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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In Spies We Trust is a history of the relationship between British and American espionage from the start of the 20th century until the present day, with three chapters at the end also including the European perspective. It is an intriguing read, offering many sidelights on well-known affairs, at times bringing new evidence to bear -- such as on the Zimmerman telegram -- which many readers won't have previously encountered. By its nature it is somewhat patchy, and it isn't always clear how well supported the conclusions are. Nonetheless, it offers a strong narrative of how the Americans emulated and surpassed the British, and how human and electronic intelligence have worked together, and sometimes against each other, in the UK-US context.

Aside from the chapters on Europol at the end, the author doesn't seem to have much grasp of the European intelligence scene. Gladio is not mentioned, and the contribution of non-UK Europeans is largely sidelined. This may well reflect the reality of the situation, but the author does not justify the omission very well.

Primarily this is a book about human relationships. A large portion of the successes and failures of Anglo-American intelligence cooperation, especially in the early days, is attributed to the personalities of those involved. However, because of its length, relatively little space can be given to any one character, and so the glimpses of Cummings, Churchill and Hoover are necessarily brief.

An intriguing read for the non-specialist, though I suspect that those who know more than they say will find it a little sketchy.
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VINE VOICEon 16 August 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book starts with the origins of the intelligence services on both sides of the Atlantic and focuses on the somewhat generous amount of luck that made Britain's intelligence services the partner of choice for the USA.
There is much said of the origin of the special relationship as well as its ups, down, rise and fall.
Much detail is given about the cold war interactions of the services and also a generous glimpse into Vietnam.
The decline of the 'special relationship' is a key feature of the book as everyone waits for the rise of Europe as an intelligence block.
The fiasco of the weapons of mass destruction issue in Iraq highlights the breakdown of the old order and from there onwards we start to see a greater role for European agencies.
The comprehensive bibliography will empower any reader ... for ever!
This is again a seminal work from the author, and if you like a good spy thriller then this reference work will add weight to the end of your bookcase as it stands alone in the dark. This is not a new subject to the author, who is a past professor of American history (Edinburgh) and who has previously given us major works on the history of the CIA and the FBI. It is this work which will attract those who are not so concerned with US history but are more interested in our own.
An excellent work which will engage all that are interested and quite impress those who are not.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
What with Mr Assange, Mr Snowden and Mr/Ms Manning, spies are very much in the news in 2013, so this book ought to catch the tide. I found it absorbing, and I can recommend it from several standpoints. The author is an acknowledged academic expert with a thorough grasp of the history of espionage in America and the UK, he obviously enjoys a good story and he recounts some of the racier episodes very readably. He is also (to my own way of thinking) fair-minded although conservatives may sense some hauteur and distaste in his depiction of their icons such as Mr Reagan and Mr Bush of Baghdad. More significantly still, he can thread his way through the tangled and jealous relations between American and British intelligence establishments without letting either patriotism or undue deference to the other party confuse his judgment or his narrative. Another thing he is certainly able to do is keep a story uncomplicated, but I felt, all the same, that some episodes were hardly recognisable as the contentious issues I once knew after being stripped down to the ex-cathedra simplifications of Professor Jeffreys-Jones. Is this really all there was to the Valerie Plame episode, for instance? Why on earth did I find it unintelligible at the time, if so? To this day I have never straightened out in my mind what was the real intelligence supplied to Tony Blair that provided the ostensible pretext for the Iraq war of 2003. I don't blame myself for that, as I don't suppose for one moment that Mr Blair and Mr Campbell wanted me or anyone else to be clear about the matter. They knew how to arrange that, even down to the masterly selection of a bumbling old judge to conduct an interminable enquiry and produce a report that managed to divert the spotlight on to total but helpful irrelevancies. These days the summation `dodgy dossier' has stuck, and rightly so, as far as I can tell; but maybe we could have done with Professor Jeffreys-Jones to put all our minds right years ago with bolts of effortless insight.

Strangely, my main experience after reading this book was that I had to ask myself `What have I just been reading?' Like the British weather and the Post Office in some recent tv advertising, this book does lots of different things. It tells the separate stories of the British and American secret services: it describes their tortuous and constantly changing relationship: it goes beyond the topic of gathering and analysing intelligence into that of political action, and for the very good reason that so did the CIA with increasing frequency. At the end the author, very reasonably, extends his scope by discussing the attempts by the EU to create its own intelligence service, and he finds the activities of the EU police force inseparable from this. I don't quarrel with this last feature, because the main story earlier could never be restricted to the intelligence services strictly so-called either, but had to take account at times of military, naval and police assertion of their own interests in the area of intelligence and the uses they could put it to. Nor do I quarrel with the breadth of the author's agenda. What I do think is that he has bitten off more than he could really chew as an author and that the book needs drastic revision in a second edition.

