Roy Godson

As Author


Godson, Roy. "Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards?" Society 38, no. 6 (Sep.-Oct. 2001): 38-51.

[CA/00s; CI/00s]

Godson, Roy. Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards: U.S. Covert Action and Counterintelligence. Washington, DC: Brassey's, 1995. JK468I6G62 New intro. Washington, DC: Transaction, 2001.

Clark Comment: Godson defines covert action as "influencing events in other parts of the world without revealing or acknowledging involvement." He defines counterintelligence as "identifying, neutralizing, and exploiting the intelligence activities of others." (p. xii) In this book, he traces the evolution of the practice of covert action and counterintelligence in the United States since 1945, develops some "ideal" principles and techniques for such practices, and analyzes the ongoing gap between principle and practice. The most disconcerting aspect of the book is the author's unusual packaging together of covert action and counterintelligence, two very different intelligence disciplines.

Nonetheless, Friedman, Parameters, Summer 1997, finds that "the combination does no violence to either. In fact the unusual combination supports the author's conclusion that appropriate use of 'dirty tricks' and effective counterintelligence enabled the United States to accomplish many important objectives that might otherwise have been unattainable by more conventional means." Cogan, I&NS 11.2, adds that the "unusual bracketing together of covert action and counterintelligence offers a different perspective from the conventional division in the intelligence business as between information-seeking on the one hand and direct action on the other."

Richelson, Proceedings 122.7 (Jul. 1996), finds the book "disappointing in its failure to confront directly the future of U.S. covert action and counterintelligence activities.... [T]here is no detailed discussion of the international environment in which future U.S. covert action and counterintelligence operations will be conducted.... Godson's book, while useful as background, unfortunately does not take the reader into the future."

For Cohen, FA 74.5 (Sep.-Oct. 1995), much of Godson's effort "is taxonomic -- describing principles of both covert action and counterintelligence -- and necessarily general." Similarly, the AIJ 16.2/3 reviewer calls the work "a methodical, rational and most informative overview." It is "an excellent primer for those who wish to study the topic[s] in context. Highly recommended."

Breckinridge, WIR 15.2, sees Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards as "a valuable contribution to writing on the unusually complex fields of counterintelligence and covert action." The author provides a "focused bibliography," but has a "tendency to cite sources uncritically." The concluding chapter on reform has been "somewhat by-passed so far as practical application is concerned."

According to Sulc, IJI&C 9.1, the "United States sorely needs strong counterintelligence and covert action capabilities as it makes its way through the post-Cold War bush. Roy Godson has taken a giant step in the right direction by producing a very readable, eminently clear explanation of the subjects." In the same vein, Barrett, APSR 91.4, is impressed by the author's "knowledge of political and intelligence history," and finds that "his treatment of the nuts and bolts of counterintelligence and covert action has great depth."

Jonkers, AFIO WIN 08-01 (26 Feb. 2001), reports the publication of a new edition of this work. Godson has added "a substantial introduction ... that looks at ways in which counterintelligence and covert action might be adapted to the new security environment, in particular the growing political-criminal nexus in many strategic regions."

[CA/90s & Begin; CI/90s]

Godson, Roy. "Intelligence Reform in the United States: The Proposed Charter." Foreign Affairs 143, no. 1 (1980): 3-19. [Petersen]


Godson, Roy. "Intelligence Reorganization." American Intelligence Journal (Winter-Spring 1992): 25-30.


Godson, Roy. "Intelligence Requirements for the 1990s." Washington Quarterly 12, no. 1 (Winter 1989): 47-65.

[CIA/Requirements; Reform/80s]

Godson, Roy. "Special Supplement: U.S. Intelligence Policy." In American Defense Annual, 1986-1987, ed. Joseph Kruzel. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1986.


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