Hidden Secrets: The Complete History of Espionage and the Technology Used to Support Itby David Owen, Antonio Mendez (Foreword by)
For fans of James Bond movies, Tom Clancy, John Le Carré and Robert Ludlum, Hidden Secrets is a compelling look at the real world of the spy. Often called the second oldest profession, espionage has played and continues to play a pivotal role in world events. Stealing plans, knowing an enemy's capabilities and deceiving an opponent are vital in both/b>
For fans of James Bond movies, Tom Clancy, John Le Carré and Robert Ludlum, Hidden Secrets is a compelling look at the real world of the spy. Often called the second oldest profession, espionage has played and continues to play a pivotal role in world events. Stealing plans, knowing an enemy's capabilities and deceiving an opponent are vital in both war and peacetime. Centuries ago, Sun Tzu (The Art of War) made extensive use of spies and believed the ideal way to defeat an opponent was to avoid battle altogether with deception and clever maneuvers to confuse, distract and ultimately triumph over the enemy. In 1780, George Washington's spies, the Culper Ring spy network, tracked enemy ships by communicating with invisible inks and signals like hanging a set number of handkerchiefs on a clothesline.
Spying and spy technology has evolved from sending signals through handkerchiefs and cracking the code of the Enigma machine to current intelligence techniques that rely on satellite imagery and monitoring of cellphone and internet communications. With case studies and hundreds of photographs, Hidden Secrets is an intriguing look at all these surveillance techniques, spy technology and the spies themselves.
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Read an Excerpt
People involved in espionage or, to be more correct, the intelligence services often like to say that theirs is the world's second oldest profession. Whether or not it can claim such a title is arguable. What is beyond dispute is that trying to steal the secret ideas, plans or capabilities of an actual or potential adversary, which is what espionage amounts to, can be traced to the very beginnings of human society. Soldiers, whose business is also one of the world's oldest professions, have always yearned to know what lies over the hill. Hidden in dead ground, secure from their sight, does the enemy have a strongpoint, reserves of men or materiel, or a potentially fatal weakness that cries out to be exploited? Information like that can be worth diamonds by the bucketload, often providing the opportunity to change the outcome of a battle or shorten a campaign and save countless lives.
Even in times of international tension rather than real war, spies deal in potentially vital information. When countries are embroiled in negotiating treaties or arguing over claims to disputed territory, knowledge of a competitor's true negotiating position confers a priceless advantage. Any diplomat who is aware of his opposite number's ultimate fallback position is in the happy situation of a poker player who has glimpsed his opponent's hand. With facts like that at one's disposal, the rest is pure ritual and face-saving protocol. The outcome, in terms of power politics, is effectively already decided.
Yet, espionage and the information it generates have presented one problem, almost from the very beginning. In terms of human intelligence gatherers, who is the real spymaster? Is the agent who returns from enemy country really telling you what you need to know, or what your adversary wants you to believe? Even where inanimate forms of espionage, like signals, communications or image intelligence, are involved, a wide range of deceptions can be used to produce a false picture with the information.
This double-edged nature of the espionage weapon is one of the main reasons why spy stories retain their fascination in an increasingly sophisticated technological world. The idea of the double, triple or even multiple agent creates an image of shadowy half-truths and clever guessing games upon which hang terrible consequences. If an agent is suspected of working for the other side, the benefits from turning the tables on those who really employ him far outweigh the damage-limitation priorities of catching him and cutting off the channel of tainted information he represents.
By feeding the double agent with false information, you can reassure the enemy that he or she is doing an effective job, allowing them to relax in the belief that their true secrets remain hidden. In reality, the information the spy takes back to them represents what you want them to believe, while the planted information brought to you offers a priceless clue to what the enemy wants to hide. Unwittingly, the double agent has become a triple agent, and the true value of the information carried back and forth is switched between the two opposing sides.
