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date: 17 January 2018


Summary and Keywords

“Counterintelligence” (CI) is a term with multiple meanings—its definitions vary, even when applied to a single nation. Yet it can be understood by identifying the common CI functions in a source. These include: handling double agents, defectors, deception operations, and covert communications; handling and detecting moles or penetrations; and dealing with security threats in general. Antecedent elements of what is today called counterintelligence may be found in various histories of intelligence and warfare. The existence of security services can be traced back to ancient Egypt, Assyria, Persia, Greece, Rome, China, and Muscovy, among others. With the rise of the nation-state, rulers began creating secret political police organizations to safeguard their existence. In the case of the United States, it was not until the Civil War that there was anything like a domestic counterintelligence agency, and even then it was not a statutory organization. After World War I, however, former intelligence officers, agents, defectors, and journalists began publishing accounts of counterintelligence and domestic security operations. These topics were often discussed side-by-side. The number of scholarship on CI grew as World War II and the Cold War followed. In particular, the so-called “Cambridge Five” case—which involved five Cambridge graduates who were recruited as Soviet spies in the 1930s—had generated considerable literature and was furthermore considered an important case study in Western and Soviet intelligence services.

Keywords: counterintelligence, security services, police organizations, intelligence services, domestic security, counterintelligence literature, security threats


Pickle-the-spy was never caught. This agent of Henry Pelham, Secretary of State to King George II, penetrated the entourage of Bonnie Prince Charlie and, inter alia, thwarted his plan to seize the King – the Elibank Plot – and restore the Catholic Stuarts to power in 1751. Though suspected by some, Pickle was trusted by the security conscious-prince and in 1754 retired to become chief of Clan Macdonnell of Glengarry (Douglas 1999:224–7). Pickle was finally identified as Alasdair MacDonnell by historian Andrew Lang more than one hundred years later (Lang 1897).

The case of Pickle-the-spy exemplifies an English tradition called espionage civile, as distinguished from military espionage, intended to “defend the Royal Title and Dignity by preventing […] all plots and conspiracies against the Kings Peace” (Richings 1934:14). In today’s vernacular, the functions that comprise this mission are called security, counterespionage (CE), or counterintelligence (CI). After defining these terms, this essay will review the CI literature from ancient times until the present. The focus is on sources in English, most of which concern Europe and the United States, though sources on other nations are included. The approach is roughly chronological, though reference works and unreliable books receive separate attention. Finally, the sources included are intended to be representative of the field; space limitations prevent a comprehensive account.


There is no universally accepted definition of counterintelligence. Differences exist even within a single nation. As stated in presidential Executive Order 12333, as amended July 31, 2008, para. 3.5a, the official United States definition is:

information gathered and activities conducted to identify, deceive, disrupt, or protect against espionage, other intelligence activities, sabotage, or assassinations conducted for or on behalf of foreign powers, organizations or persons or their agents, or international terrorist organizations or activities.

For reasons unclear, this definition has not been adopted by the US National Counterintelligence Executive (NCIX), or by many authors who create their own variations. Examples may be found in L. Johnson (2007:183); West (2005b:114), and Clark (2007:69). W.R. Johnson (2009:2–3), Wilson (1996:56), and Watson et al. (1990:124) also define counterespionage – the penetration of foreign intelligence services. CI liaison with other intelligence services is defined in L. Johnson (2006:113, 114–5). The muddle is tweaked by Shulsky and Schmitt (2002:99 ff.), Holt (1995:109 ff.), and Wettering (2008:324 ff.) by including cryptologic security responsibilities under CI when NSA (National Security Agency) has that responsibility. Baker (2007:147, 159–62) does the same but also concentrates on liaison and its legal ramifications. The definitional hodgepodge can be avoided by identifying the common CI functions in a source. These include: handling double agents, defectors, deception operations, and covert communications; handling and detecting moles or penetrations; and dealing with security threats in general. Felix (2001) gives firsthand operational examples. In short, CI sources involve one or more of these functions. This approach is discussed in Wasemiller (1969) and allows comparisons with other countries’ CI agencies whatever formulation of the definition appears in the literature. Since many books and articles on espionage deal, at least in part, with these CI functions, only relevant portions are referenced herein.

Counterintelligence in Ancient Civilizations

Antecedent elements of what is today called counterintelligence may be found in various histories of intelligence and warfare. Dvornik (1974) discusses security services in ancient Egypt, Assyria, Persia, Greece, Rome, China, and Muscovy, with a bibliography but no footnotes. Sheldon (2003) adds new entries on these nations while adding India and Africa. Russell (1999:190–225) devotes a well-documented chapter to counterintelligence in classical Greece that includes citations from Thucydides and other classical historians. Internal security and deception operations in biblical times are discussed in Sheldon (2007:186, 13 passim). Diplomatic and military applications of counterintelligence with emphasis on security in ancient Rome are treated in Sheldon (2005). The bibliography is a valuable source of related works.

Sawyer (1998) deals with spycraft in China throughout the dynastic periods (2852 BCE–1911 CE). While the functions of counterintelligence are prevalent throughout, two chapters are of particular interest. Chapter 5, “The Nature and Theory of Agents,” analyzes the contribution of Sun Tzu and his guidance on types of secret agent and the use of deception. Chapter 7, “Secrecy and Countermeasures,” considers the consequences of laxity in applying these concepts.

The Origins of Security/Intelligence Services in Europe

With the rise of the nation-state, rulers created secret political police organizations to safeguard their existence. Deacon (1990b:1) notes wryly that Charles V (1354–80) “gave France her first intelligence organization […] to promote the security of the state for the happiness of the people.” In Russia, Ivan the Terrible formed the Oprichnina – the earliest predecessor of the KGB – in 1565 to eliminate opposition (Zuckerman 1996). Hingley (1970) discusses the Russian services from their origins until 1970. Sources for other European nations may be found in the reference section below.

