The 1950s

The Berlin Tunnel

(Operation PBJOINTLY)

A - M

The CIA history of the Berlin Tunnel operation has been declassified and published as U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, The Berlin Tunnel Operation, 1952-1956 (Washington, DC: 1968). Available at: http://www.fas.org/irp/cia/product/tunnel.pdf; and via search at: http://www.foia.cia.gov/.

Burke, Colin. "From the Archives: The Last Bombe Run, 1955." Cryptologia 32, no. 3 (Jul. 2008): 277-279.

A recently declassified NSA document shows that the WWII Bombes were used as late as 1955 against East German police messages. The use ceased after discovery of the Berlin Tunnel.

Evans, Joseph C. "Berlin Tunnel Intelligence: A Bumbling KGB." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 9, no. 1 (Spring 1996): 43-50.

The author, a participant in the tunnel operation (1954-1955), argues that the most important information gleaned from the intercept activities was early warning indicators and military readiness intelligence. Evans also disputes that the Soviets used their knowledge (from George Blake) of the taps to put disinformation into play. This latter view is supported by Murphy/Kondrashev/Bailey, Battleground Berlin (1997).

Feifer, George. "The Berlin Tunnel." MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History 10, no. 2 (Winter 1998): 63-71.

This effort reads more like an article from True magazine (thereby showing my age) than a serious analysis of the Cold War's Berlin Tunnel episode. For an author who describes CIA Berlin Operations Base Chief William Harvey as engaging in "hyperbole," Feifer seems rather given to the same failing. His evident belief that he needed to pump just a little more zest into an already intriguing scenario diminishes, rather than enhances, his retelling of this well-known story. And overly familiar references to "Big Bill" really do not add a touch of verisimilitude, as Feifer seems to believe.

G. "Engineering the Berlin Tunnel." Studies in Intelligence 52, no. 1 (Extract-Mar. 2008): 13-19.

Although others may debate the net intelligence value of the Berlin tunnel, "the completion of this demanding project -- accomplished in secret and under exacting conditions -- is a tribute to the resourcefulness and expertise of an outstanding team of professionals."

Huntington, Thomas. "The Berlin Spy Tunnel Affair." Invention & Technology Magazine 10, no. 4 (Spring 1995). [http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/it/1995/4/1995_4_44.shtml]

This is a reasonably accurate summary of the building and operation of the Berlin Tunnel. It draws on the CIA history of the operation as well as secondary accounts. There are, however, minor (but jarring) errors, among them: "Richard Bissell, who would later replace Dulles as CIA director,..."

Martin, David C. Wilderness of Mirrors. New York: Harper & Row, 1980. New York: Ballantine Books, 1981.[pb] Wilderness of Mirrors: Intrigue, Deception, and the Secrets That Destroyed Two of the Cold War's Most Important Agents. New York: Harper & Row, 2003. [pb]

In Cram's opinion, this is the "best and most informed book written about CIA operations against the Soviet target in the 1950s and 1960s." Martin tells an "exciting and generally accurate story." The book was "well received by almost every reviewer" with the exception of Epstein and Angleton. Writing in 2009, Robarge, Studies 53.4 (Dec. 2009), says that "[d]espite its age, Wilderness of Mirrors remains the most balanced treatment of Angleton and CIA counterintelligence." However, there is a complete lack of sourcing. The subtitle of the 2003 reprint is "overwrought."

Petersen adds that Martin "presents information on postwar counterintelligence activities of the CIA and FBI focusing on James Angleton and William Harvey. Based on inside information, it is well regarded by most experts." NameBase notes that "[i]n the case of the most famous spy of the century, Harvey's instincts were better than Angleton's.... Kim Philby ... was close to Angleton, whom he had known in wartime London. But he was also a KGB penetration agent, and it was Harvey rather than Angleton who figured this out."

To Constantinides, this book is "a penetrating look into some issues and challenges faced by CIA, and the cognoscenti recognize it as based on information stemming from the bowels of that agency." Nevertheless, "the work has a number of flaws, both major and minor." For example, the rivalry between Harvey and Angleton, so central to the book, did not exist, and Harvey was hardly of transcending importance within CIA.

Murphy, David E., Sergei A. Kondrashev, and George Bailey. Battleground Berlin: CIA vs. KGB in the Cold War. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.

Clark comment: Murphy is a former chief of the CIA Berlin Base and later headed Soviet operations at CIA Headquarters. Kondrashev is a retired KGB lieutenant general and headed the KGB's German Department. Bailey is a journalist and former director of Radio Liberty. Is this the final word on the Cold War as fought over, around, and in Berlin? Probably not, but we are unlikely to get a view from a more intimate standpoint. There are 57 pages of notes that bear out a conclusion that these are more than the meanderings of two old Cold Warriors.

From the "Preface": "Our goal has ... been ambitious: to provide never-before-seen documentary evidence of what each side knew during the crises, and to give readers a sense of what it was like to face off with an intelligence foe in Cold War Berlin."

Cohen, FA 76.6 (Nov.-Dec. 1997), notes that Battleground Berlin "covers primarily the grim glory days of the Cold War in Berlin -- the period up to the building of the Berlin Wall." Although this "is a major contribution to the intelligence history of the Cold War," the book has a number of gaps; and "Bailey's efforts to reconcile his coauthors' views of reality do not always succeed."

McGehee, in cloaks-and-daggers@maelstrom.stjohns.edu, says that "the book is laden with details that are difficult to follow as they swing from the CIA operational stories to the KGBers focus on political intelligence about postwar Germany. The authors unsuccessfully juxtaposition their stories, adding to the difficulties in comprehension and interest." In addition, the claims advanced as to the value of the Berlin Tunnel "seem overblown but a definitive appraisal is impossible."

The Publishers Weekly, 21 Jul. 1997, reviewer calls the book "a crucial addition to filling an important gap in our understanding of the Cold War. The book is not only authoritative, it is also well written and possesses the qualities of a very engaging espionage novel." In the same vein, Friend, History 26.3, calls Battleground Berlin "sober, authoritative, unsensational, documented, and revelatory."

For Bates, NIPQ, 14.3, a downside of the book "is the massive amount of detail." Nevertheless, the narrative fleshes out the history of the Cold War in Berlin "with a mass of heretofore-untold facts.... Another plus for Battleground Berlin is the detailed discussion of CIA and KGB tradecraft." Adams, IJI&C 12.1, sees this as "an unusual and very important volume ... [that] is illuminating on a number of levels."

The review by Jeffreys-Jones, I&NS 13.4, reads a bit haughty for my taste. Although he grants that they provide "balanced accounts of some significant episodes,... some interesting details ... [and l]ittle glimpses ... of characters," the reviewer takes the authors to task for being "historical amateurs." He finds particular fault with the absence in the book of "historical context" for the events they are relating. Welcome to the real world, Jeffreys-Jones.

Powers, NYRB (23 Oct. 1997) and Intelligence Wars (2004), 141-158, sees Battleground Berlin as "a fascinating and important account of the opening campaigns of the secret cold war waged by the CIA and the KGB.... Anyone interested in just how complex a counterintelligence case can become should read the fourteen pages in which Battleground Berlin lays out the intricate web of what was known to whom, through which channels," as the KGB closed in on Col. Pyotr Popov. See also, William Drozdiak, "Rival Spies Relive Thrills of Cold War," Washington Post, 21 Oct. 1997, A16.

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