Reviews by Alec Chambers

Consolidated Review of

Andrew, For the President's Eyes Only


Richelson, A Century of Spies

 Andrew, Christopher. For the President's Eyes Only: Secret Intelligence and the American Presidency From Washington to Bush. New York: HarperCollins, 1995. ISBN: 0-06-017037-9


Richelson, Jeffrey T. A Century of Spies: Intelligence in the Twentieth Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. ISBN: 0-19-507391-6



Christopher Andrew of Cambridge University and Jeffrey T. Richelson of the National Security Archive are the authors of impressive collections of highly readable, carefully researched books on intelligence. These two authors have added to their impressive records with two of the most significant contributions to the intelligence literature of recent years.

Having written a splendid history of the British intelligence community (Her Majesty's Secret Service) and having collaborated with Oleg Gordievsky on a compendious history of the KGB, Andrew has turned his attention to the U.S. intelligence community. In one of the most important books about U.S. intelligence for many years, he focuses on the relationship between this community of collectors, analysts, and operators and the President. Richelson has chosen a broader canvas: a survey of 100 years of major intelligence operations.


Andrew's ability to write clearly and engagingly has allowed him to write at great length without boring the reader. In a book of 540 pages of text with almost 2,000 references and an extensive bibliography and notes on sources, he uses this gift to the fullest.

The profile of high and low points in the history of U.S. intelligence since the days of Washington are well known. In a breezy opening chapter we are taken from the high of Washington (who at one point was spending one-eighth of the Federal budget on intelligence and secret operations) to the revival of intelligence during the Civil War and the fitful decline leading up to the First World War. The revival of intelligence capabilities during the war and their decline between the wars is described in the second chapter.

Subsequent chapters describe how Franklin Roosevelt was the inattentive grandfather of the modern intelligence community (caring more for tales of OSS derring-do than for the practicalities and political edge given by well-sourced and carefully analyzed intelligence) with Truman the reluctant father of the CIA and the NSA. Eisenhower put the community to work in collection, with particular credit going to his sponsorship of technical collection, and in covert action. Kennedy learned the hard way about the best ways to use the intelligence community. He appears to have been the last President before Bush to do so.

The litany of bungles, missed opportunities, slapdash and downright illegal operations conduct at the behest of every President from Johnson to Reagan is examined by Andrew and used to forcefully demonstrate his central thesis: when the President does not understand the intelligence community, he abuses the intelligence product, the community, and the Presidency. This may appear to be an obvious lesson, but it has not been learned by those to whom it is a most important one. As the first book to take a hard look at the relationship between the Presidency and the intelligence community this book deserves to be read by all for whom intelligence is a major interest. For some it will be revelatory, and for others, it will give substantial food for thought.


Richelson does not have a thesis to demonstrate, rather, his book Century of Spies is in the same mold as many of his others, such as The U.S. Intelligence Community, Sword and Shield, and Foreign Intelligence Organizations : it is a resource that the reader may use to start on a more detailed study of a specific topic. The narrative starts with a brief look at political and technical developments in the second half of the nineteenth century, giving the reader a baseline and context for the beginning of this compendious survey.

Each chapter has the same structure: a brief opening section that unifies the various cases studied in the chapter and places the topic and cases in context. After this, individual topics are reviewed. Most topics merit 1-2 pages with plenty of references and footnotes used to ensure that information is made available without disrupting the main flow of the narrative. Some topics, such as the Cambridge Spy Ring and Israeli intelligence before the Yom Kippur War, receive more extensive coverage but they are not allowed to swamp other topics in their chapters.

The book covers human and technical intelligence in an even-handed manner and includes some technical topics that are not that well-known to the general reader, the use of aerial reconnaissance in World War I and Soviet aerial reconnaissance in World War II are notable. The rise of technical collection and satellite photoreconnaissance and communications intelligence collection are clearly explained with the bulk of the coverage going, not surprisingly, to US efforts.

There are a few omissions, no coverage of Soviet partisans in World War II for example, and the Ames case was too recent to merit more than a paragraph and a footnote, but some recent important cases that did not receive a great deal of coverage, such as the Hungarian spy ring in the US VII Corps in West Germany are discussed.

The style of the book is consistently expository and analytical and not judgmental. This book is a resource, not a polemic. It is well-written with each chapter internally cohesive and the overall flow is extremely smooth. References are extensive at over 2,000 with many of them from comparatively recent books, journals such as The International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, newspapers (mainly articles from respected intelligence watchers) and news magazines. It will be an invaluable resource for the student of politics and military history and for the general reader for many years to come.


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