In fourteenth century England, Edward III (1327–77) was “the first King who made anything like a regular use of secret intelligence as a political system,” though Henry the VII was “the actual founder of secret intelligence as a State policy […] [and] the business of civil espionage.” His purpose was to identify deception and “break the knot of conspirators” (Richings 1934:27, 50, 64). The threat of plots and conspiracies plagued successive monarchs for the next three centuries. Richings provides the only single-volume overview of the measures, each one implemented to safeguard the crown. Other British historians have documented specific cases, the best known being Elizabeth I’s Secretary of State and spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham (Alford 2008:260–72). His agents penetrated domestic conspiracies and foreign governments, used ciphers and secret writing to communicate, and intercepted and decrypted enemy letters – basic functions of a modern counterintelligence agency (Wilson 2007). Bossy (2001) tells the story of Walsingham’s mole in the employ of the French ambassador. Following the Walsingham precedent, most secretaries of state found themselves responsible for state security, domestic and foreign (Fraser 1956). John Thurloe, the first to use the post office for counterintelligence purposes (Ellis 1958:62 ff.) – intercepting and decrypting coded letters – served Oliver Cromwell (Aubrey 1990) and initially his successor Charles II (1660–85) (Marshall 1994).

With the exile of James II (1685–8), Jacobite restoration plots threatened the monarchy until the reign of George III. It was during the early part of this period that the tradition of dissident CI memoirs made its debut. When Matthew Smith, Duke of Shrewsbury, Secretary of State under William and Mary, found his compensation inadequate and his complaints came to naught, he published Memoirs of Secret Service (1699). Even then, mention of the Secret Service and the naming of those involved was dimly viewed, and the book was confiscated and burned, though copies survived. Historians would judge Smith a mediocre agent (Cruickshanks 1982). A second memoir in the period (Macky 1733) told of his successful efforts to report on King James.

With the end of the Jacobite movement under George III, the Secret Service, now under William Pitt (Fitzpatrick 1892), turned its attention to other threats – revolution, subversion, and terrorism – from Ireland, France, and the colonies. Irish demands for independence, backed by subversion and acts of terror, contributed to the creation of the Special Branch of the Metropolitan Police, which would play a role in future CI operations (Porter 1987). British counterespionage was active in France during the French Revolution and Napoleonic eras (Sparrow 1999). Counterintelligence also expanded to “aid the King over the Water” (Richings 1934:260–78) as the American colonies gradually showed signs of independence. Andrew (1985:1–173) covers the development of the British CI services from the Victorian era to the end of World War I.

The Origins of Counterintelligence in America

In an unusual move for a government intelligence agency, the National Counterintelligence Center – since renamed the National Counterintelligence Executive (NCIX) – published a four-volume counterintelligence reader (Rafalko: c. 1995–2004). While valuable for their chronologies and bibliographies, the volumes’ utility is diminished by spotty sourcing and the lack of an index. While they do not define CI, most cases discussed include the operational CI functions. Volume 1 deals, inter alia, with military matters and the first American civilian CI organization – the Committee for Detecting and Defeating Conspiracies. No source is given, though the committee is well documented in Paltsits (1909). Other works worth consulting on this period include O’Toole (1991), Bakeless (1959), and Van Dorn (1941). For a good treatment of the Franklin mission to Paris and the case of the British penetration agent Edward Bancroft, see Einstein (1933). The famous Benedict Arnold case of defection and desertion is well told in Palmer (2006).

It was not until the Civil War that there was anything like a domestic counterintelligence agency in the United States and even then it was not a statutory organization. Washington, DC was filled with southerners, all potential spies. Rafalko (c. 1995–2004: vol. 1, 44 ff.), relying too heavily on Mogelever (1960), gives too much credit to Allan Pinkerton, the private detective hired by General George McClellan, notwithstanding a modest success when he arrested Rose O’Neal Greenhow (O’Toole 1991:121–2). His memoirs (Pinkerton 1883) embellished his wartime exploits, referring to himself as Chief of the United States Secret Service, though no such organization existed during the war. The reality of Pinkerton’s meager contribution is spelled out in Fishel (1996:3, 54, 598).

A second specious claim to having headed the Union Secret Service was made by Baker (1867), characterized by Fishel (1996:599) as “having the literary merit and believability of a dime novel.” Milton’s (1942:76) views on Baker were summed up in Congressional testimony where he stated that “it is doubtful whether he had in any one thing ever told the truth even by accident.” He also presents a well-documented treatment of the Carrington plots against the Union and the efforts to neutralize them. The unsuccessful Confederate efforts to kidnap Lincoln and force the Union to negotiate peace are described in Tidwell(1988). In regards to military counterintelligence, O’Toole (1991:126 ff.) and Fishel (1996) are solid sources. Feis (2002) mentions several instances where Grant and his generals dealt with the problem in the field.

The post-Civil War period saw little counterintelligence activity. O’Toole (1991:193–2) describes the single CI operation that occurred during the Spanish–American War. Since there was no military or civilian CI organization, when the British informed the State Department that a Spanish intelligence station was being formed in Canada to conduct espionage in the United States, Secret Service agents were seconded to the Justice Department to deal with the problem – and they did so effectively. But Justice did not want to depend on Treasury agents again and began what became a long bureaucratic battle with Treasury for the investigative mission. Richard Gid Powers (2004:80–100) tells how, after the Bureau of Investigation (BI) was created on March 16, 1909, it took another 11 years before Justice emerged victorious. The tipping point, in terms of responsibility, came during a series of 50 sabotage attacks between 1914 and 1916 aimed at denying the allies US munitions (Witcover 1989). Public outrage was high and the BI was tasked to investigate. Thanks again to help from British intelligence, who unmasked a German double agent, Horst van der Goltz, several of the German saboteurs and spies in America were identified and arrested. Goltz (1917) published his own embellished version of the events but Boghardt (2004:124–6) gives an accurate account. With the US declaration of war on April 6, 1917, 63 suspected German agents were arrested by the BI and the workload grew from there (Powers 2004:2–3). Thus the BI became America’s lead agency in domestic security, then called counterespionage, a mission it would never relinquish.

While newspapers were the principal source of news concerning sabotage, several books appeared that added to public knowledge concerning the security threat, though they cited no sources. Grant (1915) concentrates on cases in Britain, France, Germany, and the United States. Graves (1914), though sensational in tone, sold more than 100,000 copies in ten printings (Boghardt 2004:60–3). Journalists Jones (1917), Jones and Hollister (1918), and Strother (1918) contain a level of detail strongly suggesting government cooperation. These works enlisted popular support for the Bureau which continues to this day.

