Why Spy?: Espionage in an Age of Uncertainty

Why Spy?: Espionage in an Age of Uncertainty

by Frederick Hitz

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What motivates someone to risk his or her life in the shadowy, often dangerous world of espionage? What are the needs and opportunities for spying amid the "war on terrorism"? And how can the United States recruit spies to inform its struggle with Islamic fundamentalists' acts of anti-Western jihad?

Drawing on over twenty-five years of experience, Frederick P


What motivates someone to risk his or her life in the shadowy, often dangerous world of espionage? What are the needs and opportunities for spying amid the "war on terrorism"? And how can the United States recruit spies to inform its struggle with Islamic fundamentalists' acts of anti-Western jihad?

Drawing on over twenty-five years of experience, Frederick P. Hitz, a former inspector general of the Central Intelligence Agency, guides the reader through the byzantine structure of the U.S. intelligence community (which agency handles what?), traces the careers and pitfalls of such infamous spies as Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames, and explains how the United States must meet the challenges set forth in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. He also describes the transformation of the CIA after the end of the cold war--from 1991 to the present--and outlines a vision for the future of U.S. spying in the twenty-first century.

A fascinating glimpse into the inner workings of international espionage and intelligence, Why Spy? is a must-read not only for fans of Tom Clancy and John le Carré, but for anyone concerned about the security of the United States in a post-cold war, post-9/11 world.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hitz, a former CIA inspector general, writes an entertaining primer on espionage: why it worked against the U.S.S.R. but flopped against terrorists, and what America can do about it. He starts with a delicious account of the seven reasons people spy. Ideology and money lead the list, although experts maintain that no one ever turned traitor for purely ideological reasons. Simple revenge for being fired or denied promotion play a role, and Robert Hanssen (portrayed in the recent movie Breach) so desperately wanted to prove he could amount to something, he turned double agent. Despite plenty of fiascoes, Hitz argues that spying produced much valuable information during the Cold War but little afterwards, due to the difficulties of obtaining human intelligence from terrorist cells and secretive groups like al-Qaeda. The U.S. now depends on the intelligence services of countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, whose goals often contradict ours, and Hitz claims the Bush administration clearly prefers intelligence that supports its policies. His solutions include government support for studying languages, greater professionalism, relieving the political pressure on analysts, and streamlining the lugubrious bureaucracy. Although Hitz warns that reform will take a while, he delivers this news in a short, engaging book that gives readers plenty to think about. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
The CIA's former inspector general details the extensive use of espionage and intelligence by the U.S. government since World War II. Hitz (Law and Politics/Univ. of Virginia; The Great Game: The Myths and Reality of Espionage, 2004, etc.) divides the book into four sections concerning every possible aspect of spying: the motivations to do so, the tactics employed by various organizations, the state of spying in the 21st century and the ethical considerations it provokes. He provides a revealing glimpse into a world often romanticized by modern cinema and literature-and yes, readers will find real-life double agents, pricey sex scandals and even "a James Bond-like escape from FBI surveillance." However, Hitz appears pessimistic when tackling the current state of counterintelligence operations both in the United States and around the world. The new enemy is not a foreign government, he notes, but a worldwide network of terrorist cells that operate at their own behest. While Osama bin Laden may be the figurehead, these cells are independent, which makes them extremely hard to locate and infiltrate. Age-old tactics such as sexual exploitation and torture procedures like those used at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay are no longer as effective as in the past; the author claims that Islamic prisoners are less susceptible to such techniques due to their fundamentalist beliefs. The very concept of spying is rapidly taking a new identity, he writes, with the Internet now considered the main conduit for information flow between terror cells and their members. The days of shrouded secrecy and privileged information on the day-to-day protection and operation of the United States are coming to an end.Hitz argues that the public and local police services are now required to stand guard should the nation wish to avoid the next 9/11. An often controversial analysis that still offers plenty of entertainment.

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Why Spy?

Espionage in an Age of Uncertainty

By Frederick P. Hitz

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2008 Frederick P. Hitz
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-3295-0


Espionage versus Intelligence: How the United States Goes About Spying

Before discussing in detail why spies choose to spy, we ought to figure out what espionage is and how the United States goes about it. Spying has a long history, stretching back to biblical times. Tribes, ethnicities, and other authorities have always wanted to know what their enemies or rivals were planning to do to them or how they might act to protect a perceived vital interest. If the rival power refused to share the information, it had to be stolen or suborned. The High Priest's minions sought to bribe Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus' followers, into revealing the prophet's whereabouts so they could eliminate him before Rome interfered to bring Jerusalem to heel.

