Since knowledge is but sorrow’s spy, It is not safe to know… Sir William Davenant, The Just Italian. Act v. Sc. 1.


There are several forms of military intelligence. The first is physical evidence reviewed to determine capability and deduce intention based on direct observations. This has its merits but when something is missed you wind up with a Pearl Harbor or a 9/11. The second is diplomatic intelligence where your ambassador and his embassy try to read the tea leaves and determine which way the wind is blowing. This is actually the modern equivalent of political haruspicy since these are politicians serving in political appointments opposite other politicians all of whom have been selected for their ability to dissemble. Finally we come to the modern intelligence agency which seeks to combine the first two. When it is successful it protects the nation and when it fails – either internally or externally – the failure is often catastrophic. The problem with Martin is that he tends to isolate the failures, demand that such institutions be dismantled as inherently corrupt and leave us naked before our enemies – it really doesn’t surprise us that many wonder if those with his point of view are in their service.

Wilderness of mirrors David C. Martin United States Central Intelligence Agency New York : Harper & Row, c 1980 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xiv, 236 p., [4] leaves of plates : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes index. How the Byzantine intrigues of the secret war between the CIA and the KGB seduced and devoured key agents James Jesus Angleton and William King Harvey. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

This book goes a long way toward explaining CIA’s intellectual and operational constipation in the 1950’s through the 1970’s. It follows James Jesus Angleton, who tied the Agency in knots and went so far as to privately tell the French that the CIA Station Chief in Paris was a Soviet spy, and William King Harvey, who literally carried two six-guns both in the US and overseas “because you never know when you might need them.”

Included in this book are some serious details about the operations against Cuba, a chapter appropriated titled “Murder Corrupts”, and a good account of how Harvey, in perhaps his most important achievement, smelled out the fact that Kim Philby was indeed a Soviet spy.

The concluding thought of the book is exceptional: “Immersed in duplicity and insulated by secrecy, they (Angleton and Harvey) developed survival mechanisms and behavior patterns that by any rational standard were bizarre. The forced inbreeding of secrecy spawned mutant deeds and thoughts. Loyalty demanded dishonesty, and duty was a thieves’ game. The game attracted strange men and slowly twisted them until something snapped. There were no winners or losers in this game, only victims.”

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