Military counterintelligence – Army and Navy – Post-Civil War to End of World War I

Army Captain Arthur Wagner, concerned that not enough attention was paid to military intelligence and security, published a book (Wagner 1893) that became a text in Army training for the next 15 years, with new editions appearing periodically until 1910. He included a chapter on spies, military and civilian, that discussed basic CI topics. In 1895 British military historian Colonal George Furse followed suit with his book Information in War, read widely in America, stressing preparedness – “intelligence needs to be in place before the war starts” (Furse 1895:237–90). Insufficient attention was paid to this point, however, and at the start of World War I, the British called 50 university professors, journalists, and businessmen to service in the Intelligence Corps and sent them to France with no training (Gudgin 1989; 29). Gilbert et al. (2005) describe a similar solution to security problems over two years later when the American Army landed in France.

The establishment of US Army military counterintelligence is covered in Gilbert et al. (2005:1–21). The origins of naval counterintelligence can be gleaned from Dorwart (1979:113–31, passim). O’Toole (1991:279–300) deals with both services. Early in World War I, with the press screaming “America Infested with German Spies” (Literary Digest 1917) and, with exceptions, “every German or Austrian […] should be treated as a spy,” proposals surfaced in Congress to make the military responsible for counterespionage. The Army had long promoted the idea and, without legislation, created a “Plant Protection Section” to search out spies and saboteurs, putting itself in the domestic security business (Powers 2004:82–8). This infuriated both the overworked BI and the mission-conscious Secret Service, still hoping for a slice of the CI pie. Jensen (1968) shows how the Army overstepped its authority and was forced to abandon its self-imposed counterespionage mission to the BI.

Counterintelligence Literature in the Interwar Period

After World War I, former intelligence officers, agents, defectors, and journalists began publishing accounts of counterintelligence and domestic security operations – often in the same book. Some dealt with wartime cases, others with the new Soviet security services, and some, for the first time, with the general topic of counterespionage. Tunney (1919), a former New York police inspector, wrote of his efforts to “thwart” German saboteurs. In the journalist category, Barton (1919) published stories of counterespionage cases in Europe and the United States. British authors Everitt (1920) and Felsted (1920) both included German counterespionage cases. With one exception, all were anecdotal and without sources or indexes. The exception was Landau (1937), an MI6 officer who wrote of German sabotage and espionage in America. While he does not include source notes, he does quote letters and cables in the text and provides photocopies of documents. Landau published in America to avoid British censors and resigned his position.

In the first account of an espionage and counterespionage case by a participant, Sir Paul Dukes (1922) told the story of his mission to help the British overthrow the Bolshevik regime after the end of World War I. This involved double agents and his penetration of the Cheka, Russia’s new security service. Though Dukes did not supply source notes, his story has been documented by Ferguson (2008). The wartime head of the German secret service published his memoirs describing the counterespionage organization he established (Nicolai 1924:197–224). As an exemplar of the risks involved, he discussed the case of Colonel Alfred Redl, head of Austrian counterespionage prior to World War I. Blackmailed by the Russians because of his homosexuality, Redl turned over the Kaiser’s war plans in 1913 before being caught. Asprey (1959) gives a more detailed account. Nicolai was the only source, in English, on German intelligence available before World War II. In another example of a firsthand account, Voska (1940) discusses domestic security work in America and his adventures as an American agent in revolutionary Russia during and after the war. Perhaps the most controversial book is the memoir of Sidney Reilly (1932), published posthumously. The details of his exploits and personal life were immediately contested and a more accurate story only emerged in Cook (2004).

Books about the Soviet domestic security service – the Cheka, forerunner of the KGB – first reached the English reading public in the mid-1920s. Deported Russian historian S. Melgounov (1925) described the Red Terror conducted by the Cheka and provides a valuable bibliography. The memoirs of Soviet defectors Popoff (1925), Brunovsky (1931), Agabekov (1931), and Kitchen (1935) added gruesome details that Westerners found hard to accept. Two civilians, Finish businessman Boris Cederholm (1929) and German historian Karl Kindermann (1933), arrested as spies by the Soviets, published accounts of their treatment. Despite the absence of documentation, the overlapping details of these accounts and subsequent studies, for example Leggett (1986), leave no doubt as to their general validity.

In America, Rowan’s Spy and Counter-spy (1929:127–228) had five chapters on counterespionage, which he defines as “organized spying upon spies.” His discussion is not confined to World War I, but rather gives a broad picture of CE in the major European nations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Rowan (1947) claimed he invented the term “counter-spy” and was insistent that the hyphen be included, though common usage today omits it.

Historical accounts of CI during this period emerged later. Rafalko (c. 1995–2004: vol. 1, 143–73) discusses the search for Japanese spies and the first defectors from the Soviet intelligence services. Gilbert et al. (2005:17–22) comments more narrowly on the Army’s role. Talbert (1991) examines Army CI efforts after the war, while adding background on wartime operations against resisters, unions, and African Americans. Comments on naval CE may be found in Dorwart (1983). Turrou (1939) tells how the FBI – the BI was renamed in 1935 – struggled to neutralize the Nazis’ espionage networks. Dobbs (2004) gives a better, documented treatment. The most successful FBI CI case against Nazi spies is described in Ronnie (1995) and O’Toole (1991:270–300, 313–83).

In the 1930s the FBI also focused on the subversive activities of the Communist Party in America. Espionage conducted by the Soviet intelligence services was ignored even when it was brought to their attention. Despite a series of articles by Soviet defector Walter Krivitsky (1939a), and his book in August of that year (Krivitsky 1939b) that named Soviet agents in America, he was not debriefed on the subject. The full story of the Krivitsky case is documented with primary sources in a fine account by Kern (2004). The importance of defectors in counterintelligence is treated by Brook-Shepherd (1977; 1989). The massive and largely undetected CI efforts of the Soviet services – illegals, double agents, deception, moles – are recounted in Andrew and Mitrokhin (2000; 30–161 passim). Historians have also dealt with other counterintelligence services during the interwar period. Andrew (1985:174–258 passim) covers the British, Porch (1995:115–58) and Paillole (2003) depict the French, and Höhne (1979) describes the German Abwehr. The Japanese services are treated in Matthews (1993), Lamont-Brown (1998), and Deacon (1990a).

