ON A SINGLE NOVEMBER DAY IN 1961 THE EUROPEAN EDITION of the New York Herald Tribune, containing not even four pages of general news, carried four stories concerning espionage. A former German staff sergeant in the Waffen S.S. and his wife, arrested while travelling in the Soviet Union as tourists, pleaded guilty before a military court in Kiev to charges of espionage in the Soviet Union on behalf of the United States. In Cairo, two members of a French official mission to Egypt, arrested six days earlier, appeared on television to confess to charges of espionage against the United Arab Republic on behalf of the French Government-the confessions amounting to admissions of "routine political and economic reports" sent to the French Foreign Ministry, and including a report of the possibility of an Israeli attack on the U.A.R. In Washington and Bonn the United States Department released a twenty-one-page document analysing Communist espionage activity in Berlin and Germany, including the case of an American woman Armed Forces employee who had been, under the guise of a romance with an ostensible American citizen, whom she met at the American Embassy Club in Bonn, the victim of a fairly crude Soviet attempt in East Berlin to blackmail her into passing secret documents to the Soviets. And, finally, in probably the day's most plaintive note, Prime Minister Nehru of India told his Parliament that "international spies" outnumbered the normal population of the Himalayan border town of Kalimpong. "Every important country has espionage agents functioning there," he said with what one can only imagine, in the absence of further details, must have been a catch in his throat.
A fairly representative daily selection. The Russians accuse the Americans, incidentally dragging in the West German problem, the Americans accuse the Russians, mixing in the East German problem for good measure, the Arabs accuse the French - side-swiping the Israelis in the process - and neutral Nehru, without being specific, accuses everybody, thus by implication correcting the day's omissions of mention of Britain and China. Without judging the merits or validity of these particular cases, and leaving aside their self-righteous exploitation by prosecutors and propagandists, the question can fairly be asked as to what all this activity is about. Assuming, justifiably, that the number of espionage agents caught is at any given moment only an infinitesimal fraction of the total operating, what are these thousands upon thousands of people looking for? The answer is: secret intelligence.
The official American definition of intelligence is "evaluated information." The evaluation simultaneously concerns both the credibility of the information itself - a process involving a check against information already in hand and an educated guess as to the new information - and the reliability of the source. The two cannot be totally divorced from each other. Obviously, a report that the Moroccans are mobilizing 30,000 men for an attack on the Spanish territories bordering Morocco is one thing if it comes from a taxi-driver in Casablanca, and quite another thing if it comes from the official in charge of mobilization in the Moroccan Ministry of National Defence. All other things being equal, the official source will be evaluated as of high reliability, and - in the present state of affairs - the information being credible, the report will be considered valuable intelligence on which some action may be based. If, however, the taxi-driver's report is supplemented by, say, forty similar reports from merchants, including Army suppliers, from families whose sons have allegedly been among those thus conscripted, and from a variety of citizens throughout Morocco, then the information takes on the status of a widespread rumour. In this case, the problem becomes that of assessing the credibility of the information itself: Was the rumour deliberately circulated, and if so, by whom and why? Is it a reflection of a state of alarm among the Moroccan populace? Is it an implied threat to the Spanish by the Moroccan Government to hasten negotiations? Did the Spanish spread the rumour to provide a justification for some action they plan? Or is it simply a genuine Moroccan action which could not in the circumstances be kept secret? While the lone taxi-driver's report would warrant no action whatsoever, the widespread rumour would require action to provide answers to this whole series of questions - would require action, that is, of an intelligence service whose government felt it had an active interest in Moroccan-Spanish affairs.
The matter of the authoritativeness of the source can never be ignored, but it is sometimes overdone in the light of the credibility of the information. In the summer of 1945, the Soviet passenger freighter Balkhash, of 15,000 tons and bound for Vladivostok, was proceeding at night through the Straits of La Pérouse from the Sea of Okhotsk to the Sea of Japan. As the Soviets were not yet at war with Japan, the ship's lights were blazing, and the large red Soviet flags painted on the hull, together with the letters "U.S.S.R.," were floodlit. Some time around midnight, the Balkhash was torpedoed, and sank in a very few minutes, with some loss of life. The survivors were rescued by Japanese fishing vessels and coastal craft during the night and the following morning. Several weeks later I forwarded a report to Washington concerned, not with the fact of the sinking, but with the reaction of Soviet citizens to the sinking of a Soviet ship by an American submarine - which was withal remarkably philosophical - since it was accepted by Soviet maritime authorities that, in the then state of the Japanese Navy, the submarine could only have been American. The result for me was a peremptory query from my superiors as to the basis for my assumption that the submarine in question was American. When I replied that I was reporting a Soviet reaction to a Soviet assumption, based on logical deduction, that the submarine must be American, I was coldly reminded that I was reporting mere rumour without labelling it as such, and thereby casting doubt on the reliability of my reports. (Much later, in Washington, I got to the bottom of this one. My chief acknowledged that it had in fact been an American submarine, but added, "You didn't think we were going to admit it to you, did you?" Nevertheless, I took the reprimand so to heart at the time that when, several months later, a reliable Soviet source informed me, twenty-four hours in advance of Moscow's declaration of war, that the Soviet Union was already at war with Japan, which I reported with all haste, but then 6 hours later, fearing trouble for himself, denied his earlier information, I cancelled my original message, only to awaken the next morning to Moscow's announcement.)