In medieval and renaissance times, spies infiltrated the courts of rival kingdoms and principalities to acquire the secrets that might undermine them or keep them at a safe distance-and they were called ambassadors.

George Washington believed strongly in the value of intelligence. He arrived at an understanding with the Continental Congress in 1775 that it would create a separate secret committee, the Committee of Secret Correspondence, whose mission it would be to furnish General Washington with unvouchered, unaccountable funds that he could spend to hire spies to protect the Continental Army. One of those spies, an untutored but enthusiastic young schoolmaster, Nathan Hale, volunteered to go behind the British lines on Long Island in 1776 to spy, but he was so green that he was immediately captured and hanged. Although he was clearly temperamentally unsuited for espionage, Hale had been willing to try it because his country and fellow soldiers so desperately needed intelligence about the British Army's plans and whereabouts in New York.

I once heard Reagan administration director of Central Intelligence WilliamJ. Casey remark, as he walked past the statue of Nathan Hale implanted beside the main entrance to the original CIA headquarters building in Langley, Virginia., that he'd like to replace Hale with a statue of Hercules Mulligan. Unlike Hale, Casey noted, Mulligan was a successful spy throughout the American Revolution. Like Hale, a Yale graduate, Mulligan was a member of Washington's Committee of Secret Correspondence from 1775 until the end of the Revolutionary War. He successfully spied for Washington in New York City, once crossing through enemy lines carrying a letter from Alexander Hamilton outlining the best way to evacuate outgunned American troops from Long Island. Mulligan's clothing business and his brother's export-import firm permitted close contact with senior officers in the British Army occupying New York, and Mulligan took full advantage of these relationships to gather tidbits concerning British troop movements and plans. He successfully warned of a British plan to capture General Washington in 1779, and a later plan to interdict his passage to New England in 1781. Mulligan lived until 1825, having known many of the principal figures from New York on the American side during the revolution. He was a champion of the cause of American freedom spurred by a principled distaste for British rule, owing in no small part to his Irish heritage. That is doubtless what appealed to Director Casey.

More recently, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Britain and other colonial powers used espionage to defend empire. "The Great Game," as Kipling called it, was employed to prevent the czarist Russians and their French allies from interfering with Britain's economic and political domination of the Indian subcontinent. Britain sought to train natives, or white sahibs who could pass for natives, to hang out in the bazaars or go on surveying missions in the outback to keep track of hostile efforts to undermine its influence.

In World War I, Britain used its skill in breaking foreign diplomatic codes to intercept German radio messages threatening interference with neutral shipping in the North Atlantic, or planning an alliance with Mexico to return territory "stolen" from it by the United States during the Mexican-American War. These messages, including the famous Zimmermann Telegram, were secretly shared with President Wilson to lay the groundwork for his decision to enter the war on the allied side in 1917. Here was modern technology employed to enhance the espionage effort against hostile communications of enemy states that the collector then used very effectively to get help for its cause.

The period between the wars saw a lot of espionage for hire, as varied newly enfranchised states in central Europe and the Middle East sought to establish themselves and protect their independence but did not have the experience or money to pay for an intelligence service of their own. The rise of fascism led to efforts by the Axis powers to infiltrate the West, including the United States, where J. Edgar Hoover was finally instructed by President Roosevelt in 1940 to go after Nazi plans to sabotage U.S. cargo bound for European ports. This was the first recognition that the United States was disadvantaged by not having a peacetime civilian intelligence service, and led to the chartering of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) under General William "Wild Bill" Donovan during World War II, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1947. In between, of course, the United States had suffered the shocking disaster of the Pearl Harbor attack in December 1941, about which we had had no intelligence warning. In the postwar postmortems about the event it was hotly debated as to whether this was a failure of collection or analysis, but in the end, an otherwise skeptical President Truman was convinced that the United States needed a civilian spy service, and the CIA was created.