Counterintelligence during World War II

Accounts Dealing Mainly with Wartime Operations

Rafalko (c. 1995–2004: vol. 2) gives a good summary of US CI operations during the war, including the new CI element of the OSS – X-2. Winks (1987:322–438) adds more detail about X-2 and one of its key officers, James Angleton, later the controversial chief of the CI staff at the CIA. Sayer and Botting (1989) write about the Army Counter Intelligence Corps and Batvinis (2007) covers the FBI wartime CI operations. Sibley (2004) looks at FBI efforts to counter Soviet espionage in America. Hinsley and Simkins (1990) provide a splendid account of British wartime security and counterespionage operations in Britain and Masterman (1995) describes the well-known British deception and double-agent operations run by the Double Cross (XX) committee. For a fine exemplar of a wartime double-agent operation see Booth (2007). The Liddell diaries (West 2005a) add fascinating firsthand insights about wartime MI5 cases. Military deception is the subject of Holt (2007), a much more accurate treatment than Brown (1975). While not entirely CI deception, the principles are better laid out by Holt. Stephan (2004) gives an excellent account of Soviet wartime deception operations against the Germans. Lamont-Brown (1998) tells how the Japanese counterespionage service operated during the war and Paillole (2003) presents a firsthand account of the French wartime services against the Nazis. Pratt (1986) describes the Rote Kapelle (Red Orchestra) network operations and Aldrich (1991) adds further detail. Kern (2007) shows how the FBI reacted to the 1944 defector Victor Kravchenko. Latin American CI operations involving the Germans are recounted by Rout and Bratzel (1986).

Early Postwar CI

Soviet code clerk Igor Gouzenko shocked the West when he defected to Canada in September 1945 and revealed multiple ongoing unknown cases of Soviet espionage in Canada, Britain, and America. His memoirs (Gouzenko 1948), later a motion picture, give a firsthand view. An updated account of the case in Knight (2006), while generally well documented, is flawed by speculation that Gouzenko was run by MI5 before defecting. In November 1945, Elizabeth Bentley followed the Gouzenko precedent and went to the FBI to reveal Soviet espionage activities in America. She named Soviet agents and members of the Communist Party that had penetrated – some were still active – the government, beginning in the 1930s. Her data confirmed much of what Whittaker Chambers had told the FBI in 1939 about Alger Hiss and other Soviet agents, but which the Bureau then ignored. A third CI bombshell hit in 1946 (Benson and Warner 1995) when the US Army cryptographic unit at Arlington Hall began decrypting NKGB traffic – later codenamed VENONA – that further confirmed much of what Gouzenko, Bentley, and Chambers had asserted. Haynes and Klehr (2002) add more names based on analysis of the decrypts. Lamphere and Shachtman (1986) tell how decrypted messages led to the arrest and conviction of atom spies Klaus Fuchs and the Rosenbergs. Radosh and Milton (1997) is the standard work for the Rosenberg case, while Feklisov (2001) ended speculation as to their guilt.

An early journalistic version that alluded to these events (Lowenthal 1950) gave few details but did mention the Judith Coplon penetration of the Justice Department. The Mitchells (2002) provide full details of this case. Massing (1951) provided an account of Soviet agents she had recruited and handled. Dallin (1955) reviews Soviet operations from the 1930s to the 1950s. Weinstein (1997) is the benchmark study of the Alger Hiss–Whittaker Chambers case, while Weinstein and Vassiliev (2000) add more details based on KGB records. Haynes et al. (2009) provide definitive confirmation of all these cases while exposing heretofore unsuspected American KGB agents and their espionage tradecraft.

West (2000) describes how the VENONA material was used in the US, Britain, and Australia. Ball and Horner (1998) examine KGB operations in Australia in detail. Andrew and Mitrokhin (2000:180–211) add specifics from the Soviet side. Rafalko (c. 1995–2004: vol. 3, 1–75), covers the period with short case summaries, a bibliography and a chronology.

Darling (1990:94–115, 203), a doggedly dull but valuable source, records how, after a battle with the Army CIC, the foreign counterespionage mission was assigned to the recently created CIA. Former FBI agent William Harvey was chief of the first CIA counterintelligence element, Staff-D, and it began active operations in the early 1950s (Stockton 2006:28 ff.).

The Cambridge Five Exposed

The so-called “Cambridge Five” case – five Cambridge graduates, Philby, Maclean, Burgess, Blunt, and Cairncross, recruited as NKVD agents in the 1930s – has generated numerous books and articles of varying quality, including Philby’s memoirs, My Silent War (1968). One critical assessment of the Philby literature alone exceeds 150 volumes (Peake 2003) and more books have appeared since. While the basic facts of the case are well established, some authors do not report details accurately. Hamrick (2004), for example, invents a double-agents scenario that is not supported by the well-documented facts. The entry on Philby in the Encyclopaedia Britannica is filled with errors and has remained unchanged for 20 years. Wikipedia has similar problems, calling Philby a double agent – he was not – and getting his recruitment details wrong. Polmar and Allen (2004:496) write that Philby was recruited at Cambridge rather than in 1934, the year after he graduated. Carlisle (2005:406) states that Philby defected with Maclean in 1951 – Philby defected alone in 1963. Borovik (1994) is a good place to start with the Philby case. His life in Russia is covered in Philby (2003).

The Cambridge Five case is of central importance because its tentacles touched so many other operations and its analysis reveals the strengths and weaknesses of the Western and Soviet intelligence services. An example of the latter is the Alexander Orlov case. Orlov, a senior NKVD officer, defected to the United States in 1938 but the FBI did not learn of it until he published a book attacking Stalin in 1953 (Orlov 1953). Even when he was debriefed, he did not reveal his association with three of the Cambridge Five, thus protecting Philby, Blunt, and Cairncross, a fact that was later exposed by Costello and Tsarev (1993). Orlov’s memoirs, published posthumously (Orlov 2004), contribute some detail on Sidney Reilly and NKVD European operations in the 1930s, but make no mention of his Cambridge spy links. Gazur (2001), Orlov’s last FBI handler, challenges some of Costello and Tsarev’s interpretations. Except for Burgess, each of the Cambridge Five have been the subject of biographies: Carter (2001) on Blunt, Newton (1991) on Maclean, Cairncross (1997), and Knightly (1989) on Philby are the best of many. West and Tsarev (1999) add new details about the case based on primary source material from the KGB archives.