The question of what is authoritative and what is not is also relative. A highly authoritative source may convey eminently credible information, but the question must always be asked - most particularly in the case of highly authoritative sources - "Why?" The danger of planted information - a complex subject covered in the next chapter - is always present. To this extent, a stolen document is often intelligence superior to a gratuitously conveyed secret from whatever source, since it obviates the risk of deliberately misleading information. The "Why?" does not apply only to the danger of planted information, however. It must also be asked of the source whose bona fides are beyond question. The danger here is of an intelligence headquarters believing what it wants to believe - a failing that has affected almost all the world's secret services and governments at one time or another. The outstanding recent example was, unfortunately, provided by the American Government in the 1961 Cuban affair. There was neither malice nor an effort to mislead in the reports of anti-Castro Cubans - nor in those of American agents in Cuba tied to American commercial interests undergoing expropriation - that an invasion of Cuba by anti-Castro exiles would result in an uprising of the Cuban people against Castro. This was their natural, human, logical bias, reflecting hopes which touched the very core of their beings. The fault was not in the bias of those so reporting; it is a rare man who in their circumstances would have done otherwise. The fault lay with those who, in evaluating these reports, gave them too much weight. They did not accept fully the logical answer to the "Why?" of these reports - perhaps because the answer countered their own hopes; they discounted more dispassionate, even if unpopular, reports of observers such as Claiborne Pell, a politician with considerable experience at the working level in foreign affairs, who, while still Senator-elect from Rhode Island, visited Cuba privately and quietly, and reported that hopes for an anti-Castro uprising were, at worst, wishful thinking, and at best premature.
The problem of the bias of the evaluators is one that is unavoidable in intelligence; it extends even to information of fullest credibility from the most reliable sources. There was a story circulating just after the Suez invasion of 1956 which I have never verified, but which, even if only apocryphal, is still plausible. According to this story, a Secretary of the American Embassy in Israel - no secret agent by any means - stumbled on to the fact of the forthcoming Franco-British-Israeli action against Egypt by the simple expedient of an accidental but friendly conversation with some French Air Force pilots who were in Israel with their Mystère jet fighters to aid the Israelis. It was alleged that the Secretary's report of this information was not only suppressed, but he himself was reprimanded. The story could well apply to any country. After all, the German High Command in World War II had at least three reliable reports stating the date and place for the Allied invasion of Normandy, but they chose to believe in a later date and, even after the landings had taken place, that the real Allied assault would take place in the Pas-de-Calais. And Alexander Foote, in his remarkable account of his World War II experiences as a Soviet secret agent in Switzerland, has pointed out how Red Army Intelligence, suspicious of what appeared to be too great ease and rapidity, month after month rejected his network's greatest achievement of almost daily detailed reports of battle order and plans straight from the Headquarters of the Wehrmacht, the German Navy, and Air Force, in favour of banal reports from a man who was in fact a German agent.
Bias in evaluation can never be fully overcome in an intelligence service and, more importantly, in supreme government councils; it cannot even be tempered by shuffling and re-shuffling the organizational charts; and it can only be compounded by creating evaluators to evaluate the evaluators. Within the intelligence establishment, the only effective safeguard lies in the individual competence and qualities of its members. Doctrinaire partisans, super-patriots, men of provincial outlook, bureaucratic climbers all are, in this field, dangers to the national safety, however comfortably they may accord with the popular temper or ethos, or with the preconceptions of legislators and of the Administration in office. Perspective, perspicacity, worldliness, a soundly philosophical outlook, the knowledge and sense of human history - these are the individual qualities which minimize error in the interpretation and evaluation of information. (Contrary to the tenets of the majority of American administrators, intellectual brilliance - even if eccentric, troublesome to the organizational charts, or occasionally shining through a bottle of whisky - is also a valuable asset. A sense of humour, on the other hand, may be of no particular national interest, but is an essential prop to the sanity of those who work in intelligence.) Professional excellence inside the intelligence establishment is but half the story; to be effective as a safeguard it must be complemented by international political sagacity in the nation's foreign affairs leadership.
The definition of intelligence as "evaluated information" does not, unfortunately, touch upon the most important element which confers value on intelligence - and which also explains the true objective of all secret agents. The objective is secret intelligence, as stated above - but the emphasis is on the vital element contained in the word "secret."