This brings us to the era of modern espionage. The charter of the fledgling CIA in 1947 was to become the action element in the U.S. government to respond to George Kennan's clarion call to oppose the westward drive of the postwar Soviet empire, the policy of containment. The CIA was empowered to do this by spying and by covert political operations ("covert action"), which ran the gamut from black propaganda (where the source of the propaganda is hidden) to funding democratic political parties in Italy and elsewhere; to sending in sabotage teams behind the Iron Curtain to roll back communism. It was a mammoth assignment and a gigantic project, which neither the State nor Defense departments wanted to take on, so it fell to the new kid on the block. After a very slow start in the late forties it began to succeed, turning into a meaningful effort to penetrate and infiltrate Soviet agent networks in the West, in the mid-sixties. The Soviets, of course, had been quite successful in launching espionage operations against its future allies in the West beginning in the mid-1930s, before the war, and continuing with the successful effort to steal U.S. atomic secrets, which led to the testing of a Soviet nuclear bomb in 1948, five years in advance of most intelligence predictions.

We shall concentrate on the legacy of espionage operations mounted by Western intelligence agencies against the Soviet Union during the cold war period that ran from 1946 to 1991, to establish the baseline of knowledge about espionage for comparison with the current challenges posed by Islamist terrorism. The reason for this is clear. For forty-five years, this was the principal mission of U.S. intelligence agencies. This is what we had to learn to do after the CIA was chartered in 1947 at the outset of the cold war, and how we learned it.

Covert action (political operations where the hand of the United States is intended not to show) will also be considered, because this was also a critical part of the CIA's mission. Yet it is my view, after observing the extent to which it has become impossible under current circumstances of around-the-clock worldwide media coverage, the Internet, and expanded congressional oversight to mount these operations in secrecy, that they are likely to play but a small part in the intelligence war on terrorism. In sum, we shall be looking principally at what the United States knows about human spy operations.

Nonetheless, we shall not restrict our inquiry to cloak-and-dagger operations, dead drops, and microdots alone. America has made many contributions to universal spycraft, but its greatest over the years are perhaps in the realm of sophisticated communications technology, i.e., satellite reconnaissance and eavesdropping, and electronic surveillance. We shall want to see how these technical aids will help the West follow international money transfers and Internet communications among terrorist cells. We shall need to understand better the possibilities of using modern computers to capture and analyze reams of data, i.e., data mining.

Nonetheless, the principal focus of our inquiry is a question of human behavior and motivation. Why do spies spy?

To begin, we have to define what spies do. I have borrowed in the past from Kim Philby's definition of espionage as the collection of "secret information from foreign countries by illegal means." I am no longer sure that this epigrammatic formulation gets it all. For example, calling information "secret" suggests that there is a requirement that it be formally adjudged to be so, and be so stamped. In reality, we don't care about definitions. We are concerned with information that the spy wants to obtain and that the owner of it wants to protect, regardless of its intrinsic sensitivity.

Second, the spy universe is no longer adequately defined by "foreign countries." It includes Al Qaeda or the Taliban or the Iraqi insurgents or the Kosovar Serbs or the rebels of Darfur — whatever transnational group is engaged in hostile action against Western interests.

Finally, "illegal means" is too polite, too marquis of Queensbury. We are talking about stealing secrets. This is no parlor game but a down and dirty effort, electronic or human, to get at the intentions of the enemy, to strip his cupboard bare.

That is what makes the core question of why spies spy so compelling. However the spy may dress it up or the good spy runner may sugarcoat it, a spy is betraying a trust. He or she is revealing to a third party information that he or she, his friends, family, and professional associates are prohibited from sharing. It is an act that has consequences, as we shall note. And herein lies the essential conundrum of the present time. If spying is an enterprise so fraught with fundamental risk, can we be confident that simply hiring more case officers and teaching them hard languages will accomplish the task? Aren't there additional parts to the equation? If so, what might they be? What are the motivations for espionage that can be learned and that might be exploited to give some hope of success against the practitioners of martyrdom operations?

Espionage is distinguished from other forms of intelligence gathering by its clandestinity and its "illegal means" of acquisition. Spies are traitors who can be shot for their transgressions, as can the case officers who run them if they are not diplomats. Not all intelligence reports provided daily to the president are derived from stolen secret information provided by spies. Much of it is open source information acquired by experts in the course of perusing Web sites, media outlets, academic monographs, and conversations with other experts who know the region or subject being explicated. It is derived from ambassadorial and foreign service officer reports from American embassies abroad and military attaches serving in them. In fact, about 95 percent of most intelligence reports that reach the president's desk are largely derived from sources that, if you knew what you were looking for, would be openly available. It becomes intelligence by virtue of the expertise of the analyst who pulls all source information together in a way that explains the meaning and implications of an event to the president and his top policy makers. No espionage may be involved.