The Cambridge Five were not the only Cambridge students recruited by the Soviets and later the subjects of books. Michael Straight (1983) was the only American recruited there. Perry (2005) writes about Straight claiming that he served the KGB long after he says he quit, but lacks hard evidence. In an earlier book Perry (1994) failed to establish that the fifth man in the Cambridge net was Lord Victor Rothschild. McNeish (2007), attempts to persuade readers that New Zealander Paddy Costello was not “the Sixth Man” – he is unconvincing. Barros (1987) makes a case that Herbert Norman was Canada’s contribution to this group. Bowen (1986) takes a contrarian view. In this case the evidence is not conclusive in either book, but Barros makes the stronger case.

Cold War Agents, Defectors, and Illegals

Andrew and Gordievsky (1991:375–479) present a fine overview of the CI threat from the KGB during this period. Other important studies include Mole (Hood 1993), the story of “walk-in” GRU officer Peter Popov in 1952; Murphy et al. (1997:267–81) and Hart (1997) add further details. Essential defector accounts include Deriabin (1959) and the Petrovs (1956), who defected in Australia. See Manne (1987) for an excellent documented description of the Petrov case.

Soviet espionage operations against Western nations increased sharply in the 1960s. This led to more defectors to the West and suspicion of Soviet moles when operations went bad. Martin (1980) tells about the Polish intelligence officer and letter writer Michal Goleniewski, codenamed “Sniper,” who eventually defected and gave clues that exposed MI6 officer and KGB agent George Blake. Blake’s side of the story is told in his memoirs (Blake 1990). Bagley (2007:48 ff.) adds details to the Sniper case from a firsthand perspective. KGB defector Anatoly Golitsyn, to be discussed further below, triggered the 1962 arrest of Admiralty clerk John Vassall, previously recruited in a Moscow homosexual honeytrap (Mangold 1991). Vassall’s account (1975) of the case is valuable for its insights on agent motivation, a factor also examined, inter alia, by Taylor and Snow (2007:302 ff.). At about the same time, GRU officer Oleg Penkovsky “walked in” – volunteered his services to both the UK and the US – and was run jointly as described by Schechter and Deriabin (1992). Brook-Shepherd (1989) gives penetrating assessments of several important Cold War agents and defectors, including the French-controlled KGB officer “Farewell.”

Illegals are a security service’s worst nightmare. Conceived by the NKVD in the 1920s and still used extensively, they have minimum contact with the legal residency in the embassy and are nearly impossible to find. Andrew and Mitrokhin (2000:212–29; 2006) discuss KGB illegals’ history and operations worldwide. Haynes et al. (2009) add detail regarding illegals in America. West (1993) discusses a more selective group. Donovan (1964) gives a good account of the Rudolf Abel case, including his exchange for U-2 pilot Gary Powers. Barron (1974; 1983) discusses KGB cases, providing detail on training illegals, insertion techniques – often via Canada – and the FBI operations that caught them. Maclean (1978:278–303) describes the Lonsdale case in Britain. Lonsdale’s memoirs (Lonsdale 1965) give his version, ghosted by Kim Philby. Lonsdale’s principal agent, Harry Houghton, told his story in Houghton (1972). The story of KGB illegal Yuri Loginov is told in Carr (1969), who never realized she was fed the case material as part of the CIA molehunt discussed below (Mangold 1991:129). Kuzichkin (1990) gives a broad firsthand view of modern KGB illegal training and operations, with emphasis on his Iranian assignment. Wise (2000) reports an unheralded but very successful case involving a GRU sleeper and illegals operating in the United States for more than 20 years.


The defection of KGB officer Anatoli Golitsyn in December 1961 led to molehunts – the search for a penetration – in several Western services and subsequent charges that another defector, Yuri Nosenko, was a KGB plant or provocation. Curiously, Golitsyn (1984) does not mention the case, focusing instead on KGB deception. Martin (1980), an account without source notes, was the first book on the molehunt controversy. Epstein (1989) uses source notes in explaining the position taken by CI chief James Angleton, while not admitting that Angleton was himself a source. Bagley (2007), a participant in the Golitsyn–Nosenko controversy, makes a coherent documented exposition arguing that Nosenko was a provocation, though he acknowledges some key questions cannot be answered conclusively. Mangold (1991) and Wise (1992) conclude that Nosenko was genuine and that Angleton blindly accepted Golitsyn’s claims. The “Lygren affair” mentioned, inter alia, by Riste (1999:274 ff.) is an example of the peripheral consequences of the molehunt that led to the unjust arrest of a Norwegian secretary. Heuer’s (1995) critical analysis also concludes that Nosenko was genuine. In a seriously flawed biography, Holzman (2008) speculates on the formative factors that influenced Angleton’s behavior, makes too many unforced errors regarding his CI career, and omits an important source, Robarge (2003).

Golitsyn also sparked a molehunt in Britain that saw both MI5 Director-General Roger Hollis and his deputy investigated as suspects (West 1989). A public controversy resulted when former MI5 officer Peter Wright thwarted a government lawsuit to prohibit publication of his memoirs, Spycatcher (Wright 1987), which exposed MI5 secrets and added molehunt details. Fysh (1989) is an exposition of the court action and demonstrates how open source CI literature was used as evidence in the case. Despite the official consensus that neither MI5 officer was a Soviet agent, Pincher (2009) devotes several hundred pages arguing the contrary

After a series of operational failures, a molehunt codenamed Operation Gridiron was launched in Canada by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Security Service. It zeroed in on the head of the counterespionage section, James Bennett. Their suspicions coincided with views held by Angleton and Golitsyn. The story is well told by Sawatsky (1982:261 ff.). Mangold (1991:284–5 passim) provides further details. Bennett was forced out of the service and years later the true mole was identified; that story has yet to be written.