I mean, where do we end up regarding the core topic of the relationship between the US and UK intelligence services? There have been plenty of insightful observations all the way through, but at the end it all rather peters out in a way that I found disappointing. I had wanted a summary, I needed generalisation, but nothing doing. Indeed, the book ends with a whimper after a rather half-hearted chapter on the current state of the European intelligence project, a discussion which was only a bit of an addendum anyway. The problem is not the amount of material nor even its breadth of scope, it is that this clever professor could have done with a more active and assertive editor to organise his thoughts and their presentation. There are a few errors that will doubtless be sorted out in a reprint before any substantial revision takes place - e.g. in 1971 Harold Wilson was leader of the opposition and Edward Heath was prime minister, not the other way about as was the case before the 1970 election, and was again in 1974. It may, indeed, be just the year that is wrong in the sentence in question. This is a valuable book, and a reader disposed to take good notes can put together a lot of the overall picture from the author's passing comments in the way I would have liked the author himself to have done for us. What the book really needs (and deserves) is a drastic rewrite, and I don't think that this is an outrageous or unreasonable suggestion. There must be some gifted ghost-writers out there who would relish the task and do it well. Indeed I almost think that if I were a bit younger I might offer to do the job myself.
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VINE VOICEon 22 September 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
An ever-popular topic is spies and espionage. Pulp thrillers over the last century have regularly plumbed these concepts to present a glossy, exciting world full of action and intrigue. This presents a very different picture. Little gloss or glamour - its extent limited mainly to the privileged backgrounds of many of those recruited to the various agencies, the picture presented is far more of a number of agencies mistrusting one another, sometimes grudgingly working with one another while trying to better the others. The shifting interest, funding, organisation and balance of power through early years, 2 world wars and on to recent years is laid out.
However, the author seems determined to highlight the superiority of American intelligence services along with its economic and military power, while decrying British intelligence as infiltrated by foreign agents, prone to arrogance and elitism, and limited in resources. When looking at European efforts, the comparison is also with the FBI and CIA, and again the tone favours the US efforts. The author (perhaps unsurprisingly given his academic background) seems much more able to provide detail about US efforts, and it's hard to be sure (given many assertions are not backed up by concrete proof) whether there is a clear US superiority in espionage efforts, or whether there is a bias on the part of the author.
This question might be ignorable given that US espionage is unquestionably an important part of the global picture, but the tone is quite dry. Devoid of romanticism and literary craft, this is a factual exploration of the various agencies covering over 100 years of espionage. Its detail perhaps suffers there, giving only brief notes towards some of the issues affecting the service, and only limited detail about a limited number of successes, preferring to outline the progression over time. Better anecdotes and justification of assertions of superiority would have rendered this a more readable and interesting text on what seems to have been a subject about which the author knows a lot, and one which is of interest to many.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The author is a Emeritus Professor of American History at Edinburgh University and has held Fellowships at Harvard, Berlin and Toronto Universities so I guess you could say he is the academic type. He is considered a specialist in Intelligence History and his previous books include ones on both the CIA and FBI.

The subtitle of the book is 'The Story of Western Intelligence' which I thought would include what are known as the Western 'Allies' including countries such as France, Belgium, Holland,Denmark and Scandinavian countries etc. Not to be, the book is basically a narrative and chronological history of American and British Intelligence services and more pointedly - the history of the so called and much vaunted 'special relationship' to which the greater part of the text is dedicated.

Although Prof. Jeffreys-Jones does weave into his story some case histories, albeit mostly rather brief ones, I personally found the book a little dry and a little boring, just an ongoing list of mostly never heard of characters who pop in for a few pages then bow out again. OK, it is a history but I feel it is written, maybe subconsciously, for academia rather than the lay reader with a general interest in the world of spying.

My spy hero, Kim Philby who ran rings around the British ruling establishment for years along with Burgess, Maclean, Caincross and Blunt only rate about two pages between them with Philby almost being written off as some sort of spy who only spied on other spies. Also the author does like to give everyone sexual tags (bisexual, gay etc.) when the motivation for nearly all spies who worked for the Soviet Union was almost always ideological, not because of sexual blackmail 'honey traps' (although there were a few cases of this but mainly at lower level) or monetary gain. An awful lot of folk from all walks of life were firmly committed to the socialist ideology in the first half of the 20th century.

The old German Democratic Republic which was an absolute hotbed of spying activity after WW2 only merits a mention because of the famous 1000 yard tunnel dug from West to East Berlin by Anglo American Intelligence ending right underneath a Soviet Military Comms Base. Great piece of covert action to tap straight into Soviet communication lines. Trouble was the KGB knew all about it before it was dug, tipped off by another 'mole' - George Blake. The Soviets used the telephone lines tapped into by agents working in the tunnel under their base to feed the West with what they, the Soviets, wanted us to hear. George Blake was finally 'outed' and given 42 years for his troubles but managed to go over the wall after only 5 years served. He was smuggled out of the UK by a couple of (I think) fellow travelers who wrote an entertaining book about it when they had served their terms for busting Blake out of Wormwood Scrubs.

