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Operation Shakespeare: The True Story of an Elite International Sting

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Overview

A secret war. A daring sting operation. The great untold national security story of our time: “An impressive and important work…The book has the glamour of a spy novel and the gravity of a meticulously researched exposé” (Christian Science Monitor).

On today’s high-tech battlefields, the most lethal weapons are not the big ones, but rather the ones that are small enough to be smuggled inside a pack of chewing gum. Developed and manufactured in the United States at extraordinary ...

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Operation Shakespeare: The True Story of an Elite International Sting

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Overview

A secret war. A daring sting operation. The great untold national security story of our time: “An impressive and important work…The book has the glamour of a spy novel and the gravity of a meticulously researched exposé” (Christian Science Monitor).

On today’s high-tech battlefields, the most lethal weapons are not the big ones, but rather the ones that are small enough to be smuggled inside a pack of chewing gum. Developed and manufactured in the United States at extraordinary cost, these tiny weapons of war—which can guide missiles, see through walls, and trigger anything from a wireless IED to a nuclear weapon—are what currently give the US its military advantage. Unfortunately, they are increasingly being discovered in the hands of our enemies.

In Operation Shakespeare, Pulitzer Prize finalist John Shiffman tells the true story of an elaborate sting operation launched by an elite Homeland Security team that was created to stop Iran, Russia, China, and North Korea from stealing US military technology. The sting, codenamed Operation Shakespeare, targets an Iranian arms broker who works on behalf of Tehran. Over the course of three years, the American agents go undercover to outwit not only the Iranian, but US defense contractors and bankers willing to put profit over national security. The chase moves around the world, and as the United States tries to bring the Iranian to justice, his own government plots to assassinate him, fearful of what he might reveal.

Tenacious, richly detailed, and boasting unprecedented access to both the Iranian broker and the US agents who caught him, “Operation Shakespeare reads like a spy thriller—but Shiffman’s meticulous reporting leaves no doubt that he is telling nothing less than scary truth” (Daily News, New York).

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

On today's battlefields, the tiniest weapons are often the most lethal. Thus, tracking down stolen American-made weapons and technology is both tricky and dangerous. For obvious reason, battling this high-stakes smuggling takes place far from prying news eyes, but Pulitzer Prize finalist and author John Shiffman (Priceless) has penetrated their secrets to bring back the character-driven story of these national security operations. A gripping, far-ranging account of the tireless undercover efforts to save soldiers, sailors, and other citizens.

Publishers Weekly
05/12/2014
While contemporary notions of surveillance may conjure fears of domestic data mining, Shiffman investigates governmental efforts to use spying for international security. The eponymous sting operation was a mid-2000s attempt to apprehend arms dealers who specialized in running U.S.-made military technology, often “tiny, seemingly innocent items” that “could pose a threat to U.S. Forces.” These devices can have dual uses in, say, either advanced medical work or in illicit bomb building, and it is this ambiguous nature that enables the circumvention of the “ridiculously complex” import/export regulations, allowing malicious smugglers to claim ignorance of the laws. The elaborate sting operation required “subtlety, research, creativity, money, patience, and risk.” Shiffman describes a character-driven “symphony of moving parts,” with fascinating personalities on either side of the battle, contrasting the driven, deceptive American agents with their oblivious, business-oriented Iranian target. The book’s strengths are the humanizing portrayal of the agents and the captivating insights into the psychology of undercover work. Shiffman’s exciting and eye-opening look into the “tiny weapons of modern war” and the international machinations that control them will appeal to espionage junkies and the techno-thriller crowd. Agent: Larry Weissman. (July)
Providence Journal
“Heart-pounding . . . So mesmerizing I couldn’t put it down . . . This book stuns.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
“A tale that seems almost ready-made for Hollywood . . . A cross between a great detective story and an intricate spy yarn from John le Carré, with a cast of burly American agents, slippery international arms dealers, and an Iranian agent.”
New York Daily News
“A riveting new book, Operation Shakespeare, tells the thrilling inside story of how an elite team of Homeland Security operatives snatched an Iranian arms dealer from the shadows in a triumph of American justice. . . . Operation Shakespeare reads like a spy thriller—but Shiffman’s meticulous reporting leaves no doubt that he is telling nothing less than scary truth.”
New York Post
“One might think that curbing the smuggling of weapons to America’s enemies would be a significant priority for the U.S. government. One would be wrong.”
Christian Science Monitor
“Vivid . . . An impressive and important work . . . Shiffman illuminates the network of smugglers, brokers, governments, and corporations that facilitates the illegal sale and shipment of sensitive American military technologies to foreign enemies. . . . The book has the glamour of a spy novel and the gravity of a meticulously researched exposé.”
Los Angeles Times
Praise for Priceless:

