General Intelligence Encyclopedias

A - N

Bennett, Richard M. Espionage: An Encyclopedia of Spies and Secrets. London: Virgin Books, 2002.

Peake, Studies 46.4, and Intelligencer 13.2, comments that "[t]here are a few accurate entries in this book, but trying to separate them from the inaccurate ones is too much work for the layman or student. The entire book is tainted by appalling editing and scholarship. In short, it is an encyclopedic disappointment." Peake, Studies 47.3, adds that this book has "little to recommend it beyond being a source of unreliable entries."

For West, IJI&C 16.2, this "is not a straightforward factual document, but contains plenty of [the author's] personal opinions." Accepting that Bennett is entitled to his opinions, the reviewer finds that the work falls short in matters of verifiable facts: The "text is replete with errors and assertions that are not just doubtful, but plain wrong."

Buranelli, Vincent, and Nan Buranelli. Spy/Counterspy: An Encyclopedia of Espionage. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1982.

Clark comment: The coverage here is of individuals, organizations, and events relating broadly to espionage. Entries are approximately a page in length, and include brief "Further Reading" notations. However, no overall bibliography is offered.

Carlisle, Rodney.

1. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Spies and Espionage.  Indianapolis, IN:  Alpha Books, 2003. 

Peake, Studies 47.3, calls this book "an encyclopedia of errata.... While the identification of organizations and events is useful, the details are suspect."

2. ed. The Encyclopedia of Intelligence and Counterintelligence. 2 vols.   Armonk, NY:  M.E. Sharpe, 2005. 

According to Tomchyshyn, Booklist (quoted at, this "encyclopedia presents more than 420 entries on people, places, and organizations" arranged alphabetically.... Articles are signed by their contributors and include see also references and a bibliography of resources." Also included are an alphabetical list of articles; a "Timeline of Intelligence" from 1294 B.C. to the present; a "Resource Guide" listing books, articles, and Internet sites; and an appendix with extracts from The 9/11 Commission Report.

Peake, Studies 49.3 (2005), finds that compared with the author's Complete Idiot’s Guide (2003), this "is a much improved, more scholarly effort, whose entries have greater scope and depth.... While the principal focus is on ... American intelligence, the encyclopedia covers other countries and their services as well." In terms of errors, there is an "unrivaled collection of misstatements in Carlisle’s entry for Cambridge spy Donald Maclean." This "is a good place to start when readers, students, or analysts look for historical background," but "check other sources where particular facts are important to the case at hand."

Deacon, Richard [Donald McCormick]. Spyclopedia: The Comprehensive Handbook of Espionage. New York: Morrow, 1987. [Petersen]

Hastedt, Glenn P., ed. Spies, Wiretaps, and Secret Operations: An Encyclopedia of American Espionage. 2 vols. [Vol. 1 (A-J); Vol. 2 (K-Z)] Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO/Greenwood, 2010.

For Peake, Studies 55.4 (Dec. 2011) and Intelligencer 19.1 (Winter-Spring 2012), these "volumes are colossal examples" of the "failure to check their facts with readily available sources.... There is no excuse for an encyclopedia ... to be so unhampered by scholarship or quality control. No other profession would tolerate it, nor should ours. For these reasons and its $180 price, caveat lector!"

Knudson, R.L. The Whole Spy Catalogue: An Espionage Lover's Guide. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1986.

Wilcox: "Books, spy gadgets and paraphernalia, suppliers."

Lapin, Lee. The Whole Spy Catalog. San Mateo, CA: Intelligence Incorporated, 1994.

Surveillant 4.1: "An 'encyclopedia' in the style of the 'The Whole Earth Catalog' series, describing products, services, databases, suppliers and periodicals on intelligence-related topics.... Surprisingly comprehensive and full of odd facts worth knowing about."

Lerner, K. Lee, and Brenda Wilmoth Lerner, eds. Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence and Security. 3 vols. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2003

Appears to be strong on science and technology related topics.

Lloyd, Mark. The Guinness Book of Espionage. New York: Da Capo Press, 1994.

Proceedings 121.1 (Jan. 1995), says that this book is a "collection of spy-related information" which "will appeal to a wide audience of espionage fans." For Surveillant 4.1, "this is not a book to trust," but it "does have a splendid assortment of historical photographs and drawings." Kruh, Cryptologia 20.1, finds that this book "provides an enormous amount of information in a relatively small volume." It contains "fascinating details on a wide variety of intelligence subjects."

McCormick, Donald. The Master Book of Spies: The World of Espionage, Master Spies, Tortures, Interrogations, Spy Equipment, Escapes, Codes, and How You Can Become a Spy. New York: Watts, 1974. [Petersen]

Melton, H. Keith, with Forewords by William Colby and Oleg Kalugin. The Ultimate SPY Book. London & New York: Dorling Kindersley, Ltd., 1996. With Forewords by Richard Helms and Markus Wolf. Ultimate Spy. Rev. Ed. New York: Dorling Kindersley, Ltd, 2002.