The need for intelligence is an effect, not a cause. It is the result of situations of human conflict or competition which, between nations, runs the gamut from the inescapable frictions and rivalries among allies, through the wary manoeuvres of potential enemies and the covert clashes of the secret war, to open hostilities. Whatever the degree, the essence of the situation is human conflict. In any such situation, as we have seen previously, the most potent and useful information about an opponent is that which he does not know you possess.
Thus, the meaning of "secret" in the phrase "secret intelligence" is precise and specific. It does not mean that the opposition does not possess the same information. By definition, since the information came from them, they do. What is secret, what is unknown to the opposition, is the fact of your possession of the information. The contrast between Pearl Harbor and the subsequent Battle of Midway is an obvious example. American possession of the Japanese codes prior to Pearl Harbor yielded only the information that a carrier task force was on the high seas operating under radio silence - with the results known to history. The Japanese had to consider the contingency that the Americans had broken their codes, but the very fact of their victory at Pearl Harbor was, to them, important evidence that we had not succeeded in doing so. Accordingly, Japanese radio traffic prior to the Midway battle, only six months after Pearl Harbor, revealed not only the whereabouts and destinations of two Japanese striking forces, but also (correctly interpreted), showed that the northernmost of the two fleets had a principally diversionary purpose. Admiral Nimitz was thus enabled to concentrate his defending forces at the point of maximum danger - with the resultant decisive U.S. victory at Midway. Needless to say, only one ill-advised public statement by a member of the commissions investigating the Pearl Harbor debacle, or by any of the principals in the disaster, to all of whom our possession of the Japanese codes was known, would have sufficed to make the Midway victory impossible.
This is not to deny either the existence or value of non-secret intelligence, i.e. intelligence which the opposition either knows or must assume you possess. In fact, the great bulk of intelligence is obtained overtly from a vast range of sources. The study and analysis of publications, broadcasts, statistics, diplomatic and military reports yield an enormous amount of basic information. (Such research and analysis is an overt function, in the United States, of the intelligence branches of the State Department, the Defence Intelligence Agency, the armed forces, The Atomic Energy Commission, and of the C.I.A.) Furthermore, a great many of the new scientific intelligence operations, such as communications analysis and nuclear-explosion detection, are overtly acknowledged: only the scientific devices or techniques are secret. (In the detection of nuclear explosions, even the end result is made public, since, in this almost unique case, the national power is reinforced and not weakened by demonstrating knowledge of enemy actions.) The remainder of intelligence - including that universal governmental prop, the routine surveillance of cables, telegrams and mail - is secret intelligence, i.e. intelligence which the opposition assumes you do not possess. Such intelligence is, at a guess, quantitatively no more than 20 per cent. at maximum of the total intelligence available to a major government. Yet, whether political, military, economic, or scientific, it is intelligence of the highest value.
It is this very precise meaning of the word "secret" in "secret intelligence" which dictates some of the fundamental characteristics and techniques of secret intelligence operations. It is, for example, the basis of a perpetual misunderstanding between the public, the Press and legislatures - particularly the American - on the one hand, and the executive branch of government, including the intelligence services, on the other. This is the misunderstanding which arises when a secret agent is caught. In such cases, it is fundamental secret intelligence practice on the part of the capturing government never to reveal publicly what it was precisely that the agent had obtained. (This is why the legal indictments of captured secret agents are always couched in broad, vague terms, and the evidence made public generally limited to proving the activities of the accused without specific reference to information he obtained. Such trials frequently cause almost as many headaches to the intelligence authorities - particularly in America, where the statutes and precedents in such cases are of fairly recent origin-as capturing the agent in the first place.) It is at this point that an article usually appears somewhere pointing out that the Russians - or the appropriate nationality - already know what the agent knew, so what is the Government being so tight-lipped about? If the Russians know it, why can't we? Even an editor so personally experienced in secret intelligence operations as the Englishman Malcolm Muggeridge recently expressed pique on this subject. "Secrets which are known to have leaked, far from being written off, are guarded with particular ferocity," he wrote in the New Statesman, and added, in evident exasperation: "The most wonderfully complicated locks are put on the stable door after the horse is gone."
If it is remembered that the secrecy which is at stake is not whether or not you know something, or even whether the enemy also knows the same thing, but the more complicated fact of knowing whether the enemy knows you know it, the reason becomes apparent. It is simply that any public discussion of the information obtained by a captured agent risks conferring validity, for the enemy's benefit, on that information. In effect, you risk evaluating the information for the enemy. The public statement, "The Government is embarrassed that the recently apprehended enemy agent discovered the location of our twenty-seven secret missile bases," or "The Prosecution demands the death penalty, the accused having stolen and transmitted to the enemy the Army's war plans," obviously confirms to the enemy that what he has is of prime value. Silence, on the other hand, downgrades the information in the enemy's possession. He is left to follow the course of the public trial, while wrestling with several vital and unanswerable questions: How much of what our agent transmitted to us do they really know was transmitted? The plans for the East Coast anti-missile defence system, for example? Will they change them, knowing we know them, or do they not suspect we do, and therefore will leave them as they are? And what about that purported summary of a meeting of the National Security Council? Their silence certainly gives us nothing concrete with which to evaluate that report - which we were doubtful about, anyway. And so on. Silence may not undo all serious damage, but it is the only way to minimize it. (Silence also has a positive aspect. For years following the surrender of Japan, American authorities refused any official mention of the case of Richard Sorge, Soviet agent who operated in Japan until his arrest in 1943, for the reason that the ramifications and techniques of that network were of great value in uncovering other and subsequent Soviet operations - a fact dependent in large measure on the Soviets not knowing how much we had learned from the Japanese archives.)