Other Major Cold War Counterintelligence Cases

In the midst of the CIA molehunt two penetrations went undetected. The first, Larry Chin, had been a Chinese agent for the entire 30 years he was employed by the CIA; his story is told in Hoffman (2008) and Smith (2004:31–51). The second penetration, Czech/KGB agent Karl Koecher, is reported in Kessler (1988). Later in 1985, Jonathan Pollard was arrested as an Israeli agent – Olive (2006) presents a firsthand account. Kessler (1990) tells about Navy photographer’s mate and KGB agent Glen Souther, who escaped arrest and defected to the Soviet Union and died there, a suicide.

Rafalko (c. 1995–2004; 3 83 ff.) presents summaries of many other Cold War CI cases, including some in Germany. Murphy et al. (1997) gives details about CIA, German, and Soviet CI operations. Dziak (1988) focuses on what he terms the “counterintelligence state,” or domestic security in the Soviet Union. Sheymov (1993), an officer in the KGB equivalent of the NSA, tells his own story as a CIA penetration and his exfiltration, with his family, from the Soviet Union in 1980. A number of other major cases that became public in the 1980s drew the attention of journalists and historians. Several books were written about the John Walker case. Earley (1988) is the most comprehensive and the place to start. Hunter (1999) is a valuable firsthand account. Walker (2008) is a fantasy memoir. Kalugin (2009:83–90) adds important detail from the KGB perspective.

The 1985 defection to the CIA of KGB Colonel Vitali Yurchenko (Kessler 1991) led to the exposure of former NSA officer Ronald Pelton (Kessler 1988) and former CIA officer Edward Howard, who gave up an important CIA agent in Moscow, Adolph Tolkachev. The hallmark study of the Tolkachev case by Royden (2003) has important CI aspects, although some are challenged by Fischer (2008). Wise (1988) explains how Howard managed to escape to the Soviet Union, where he recently died. Howard’s (1995) memoirs provide a mix of fabrication and chirpy nonsense.

The arrest of CIA officer Aldrich Ames by the FBI in February 1994 led to five books about Ames and the CIA agents he revealed. Earley (1998), the last published, is the most comprehensive and valuable because it contains input from Aims and some KGB participants. The first published, Adams (1995), is a summary of the events then known. Maas (1995) gives the FBI position with no sources. Wise (1995) and Weiner et al. (1995) are worth attention but lack the depth Earley provides. Each of the books considers deceptive measures the KGB implemented to protect Ames. One example involved Moscow embassy guard Marine Sergeant Clayton Lonetree, caught in a KGB honeytrap (Barker 1996). The KGB story claimed Lonetree provided complete nocturnal access to the Moscow Embassy, a plausible explanation for how the KGB learned about and arrested the CIA agents given up by Ames – the problem was in Moscow station, not CIA headquarters. In his book Moscow Station, Kessler (1989) reports the penetrations just as the KGB intended.

There was a similar literary reaction to the arrest of FBI Special Agent Robert Hanssen. Havill (2001) summarizes news clippings, leaving substance behind. Vise (2002) says much more about FBI Director Freeh’s career than about the Hanssen case. Shannon and Blackman (2002) stick to the subject and report on Hanssen’s idiosyncratic childhood behavior. Wise (2003), though without endnotes, is the best and most complete account. He is the only one to tell how the FBI persistently ignored contrary evidence and wrongly accused CIA officer Brian Kelley of being the KGB agent responsible for the losses due to Hanssen’s espionage. None of the books reveal just how the Bureau obtained the evidence against Hanssen, though Wise comes closest.

There are also two very valuable books that discuss all three CI cases – Howard, Ames, and Hanssen – from the participants’ viewpoint. The first, Bearden and Risen (2003), gives the CIA position. The second, Cherkashin (2005), adds detail from the KGB side.

Not to be outdone, the Army’s Foreign Counterintelligence Activity solved two major espionage cases during the late 1980s. The first took nearly 9 years. In the end, with help from the CIA and the West German security service, Army SFC Clyde Conrad was convicted of passing, inter alia, NATO war plans to the Soviets; he died serving a life sentence in a German prison. The second case took less than 2 years to conclude, once alerted by an East German walk-in. After a masterful FBI deception operation, Army Warrant Officer James Hall got 40 years. Herrington (1999) provides details on both cases from firsthand experience. Byers (2005) discusses the case of retired Army Colonel George Trofimoff, who spied for the KGB and was caught in another clever FBI sting.

Several British books deal with important Cold War CI cases in the 1980s. Andrew and Gordievsky (1991) confirmed Cairncross as the fifth man, identified Michael Bettaney’s failed attempts to become a KGB walk-in, and revealed Geoffrey Prime’s success in doing just that to sell GCHQ SIGINT secrets. Burke (2008) and Cole (1998) reveal more details of the Prime case. Gordievsky (1995) tells the story of his life as a KGB officer and MI6 agent.

Additional Cold War cases may be found Kalugin (2009). The former chief of the KGB Counterintelligence Directorate describes the internal workings of KGB CI as well as various operations he supervised. Notable are his handling of Philby in Moscow, the Bulgarian umbrella incident in London – see also Kostov (1988) – and the Shadrin kidnapping case, developed in more detail by Hurt (1981). Wolf (1999), though not strictly a memoir of CI service, gives a disturbing account of mostly successful penetrations by East German intelligence of the Western intelligence services. Pacepa (1987) and Deletant (1995) cover Romanian intelligence and security service operations. Caroz (1978), a former Israeli intelligence officer, tells the story of the Egyptian–Israeli agent in the trunk, exposed by the Italians.

Post Cold War Counterintelligence

Rafalko (c. 1995–2004:vols. 3 and 4) provides comments on intelligence services; CI cases in Russia, China, Cuba, South Korea, Japan, East Germany, and the Department of Energy; and some Congressional studies. Books on specific cases include Stober and Hoffman (2001) and Trulock (2003), both good accounts of the Wen Ho Lee affair. Godson (1995) presents a general analysis and useful summary of CI with reference to specific cases. More recently, Drogin (2007) and Drumheller (2006) discuss the controversial “Curveball” case, a CIA operational and bureaucratic calamity. Carmichael (2007) is a firsthand, though incomplete, account of the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) analyst Ana Montes, a resourceful long-term Cuban agent. He also mentions other successful penetrations of CIA operations by Cuban CI elements. In Britain, Hollingsworth and Fielding (1999) report on former MI5 officer David Shayler, who revealed operations and secrets for his own purposes and paid the penalty. Hennessey and Thomas (2009) present a mostly primary source history of MI5 from its origins to the present.

