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To Catch a Spy: The Art of Counterintelligence

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    • 4.6 stars
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The United States is losing the counterintelligence war. Foreign intelligence services, particularly those of China, Russia, and Cuba, are recruiting spies in our midst and stealing our secrets and cutting-edge technologies. In To Catch a Spy: The Art of Counterintelligence, James M. Olson, former chief of CIA counterintelligence, offers a wake-up call for the American public and also a guide for how our country can do a better job of protecting its national security and trade secrets. Olson takes the reader into the arcane world of counterintelligence as he lived it during his thirty-year career in the CIA. After an overview of what the Chinese, Russian, and Cuban spy services are doing to the United States, Olson explains the nitty-gritty of the principles and methods of counterintelligence. Readers will learn about specific aspects of counterintelligence such as running double-agent operations and surveillance. The book also analyzes twelve actual case studies to illustrate why people spy against their country, the tradecraft of counterintelligence, and where counterintelligence breaks down or succeeds. A "lessons learned" section follows each case study.


Editorial Reviews

Review

"A five-cloak, five-dagger read for anyone interested in intelligence." ― The Washington Times

"A must-read for professionals in security and/or governmental affairs; it may also appeal to readers interested in foreign counterintelligence efforts and U.S. tactics." ― Library Journal

"Fascinating, authoritative, full of juicy new disclosures. To Catch a Spy is destined to become the bible of the counterintelligence community and the real life spy world." ― Ronald Kessler, author, The CIA at War and The Secrets of the FBI

"The author, America's counterintelligence guru, has crafted a remarkable, indispensable book rich in heartbreaking detail and sharp analysis ― serving as a clarion call for a stronger response to the unrelenting, sophisticated, and successful foreign espionage assault on our nation." ― Henry A. Crumpton, a twenty-four-year veteran of the CIA's Clandestine Service, author of The Art of Intelligence, and CEO of Crumpton Group LLC.,

"Olson has written a primer on the world of espionage that is so thoughtful and carefully laid out it makes you wonder how we got along without a book like this before. The lay reader will learn how spying really works. The intelligence professional will discover how to make it work better. What you read in the papers about espionage isn't necessarily wrong, it's just missing half the story. Here's the other half." ― Joe Weisberg, Creator/Executive Producer, The Americans,

"Jim Olson has written an extraordinary book. It is impossible to put down - To Catch a Spy stands with the best of John le Carre. But it isn't fiction. Worried about Russian hacking and election interference? It's worse than you think. As a career Foreign Service Officer, I have had the privilege of working with the men and women of our intelligence community. There are no finer people or greater patriots. I know what risks they take and the price they sometimes pay. Jim Olson stands in that proud tradition." ― Ryan Crocker, Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait, and Lebanon,

"America is losing its secrets and technology to foreign intelligence services at an alarming rate. Our country's need for good counterintelligence has never been greater. Jim Olson is the real deal, a veteran CIA spy who describes the challenges and provides a clear path for how to do a better job of protecting America. To Catch a Spy is a rare insider's look into the world of spying. It will fascinate not only counterintelligence professionals, but also anyone interested in the murky world of espionage. Olson's book is destined to become the standard reference on U.S. counterintelligence." ― Andrew H. Card, Jr. , Chief of Staff for President George W. Bush,

"Jim Olson has shared with us his accumulated wisdom, lessons learned, and roadmap for the future. To Catch a Spy is the new U.S. counterintelligence standard. It is a must read for serious professionals and anyone interested in the spy world. Jim has done a tremendous service, not only to our generation, but also to those of the next who choose to answer the call to join the counterintelligence battle." ― Alex J. Vega IV, Joint Counterintelligence Training Activity (JCITA), Defense Intelligence Agency, and Former U.S. Army Attaché, U.S. Embassy, Moscow, Russia

From the Back Cover

INTELLIGENCE / ESPIONAGE

"Fascinating, authoritative, full of juicy new disclosures. To Catch a Spy is destined to become the bible of the counterintelligence community and the real-life spy world." --RONALD KESSLER, author of The CIA at War and The Secrets of the FBI

"A highly entertaining and captivating body of work exploring what Olson believes to be the major counterintelligence challenges and threats facing the US today."--Intelligence and National Security

"A must-read for professionals in security and/or governmental affairs."--Library Journal

The United States is losing the counterintelligence war. Foreign intelligence services, particularly those of China, Russia, and Cuba, are recruiting spies in our midst and stealing our secrets and cutting-edge technologies. In To Catch a Spy: The Art of Counterintelligence, James M. Olson, former chief of CIA counterintelligence, offers a wake-up call for the American public and a guide for how our country can do a better job of protecting its national security and trade secrets. Olson takes the reader into the arcane world of counterintelligence as he lived it during his thirty-year career in the CIA.

