A sort of consumer's guide to the world's best and best-known secret services. With his customary flair, military historian West (Molehunt, The Sigint Secrets, A Thread of Deceit, etc.) appraises the intelligence organizations maintained by five nations: CIA (US); DGSE (France); GRU and KGB (Soviet Union); Mossad (Israel); and SIS (UK). Assessing each on the basis of integrity (e.g., resistance to penetration), operational prowess, and capacity to exploit its findings, he implies the CIA (which has apprehended scores of spies or traitors since the mid-1980's) is as good if not better than any agency now plying the espionage trade. The pseudonymous author concedes that his three-point rating system has a subjective bias, largely because many intelligence coups pass unremarked while failures invariably make headlines. He nonetheless makes a fine job of showing that Mossad (though demonstrably venturesome and ruthless) is appreciably less effective than its celebrity might suggest. By contrast, he points out, only opponents (and intelligence-community insiders) hold GRU (the USSR military's undercover arm) in high esteem. In his informed opinion, Britain's SIS has recovered from internal woes caused by the so-called Cambridge Comintern, but the KGB (also dogged by security problems) remains in some disarray. Blunders like the botched scuttling of the Rainbow Warrior add little luster to the reputation of French operatives, the author notes, dismissing DGSE as an also-ran enterprise. And despite the cold war's end, West insists that the global village retains a full measure of perils and uncertainties. Accordingly, he concludes, espionage has an expansive future, citing, for example, the need to verify arms-control treaties and to keep high-tech equipment out of the wrong hands. A savvy briefing on the dirtier work of great nations.