Seen in this objective manner, the trade of the spy may appear to be a simple matter of searching for information and sending it or carrying it back to whoever controls the network of agents to which each spy usually belongs. In human terms, though, the cost of espionage is appallingly high. For reasons that vary from genuine ideological conviction or hatred of the target country to a greed for money or power, the spy is always under threat of exposure, capture and disgrace, with the prospect of a long prison sentence or even execution in the offing. To avoid these terrifying eventualities, he or she must trust no one and must learn to live a cover story to the full. Not for them are the normal compensations of career, family life and friendships, save under the most carefully controlled circumstances.
Even when the work is done, and the agent is pulled out of the front line to enjoy a well-deserved retirement in a country grateful for his or her efforts, the blessings can be mixed. Usually the host country is not one in which they were born or spent most of their lives, since the best agents are native to the societies where they trawl for information and where they can merge without detection. A country that was the focus of their loyalty and the source of their protection during the tense operational years may be less inviting as a home without a job, in an alien society that often speaks a different language, even though their continued loyalty is not in question.
In the wider espionage picture, agents continue to play an important role, even though now the major discoveries tend to be made by more technologically based techniques. A human agent can reveal secrets that the most sophisticated intelligence gathering systems would not pick up. These may include the intentions of a nation's leaders in a particular campaign or crisis, the existence of dissident groups or individuals who could be recruited as additional agents to widen the sources of information, and shifts in public attitudes that may be significant at times of heightened tension.
Nevertheless, today traditional spies have to earn their keep in an immeasurably more complex and capable world than their predecessors. Since the invention of radio and radar, reconnaissance and intelligence gathering aircraft and satellites, and systems for intercepting and decrypting communications, the secrets revealed by the most successful of human agents contribute to a much wider and more detailed picture assembled from all these varied sources.
Different chapters of this book are devoted to SIGINT (signal intelligence, obtained from the interception and decrypting of messages, and the analysis of traffic), ELINT (electronic intelligence, involving remote sensors and traffic surveillance), FALSE INTELLIGENCE (employing deception, subversion, misinformation and the use of double agents) and IMINT (image intelligence, including video intelligence and airborne information gathering using technology like infrared line-scan -- IRLS -- and satellite surveillance.
This book encompasses all the aspects of intelligence and information gathering, and the efforts that countries and their counter intelligence organizations employ to keep their secrets safe from prying eyes. Yet, there remains one positive aspect of espionage, which can act across national boundaries and help to make the world a little safer. So many wars have broken out because one nation misunderstood another's capability, attitude or intention. At one time, revealing hidden secrets could convince a potential aggressor that an attack was feasible. Later, in the context of the Cold War, the balance of terror required that both East and West remained in no doubt at all of the opposition's ability to ensure MAD -- Mutual Assured Destruction -- and thereby deter the pressing of the nuclear button. In this respect, the value of the spy as a channel of communication to prevent fear of a preemptive strike was supreme, and reluctantly acknowledged by both sides.
Today, with a greater number of less powerful potential adversaries, perhaps the place of the agent and the secrets that remain the target of his or her operations have reverted to the espionage traditions of the past. The world of 21st-century espionage, examined in the closing chapter, is challenging and so far largely unpredictable. Yet, one factor is certain -- revealing the hidden secrets of tomorrow will continue to engage the best minds and the bravest agents, who will be faced with the most determined efforts of those who guard them. For the second oldest profession, the future promises to be every bit as busy as its long, varied and colorful past.
Meet the Author
David Owen is the author of the best-selling book, Hidden Evidence. A graduate in engineering, David moved from the aerospace industry into scientific writing and journalism. His works include publications on military deception and air accident investigations plus radio and television documentaries on electronic intelligence and computer crime.
Antonio J. Mendez was a CIA Intelligence Officer for over twenty-five years working undercover around the world and creating disguises and identities for other CIA agents. In 1997 Mendez was one of only 50 CIA officers to be awarded the Trailblazer Medallion. Mr. Mendez is a consultant to the International Spy Museum opening in Washington D.C. this year.
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