Chapter 1:
The Secret War

AT THE END OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR THE AMERICAN public generally felt that the fighting was over. Postwar problems were recognized to exist, but they seemed, to most Americans, to involve such things as rehabilitation, economic questions, some political negotiations - but nothing of conflict. Organized mothers' groups in 1946 cornered the Chief of Staff of the United States Army - later to become President - in the halls of the Capitol, preventing him from attending Congressional hearings while they demanded he "bring our boys back home." In the same period, the largest mass-circulation magazine in the country exulted in an editorial entitled "The American Century." The mood was one of a problem definitely solved, and of power. But the secret war had already begun.

The power was real, even if the mood was contradictory and in some respects reckless. But power in human affairs has its own organic characteristics. It both attracts and repels. In either case it inspires an underlying, even subconscious, fear. This effect cannot be dissipated by protestations of peaceful intent, or even by good works. It can ultimately be truly dissipated only by a relative change in the balance of power. The great American postwar success, the rebuilding of Europe, was not a success simply because it demonstrated that we did not intend to use our power to infringe on the independence of European nations; it was a success precisely because it eventually and genuinely restored to Western Europe a measure of the power, political, economic and military, which was almost exclusively ours in 1946. The Western European nations feared our power then, but for historical, ideological and political reasons they feared that of Russia more. They were, therefore, on balance, attracted to American power.

For the same reasons, the Russians were repelled by our power. In the light of their particular ideology, it was perfectly clear to them that with the destruction of German and Japanese power, the United States became the principal foe of the Soviet Union and its Communist allies throughout the world. It is of no moment that a man trained in Western logic would distinguish at this point between a potential and an actual foe. The so-called doctrine of ultimate consequences is basic to Communist logic. Under this doctrine it is not merely legitimate, it is politic and necessary to treat an unconverted man (or a nation) in the present as though he already were what he is potentially capable of being in the future - namely, an active enemy. This kind of thinking owes less to Marx than it does to professional, universal military doctrine. The genius of Lenin - even if it was, from the viewpoint of Western civilization, a regressive genius-was to reverse Clausewitz's famous "War is a continuation of politics by other means," and to apply to politics, both national and international, the doctrines of war. Lenin was perfectly well aware that this was a step backward in civilization, but he justified it in terms of the class war. He was also in theory aware that to treat a potential enemy as an actual enemy is ultimately to make him an active enemy, but he was blind to the full relation of this cause and effect in practice since Marx's fulminations, Russian terror and Western error had steeled him to see his aspirations surrounded by a hostile world in which only the doctrines of war could prevail.

Thus, as the defeat of the Axis became certain, the Soviet leaders adopted - certainly not in sorrow, but neither with any particular rancour, one might say almost automatically in response to the dictates of their analyses of history - the view that the power of the United States and its allies, but especially that of the United States, was hostile to them. This "new line" was by no means as hidden or obscure - and certainly not as new - as one might have thought. In June of 1945, immediately after the victory in Europe, and while preparations were just getting under way for some combined Soviet-Allied operations against Japan, I was obliged, as an American intelligence agent, to report to Washington that the Party agitators in Soviet factories had begun a "new line," emphasizing the fundamental hostility of the United States to the Soviet Union. At that moment, to avoid too quick a turn in view of the wartime alliance - never overpopularized in the Soviet Union, but none the less an undeniable fact - the story was that with the death of Roosevelt, the great friend and defender of the Soviet Union, the American capitalists had a malleable tool in the person of President Truman, and fears were expressed as to future American policy towards the Soviet Union. Every subsequent irritant in Soviet-American relations could thus be presented to the Soviet masses as an evidence of the predicted American hostility - or be taken by the Party leadership, as with the abrupt termination of Lend-Lease, as confirmation of the correctness of their own policy.

