Intelligence Studies in Britain and the US

Title:                      Intelligence Studies in Britain and the US

Author:                 Christopher J. Moran

Moran Christopher J. (2013) and Christopher J Murphy, eds. Intelligence Studies in Britain and the US: Historiography since 1945. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press, Ltd. (e book)

OCLC:    841912692



Date Updated:  February 15, 2017

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

Reviewed by Joseph C. Goulden[2]

This interesting study gets off to a contentious start. In his preface to this recent acquisition, Professor Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones sets out some of the perils encountered by those studying intelligence as the field has evolved since the late 20th century. He makes “special mention of the American curse of the revolving door”—those who join the Intelligence Community from academia and then return to teaching. They can “go native, remerging in academia as propagandists. They may not have been the best scholars in the first place.” And those who are “top scholars do not relish the contempt in which they are often held, once having dabbled in ‘dirty espionage.’” Jeffreys-Jones’s scorn is not reserved for those with experience in both professions. “Teaching and scholarship in the intelligence field,” he goes on to say, “is, to too great an extent, blighted by the presence of pensioners who are not only biased in favour of officialdom, but also second rate intellectually. Such problems do not exist in Britain.” (pp. xvi–xvii)

No specifics are provided and fortunately his sniffy affronts do not reflect the tenor of the 16 contributions that examine how questions of truth, evidence, and method have been dealt with in intelligence history. The first eight articles deal with American intelligence, four by American authors and the balance by UK academics. The second eight focus on British intelligence, with articles by British scholars.

The topics covered in the first eight articles begin with four by British academics. The first, by Richard Aldrich, surveys what has been written about US intelligence since the end of the Cold War. Then come two separate studies of CIA covert action, one by Kaeten Mistry and the other by Matthew Jones and Paul McGarr. Whether espionage fiction mirrors the real world is discussed by Simon Willmetts.

The four American contributions include a study of the historical writings about the FBI by US academic Melissa Graves, a comparison of intelligence fiction and nonfiction by former CIA inspector general Fred Hitz, and an analysis of the CIA’s Congress for Cultural Freedom, by academic Eric Pullin. Although Pullin complains about “CIA’s history of pathological secrecy [and] routine obstructionism,” (p. 47) he manages an interesting account. The piece by CIA historian Nich¬olas Dujmovic assesses the value ofusing the putative CIA history, Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner[3], in teaching intelligence. Even though his earlier review of the book established its severe weaknesses, he argues it should be used in conjunction with other texts so the issue can be seen in context.

The articles on British intelligence historiography cover an interesting range of topics. They include a discussion by Robert Johnson on the origins and contemporary significance of the term “the Great Game,” Jim Beach’s piece on the relatively few historical accounts of military intelligence, and a study of interrogation by Samantha Newb cry that focuses on the intelligence to be gained.

Christopher Murphy looks at the precedent-setting publication issues encountered before M.R.D. Foot’s SOE in France[4] went to press, and Daniel Lomas examines a number of WWII operations and the often inconsistently applied government policies to control their telling with particular attention to the story of the interrogation unit known as the “London Cage.” Adam Svendsen contributes a study of the British intelligence literature—books and articles—that appeared in 1968, arguing that these established a trend in intelligence history that continues to this day. The late Chapman Pincher provides a “retrospective” on British intelligence from an investigative journalist’s point of view that modestly highlights his contribution.

The concluding article by historians Christopher Baxter and Keith Jeffery analyzes the contribution of “official histories,” acknowledging that they are seldom “definitive” since deletions and omissions aralways required.

Intelligence Studies in Britain and the US is a valuable contribution to intelligence history.

[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, pp. 126-127). 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] Weiner, Tim (2007). Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA. New York: Anchor Books

[4] Foot, M.R.D. (1966). SOE In France: An Account of The Work of British Special Operations Executive in France 1940-1944. London:H.M. Stationery Off

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