The origins of CI in modern China emerge in two biographies. Wakeman (2003) studies Dai Li, the head of state security under Chiang Kai-shek. Byron and Pack (1992) document the work of Kang Sheng (the Himmler of the orient), the longtime head of Mao’s security service. Eftimiades (1994) discusses relatively recent Chinese operations and DeVore (1999) gives an overall assessment of the Chinese services. The post-Cold War security services in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Romania are discussed in Williams and Deletant (2001). Born and Caparini (2007) discuss security intelligence reforms in several European countries not often given such attention.

Of the numerous books on the Stasi, Dennis (2003) gives a good overview, Koehler (1999) adds operational detail, and Macrakis (2008) presents interesting case summaries and technical detail based on Stasi records and interviews. Hilger (2003) analyzes KGB influence on the East Germans.

Sawatsky (1980) gives a good account of the RCMP Security Service. Its successor, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has not received equivalent attention. Barnett (1988) deals with the Australian security intelligence service, while Toohey and Pinwill (1989) do the same for Australia’s secret intelligence service. McKay (1993) describes how the neutral Swedish security services dealt with each of the World War II belligerents. Fardust (1999) tells how SAVAK was established and functioned in Iran. Conboy (2004) gives an account of the Indonesian security services. Alem (1980) and Raman (2002) do the same for India. Seth (1998) gives a rare glimpse of the Burmese intelligence apparatus. Dhar (2006) and Farson et al. (2008a:230–46) cover Pakistan. Sanders (2006) describes the domestic secret services in South Africa.

While CI and security will play a role in counterterrorism and information warfare operations, discussion of the relationship is just beginning to appear in the literature. The 9/11 Commission (2004) virtually ignores counterintelligence, though many of its recommendations would, if adopted, influence CI functions and it should not be ignored. The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (2005:485–98) devotes a chapter to CI with emphasis on poor implementation and needed reforms. Posner (2007) offers some insightful analysis and advocates innovative reforms including a separate domestic CI agency on the MI5 model. Treverton (2009:126–33) provides additional views. Clarke (2008:146 ff.) gives a top-down broad assessment of the problems CI faces at the national level and recommends some general approaches to their solutions. Sims and Gerber (2009) consider a broad range of CI-related topics, but nothing at the operational level. Pedahzur (2009) discusses the Israeli services and their operations against terrorism.

Reference Works

There are many so-called encyclopedias and dictionaries of espionage with short summaries of CI cases, events, and organizations that are often useful in getting started or recalling a name. But these vicars of encapsulation all have errors and few cite sources. Of the so-called encyclopedias, West (2007) and Polmar and Allen (2004) are the best in terms of fewest errors and scope of coverage. Bennett (2002) is a strong competitor for the most error-filled contribution ever published. Carl (1996) achieves similar status in the dictionary category. Kahana (2006) is valuable on the Israeli services, though his dictionary on Middle Eastern intelligence (2009) does not treat the security intelligence services of those countries. Watson et al. (1990) is more dictionary than encyclopedia and is sound on definitions. Constantinides (1983) is a worthwhile annotated bibliography with a section devoted to counterintelligence books. Westerfield (1995) has a selection of counterintelligence articles drawn from the CIA journal Studies In Intelligence. A much larger list of CI articles may be found at the CIA/Center for the Study of Intelligence website. For material on secret inks and other CI tradecraft techniques as applied in cases, consult Wallace and Melton (2008). Pringle (2006) includes entries on the contemporary Russian intelligence services.

There are also out-of-date though still useful bibliographies that include CI sources. Blackstock and Schaf (1978) is the oldest. More recently, see Davies (1996) for Britain, Cornick and Morris (1993) for France, and Clements (1996) for Israel. The new intelligence services of Central Asia and their links to the Russian services are examined by Lefebvre and McDermott (2008). Farson et al. (2008a; 2008b) provide valuable articles and sources on most of the world’s current security services.

The Story of Secret Service (Rowan 1937) has a special place in the CI literature. Its wide scope – from antiquity to the mid-1930s – and succinct espionage case descriptions, mostly sourced, are a valuable resource, even today. An updated edition, (Rowan and Deindorfer 1967), with a foreword by Allen Dulles, was published after Rowan’s death.

Caveat Lector

There are several books that should be read with great trepidation. Catching Spies (Cooper and Redlinger 1988), with its designer counterintelligence terminology and confused attempts at tradecraft, has earned distinction. Trento (2005), a putative history of the CIA, is little more than a collection of errors. The case studies in Corson et al. (1989) are equally unreliable. Two recent books, Twigge et al. (2008) and Thomas (2009), are error-filled and should not be given serious attention.

Closing Remarks

First, errors are an enemy no author has defeated. While some have been mentioned above, space prohibits citing all that have been identified and readers are cautioned to verify facts important to assessments. Second, though al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations have no KGB or CIA equivalent, they pose the same CI threats. Sageman (2008) suggests that the internet is a major factor in this regard. Renfer and Haas (2008) analyze specific examples. Bamford (2008) looks at security issues – data mining, eavesdropping parameters – resulting from NSA operations. More books in these areas may be expected. In the meantime, for those seeking a gateway book on the basics of counterintelligence, W.R. Johnson (2009), Thwarting Enemies at Home and Abroad: How to be a Counterintelligence Officer, is recommended.