Besides his estimate of America as the enemy, Stalin had in mind his own projection of Soviet and Communist expansionism. In this sphere he could only forecast that U.S. policy would become actively hostile to Soviet expansion at some point; what he did not know was where that point lay. The Russians therefore set themselves two tasks: one, the probing of Western policy to see how far they could expand Communist gains without encountering applied superior power; the other, the whittling down of Western, and especially American, power. Not only was that power, in their eyes, too great and menacing to be endured, but its reduction coincides absolutely in time and space with the world triumph of Communism, which their ideology teaches is inevitable, however long it may be delayed.

The probing operation continues. It takes place openly-in diplomatic conferences, in summit meetings, in conflicts such as the Korean War, in crises such as Berlin and Cuba. It is the overt confrontation of power.

From the Soviet point of view, their other principal task, the attrition of American power, takes place in two ways. The first is overt. It is simply as rapid an increase in their own power as their energies can produce. They allot the minimum consistent with stability among their own population to consumer goods; they insist on a high rate of capital investment and of economic growth, all in the interests of greater economic power. Their own absolute increase in power means a relative decrease of American power. This is obviously also true of their military establishment.

Their timing and publicizing of space exploits is simply a ready means of impressing the world with their own absolute increase in power, and all the better if it also demonstrates an increase relative to the United States. All of this, however, is within the confines of their own state and economy.

The second method for reducing American power takes place outside of the Soviet state. Its primary objective is to reduce American power in the rest of the world. Its secondary objective is to substitute Soviet power for American power whenever possible. The techniques of this method are many: espionage-to reduce the advantages of Western technology and military secrecy; political and psychological warfare, as in the Peace Campaign, or in the struggle for dominance over the international labour movement or over newly-independent states; the fomenting of civil strife - known as para-military operations or unconventional warfare - in areas buttressed by American power - as in Laos or Southern Vietnam. These techniques all have one common denominator: they are secret operations; they avoid the open confrontation of power. They are conflict behind a curtain, so to speak, the curtain being the tacit acknowledgement of both sides that the open confrontation of war is undesirable. This conflict consists of the secret operations of the Soviet Union, its allies and partisans, and of the United States, its allies and partisans. Winston Churchill christened it the Cold War.

Churchill's phrase has popularly been taken to describe a state of mind, an attitude of nations towards each other, characterizing the years since the end of the Second World War. It is clearly more than that, being also the secret manoeuvres and conflicts which are the real and predominant content of the Cold War. These secret manoeuvres and conflicts-the secret war-are not the products of some mysterious, black art. They are complex, but they are also an ancient, universal and continuous part of human behaviour. Athens had countless troubles with Persian and Spartan-instigated subversive groups in its allied and tributary states, not to mention the ideologically pro-Spartan oligarchs of Athens itself; Metternich's Chief of Intelligence daily pieced together and read the contents of the wastepaper baskets provided for foreign delegations at the Congress of Vienna in 1815; from the French point of view, the American Revolution was originally a secret operation against Great Britain. And so it goes in our day: Soviet agents arrested in the West, Western agents uncovered in the Communist empire; move and counter-move in Germany, in Iran, in Guatemala, in Vietnam, in Laos, in Cuba and countless other places unmentioned. The twentieth century State, eyes on the stars, drags Neolithic man on into a schizophrenic future.

The purposes of secret operations are those of State, but their substance is the relations between people. This basic fact is obscured primarily by the secrecy of these operations; it is also obscured by the existence of a professional lingo which - like all technical language - is used by professionals for greater precision and misused popularly to the confusion of the layman. I make free use herein of the term "secret operations," for example, not only because it is generally understandable, but also because it is a generic term embracing sharply different forms of secrecy: it covers a multitude of sins. These forms of secrecy which pertain to secret operations have nothing to do with the classifications of secrecy used by Government departments: Top Secret, Secret, Confidential, Restricted, etc. These latter are merely designations indicating - in general - what groups of people shall have access to the specific information so labelled. The forms of secrecy are fundamental to secret operations, and pertain to the techniques by which secrecy will be established and maintained. Thus, something overt can be secret, and anything covert or clandestine is - or should be - secret, but something secret is not necessarily covert or clandestine, and anything clandestine is decidedly not covert and vice versa. Anyone who has managed to work his way through that is entitled to an explanation.

