliography preceded by an interesting, updated essay. Despite the publisher’s continued refusal to include source citations, this is a solid point of departure for scholars and interested readers.

[1] On occasion, personal loyalties and opinions can be carved in stone and defended with a vengeance — at times with some venom thrown in. In these situations, the actual importance of the subject matter is dwarfed by the amount of aggression expressed. Retain a sense of proportion in all online and in-person discussions. [From The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies.]

[2] Goulden, Joseph C. in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (22, 2, Spring 2016, p. 133). This review is of the 2015 2nd edition of the Historical Dictionary of International Intelligence 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 editons of The Washington Times or The Washington Lawyer (DC Bar Association) and are reprinted 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.

[3] The citation for the 2nd edition is West, Nigel (2015). Historical Dictionary of International Intelligence, 2nd ed. Lanham, MD: Rowan & Littlefield [LCCN: 2014049846; UB250 .W48 2015]

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17 Responses to Historical Dictionary of International Intelligence

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