“Riveting . . . This should be a TV series.”
The Washington Post
“Gripping . . . Enough intrigue and suspense for a Hollywood screenplay.”
The Associated Press
“Stunning . . . Authoritative and superbly crafted, Priceless is absolutely, hands down, the best book ever written on art crime. It is also a fascinating memoir.”
New York Times bestelling author of The Bureau and In The President's Secret Service - Ronald Kessler
“With suspense, intrigue, and candor, FBI agent Robert Wittman takes us inside the secret world of stolen art as he goes undercover to solve some of the most notorious art thefts of our time.”
New York Times bestselling author of Blood and Honor and The Summer Wind - George Anastasia
Priceless is a gem of a story, part James Bond, part art history. If Robert Wittman didn't already exist, Dan Brown would have made him up.”
former undercover FBI agent and New York Times bestselling author of Making Jack Falcone - Jack Garcia
“More realistic than The Thomas Crown Affair, more entertaining than Catch Me If You Can. It's hard to believe one undercover FBI Agent rescued so many cultural and national treasures . . . but it's all true.”
Garrett Graff
“In this fascinating tale, John Shiffman takes us inside the shadowy world of international arms dealing, exposing a high-stakes battle against smuggling that takes place far from the front pages—even as it threatens our soldiers and national security on a daily basis. Leaping from Philadelphia to Tiblisi to Tehran, Operation Shakespeare is so richly detailed you’d never know that Shiffman wasn’t actually part of the sting himself.”
Andrea Mitchell
“John Shiffman’s Operation Shakespeare reads like a spy novel, but this meticulously reported book has the added virtue of being completely true. Shiffman has uncovered one of the great undercover stings in recent U.S. history, a Homeland Security operation aimed at protecting U.S. troops from an Iranian arms dealer. This is must-reading for anyone who loves foreign intrigue—a welcome covert operation where the U.S. agents are the good guys.”
Matt Apuzzo
“One of the nation’s premier journalists takes you into the world of smugglers, snitches, and secret agents. Operation Shakespeare is a real-life cloak-and-dagger adventure, with American lives hanging in the balance.”
Library Journal
02/01/2014
Pulitzer Prize finalist Shiffman investigates a three-year sting called Operation Shakespeare conducted by an elite undercover Homeland Security unit aiming to keep Iran, Russian, China, Pakistan, and North Korea from acquiring sophisticated American-made electronics capable of guiding missiles, jamming radar, and triggering weapons like wireless IEDs. The targets weren't just enemy brokers but American manufacturers and global bankers. Shiffman racked up a New York Times best seller and multiple foreign sales with Priceless.
Kirkus Reviews
2014-05-17
Well-handled, tricky research regarding the highly secretive work of Pentagon agents to keep American-made weapons out of Iranian and Chinese hands.Reuters investigative reporter Shiffman (co-author, with Robert K. Wittman: Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures, 2010) ably conveys the complexity and suspense around the CIA's Operation Shakespeare, one of a dozen overseas counterproliferation stings aimed at the black-market arms networks that have developed since 9/11. The author delves into stories behind the figures buying highly sensitive American technology and munitions and using it against American soldiers abroad—e.g., an IED in Iraq with a remote control trigger that can be traced back to a manufacturer in California. In 2003, under the sprawling Department of Homeland Security, the agencies of U.S. Customs merged with the Immigration and Naturalization Service to become Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and grew much more aggressive in targeting shadow networks in Iran, Pakistan, Russia and China, many of which purchase arms from U.S. defense contractors and high-tech manufacturers—despite rigorous export security laws and regular visits to these businesses by Homeland Security agents. Operation Shakespeare involved the opening of a storefront as a lure to foreigner customers, where agent Patrick J. Lechleitner began sniffing out the bad guys. One example was Cross International, "worldwide procurer of military and defense-related items and technology" in Yardley, Pennsylvania. In 2004, a certain "Alex Dave," purportedly based in Dubai, began requesting jet parts and radioisotopes; Dave was actually Amir Ardebili, an Iranian broker working for the Iranian navy and other outfits who eagerly ordered parts from Cross, wiring payment through Swiss banks and arranging convoluted transports via Dubai. Shiffman dutifully follows agents to Dubai, Frankfurt, Wilmington, and Tbilisi, Georgia, among other places, as the operation took on increasing complexity until Ardebili was finally nabbed in 2007.A well-organized, troubling exposé of the pervasiveness of this shadowy "technology transfer."
From the Publisher
"Exciting and eye-opening . . . a character-driven symphony of moving parts, with fascinating personalities." —-Publisher's Weekly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451655131
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 7/8/2014
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 96,526
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

John Shiffman is an investigative reporter for Reuters. He worked as a staff writer at The Philadelphia Inquirer from 2003 to 2011, where he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He is the author of Operation Shakespeare and with former FBI agent Robert Wittman, he coauthored Priceless, a New York Times bestseller published in nine languages. He is a lawyer and lives near Washington, DC.

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2014

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