Some spy-related nonfiction books for the summer

It has been well established ever since we launched IntelNews, nearly six years ago, that readers of this blog are a well-read lot. The subject of books regularly comes up in our conversations with our readers, who often ask us for our personal spy-related book recommendations. We have several, but we thought we would suggest some recently published nonfiction for the summer that is now upon us. Our first suggestion is Dr. Kristie Macrakis’ fascinating new work entitled Prisoners, Lovers, and Spies: The Story of Invisible Ink from Herodotus to al-Qaeda, published by Yale University Press. Macrakis, an internationally recognized historian, is Professor in the School of History, Technology and Society at Georgia Tech, where she teaches classes in science and espionage. She is most known for two books on East German intelligence during the Cold War, the most recent of which was East German Foreign Intelligence (Routledge, 2010). In the book, the author displays her knowledge of both science and intelligence, in explaining how civilizations throughout history have used a variety of ingredients to hide written notes, ranging from citrus juices to cobalt, and even urine and semen. Her examples span the centuries as she highlights the role of secret writing in the American Revolution, the two World Wars, as well as the West’s current confrontation with al-Qaeda. The book is loaded with chemical terminology but it is written with the non-expert in mind and will be enjoyed by all those with a serious historical interest in intelligence. Another book we recommend is Glenn Greenwald’s No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the US Surveillance State (Metropolitan Books). Greenwald was the first journalist that the American intelligence contractor contacted when he decided to defect. Snowden’s actions have divided America, and we are aware that this includes this blog’s readership. But Greenwald’s account will be of interest to intelligence observers no matter where they stand on the issue. The author describes how he first heard from Snowden, via email in December of 2012, when he was a writer for Britain’s Guardian newspaper. He then tells the interesting story of his trip to Hong Kong to meet Snowden, which he undertook along with documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras. Greenwald’s style comes across as somewhat self-righteous at times, but the account offered in his book is crucial in helping intelligence observers piece together the story of Snowden’s defection, as well as the importance of his disclosures. One final nonfiction spy-related book to consider is The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames (Crown Publishers), by American Pulitzer Prize-winning author and columnist Kai Bird. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0128

  • US government appeals judge’s order in Cuban Five spy case. US government officials are contending a judge’s order because they say it would be detrimental to US national security. The order requires the US government to turn over any national security damage assessments in the Cuban Five case. Washington accuses the Five of spying on the US for Cuba. Three of the five are to be given new sentences on October 13 after an appeals court ruled that the initial sentences they received (ranging from 19 years to life) were too long.
  • Indian spies want access to missed calls. Indian security agencies have told the country’s Department of Telecommunications that they need access to missed calls because “anti-social elements” may be using the system to communicate without actually making a call. Last month, India’s Intelligence Bureau asked for all VOIP (internet-based) calls in the country to be blocked until it figures out a mechanism to track them. It also said it wants access to the content of all mobile phone calls in the country.
  • New book investigates Stasi’s scientific espionage. Documents from the vaults of HVA (Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung), the foreign department of the Stasi, the East German Ministry for State Security, which were purchased by the CIA from a German informant in 1992, were made available in 2005 to Kristie Macrakis professor of history at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Her book, Seduced by Secrets: Inside the Stasi’s Spy-Tech World, offers a rare look into the Stasi’s secret technical methods and sources. Macrakis’s analysis of the CIA material reportedly reveals that about 40% of all HVA sources planted in West German companies, research institutions and universities were stealing scientific and technical secrets.

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