As previously stated the historic narrative is interrupted by case histories but for me it is not enough to save the rest of the political and bureaucratic history from oblivion. Having said that, this OUP book will appeal to the serious students of Anglo American History, 233 pages of narrative and 43 pages of copious notes and references to other publications - which I found a little over the top.
Nine chapters are dedicated entirely to the 'special relationship' which the author reckons came to an abrupt end at the same time the Berlin Wall came crashing down, chapters 10 & 11 look at the UN and EU as alternative sources whilst the UK now remains as just of one of several countries where Intelligence co-operation is standard as the USA basically goes it alone in hugely expensive IT operations. These investments are prohibitive to poorer nations like us although GCHQ does it's best to keep up with the latest electronic tricks to spy on it's own population as well as intercepting foreign traffic. Beware of what you tweet or publish on Facebook, it may just come back to bite you!

A book definitely for the more advanced student of Anglo American Intelligence/Political relations.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In the post-Snowden age, the roles of spies is somewhat redundant in the traditional sense. Who needs a Stasi that sit opposite your house and record your every move when there's a small device in your pocket (or on your lap) that will do almost all of it for them? In this respect this definitive work travels quickly as a historical artifact detailing a new near-obselete method of spying, charting the rise and fall of the traditional John le Carre world, and does so in an accessable, easy style - occasionally skipping over detail, but leaving no stone unturned, as such. It read as if condensed from a much larger work, for almost each of the stories inside this is worthy a novel in its own right, offering a fascinating - but as hinted at the forward mentioning the redacted tale of Valerie Plume - glimpse and nothing more, and one probably with many deleted scenes hidden in the authors hard drive. By its nature of the subject matter, this is not likely to be the full subject matter or the full tale, but it is a wide text that attempts the near impossible tale of covering the enormous world of spying and manages to tell the tale comprehensively.
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VINE VOICEon 18 August 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have given this book 4 stars as I felt reading it that the quality of research and the way it is laid out deserve at least 4 stars, I didn't give it 5 purely as it's not so much about the spies in the field as more about the high level politics and the way decisions are decided at government level. The special relationship with the USA and at other countries all come into play. I was amazed how personalities come into it as well and the lack of trust between the intelligence agencies in the different countries.. It is extremely well set out and there is a huge section of end notes which you can refer to as you read thru the chapters. We go from pre 1900 to the present day, how all this came to be is quite fascinating.. In the hour of need the different agencies come together though there is usually a price to pay.. As you would expect a lot goes on
behind the scenes and I suppose that we will never know the truth in most cases that we know about..
A well written and researched book,
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VINE VOICEon 25 September 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I enjoyed this book as ever since Spycatcher by Peter Wright in the late 1980's I have been interested in the subject of spies and spying. If you have a fascination for the world of George Smiley, this would be an excellent companion to that genre, or if you are interested in the in-depth history of western intelligence you will find a lot to interest you. This book is published by the Oxford University Press, so it is a well-researched scholarly work. It is not a light gossipy page turner, however Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones writes with a lightness of touch that stops you getting bogged down in facts, and the book is not too dry and scholarly for the general reader. I don't remember all the names and dates mentioned in this book, but there were enough good stories and anecdotes to keep me interested.
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VINE VOICEon 22 September 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In Spies We Trust tells the full story of the Anglo-American intelligence relationship - over the last 100 years.

But from the early 1960s this 'special relationship' went into terminal decline. As Britain weakened, American attitudes changed, and the fall of the Soviet Union dissolved the fear that bound London and Washington together. A series of intelligence scandals along the way further eroded public confidence.

The author clearly has a complete understanding of the material and asks the question of where we should be looking now, and shows a number of surprising ways we could go.

It's not an easy read, but very comprehensive in what it says - almost a reference work. 007? No. Serious attempt to explain why we are where we are, and what should we do? Yes.
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VINE VOICEon 9 August 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The principal focus of this fascinating book is the relationship between Britain and the United States and consequently other `members' of the `intelligence community' receive at best rather cursory coverage. Not that this detracts from the author's narrative which starts a hundred years ago. The `special relationship' much promoted by our politicians and much scrutinised by the media is examined critically by Mr Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones (I'll not reveal his position on this matter although I'm sure for most readers it will not come as any great surprise). Highly recommended if you are interested in all things to do with such evocative terms as spies, espionage and surveillance (etc.) and want to read an informative and well written book on the topic.
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