Similarly, the concept of secrecy as hiding from the enemy your possession of information, more than the information itself, dictates, in the reverse case, the practice of secret agents in the field and the preparations they must always make for the eventuality of capture. The cardinal principle in secret intelligence operations is the observance of priorities of expendability in the event of compromise, discovery or arrest. The first and easiest thing to dispose of in case of danger is money and property. (One of the many reasons why secret intelligence is an expensive business.) The very next thing is the individual agent himself. While it is obviously incumbent on every agent, as a matter of primary personal and professional interest, to observe meticulously all possible security precautions concerning himself, it is a bald fact that, when the choice must be made, the national interest dictates that the agent himself has a high priority of expendability.
After the agent himself comes the "lines of communication." This phrase can be taken to include a clandestine radio transmitter, or codes, but it more usually refers to the human connections, the prearranged relationships and contacts, in the field and running back to the headquarters, which make up a secret intelligence network. The lines of communication are the entire conspiratorial apparatus which links all the individual agents together to form a functioning network, ranging from the "place of conspiracy" - a predetermined time and place of meeting between agents who have lost contact - to the methods of transmission of intelligence to headquarters. (It can easily be seen that, faced with the choice between the loss of a single agent and the compromise or destruction of an entire network, the single agent is the more readily expendable. There are, of course, subpriorities here: the loss of a cut-out who knows no true identities is much less serious than the arrest of the principal agent. But the point is that without "lines of communication" there is no secret intelligence network; there is only a useless number of unconnected, unco-ordinated and unresponsive individuals.)
The least expendable asset is information already transmitted to headquarters, or anything which will provide a clue to that information. It is the agent's ultimate duty, in the event of danger, to insure, by any and all means, that the knowledge of information already transmitted does not, either directly, or indirectly become available to the opposition. (There is obviously a time limit to this necessity, but it depends entirely on the merits of each individual case, and is not a matter which a single agent is usually equipped to judge.) It is bad enough to lose a functioning intelligence network to the enemy; it is a double or triple loss also to have all the operation's previous work wiped out at a single blow - for if the enemy knows what information you already possess, it is, by definition, no longer secret intelligence. This point is all too infrequently understood even by secret agents themselves. They are often under the illusion that, in the event of danger, they burn their papers, or swallow scraps containing cipher keys, or make other such heroic gestures, to hide proof of their illegal activity or to protect the government they are serving. These are desirable objectives, certainly, but they are very much secondary to the fundamental necessity to preserve the secrecy and hence value of secret intelligence already obtained.
The matter of codes illustrates the point clearly. The secret breaking of a code is a major disaster (or triumph): the opposition's possession of the code, being unknown or unsuspected by the user, is secret intelligence of exceptionally high value. However, this eventuality is not and cannot be the responsibility of the agent, provided he observes all necessary precautions in the use of his codes. The fundamental utility and security of codes is the function of the headquarters' cryptographic staff. But mere compromise of a code-that is, any set of circumstances which leaves unresolved the question of whether or not the opposition benefited from those circumstances to obtain or to break the code Can be almost as damaging. (There is no practical difference so far as counter-measures are concerned between knowing the opposition has obtained the code, and the obligation rationally to assume they have it. Once, at the outset of a mission travelling across Communist territory, my pockets were picked and my wallet stolen in, of all places, a circus. Besides money and personal documents, the wallet contained - I am ashamed to say - a scrap of paper on which was written an unidentified random phrase which happened to be the key to my double transposition code. It was highly likely that I was merely the victim of a hungry and light-fingered citizen; I nevertheless had to assume that the security police were light-fingered, if not hungry, and that any cryptographer, looking at my quite-innocent scrap of paper, would have no choice but to try it out as the key to a double transposition code. Even though I could remember the phrase, I still completed the rest of the mission in silence - which did nothing for the timeliness of the information I was seeking and for which my base was waiting.)
The possession by the opposition of a code has effects both forward and backward in time. If you do not know your code is broken, the opposition has the entire backlog of the network's efforts, plus the ability to monitor the entire operation into the future. If, however, you know the opposition has the code, or are obliged to assume they have it, their advantage over future operations can immediately be cancelled either by substitution of another code or silence until an alternative code is obtained. But nothing can repair the damage done to the intelligence already transmitted: it simply ceases to be intelligence. For this reason a secret agent has no better ally than a good memory, and no more dangerous enemy than a nice, orderly, complete set of files.