Clark comment: The Ultimate SPY Book is a beautifully presented work; it might be called "The Spy-Aficionado's Ultimate Coffee-Table Book."

Surveillant 4.4/5 describes the book as an "impressive visual encyclopedia with condensed, fact-filled descriptions of intelligence equipment and operations since the Renaissance." For Peake, WIR 15.3, The Ultimate SPY Book "is a wonderful historical reference guide to important intelligence operations and equipment." Advertising copy aside, "no secrets are revealed here.... There are neither footnotes nor a bibliography.... The absence of citations does not ... imply they do not exist; those interested can obtain them from the author."

Commenting on the 2002 expanded edition, Peake, I&NS 18.4, notes that 32 new pages have been added to the work, including "some espionage toys [emphasis in original] that appear ... for the first time, several from the former KGB.... There are two new sections on concealed cameras," as well as other new sections. Peake concludes that "Ultimate Spy is a wonderful historical reference guide to important intelligence operations and equipment."

Kruh, Cryptologia 20.3, finds that "[f]rom its dust jacket on the outside to virtually every page inside, this book is a spectacular visual treat and an encyclopedic picture guide to the mysterious and ingenious paraphernalia of the spy." With regard to the new edition, Kruh, Cryptologia 28.1, recommends this work for "anyone interested in cipher devices and machines, codebreaking, clandestine operations, spying equipment and techniques, [and] secret operations."

For more on Melton's unique holdings, see Hank Schlesinger, "For Your Eyes Only," Smithsonian Magazine, Jul. 2001, at

Minnick, Wendell L. Spies and Provocateurs: A Worldwide Encyclopedia of Persons Conducting Espionage and Covert Action, 1946-1991. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 1992.

FILS 11.5 sees Spies and Provocateurs as "extraordinarily useful"; its 627 entries fill "a void in the intelligence reference shelf." Surveillant 2.6 notes that "experts will find these biographies less than complete, and a few errors have crept in.... But this is wonderful reading, anyway." For Jardines, MI 20.4, Minnick's work "should not be thought of as the definitive, exhaustive reference of espionage and covert action, but rather as a quick reference guide for research." As such, it is an "outstanding starting point for research on individuals conducting espionage and covert action."

Nash, Jay Robert. Spies: A Narrative Encyclopedia of Dirty Deeds and Double Dealing from Biblical Times to Today. New York: Evans, 1997.

Clark comment: With a glossary of acronyms and terms, a filmography, a bibliography, and an index, this large-format, soft-cover book is 624 pages long, which on the face of it might make its $24.95 price tag seem a decent deal. Perhaps, but I am sorry I anted up that amount. There is way too much misinformation contained between this book's covers to make it a useful reference work. Glaring examples of a lack of serious research on the part of the author begin with his "Introduction" and continue throughout the narrative. In addition, Nash gives the reader no assistance in determining where he has gone wrong because entries do not have bibliographic citations.

Nash misses the whole thrust of the work of the British and American cryptologists who broke the German Enigma and Japanese Purple systems. He argues that "none" of these efforts "would have been productive had it not been for the spies in the field who first secured the enemy codebooks and enciphering machines.... Polish and French underground resistance fighters obtained copies of the German Enigma machine and sent these to London where they were copied at Bletchley [Park]. The 'unbreakable' codes and ciphers Enigma produced were subsequently broken, but only because the codebreakers had the actual German machines.... [B]y the time America entered the war..., it was able to break the Japanese Purple Machine, which had been duplicated from the German Enigma Machine." (p. 9)

The author misses an important chronological point in discussing the Berlin Tunnel -- that is, the length of time the Soviets allowed the operation to continue after they learned of its existence. Nash states that when George Blake learned of the tunnel, "[h]e informed the Communists who promptly sealed off the eastern end." (Emphasis added) (p. 93)

Nash seems too willing to accept the worst from Sir Roger Hollis' detractors, stating that "a host of ... more than coincidental events ... point[] to him as the Soviet agent who got away." (p. 268) The National Security Agency gets scarcely more than a page of discussion, and almost half of that is devoted to the James William Hall, III, spy case. Additionally, only the code-and-cipher-breaking function is mentioned, completely ignoring NSA's central role in U.S. communications security. (pp. 371-372)

The author also has a tendency to insert unproven and, perhaps, unprovable throwaway lines into his narrative. An example is this statement that appears as an irrelevant aside about Lafayette Baker in Nash's item on Allan Pinkerton: "...Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, who was most likely involved in Lincoln's assassination." (p. 391)

Polmar and Allen's Spy Book (New York: Random House, 1997) came out the same year as Nash's work; the former is significantly the better intelligence encyclopedia.

Kruh, Cryptologia 22.3: expresses a differing opinion: "Illustrated with scores of photographs and drawings, this hefty volume should provide many weeks of interesting reading."

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