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Nothing Is Secret Anymore

By Ian Christe

If ever there were reason to hope for remnant, wild, uncharted sections of Earth, that wish is dead. The truth, as Jeffrey T. Richelson lays out zealously in his tubby new hardback, is that there are snoops in the shadows, cameras in the skies, wires in the toilets, tapes on the telephone, bombs in the bath, and transmitters under the bed. In this era of intrigue, everyone and anything can be paid enough to peep at their neighbors, and sometimes to shoot, too.

Beginning with simple 19th-century German double agents, A Century of Spies - Intelligence in the Twentieth Century rolls along with the development of modern espionage with a casually organized barrage of names, dates, and facts. Morals go out the window as Nixon plots a bloody coup in Chile, Israel guns down its hidden enemies in Europe, and France steals computer secrets from IBM, and bombs anti-nuke protesters in New Zealand. One of the extremely outlandish projects outlined by Richelson, a Senior Fellow of the National Security Archive, involves a secret air-conditioned 500-yard tunnel beneath East Berlin that tapped phone lines at the Soviet airport and spewed 1,200 hours of tape a day back to Washington, DC.

Information makes war bloodless, leaving victories to diplomats and tacticians, as both sides look into the whites of each others eyes and scrutinize the DNA and blood type. Soldiers and battleships become important for their paper and political value, while presidents in South America fall victim to strange poisons and intrigue. With oodles of reconnaissance information, superpowers learn better than to risk self-destruction, but they meddle with spheres of influence and cause catastrophe nonetheless. Though covert enterprise may be ridiculous and indicative of all the worst traits of humanity, spying and security seem to define normal relations just by their presence. Even though we have no warnings, virtually all of our transactions are insecure, and may be viewed by third parties while in transit.

A Century of Spies - Intelligence in the Twentieth Century
Jeffrey T. Richelson
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue
New York, NY, 10016


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