5 reviews on the spy networks, government agents, and undercover intelligence operations.

Love the Hot Topic Titles? Try our other newsletters.

Becker, Marc. The FBI in Latin America: the Ecuador files. Duke, 2017. 322p bibl index ISBN 9780822369592, $94.95; ISBN 9780822369080 pbk, $26.95; ISBN 9780822372783 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE March 2018

Becker’s fine study fills a void in the historical record of US-Latin American relations. Many studies have examined the role of the CIA in post–WW II Latin America, but few have considered the involvement of the FBI during the war. The threat of Axis infiltration into Latin America gave FBI director J. Edgar Hoover opportunity to extend the Bureau’s operations beyond the US domestic arena. Hoover shared FBI field agent reports with the State Department, which welcomed this source of information, although not all of it was accurate. Hoover, however, was more concerned about communists than Nazis, and even as it became clear by 1943 that the Allies would win the war, the FBI increased its activity in Ecuador and Latin America in general. Becker (Truman State Univ.) uses FBI files and memoirs to examine FBI operations and to explore communist and leftist behavior. Ironically, communists in Ecuador did not pose much of a threat. They were few in number, divided among themselves, and willing to operate within the structure of Ecuador’s political system. FBI operations in Ecuador ended shortly after the war, and in 1947, the CIA assumed foreign espionage responsibilities. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Most levels/libraries. —A. J. Dunar, University of Alabama in Huntsville

Hughes-Wilson, John. The secret state: a history of intelligence and espionage. Pegasus Books, 2017 (c2016). 510p bibl index ISBN 9781681773025, $29.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE June 2017

Despite its subtitle, this volume is not a history of intelligence and espionage but a broad introduction to the subject meant to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. Military historian Hughes-Wilson provides only a cursory historical sketch before examining the “intelligence cycle,” the types of intelligence (human, signals, etc.), and the various challenges intelligence agencies face. He illustrates each point with brief case studies, many of which are recycled from his Military Intelligence Blunders (2004). The result is a very readable survey but not one likely to satisfy more serious students. Although Hughes-Wilson frequently criticizes organizations, individuals, and processes for intelligence failures, his analysis is often uncritical. For example, the sensational and repeated shortcomings he describes never lead him to consider the ultimate usefulness of intelligence. Its primacy in policy decisions concerning foreign relations and war is unquestioned, and apparently unquestionable. Finally, though the author acknowledges his debt to the work of scholars and other experts, the book’s lack of citations and the omission of some sources from its “select bibliography” seem a disservice to those authors, as well as to readers interested in further study. Summing Up: Optional. Public libraries, general collections, and lower-level undergraduates only. —P. C. Kennedy, York College of Pennsylvania

Millard, A. J. Equipping James Bond: guns, gadgets, and technological enthusiasm. Johns Hopkins, 2018. 212p index ISBN 9781421426648, $49.95; ISBN 9781421426655 ebook, $49.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE April 2019

The name James Bond evokes many images—seductive women, sophisticated cocktails, stylish tuxedos—but perhaps the most salient feature of this iconic character’s novels and films has been the modern technology showcased throughout the series. So argues Millard (history, Univ. of Alabama, Birmingham) in this slim, fact-filled volume. Providing rich detail, Millard explores the 20th-century technological developments that not only influenced Bond creator Ian Fleming, but also captured the imagination of the public, who would eagerly consume the books and movies. Fleming’s background in naval intelligence during WW II provided him with firsthand knowledge of military equipment and espionage paraphernalia, versions of which would later appear in the Bond franchise. Yet these clever gadgets, so memorably deployed onscreen by Bond, are not the only manifestations of technology in the series. The threats Bond must thwart (lasers, nuclear bombs, etc.) are themselves products of modern invention, and the Bond stories thus tap into public anxiety over our increasingly technical world. Although Bond masterfully employs advanced devices, Millard reminds us that he is ultimately a man of action and “always triumphs against the machine,” reflecting Fleming’s “faith in the resilience of human agency.” Summing Up: Recommended. All readers. —S. Rokusek, Florida Gulf Coast University

Olson, Lynne. Madame Fourcade’s secret war: the daring young woman who led France’s largest spy network against Hitler. Random House, 2019. 428p bibl index ISBN 9780812994766, $30.00; ISBN 9780812994773 ebook, $13.99.
Reviewed in CHOICE September 2019

Every so often a history book comes along that tells a riveting story—“reads like a novel” is the customary praise—significantly expands knowledge of the past, and compels one to rethink the historiography of its narrative. Such a triumph is Olson’s Madame Fourcade’s Secret War, an account of France’s largest espionage network during the Occupation and the elegant, beautiful, 31-year-old Marie-Madeleine Fourcade (1909–89) who led it. In the face of the Nazis’ suffocating surveillance and savage reprisals—some 450 members of the Resistance network Fourcade led were executed—Fourcade’s agents garnered intelligence that helped win the U-boat war, assisted in planning the D-Day invasion, and provided information on the German ballistic missile program that allowed the Allies to forestall its development until the second front was secure. Fourcade’s work has been too long ignored: her story fell victim to competition over control of the historical narrative about the Resistance on the parts of the communists, de Gaulle’s Free French, and the Maquisards. In addition, Fourcade’s background, her practical feminism, and her alignment with British intelligence ensured her story was downplayed after the war; her memoir, L’Arche de Noé (1968; Eng. tr., Noah’s Ark, CH, May’74), was for the most part ignored. Bottom line: Olson’s book is important as well as captivating. Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. —G. P. Cox, emeritus, Gordon State College

Usdin, Steven T. Bureau of spies: the secret connections between espionage and journalism in Washington. Prometheus Books, 2018. 360p index ISBN 9781633884762, $26.00; ISBN 9781633884779 ebook, $11.99.
Reviewed in CHOICE February 2019

Most Americans associate espionage with national intelligence agencies. But with the 2016 election, many became aware of how deception, misinformation, and “fake news” worked in the service of Putin’s Russia. Who better to deceive and manipulate a naïve public than newsmen? Usdin, a respected scholar of intelligence operations and the author of Engineering Communism (CH, Mar’06, 43-4191), examines the world of espionage among journalists in Washington, D.C., from the 1920s through the Cold War. Usdin focuses on spies and agents of influence working out of the National Press Building. Some, like Robert Allen, Drew Pearson’s partner on Washington Merry-Go-Round, clandestinely provided Soviet intelligence with valuable inside information. But Allen was not the only journalist working for the Soviets. Another was I.F. Stone, and like Allen, he hid that information from his readers and colleagues. Usdin also traces how journalists shaped American attitudes rejecting isolationism before Pearl Harbor and served as a back channel during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Bureau of Spies is a landmark study that will shape our understanding of the secret relationship between intelligence services and the media for generations to come. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —C. C. Lovett, Emporia State University