Finally, and more importantly, this precise definition of secrecy in the phrase "secret intelligence" means that intelligence, to be secret, must be obtained in such a way that the opposition does not know what is being obtained. The steps the agent takes to mask his activity are merely elementary security; his main concern must be to keep the enemy from knowing what he knows, rather than the mere fact that he knows something. This is one reason a microfilmed document - obtained without anyone's knowledge - is more durable intelligence and superior to information obtained, no matter how secretly, from a secret, even if genuine, sympathizer in the enemy camp. It also being extremely rare that such uncompromised opportunities for obtaining information occur, the standard procedure in all intelligence services is to seek wherever possible to establish lines of communication in such a way that persons providing information do not know its ultimate destination. More than one potential purveyor of secret information - even for the highest motives - has been bewildered to find his sincere advances rebuffed by the very service he hopes to assist. The rebuff arises, however, only partly from possible suspicion of his motives. An additional reason for rejection of his offer is the fact that to accept it puts him in the position of knowing the identity of the end-users of the information; this knowledge on his part increases the risk of the enemy being able to invalidate all previous information passed by him if they uncover his activities. In brief, if you know the recipient, you can sometimes deduce what information he has received.
Similarly, it is this distinction between the act of obtaining secret intelligence and the sure knowledge of what is being obtained which explains in part the international tolerance of military attachés. While a part of this tolerance is due to the "I'll accept your legitimate spies if you'll accept mine" theory, it is also just as firmly based on the conviction of the receiving government that it can control - that is, know - what information an attaché is obtaining. In most countries this is done by discreet surveillance. In the Soviet Union and its satellites, however, the surveillance is done with the heaviest and most obvious possible hand - not only as a control measure, but also as a forthright obstruction to any activity at all by the diplomat or attaché being so conspicuously and ubiquitously "tailed."
It may seem superfluous, even banal, to point out that the information sought in secret intelligence operations is originally in the possession of foreign nationals. In brief, the sources of secret intelligence are, by definition, foreign. However, this pedestrian but fundamental fact has important consequences for the conduct of such operations. Foremost among these is the constant necessity to gain and hold the co-operation of foreign nationals who have the essential access to the desired information even if such a foreign source is hostile. There are secret intelligence operations which do not involve foreigners; I suppose the U-2 operation could be counted as one, although even here the co-operation of foreign governments was required for the basing of the aeroplanes. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of operations depend heavily upon foreigners for their ability to produce anything of real value. The complex of Soviet operations designed to obtain information about nuclear weapons would have been impossible without the co-operation of American and British personnel.
The vital question of whether a foreign source is willing, whether he knows and understands what he is doing, is one on which a clear and precise decision must be taken at the very outset of any operation. It is here that a most accurate assessment of the foreigner's motives, capabilities and general emotional and intellectual posture must be brought into play. A man thoroughly disaffected with the régime under which he lives may regard services to a foreign intelligence service as fulfilling a higher duty to his own nation. If such a feeling is genuine, his knowledge of what he is doing it for may be an essential part of his co-operation, even if it does constitute an added risk to the security of the operation and the secrecy of the information he provides. Here the Soviets have a valuable asset in the ideological loyalty of foreign Communists to the Soviet State. However, they also suffer compensating liabilities. The facts of life under Soviet power provide plenty of disaffection which can be exploited by others for secret intelligence purposes. This is patently true of the satellite countries; but even in the Soviet Union itself, with its rigid safeguards, its xenophobia and its security mania, there is exploitable disaffection. (This is not to lend the slightest credibility to the fantastic Soviet charge that Lavrenti Beria, Stalin's long-time secret police head, was an American agent. Even Trotsky, hounded and persecuted - and ultimately murdered - by Stalin, would have baulked at any kind of co-operation with capitalist intelligence services. However, in my own experiences with the Russians I found a sufficient, even though always limited, number of useful Soviet sources, although I admit that to do so I became a temporary expert in fence-climbing, back-alley skulking and general dodging. I never recall without a twitching of my nostrils one source whom I always met in a particularly filthy and foulsmelling public toilet. For a long time I hoped that my superiors would some day comment that "This information stinks," thereby giving me an opportunity for a witty and pungent rejoinder, but my chance never came.)
