A good, skillfully-written history of the Soviet intelligence appartus which is the history of the Soviet state itself. In 1917, a month after the Bolshevik coup d'â€štat, Lenin established an Extraordinary Commission to Combat Counterrevolution, Speculation and Sabotage. The mouthful was soon replaced by an acronym, VChK which soon became the familiar ""Cheka.' Its chairman was a brilliant and dedicated Lithuanian revolutionary, Felix E. Dzerzhinsky, seasoned by 12 years in Czarist prisons. The Commission was intended (some believed) to be temporary. It had a staff of 23. The rest is history. Executive action was taken to make the Commission permanent and, according to the authors, it ""came to include all of 'the repressive organs of the state.' ""In the 1920s it became the GPU-OGPU, in the 1930s Stalin's dreaded NKVD, and, after a number of incarnations, the KGB, achieving primacy with the accession of its chairman, Yuri Andropov, to the position of head of state. The authors have researched their subject well, and there are plenty of meaty anecdotes of covert intelligence coups, and biographical sketches of the bizarre characters who populate the strange hidden world of espionage. The title is misleading, however, because most of the book deals with the past, and the ""New"" KGB, converted from disappearing inks and exotic intrigues to the acquisition of technical and scientific data and equipment, doesn't appear until the end of the book and the chairmanship of Andropov in 1967. The authors have allowed ""evil empire"" bias to pervade the text, but since they are describing a repressive group responsible for untold numbers of politically motivated deaths, it is not surprising that Moscow comes off badly. Their thesis, that the KGB ""now operates the U.S.S.R.,"" remains to be tested as Mikhail Gorbachev consolidates his power base. In sum, a fascinating albeit frightening history that's long on detail, short on what it adds up to for the future of the U.S.S.R.