DIRTY TRICKS OR TRUMP CARDS: U.S. Covert Action and Counterintelligence by Roy Godson

DIRTY TRICKS OR TRUMP CARDS: U.S. Covert Action and Counterintelligence

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An academic's dry-as-dust assessment of US intelligence needs in the turbulent times to come. Looking backward over the past 50 years as well as forward, Godson (Government/Georgetown Univ.; editor of Intelligence Requirements for the 1980s, 1985) offers a deadly serious survey of what was once deemed the hidden dimension of diplomacy, military affairs, and statecraft. In his orderly canon, there are four principal parts to a full-service intelligence effort: data collection, analysis, counterintelligence, and covert action. Traditionally, he notes, the gathering and evaluation of information have bothered neither the American public nor its elected representatives. By contrast, the author points out, counterintelligence and covert action have sparked heated debates; as one result, these elements in recent years have been more honored in the breach than the observance--at (in Godson's view) no small cost to national security. The author recalls that the Nixon administration's commitment to d‚tente with the Soviet Union (as opposed to the post-WW II policy of containment) signaled US agencies that counterintelligence was no longer a priority. About the same time, he asserts, the country's political leadership began to repudiate the methods (assassination, destabilization of hostile regimes, paramilitary campaigns, propaganda) used in clandestine operations. While conceding the difficulties of reconciling an open, democratic society to subterfuge and so-called dirty tricks, he commends the strategic and tactical utility of unorthodox practices. At the global level, Godson argues, these capacities would make it easier for Washington to deal with breakaway or outlaw states; closer to home, such procedures could be gainfully employed in battling organized crime, containing drug cartels, and neutralizing terrorist groups. An authoritative albeit tedious audit of what the cloak-and-dagger bureaucracies could do for their country--if pols had the will and money to back them.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1995
Page count: 342pp
Publisher: Brassey's