An intelligence service cannot be limited to disaffection for its sources, however. Furthermore, if at all possible, it is even desirable - and sometimes necessary - that the foreign source not understand dearly what he is doing or for whom. The most desirable such situation is one in which the source does not know that he is in fact providing information to a foreign intelligence network. This ideal was achieved by Richard Sorge - the Soviet agent of German nationality working in Japan during the Second World War-who achieved the position of Press Attaché of the German Embassy in Tokyo. The Embassy staff naturally were under the impression that they were talking with a loyal Nazi colleague, and many - though not all - of Sorge's Japanese sources believed they were working with a German ally. A variant of this situation consists in the source knowing that he is providing information, while labouring under a carefully sown misapprehension as to who is really benefiting thereby. Let us take the hypothetical case of a Iraqi Government functionary who is profoundly disturbed by a flirtation between the dictator, General Kassem, and the local Communist Party. He may genuinely fear the possibility of eventual Soviet domination of Iraq, and the danger of ultimate loss of the Kurdish territories in the north. At the same time, the Israeli Government, in the interests of elemental survival, must have all information possible about their Arab neighbours. The Iraqi official, as a patriot and as a good Arab, would never consider for one minute aiding the Israelis. But, in his concern, he would consider entering into a working relationship with the Americans, who would constitute, in his mind, the logical counterweight to Soviet influence in Iraq. The simple solution to this problem is that the Israeli agent who recruits this official poses as an American agent. It is sad to have to relate that this technique enjoyed, at least during the 'fifties, a certain vogue in many parts of the world, with the Americans as the favourite substitution. We were not without our faults during that agitated decade, but not all the faults ascribed to us were really ours.
An even more frequent variant is the situation in which the source knows for whom he is working, but is necessarily and deliberately misled as to his true purpose. Shortly after the Second World War American intelligence entered into a working relationship - reasonably productive for a period - with a monarchist group in an eastern European country. These people were under the impression that this was a co-operative arrangement in which the Americans were supporting their political aim of restoration of the monarchy - which was definitely not U.S. policy. None the less, American support for the group even included a clandestine radio over which political messages were broadcast to the population. The group's operations inside the country also produced considerable intelligence, which they gladly turned over to the Americans as a by-product of what they regarded as a political collaboration. It was, of course, the intelligence which was the true and sole interest of the Americans. Needless to say, bitterness and recriminations filled the air the day American support ceased - even though its termination was alleged to be based on the political, and realistic, grounds that the cause was hopeless. (While I personally believe that this particular operation went too far, my opinion is based on specific political grounds. It is irrelevant to apply a moral or an "American" standard here; the same story could be told of the intelligence services of any of the major powers. Even more pertinent is the fact that sincerity of purpose or nobility of motive does not exempt those who enter into the life of conspiracy from the rules and risks of that life.)
From this frequent necessity to disguise motive, purpose, and even identity flows one of the major and identifying characteristics of secret intelligence operations - the existence of a potential or actual element of falsity, marked specifically by duplicity and deceit, in the basic case officer-agent relationship.
Contrary to general belief, the major difficulty in secret intelligence operations is not the actual laying hands on "the loot", so to speak (or, as French gangster argot mysteriously has it, le Grisbi). As often as not the moment of acquisition of information, whether it be in written or spoken form, is a mere mechanical detail, or a matter of wit and patience. It is generally a phase of relative calm, a lull, so to speak, sandwiched between the two principal difficulties besetting the gathering of secret intelligence. In a well-conceived and skilfully executed operation the information which is sought should be obtained almost automatically - as the result of prior successful solution of these two major problems.
Of these problems the most difficult is chronologically the first. It is that of placing the agent in a position and a role whereby the information comes to him with a minimum of risk, and as a natural by-product of his position. This is, of course, a major function of cover, and here, as usual, one aims for perfection and seldom achieves it. It is one thing, for example, to be Cicero, the valet of the British Ambassador to Turkey during World War II who was an agent of the Germans, and whose position enabled him clandestinely to rifle the contents of the Ambassador's safe while the latter slept: an eminently successful operation. But how different, and better, a thing to have been the Soviet agent Sorge in Japan, with automatic and unquestioned access to both German and Japanese information sanctioned by his role as a German official - and flavoured, perhaps even improved, by his affair with the wife of the German Ambassador.
It is in this matter of manoeuvring one's agent into position that skill, judgment, ingenuity, and keen understanding of other peoples are called for in the highest degree. The classic method is "penetration," meaning, in its historic form, the placing of the agent within the structure from which it is desired to obtain intelligence. Obviously the flow of defectors back and forth between East and West in the secret war affords numerous opportunities for such direct penetration. Precisely because this is so obvious, however, it is a difficult technique, risky, and not usually productive. Barring unusually auspicious circumstances, such as exist at the outset of, or immediately following, a war, for example, the technique of direct penetration generally requires time, and plenty of it, for success. Clearly, if you want to put an agent into the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party, you are going to have to wait a long time while he fights his way up the ladder of the Communist hierarchy. (There is a recurrent story, for which I have no means of vouching, that the Poles did in fact achieve this with Stalin's pre-war Politburo.) Furthermore, while you await your agent's manoeuvring into the desired position, you risk his ultimate success if you use him.