In secret operations the meaning of overt is not only open and visible; more importantly, it also signifies that the person or activity is in fact what he or it is stated to be. This does not mean that secrecy is absent. The United States Navy is exactly what it says it is, the marine arm of our military establishment. But its war plans, many of its ship movements, even in peacetime, and countless other aspects of its equipment and operations are secret - that is, knowledge about them is restricted in varying degrees. More to the point, the Central Intelligence Agency, our principal arm in the secret war, has overt personnel and functions, even though virtually all of its activities are secret. The C.I.A. is required by published statute to prepare the national intelligence estimates for the National Security Council. The personnel who do this work are overtly employed by the Agency, but the preparation and the estimates themselves are secret. Similarly, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and his two principal deputies are overt officials, although responsible for our secret operations.

The identity of the American C.I.A. Director's British counterpart, on the other hand, is secret, and is withheld from all except those needing to know. The West Germans have come up with an unusual variant on this in the fact that the identity of the head of the German service, General Gehlen, is known, but only a handful of authorized persons, including but a few of the personnel of his own organization, know him by sight as such; he appears in his identity of General Gehlen only to this small group, a practice made easier by the reported fact that there is only one very old photograph of him in existence. This is not to imply that either the British or German arrangement is necessarily superior to our own; it was long ago decided that the British solution was not adaptable to our form of government and public life, and the German case is largely a fluke resulting from the chaos and confusion of the German defeat, and the deliberately self-effacing personality of Gehlen himself. The desire for anonymity and the exercise of great power without public recognition are not generally characteristic of the American personality or system.

Interestingly enough, the Soviet arrangement, although differing in important respects, corresponds more closely to the American than to the British or German solutions, at least to the extent that the Committee on State Security is an overt organization, and its Chairman's identity is known. The French, on the other hand, tend to resolve the problem more in the British fashion. They admit, as the British do not, the existence of an overt organization - the Service de Documentation et Contre-Espionage, which is attached to the office of the Prime Minister - but they neither publish nor publicize the identity of its director. It will be seen from these arrangements that, in secret operations, while the various combinations of overt and secret reflect the different national circumstances, that which is overt is in even lesser proportion to that which is secret than the visible part of an iceberg to its underwater mass.

Of even greater importance to secret operations than the resolution of the problem of what may be overt and what must be secret is the distinction between clandestine and covert. Both are secret, but in different ways.

Let us suppose that the United States is faced with the problem of sending an agent who is a communications expert to join anti-Castro guerrilla forces in the mountains of eastern Cuba. (The illustration could quite as well concern a Soviet effort to send a similar agent to Iran, a similar British problem in Iraq, a Communist Chinese problem in Malaya, and so on around the globe.) If this agent was sent aboard a United States Navy submarine which surfaced in the dead of night off a deserted beach on the north-east coast of Cuba, where, by prearrangement, a small group of guerrillas met our man as he stepped ashore from the submarine's inflatable raft, and conducted him to the safety of the mountains-this would be a clandestine operation. That is to say, its secrecy depends upon skill in utilizing natural circumstances to hide the operation, to render it invisible to the enemy. There is no effort to disguise the operation; it is secret only because it is hidden, but it is exactly what it appears to be, There is obviously a very large element of chance in any clandestine operation; a patrol passing the beach at an unforeseen time, a fishing boat coming upon the scene unexpectedly, any of a number of possible circumstances could destroy the operation's secrecy-and the operation.

A covert operation would attempt to minimize precisely this element of chance. If our communications expert posed as a foreign agronomist, complete with false identity papers, entered Cuba with Cuban Government permission, and while on a tour of the eastern provinces, vanished one day into the mountains - this would be a covert operation. Skill is also a vital element in the secrecy of such an operation, but its most important element, and its distinguishing feature, is the use of a cover - in this case the agent's pose as a foreign agronomist. A covert operation is visible: no effort is made to hide it from view; the major effort is to disguise it. It is not what it appears to be. In brief, the working distinction between the two forms of secrecy is that a clandestine operation is hidden but not disguised, and a covert is disguised but not hidden. Covert operations constitute the major part of the secret war, and cover, which is discussed elsewhere at length, is probably the most important single technical element in secret operations.