During World War II, the CIA's predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), was given credit for having invented something called "all-source intelligence analysis" that combined fragments of information from newspapers, academic journals, legal travelers, and spies to present to the nation's top decision makers as complete a picture of ball-bearing production in Nazi Germany, let's say, as was available anywhere. Note that even at that time, these analysts did not have access to intercepted wire or radio communications, more commonly known in the trade as sigint. That was reserved for military intelligence agencies. The OSS analysts were often postdoctorates or young faculty from distinguished universities, and they were putting in their daily dozen or fourteen hours a day to track the efforts of the Axis powers to feed their war machine. Even from these hoary beginnings the lion's share of basic intelligence collection and analysis was derived from ingenious, dogged research in open source materials enriched by the occasional clandestine report that clarified some aspect of what the analyst was looking for or at.

To be sure, the clandestinely acquired 5 percent of intelligence information is often the nugget or key fact that gives the report salience or authenticity. But it does not necessarily dominate the interpretation, meaning, or significance of the piece.

The second aspect of the secret 5 percent is that it might not be (and usually isn't) derived from humint — human spies. It can be sigint or overhead satellite photography. It could also be the report of a cooperating foreign intelligence liaison service.

Therefore, human spying and intelligence gathering and analysis are not synonymous. Most good intelligence is a pastiche of various bits of information put together authoritatively by analysts with deep knowledge of the subject area where the clandestinely acquired pieces are but a part, perhaps the most important part, but only a part of the whole. Humint is unlikely to be a high volume or comfortably predictable part of the entire intelligence collection enterprise. In the past I have called espionage "pick and shovel" work: tedious, slow, unpredictable, but vitally important, because it can often lead the analyst to information he may not be able to acquire elsewhere, information about a subject's intentions.

Next we need to know who in the U.S. government does the spying. Of the sixteen separate intelligence agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community noted earlier, only two are supposed to have spy runners on the ground collecting human source intelligence overseas. They are the CIA and the Defense Humint Service. CIA's directorate of operations (DO) has been in charge of spying since the agency was created in 1947, and before that as OSS during World War II. Its targets have traditionally been political and economic intelligence of national interest to the president and his chief policy makers. The DO is also responsible for covert action (CA) as directed by the president and the National Security Council.

The Defense Humint Service is a relatively new entrant in the field of foreign espionage, having been created in 1993 after the 1991 Gulf War to organize the military's effort to gather tactical intelligence around the battlefield for purposes of aiding and protecting U.S. forces fighting abroad. It replaced the individual efforts of the military services and the defense attaché's offices. The CIA remains the manager of national humint collection, meaning Defense Humint Service officers are supposed to coordinate their collection efforts with the senior CIA representative in the field. With the proliferation of antiterrorist intelligence collection efforts abroad, however, this coordination has been harder to come by.

A word must be said about the FBI in this connection. Except for a short period during World War II, the FBI has largely confined its spying efforts to the domestic scene. With the growing importance of antiterrorist activity, and the disappearance of a distinction between foreign and domestic terrorist planning and operations, the FBI has built up its presence in legal attaché offices in U.S. embassies abroad from which it is not supposed to run espionage operations; but FBI agents do involve themselves with friendly foreign intelligence liaison services in antiterrorist issues of common concern.

Finally, why do we need to do this at all? How much information essential to the protection of the West from future suicide bombings is actually secret and cannot be acquired by studious data mining of the Internet or good investigative police work? This has traditionally been a tough question to answer, but may be less so given the offensive posture most Western leaders want their intelligence and domestic security agencies to assume. The goal now is to prevent another 9/11, Madrid train bombing, or 7/7 London Underground attack from occurring, not just finding out who did it after the fact. If intelligence and domestic security are in a preemptive and preventive mode, they will need accurate and timely intelligence about future attacks before they occur, which means penetrating the terrorist cells while they are still planning the attacks.


Excerpted from Why Spy? by Frederick P. Hitz. Copyright © 2008 Frederick P. Hitz. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Frederick P. Hitz, author of The Great Game: The Myths and Reality of Espionage, was inspector general of the CIA from 1990 to 1998. He also has been a lecturer at Princeton University. He currently teaches at the University of Virginia's School of Law and Department of Politics.

Frederick P. Hitz, author of The Great Game: The Myths and Reality of Espionage, was inspector general of the CIA from 1990 to 1998. He also has been a lecturer at Princeton University. He currently teaches at the University of Virginia’s School of Law and Department of Politics.

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