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Reilly, S. (1932) Britain’s Master Spy: The Adventures of Sidney Reilly, A Narrative Written by Himself Edited and Completed by His Wife. New York: Harper and Brothers.Find this resource:

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Rowan, R.W. (1947) Letter to Mr. Roberts, May 17, 1947. In the possession of the author.Find this resource:

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Royden, B. (2003) A Worthy Successor to Penkovsky: An Exceptional Espionage Operation. Studies in Intelligence 47 (3), 5–33Find this resource:

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Sawatsky, J. (1982) For Services Rendered: Leslie James Bennett and the RCMP Security Service. Toronto: Doubleday.Find this resource:

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Sheldon, R.M. (2005) Intelligence Activities in Ancient Rome. London: Frank Cass.Find this resource:

Sheldon, R.M. (2007) Spies of the Bible: Espionage in Israel from the Exodus to the Bar Kokhba Revolt. St. Paul, MN: MBI.Find this resource:

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Stober, D., and Hoffman, I. (2001) A Convenient Spy: Wen Ho Lee and the Politics of Espionage. New York: Simon and Schuster.Find this resource:

Stockton, B. (2006) Flawed Patriot: The Rise and Fall of CIA Legend Bill Harvey. Washington, DC: Potomac Books.Find this resource:

Straight, M. (1983) After Long Silence New York: W.W. Norton.Find this resource:

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Tidwell, W.A. (1988) Come Retribution: The Confederate Secret Service and the Assassination of Lincoln. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.Find this resource:

Toohey, B., and Pinwill, W. (1989) Oyster: The Story of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service. Port Melbourne, Victoria: Heinemann Australia.Find this resource:

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Wakeman, F. (2003) Spymaster: Dai Li and the Chinese Secret Service. Berkeley: University of California Press.Find this resource:

Walker, J.A. (2008) My Life as a Spy. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.Find this resource:

Wallace, R., and Melton, H.K. (2008) Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA’s Spytechs from Communism to Al-Qaeda. News York: Dutton.Find this resource:

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Weiner, T., Johnston, J., and Lewis, N.A. (1995) Betrayal: The Story of Aldrich Ames, An American Spy. New York: Random House.Find this resource:

Weinstein, A. (1997) Perjury: The Hiss–Chambers Case. 2nd edn., revised. New York: Random House.Find this resource:

Weinstein, A., and Vassiliev, A. (2000) The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America – the Stalin Era. New York: Modern Library.Find this resource:

West, N. (1982) MI5: British Security Service Operations 1909–1945. New York: Stein and Day.Find this resource:

West, N. (1989) Molehunt: Searching for Soviet Spies in MI5. New York: William Morrow. A much updated version of the 1987 London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson edn., with the same title.Find this resource:

West, N. (1993) The Illegals: The Double Lives of the Cold War’s Most Secret Agents. London: Hodder and Stoughton.Find this resource:

West, N. (1998) Counterfeit Spies: Genuine or Bogus? An Astonishing Investigation into Secret Agents of the Second World War. London: St. Ermin’s Press.Find this resource:

West, N. (2000) Venona: The Greatest Secret of the Cold War. London: HarperCollins. Paperback edn., with corrections.Find this resource:

West, N. (2005b) Historical Dictionary of British Intelligence. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.Find this resource:

West, N. (ed.) (2005a) The Guy Liddell Diaries: MI5’s Director of Counter-espionage in World War II, Vols. I and II. London: Routledge.Find this resource:

West, N. (2007) Historical Dictionary of Cold War Counterintelligence. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.Find this resource:

West, N., and Tsarev, O. (1999) The Crown Jewels: The British Secrets Exposed by the KGB Archives. London: HarperCollins.Find this resource:

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Wettering, F.L. (2008) Counterintelligence: The Broken Triad. In L.K. Johnson and J.J. Wirtz (eds.), Intelligence and National Security: The Secret World of Spies, 2nd edn., New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 324–40.Find this resource:

Whitaker, R., and Marcuse, G. (1994) Cold War Canada: The Making of a National Insecurity State, 1945–1957. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Find this resource:

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Williams, K., and Deletant, D. (2001) Security Intelligence Services in the New Democracies: The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania. New York: Palgrave.Find this resource:

Wilson, D. (2007) Sir Francis Walsingham: A Courtier in an Age of Terror. New York: Carroll and Graf.Find this resource:

Wilson, W. (1996) Dictionary of the United States Intelligence Services. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.Find this resource:

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Wise, D. (2003) Spy: The Inside Story of How the FBI’s Robert Hanssen Betrayed America. New York: Random House. New Afterword.Find this resource:

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Wise, D. (1992) Molehunt: The Secret Search for Traitors That Shattered the CIA. New York: Random House.Find this resource:

Wise, D. (1995) Nightmover: How Aldrich Ames Sold the CIA to the KGB for $3.6 Million, New York: Random House.Find this resource:

Wise, D. (2000) Cassidy’s Run: The Secret Spy War over Nerve Gas. New York: Random House.Find this resource:

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Wolf, M., with McElvoy, A. (1999) Man without A Face: The Autobiography of Communism’s Greatest Spymaster. New York: Public Affairs.Find this resource:

Wright, P., with Greengrass, P. (1987) Spycatcher: The Candid Autobiography of a Senior Intelligence Officer. New York: Viking Penguin.Find this resource:

Zuckerman, F.S. (1996) The Tsarist Secret Police: In Russian Society, 1880–1917. London: Macmillan.Find this resource:

All quotations are from the corresponding websites. Bundesamptes für Verfassungsschutz (BfV). The German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. At, accessed Oct. 2009. The home page of the BfV, the German security agency, roughly the same as our FBI CI element.

Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). At, accessed Oct. 11, 2009. Center for the Study of Intelligence, US Central Intelligence Agency. At, accessed Oct. 11, 2009. “CSIS’s counter-intelligence activities are aimed at investigating such threats and reporting on them to the Canadian government and law enforcement agencies.” This site includes unclassified and declassified articles from the CIA’s in-house journal, Studies in Intelligence.

Center for the Study of Intelligence, US Central Intelligence Agency. This site includes unclassified and declassified articles from the CIA’s in-house journal, Studies in Intelligence., accessed Oct. 2009.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) counterintelligence section. At, accessed Oct. 11, 2009. “The FBI is the lead agency for exposing, preventing, and investigating intelligence activities on US soil.”

Loyola College collection of web links related to intelligence. At

Secret Intelligence Service of the United Kingdom (MI6). At, accessed Oct. 11, 2009.

Security Service of the United Kingdom (MI5). At, accessed Oct. 11 2009. “SIS operates world-wide to collect secret foreign intelligence in support of the British Government’s policies and objectives.”

US National Counterintelligence Executive (NCIX). At, accessed Oct. 11, 2009. “Counterintelligence is the business of identifying and dealing with foreign intelligence threats to the United States. Its core concern is the intelligence services of foreign states and similar organizations of non-state actors, such as transnational terrorist groups.”