This difficulty has led to the technique of the "sleeper" agent, whose tasks are defined in advance to fit a certain eventuality; meanwhile, no matter what the period of time, he is not used. A notable example of the "sleeper" agent was the innkeeper whom the Germans introduced into the British naval base of Scapa Flow not long after the First World War. He didn't stir during all the years until the outbreak of the Second World War; he was then able to provide the information which permitted a Nazi submarine to sneak into Scapa Flow early in the war, torpedo H.M.S. Ark Royal, and escape untouched.
Security measures being what they are in our times, direct penetration poses extreme difficulties. Accordingly, a favourite - can one say popular? - technique, and far from a new one, is that of indirect penetration, also known as subversion. The advantage of subversion is that it avoids the complications of choice of agent, and the preparations and delay which are part of direct penetration, since it utilizes someone who is already in position to obtain the desired intelligence. In subversion the problem is not that of tailoring the agent to the task; it is that of tailoring the method of recruitment to the character, disposition and motives of a selected potential agent. The continuous Soviet efforts to blackmail U.S. Government employees into their service is but one form, albeit crude, of subversion. A more refined form was evidenced in the case of the British diplomat who was persuaded, as a result of reflection during a period of internment in North Korea during the Korean War, that "the Soviet system deserved to win."
Another alternative to direct penetration is to have someone else in a more advantageous position do the work for you. In secret intelligence operations this means, as a practical matter, working relationships with other intelligence services. The intelligence services of many smaller nations do not, by the simple fact of nationality difference, and because of lesser prominence as leaders in the secret war, suffer the disadvantages of the great powers. Furthermore, they often hold unique assets, as witness the very large Polish population in France, or the Greek populations in Bulgaria, Rumania and the Soviet Union. The result is a constant and vigorous competition among all the great powers for strictly exclusive working relationships with the services of lesser powers, which relationships most often turn into a control of the lesser service. Thus, the immediate postwar period saw a lively scramble by all the great powers for exclusive dominance over the intelligence services of the smaller nations. There was, of course, no doubt anywhere that the services of the eastern European states, with the exception of Yugoslavia, were not merely controlled by, but were to all practical purposes integral parts of, Soviet intelligence.
The other major problem in secret intelligence operations is chronologically the second, but involves more danger than the first. This is the problem of how to get the information, once obtained, back to the headquarters. The most significant secret intelligence in the hands of an agent who cannot transmit it to the sole place where it can be used is, of course, valueless. But this is no easy trick. The comparison drawn above between the case of Cicero, the German agent who was the British Ambassador to Turkey's valet, and that of Sorge, the Soviet agent in the German Embassy in Tokyo, pointed out that, in the light of the classic criteria, Sorge was much better positioned than Cicero. Yet Cicero was never caught, whereas Sorge was arrested and executed by the Japanese. The difference lay in the means of transmission of information. Cicero passed his information to the Germans in a series of clandestine meetings in Istanbul and Ankara, and by means of letter-drops; Sorge relied on a clandestine radio transmitter.
Here is the source of another salient characteristic of secret intelligence operations. No matter how covert an operation may be, no matter how carefully devised and skilfully executed the cover, the precise moment of transmitting the information is, in almost all cases, clandestine. It is thus the moment of greatest danger in such operations. The great majority of secret intelligence agents who are caught are apprehended at the moment of passing information. (In the Portland Royal Navy Base case the arrest of part of the network took place at the moment of passing documents; the other members of the network were apprehended as a result of monitoring and then locating the source of clandestine radio signals to Moscow - both being the actual moments of passing information.) The reason for this is not because security services hope to improve the chances of prosecution by evidence obtained in flagrante delicto ; it is quite simply that, being clandestine-there is no cover which can adequately explain the illegal transmission of documents or information to unauthorized persons, whether it be hand-to-hand, by letter, or by radio - this action is the most vulnerable in the entire operation, and is often the only moment when agents can be caught. Secret inks, letterdrops, and an ever-changing series of devices, including the constant development of techniques to obstruct the location of clandestine radio transmitters - all are part of the continuous effort to transform this vulnerable moment from clandestine to covert, or to minimize the clandestine risk. However, defence techniques are also constantly being devised, improved and revised, so that the problem remains a major one. For this reason - and because, as stated earlier, a clandestine act is internationally interpreted as a hostile act - such risky methods as illegal radio transmissions are generally kept to a minimum in peacetime. The prevailing solution to the problem the world over in peacetime is usually a series of cut-outs and letter-drops by which the information ultimately comes into the hands of agents having diplomatic immunity, and is then forwarded on in an embassy's regular diplomatic mail or telegraph traffic.
From the viewpoint of the overall national interest, there is another characteristic of secret intelligence operations which weighs heavily, above all in the balance and outcome of the present East-West secret war. It is that the need for intelligence cuts across all political lines. We have already noted that, for intelligence to have the needed quality, variety, reliability, and breadth of coverage, it cannot be limited to sources chosen solely for their political ideology, or compatibility with one's own political aims. West Germany's Gehlen Organization is a case in point.
