THE TECHNIQUES OF SECRET OPERATIONS ARE AS OLD AS THE human race: they are by no means diabolical inventions of the Russians, or symptoms of a human spiritual decline. The intensity of their application in the past fifteen years is simply the result of the principal form taken by the historical conflict of that period. But it was only in 1960, with the U-2 case, followed by the failure of the American-directed Cuban invasion in 1961, that the secret war, and the American part in it, came actively to American popular attention. Until then, general American awareness of these operations, at least in comparison to other peoples, had been remarkably slight. Understanding was largely limited to surface impressions gained from melodramatic films, spy thrillers, and surcharged memoirs. Secret operations were mostly viewed as an exotic growth, something that went on elsewhere, certainly not a part of the daily atmosphere and facts of American life.
How many Americans have seriously had to consider to whom they would turn in exile, or how they would behave under occupation? These questions, closely related to some aspects of secret operations, have been part of the practical, daily thoughts of every resident of at least all of Europe and Asia, more than three-quarters of the human race, at some time or times in the last thirty years, and for centuries before that.
It was two defeats that brought, not without shock, some sense of the scale, prevalence, and importance, even gravity, of secret operations to the attention of the American public in 1960 and 1961. Discussion and comment were widespread. Nowhere, however, in the newspapers-with the exception of a few analysts who singled out political ineptitude in the Cuban operation-have I seen good, competent, constructive understanding of the reasons for these failures. A man who had some responsibility in the Cuban operation said to me afterwards that while there was plenty to criticize, and plenty of criticism, he had yet to read one American critic who displayed even an elementary knowledge of the conduct of such operations, of the type which would produce a valid commentary useful to a public which he admitted had every right to be concerned. This may perhaps be an exaggeration; but it would seem fair to state that naïveté in these matters is far from unusual among Americans.
It is of no benefit to those responsible for American secret operations that partial ignorance or lack of understanding of the principles of these operations should be characteristic of the public. Quite the contrary. An at least elementary public awareness and understanding is a positive asset. A public more sophisticated in these matters is less prone to ill-conceived and purely emotional reactions in the event of error or failure. The Cuban operation warranted vigorous criticism; but a sometimes deliberate, sometimes merely ill-informed confusion of moral, morale, policy and technical questions could not clarify specific error, it could only complicate the general unease.
It is my impression that every American failure in the secret war which could be qualified as serious-and serious is to a considerable extent synonymous with publicly known-has either been caused or compounded by those responsible ignoring or brushing aside the classic principles of secret operations. So much for those directly responsible. But the citizen has a responsibility too. It is in no way connected with knowledge of the details of any specific operation. It is connected with, at the minimum, a general awareness that these operations are being conducted, in his name and on his behalf. Such an awareness, if accompanied by a basic understanding of the principles governing secret operations, produce further understanding of precisely why such operations must remain secret. Such understanding is the prerequisite to a tacit but still essential public support for these vital operations. It also gives the citizen the possibility of seeing more clearly the world conflict around him; it enables him to recognize more easily the true content of Soviet manoeuvres in the field; and it helps to insure that his reaction in the event of failures is a direct response to the facts of the case, not a misguided emotional outburst to be exploited by either demagogues or the enemy.
It is the purpose of this book to contribute to such an understanding.
This is neither a scholarly treatise nor an historical survey nor a textbook. It is simply a record of my own recollections, experiences, impressions, reflections and conclusions resulting from some sixteen years in secret operations, all in the service of the United States, and in a variety of countries and organizations. It is my hope that from this informal collection there will gradually emerge for the reader that understanding of the principles of secret operations which is the purpose of the book. Beyond that, it is my hope that, from the personal opinions, criticisms and comments which occur throughout, and for which I take sole responsibility, the reader will gain some idea of the hard realities and problems which face those responsible for these activities. Lastly, it is my hope that the unconventional perspective from which this book is necessarily written will contribute, however indirectly, to that most desirable objective, the American's realistic understanding of himself and of America's place in the world.
Because secret operations deal with the relations between men, they are a subject as complex as man himself. The most important single fact to be borne in mind about them is that everything concerning them is relative. There are no absolutes. There are, however, certain classic principles which reflect centuries of experience in secret operations, and which are in turn applications of historical human insights into human nature. But precisely because secret operations involve the application of human insights into human nature in constantly shifting and changing circumstances, these classical principles can never be observed to perfection. They are ideals which the professionals of the secret war forever seek and never find. Compromise, invention, adaptation govern their decisions and actions. But the measure of their competence and skill is the degree of their perseverance and success in bringing their compromises, inventions, and adaptations to a relative approximation of the classic principles.
The explanation of secret operations is complicated by the obvious fact that nothing can be said which will give the enemy some information or advantage he does not already possess. The appearance of this book under a pseudonym is therefore less for my own protection and convenience than to safeguard certain existing operations with which I was associated in the past. Throughout Part I, which discusses the generally recognized categories and aspects of secret operations, and Part II, a detailed account of a particular operation in which I participated, being a concrete illustration of the complexity of the work, I have used true names and places wherever possible. Where that has not been possible, I have tried to maintain the pertinent point or principle, while altering the names, personalities and circumstances involved. The reader will appreciate that it is one of the rules of the game that I cannot say which is true and which is false.