Obviously neither type of operation is easy, but certainly a clandestine operation is less difficult than a covert one. By the same token, a clandestine operation is considerably more risky than a covert one. Most operations are, in fact, however, a combination of clandestine and covert. To pursue our communications expert further, let us assume that, having safely landed on his beach, and met the conducting party, the problem is then to reach the safety of the mountains. To travel at night would risk arousing greater suspicion - and thus greater risk of investigation - if a patrol were encountered. Accordingly, the party waits until daylight to set out, and when it does, our agent is dressed to look like a campesino, making his way with his companions from one village to another. At this stage he is covert, even if not perfectly so. Our foreign agronomist, on the other hand, has the advantage of his cover right up to the moment when he joins the guerrillas: caught at any point prior to this, even in making contact with the guerrillas, he has a valid cover of merely studying the soil and terrain but once with them, and a part of their activities, he is clandestine, as are the guerrillas themselves.

The fact is that while covert operations are generally more desirable for their lessening of the risk of discovery, all covert operations invariably have some moments, however brief, when the cover does not logically hold and when they are therefore clandestine. The important point is to recognize these moments with the utmost clarity as being clandestine, and to hold them to an absolute minimum, for these are the times of greatest danger. It is for these moments that the enemy is watching. While both types of secret operations are used in war and in peace, clandestine operations are more numerous in wartime, and covert operations are the common form in peacetime. The reason for this is that the consequences of discovery are generally greater in conditions of peace than in war. From the viewpoint of the individual agent, of course, the maximum consequences are the same - usually death or imprisonment, depending on the objectives - and particular circumstances of the operation. But the purposes of secret operations are those of State, and for the State the consequences of discovery can be vastly different. When British aircraft during the Second World War dropped agents by parachute into German-occupied France or Poland clandestinely, their discovery by the Germans did not affect the relations between Germany and Great Britain. An act of war, a hostile act, in wartime is but another item in the openly-acknowledged contest to alter the balance of power. A clandestine act, because it involves the State, is considered a hostile act, and a hostile act in peacetime can, and usually does, disrupt in greater or lesser degree the complicated fabric of relations between states. In effect, the Soviets refused to have any further dealings with the American Administration after the U-2 affair - a consequence which was fraught with danger for the entire world.

Accordingly, states have recourse in peacetime to the greater security afforded by covert operations. Their greater security does not lie only in the fact that they minimize the risk of detection, or of involvement of the State. They also benefit from a tacit agreement between states, itself the sum of long historical experience whereby covert operations are recognized as a peacetime avenue of action which, when used, will not upset international applecarts.

The very reasons for which states undertake covert actions reinforce this tacit agreement. The reasons are various: it may be, as in espionage, that the national security requires it, and the mission can only be accomplished covertly. It may be, as in most covert political operations, that effectiveness would be nil if it were generally known that the activity had its origins in or support from a foreign government. It may also be, as in the support given to para-military operations, that the activity is considered necessary, but it is not consistent with existing friendly official relations - or, most importantly, that the activity would, if undertaken overtly, risk bringing into play forces which would either defeat the mission or seriously alter the international political balance.

These reasons have, in the past, been traditionally understood between states: the covert operations which stem from them have been tacitly accepted as providing each state with the flexibility they need for self-protection. Prom the national point of view, at least between states of relatively equal power, the result is a sort of mutual back-scratching arrangement. From the larger point of view, the arrangement has a solid and useful foundation - it permits the pursuit of constructive, progressive policies on the overt level while preserving, on the covert level, the national safety and interest intact until more idealistic overt policies have produced concrete international results. In this light - and it is the light they read by - the Soviets fully comprehend the seeming contradiction between our own support of the U.N. and our support of the 1961 Cuban invasion. The rude noises Krushchev made at the time of the Cuban invasion were in fact addressed, not to our support of that operation, but to the fact that our involvement in it was clandestine, not covert.