General Gehlen held high responsibilities for German intelligence on the Eastern Front during the war. With the collapse of Germany in 1945, Gehlen salvaged the records of his extensive networks throughout eastern Europe, and the accumulation of years of intelligence about the Soviet Union, the Red Army, and its leadership. All this mass of material Gehlen hid in various places in West Germany. He also gathered a group of his best subordinates and instructed them to go into secure hiding. He then did the same, waiting a sufficient time Until it became clear to the American Army that what they lacked most of all was any real and detailed knowledge of the Red Army which faced them across a long border, and with which they were constantly being called upon to negotiate and solve an infinite variety of problems - from the regulation of Allied communications with Berlin to the repression of Peasant Party leaders in Bulgaria. When, in due course, General Gehlen emerged from hiding and presented himself to the Americans, an agreement was reached which permitted the Gehien Organization to function as a unit, under the command and direction of Gehlen himself, even though at the outset for the sole benefit of the United States Army. In the temper and climate of postwar Europe, and in the light of Allied political aims, such an agreement was politically indefensible; indeed, Gehlen had succeeded where all the rest of the German political and military hierarchy had failed - namely, to persuade the Western Allies, or at least a part of them, to co-operative action against the Soviets. From the viewpoint, however, of the national security of the United States, of its armies in Europe, as well as of the security of Western Europe itself, the agreement was not only justifiable, but essential. (This arrangement, it might be added, was as weak consommé compared to the witches' broth of Soviet collaboration with the Germans in wartime in the apprehending and execution of the Polish Underground connected to the Polish Government-in-Exile in London.)
Here arises the crucial conflict between the requirements of secret intelligence operations and the aims and methods of political warfare. This conflict never ceases. It goes beyond the question posed in an earlier chapter of how to reconcile, as an example, the need for full and reliable intelligence about Cuba with the political aim of assisting anti-Castro, but also anti-Batista, Cubans in their action to free Cuba from Soviet influence. For the consequences of this conflict will still continue to appear even after a policy decision has been made at the highest level designed to regulate or compromise the conflicting interests.
At one point in the postwar period, for example, a political operation was undertaken in the West which had as one of its objectives the creation of political unity among the Albanians in Western countries - a sizeable number in proportion to the million and a half population of Albania itself - excluding, quite naturally, pro-Communist Albanians, and those with records of collaboration with the Italian or German occupations of the country. So far so good. But as it happens, by the simple facts of geography, a goodly number of Albanian exiles, including some of the most capable leadership, reside in Italy. It was perhaps understandable that the Italians should take a position strongly in favour of the inclusion in any unified group of the Albanians who had in the past loyally served Italian interests in Albania, and it was equally understandable that such a course would prejudice the potentialities of any such group in Albania itself. What complicated the operation throughout was that American intelligence, as distinct from American political agents, tended - naturally enough - to regard the advantages of close relations with the Italian intelligence services as outweighing the objectives of the political operation, and were therefore inclined to favour the Italian point of view in purely political matters. Needless to say, the Greeks, working through the British, had similar objectives equally repugnant to the Albanians of Albania, who are quite aware that the Greeks regard most of Albania as a Greek province called Northern Epirus. (This particular soufflé rose to new heights when Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia - feuding then, as now, with the Albanians - announced the formation of an Albanian Committee in the Kosovo region of Yugoslavia, where there live some 500,000 more Albanians.)
It could be argued, of course, that this type of conflict could be resolved by more vigorous action with allies, and more rigorously enforced policy decisions within a government. The argument has some merit, but only to a small degree, for the conflict is inescapable. For one thing, the Western world is organized as an alliance, not a train of cowed satellites. For another, even with their supreme word within their empire, the Soviets have the same troubles: one of the all-time feats of political tightrope-walking and agitated duplicity was performed by a high Soviet official who once found himself caught on a festive occasion between the East Germans on the one hand and the Poles on the other, with both demanding contradictory assurances about the Polish-East German border.
At the level of secret operations, the Soviets themselves recognize the perpetual conflict between intelligence requirements and political action, and rigorously separate the two in so far as that is possible. (Local Communist parties may provide a recruiting base for Soviet intelligence, but it is only in rare cases of need that active Communist party members will be found to be functioning as integral parts of an intelligence network.) This separation is in fact only for convenience and security at the lowest working levels; above that level in the Soviet hierarchy, as everywhere else, the decision must be taken in favour of either political objectives or intelligence interests when, as inevitably happens, the two conflict.
The American Government has experimented back and forth between separation of these two principal branches of secret operations - which is wasteful, expensive, and often produces worse collisions of interest in the field instead of at headquarters and integration of the two branches - which fails to safeguard the legitimate interests of either - and a series of compromises between the two. Here again the best solution is in the last analysis dependent upon the breadth of view and the ingenuity of the men who must make it work.