The Dreyfus Trials

Title:                      The Dreyfus Trials

Author:                  Guy Chapman

Chapman, Guy (1972). The Dreyfus Trials. London: B. T. Batsford

LCCN:    72172107

DC354 .C473


Date Updated:  March 29, 2017

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

No bibliography of espionage and intelligence would be complete without including something on this famous case. Chapman’s book is one of the latest efforts to deal with the many facets and complexities of the affair. This updating of his 1955 Dreyfus Case: A Reassessment[2] takes advantage of new material.

The Dreyfus case is fascinating and instructive in a number of ways. First, though surpassed by others when judged by the strategic damage and consequences of the espionage itself, it is surpassed by none as a political and intelligence cause célèbre. Second, it is a showcase, a horror showcase if you will, of how individuals in an intelligence organization, even in a democracy, can abuse their trust. Third, the performance of French counterintelligence was of the lowest quality when dealing with the investigation and arrest of Dreyfus. It is an object “how-not-to” lesson in CI. (On the other hand, the performance of a later CI section was both professional and courageous.) Fourth, it shows that just as there were intelligence officers guilty of errors and illegal or dishonest acts, so it was an intelligence officer who was honest and courageous enough to blow the whistle on an injustice. Fifth, it highlights the dangers that follow when intelligence officers approach an investigation with prejudice, bias, or a closed mind. These lessons are well brought out by Chapman, though some experts felt his 1955 book was too kind to Dreyfus’s accusers and some may feel the same about this work. For a good, brief rendition of the French cryptanalytical work in connection with the case and of the French successes against Italian codes, see Kahn’s The Codebreakers.[3]

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, p. 120

[2] Chapman, Guy (1955). The Dreyfus Case, a Reassessment. London: R. Hart-Davis. [LCCN: 55002667]

[3] Kahn, David (1967). The Codebreakers: The Story of Secret Writing. New York: Macmillan


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