This politic understanding between states, it might be noted, also has a broadly beneficial effect in wartime. At a time when overt policy is necessarily harsh and publicly inflexible, covert operations provide an avenue for probing for more realistic and less costly accommodations. Thus, American covert operations centred in Switzerland during the Second World War succeeded in bringing about the German surrender in Italy contrary to Hitler's express orders, with a great saving in life and property.

This tacit agreement among governments, reached over thousands of years of experience, to let each other more or less off the hook is based, however, on the strict observance of another tradition. While a clandestine operation must, by definition, be recognized as hostile, a covert operation's patent hostility can only be ignored by the victim who uncovers it with the co-operation of the author of the act. Here is the origin and sanction, even sanctification, of the established custom of silence, or at most of flat disavowal, by the responsible government when a covert operation has been uncovered.

This is one explanation - whatever others there may be - of Khrushchev's rage when, even with the talkative U-2 pilot Powers in his hands, he stated publicly his certainty that President Eisenhower was not personally responsible, only to have the President publicly avow his responsibility. For, in the professional context of the secret war and covert operations - and if nothing else Khrushchev is a professional - avowal of responsibility has a specific meaning. It is interpreted by the enemy as a threat, since it means, in the context, that the avower not only ignores established custom, but also the basis of that custom, which is the maintenance of the international political balance. The avower therefore puts himself in the position of demonstrating indifference to the international political balance; his avowal may even be taken to imply that he intends to change it by any and all means.

Even the manner of avowal also has a specific international meaning. It is not necessary to make a public statement. The use of aeroplanes in the American operation against the Arbenz Government in Guatemala - surely one of the most flamboyant in history - was a clear revelation of United States backing and participation. It was my understanding at the time that several C.I.A. officials had argued vigorously against the use of aeroplanes - even to the point of tendering their resignations - on just these grounds, but that their arguments were overruled at Cabinet level, since it was desired to make clear to the Soviets that we would not hesitate to use any means to destroy Communist bridgeheads in the western hemisphere. It would seem in this latter case that the warning conveyed in their implicit avowal didn't take.

But then covert operations are not a way to convey international warnings. Avowal of a covert operation, however implicit, is a hostile act, and it is wise never to indulge in hostile acts unless one is able and prepared to back them up. Or, as the Russians say, "If you say A, you must be prepared to say B." And, as we might say at this point, if you are going to meddle with the classic principles which govern the secret war, don't be muddled.

I have no doubt that some American muddling in these matters stems from a certain defensiveness in the face of Soviet aggression in the secret war, a kind of "We don't care if we are hostile; you were hostile first" attitude. Such an attitude can lead to a certain irresponsibility in the conduct of secret operations, and, more importantly, by alienating important foreign opinion, reduce the effectiveness of many of our operations addressed to that opinion. This plays into the hands of the Soviets and their propaganda allegations. It is true that the tacit convention which eliminates covert operations as a valid cause for war is largely based on historical practice with respect to intelligence and counter-espionage operations. But the secret war today includes a great deal more than just espionage. It includes a vast range of political operations, running a gamut from simple propaganda operations, through enormous world-wide movements designed to capture the loyalties and support of peoples everywhere, to para-military - sometimes called unconventional or guerrilla warfare - operations in critical areas.

