Dictionary of Espionage And Intelligence

Title:                      Dictionary of Espionage And Intelligence

Author:                 Bob Burton

Burton, Bob (2014). Dictionary of Espionage And Intelligence: Over 800 Phrases Used in International And Covert Espionage. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing

LCCN:    2014009686

JK468.I6 B88 2014


  • “From Bob Burton – a former member of both the civilian and military intelligence communities and America’s most feared bounty hunter – comes the complete lexicon of over eight hundred terms and meanings used in international and covert espionage. Top Secret includes the most up-to-date terminology of special operations from A to Z, including: Breaktime: The time it takes to break down he resistance level of a subject in an interrogation of a brutal nature – usually 5-7 hours; Hero Project: Projects, operations, or extractions considered too dangerous, with only the most skilled personnel able to pull it off; Cake or Death: An unspoken but soon-realized ultimatum that a prisoner of the spook war understands as his personal fate – cooperate or die. Compiled by a man who knows covert action and clandestine warfare from the inside out, Top Secret is a perfect compendium if the secret language spoken by those who fight the silent war. “– Provided by publisher.


Date Posted:      December 1, 2016

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

Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[2]

The entries in this so-called dictionary of phrases by former Marine and current bounty hunter Bob Burton are brimming with semantic blemishes. The most prevalent is the misuse of the word “phrase.” Since phrase is defined as two or more words, many of the entries—including the entire first page—don’t qualify. More important is the mischaracterization of generic terms as part of the intelligence jargon—as, for example, anagram, inventory, graphic arts, buck slip, collection agency, danger signals, desk, plain language, interpretation, and release.

There are also a number of entries for alleged, out-of-date, or no longer extant organizations. A few are worth noting: House 7, Pacific Corporation, PICKLE newsletter, PFIAB, Tea and Biscuit Company, Technical Services Division (TSD), W. H. Division within CIA, and the grossly outdated CIA organization chart. (p. 188)

The most serious deficiencies in the dictionary are the entries with incorrect definitions or explanations. For example, “Agent-in-place … often used to describe a defector …” is not only self-contradictory, it is not in the fiction or non-fiction espionage lexicon; (p. 6) “CampX” was a WWII (not a Cold War) designation; “ears only,” “faith-based-intelligence,” (p. 71) “fix the hole,” and “lexspionage” (p. 99) are not in the intelligence or espionage lexicon; “Jedburg” (correct spelling JEDBURGH) was not “an OSS unit that operated in France in WWII,” and JMWAVE was not a “clandestine radio station in Miami.” (p. 95)

The potentially useful Appendix 2, “Equivalent Security Classifications of Foreign Countries and International Pact Organizations,” is unsourced, like all other entries in the Dictionary, leaving the reader wondering about its accuracy. On the other hand, Appendix 4, “The Intelligence Community,” is out of date, omitting the Department of Homeland Security, among others.

Mr. Burton might well have benefited from the contemporary maxim: what does Wikipedia or Google say? The Dictionary of Espionage and Intelligence does not live up to the promise of its title. Caveat lector!

[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. 116). 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 http://www.cia.gov

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