Need to Know

Title:                      Need to Know

Author:                Władysław Bułhak

Bułhak, Władysław (2014) and Thomas Wegener Friis, eds. Need to Know: Eastern and Western Perspectives. Odense, Denmark: University Press of Southern Denmark

LCCN:    2015413524

JF1525.I6 N44 2014


  • “This anthology presents a selection of some of the best papers from the Brussels ‘Need to know’ conference”–Page 11.

Date Posted:      November 30, 2016

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

Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[2]

“Are Intelligence Studies a dirty business?”[3] (p. 7) In their studies of Cold War intelligence, the editors of Need To Know were asked this question by scholars from Central European nations. The mere asking, they concluded, suggested there was inadequate knowledge of the topic in general, and in particular, the Anglo-American tradition of intelligence studies where the value of intelligence has long been recognized. Thus they sought greater interaction among the researchers in East and West. Toward this end, a series of “Need To Know” conferences have been sponsored by the Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) and the University of Southern Denmark (USD). The 14 well-documented papers from the first conference presented intelligence research “coming out of Central Europe” (p. 11) and are contained in Need To Know.

For many Western readers and scholars, the authors—all academics—and their topics will be at once unfamiliar and enlightening. For example, Helmut Müller-Enbergs asks, “How Successful was the Stasi in the West After All?” Kimmo Elo looks at “East German HUMINT Networks on Nordic Affairs” and Douglas Selvage discusses “Soviet-Bloc Active Measures and the Helsinki Process, 1976-1983.” Jacek Tebinka analyzes “Intelligence in Anglo-Polish Relations,” and Sławomir Łukasiewicz reports on “Polish Communists’ Intelligence against European Institutions during the Cold War.” Czech scholar Matej MedveckῪ reviews “Czechoslovak Foreign Intelligence Service and Great Britain at the Beginning of the Cold War,” and Kurt Jensen and Don Muton analyze the “Early Years of the Canada-United States Foreign Intelligence Relationship.” Terrorism was also of interest to the Soviet bloc nations, and Przemysław Gasztold-Sen’s article looks at “Polish Intelligence and International Terrorism during the Cold War.” Austria has long been a center of espionage activity, and Dieter Bacher examines the early Cold War days in his piece, “The Recruitment of Austrian Citizens by Foreign Intelligence Services in Austria from 1946-1953.” Belgium, recently labeled the “Kintergarten” and “the place to be for intelligence officers,” (p. 175) is studied by Idesbalk Goddeeris in his piece, “Polish Intelligence in Brussels.” The subject of counterintelligence gets attention from Patryk Plestok in his chapter, “Polish Counterintelligence and Western Diplomats (1956-1989),” and Thomas Wegener Friis considers it, too, in his contribution, “Intelligence and. Counterintelligence in Denmark.”

On a more general academic topic, Wladysław Bulhak’s contribution, “In search of a Methodology in the Cold War Communist Intelligence Studies,” asks whether Western research methodology can be applied when studying the former Eastern services.

Although the ubiquity of intelligence is taken for granted, Need To Know adds new viewpoints and demonstrates how it is viewed and applied by other nations. We are not alone.

[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] Peake, Hayden in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (21, 3, Fall/Winter 2015, p. 115). 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

[3] The question in context is posed, “A couple of years ago, one of our reviewers noted that intelligence is a ‘dirty business’ and that Intelligence Studies are somehow guilty by association. Is this true? Are Intelligence Studies a ‘dirty business’? And do you, interested reader, in effect sully yourself by opening this book? It is not possible to deny what is self-evident: Intelligence services deal with deception and betrayal. Spies lie for a living, feelings get hurt, and, sometimes, people even die. So wouldn’t it be better for the rest of us to turn the blind eye to the world of spy craft and just carry on as if it did not exist?”

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