It is likewise true that the blame for this situation today, the spread and intensity of the secret war, rests squarely on the Soviets. Although other Western nations were more realistic than ourselves, the United States had no permanent, peacetime, unified intelligence organization until 1946, when the Central Intelligence Group was created as a bridge between the wartime O,S.S. and the Central Intelligence Agency which was established the following year. Even the Central Intelligence Agency was limited initially to intelligence functions. As General Marshall reportedly said when Secretary of Defence, 'I don't care what the C.I.A. does. All I want from them is twenty-four hours' notice of a Soviet attack." (The twenty-four hours is now down to fifteen minutes - or less.) The United States had no organization of any kind for the conduct of political or para-military operations until one was hastily assembled, within the C.I.A. in late 1948, after the Communist coup d'état in Czechoslovakia. Nevertheless, it is precisely in this area of secret political and para-military operations that the Soviets have decided that their greatest opportunities lie. While much of American overt policy - the rebuilding of Europe, support of the United Nations, the Alliance for Progress, a world-wide chain of military alliances - is aimed at lessening the secret war, this is not enough. The Soviets have long since chosen - and give no evidence of having altered their choice - to challenge us by means of the secret war. To ignore it would be folly; to lose it could be fatal.

The secret war has, of course, both offensive and defensive aspects. The two are naturally inseparable, but all governments, as a practical matter, distinguish organizationally between the two. The offensive aspect is embraced by the term "secret operations"; the term "security" covers the defensive aspect. The principles governing the conduct of the two are identical. Nevertheless, an administrative separation between the two is universally employed: under it activity inside one's own country - largely, of course, defence against the enemy's operations - is defined as security, and the responsibility therefore given to security agencies; one's own operations abroad, however, are by definition offensive, and the responsibility for them is entrusted to a separate secret operations agency. In the United States the division is between the F.B.I. - domestic security - and the C.I.A. - foreign intelligence and operations; in Great Britain between M.I.5 - sometimes operating behind the cover of, but not to be confused with, Scotland Yard - and M.I.6; in West Germany between the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the Gehlen Organization; in France between the Ministry of the Interior and the S.D.E.C.E. In Communist countries the administrative separation is not so rigid, but, generally speaking, the domestic functions are performed by the Ministry of the Interior - in the Soviet Union by the Committee on State Security, since the reorganization of the secret police following Beria's downfall - and the foreign functions by Military Intelligence.

Whatever the administrative separation may be, it is generally difficult to observe, and is in many countries a source of intense internal friction, Many offensive operations abroad, particularly political operations, must be based at home. Furthermore, both domestic and foreign intelligence services have overlapping interests in foreigners on the national territory. In the case of foreign intelligence or political operations uncovered on the home territory, there are frequently even sharply conflicting interests.

The defection some years ago of Otto John, head of West Germany's Office for the Protection of the Constitution, to East Germany was felt by many observers to have been largely a result of his defeat in a power struggle with General Gehlen over conflicting interpretations of responsibility within West Germany. During the Second World War the American F.B.I. was even granted certain responsibilities abroad-notably in Latin America - while the O.S.S. was to operate in active theatres of war. (While it antedated the creation of the O.S.S., it is a fact that the first foreign intelligence report I ever read was an F.B.I. document reporting on a prewar high-level Nazi dinner in Berlin.) Such frictions are by no means absent from American operations. In 1949 there was a noteworthy performance in the city of Washington itself in which a continuing difference of opinion between the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. over the disposition to be made of a Soviet defector resulted in an open brawl between the two in a public restaurant where the Russian was dining.

Since the principles and techniques of the secret war as waged abroad and at home, offensively and defensively, are the same, however, and since my own experience has been in the offensive aspect of that conflict, this book centres almost exclusively on the secret operations conducted by nations outside their own borders. It is, indeed, the present high level of activity in this sphere, rather than the automatic reaction of increased defensive activity by domestic security agencies, which is the distinctive mark of today's secret war.

But there is nothing historically new in today's situation of aggression in secret. History is dotted with similar periods of intense secret conflict, in preparation for, in conjunction with or separate from open and conventional warfare. The only novel factor today is mutual recognition of the prohibitive cost of open nuclear war. But this merely reinforces, granted the expansionist aims of the Soviets, their decision to proceed by means of the secret war, to apply Leninist doctrine to international relations. In brief, they accept the tacit convention concerning covert operations as applying far beyond mere espionage, and they have studied, expounded, expanded and refined their techniques of secret operations in order to apply them to international political and social conflict. In this they have proved, so far, peculiarly adept. There is no reason, however, why the distinction should remain permanently theirs.