After an overview of what the Chinese, Russian, and Cuban spy services are doing to the United States, Olson explains the nitty-gritty of the principles and methods of counterintelligence. Readers will learn about specific aspects of counterintelligence, from running double-agent operations to surveillance. The book also analyzes twelve real-world case studies to illustrate why people spy against their country, the tradecraft of counterintelligence, and where counterintelligence breaks down or succeeds. A "lessons learned" section follows each case study.

JAMES M. OLSON served for over thirty years in the Directorate of Operations of the Central Intelligence Agency, mostly overseas in clandestine operations. In addition to several foreign assignments, he was chief of counterintelligence at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Currently, he is a professor of the practice at the Bush School of Government and Public Service of Texas A&M University. He is the author of Fair Play: The Moral Dilemmas of Spying.

 

Customer Review



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A captivating volume

This is an a unique perspective, pretty incisive and important account by an authentic intelligence professional -„practitioner and teacher of intelligence” - about the evolution of CI aspects in a changing world and in a time when America faced and still faces some grave and uncertain risks.The book has a startling relevancy to the news of the day and Mr. Olson has genuinely walked the ground about which he writes.Based on his experience, both abroad and at Langley, the author accurately portrays just how far advanced the US intelligence community were in this effort, making useful recommendations, showing the mistakes or errors, while illustrating the growing importance of US CI officers and their missions.I believe that Mr. Olson’s engrossing volume blends the historical records with his own intelligence expertise (deputy chief and, subsequently, chief of CIC), “a modest effort”, as he recognized, to create a tome centered on the most relevant aspects of CI operations both from theoretical and practical points of view.After a brief Introduction, the book opens, in the first three chapters, with an overview of the most dangerous and aggressive trio which undermines US national security: Chinese, Russian and Cuban intelligence services (in this author’s order).I did like the presentation of China’s services, their past and current activities and priorities. Author parallels his past “1985 losses” in SE Division with the recent disaster caused by the Jerry Chun Lee, arrested in February 2018 after selling between 2010-2012 the remarkable stable of CIA agents in China (18-20 persons).Concerning Russia, I have two observations. First, I found strange some statements as on page 18, that: “… Rick Ames was ultimately a stupid spy.” or on page 43, “…flawed and mediocre performers like Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen…”Yes, Ames and Hanssen made mistakes, but overall, their mistakes were far, far less impressive than those made by a US “weak counterintelligence”, which missed numerous clues of their dual behavior, to say the least. There’s no doubt that without the help of two defectors, US CI couldn’t catch either Ames or Hanssen together with their mistakes!Also, the arrest of Jim Nicholson was NOT ONLY “the result of superior CI work by the CIA and FBI” (page 19), but also due to the clues provided by the former KGB officer Alex. Zaporozhsky, as B. Denson wrote in his well-known book “The Spy’s Son…” (The Fourth Commandment: Know Your History!).Chapter IV (31 pages) describes Mr. Olson’s list of “The Ten Commandments of Counterintelligence”, based on his extensive experience in CI. As most books showed, unfortunately, almost all Ten Commandments listed by Mr. Olson were not observed by US CI in the most damaging cases in US history.On page 42, concerning the still unbelievable massive arrests in 1985-1986 in Russia, without any concern about source protection, I wondered if the Russians could have more than one mole in US intelligence community. In this case, they accepted a calculated risk, knowing that the arrests will definitely endanger the sources, but realizing that out of two CIA moles one will still survive the onslaught of the inevitable CI investigations and the much bigger threat possessed by the US spies in their midst was eliminated.As I noted, throughout the book, the author is not addressing rumors of an undiscovered KGB spy - another Ames or Hanssen - in the US intel community, the so-called " fourth mole", an interesting episode confirmed by both M. Bearden (as one involved in the investigations) and V. Cherkashin (who, as KR line chief, should have direct knowledge of this spy).Chapters V-VII are dedicated to specific aspects of CI operations such as selection of personnel in sensitive posts or supervision of this personnel, double-agent operations and their objectives.The last chapter VIII (re)analyses 12 spy cases (Lonetree, Montes, Pollard, etc).Mr. Olson excels at conveying both the tradecraft and the human vulnerabilities involved in each spy case. A useful „lessons learned” ends each case.A two-page Conclusion and an Appendix (“The Counterintelligence Officer’s Bookshelf”) closes the book. His nice ending of the main text: „Spy catching is love of country personified.” remembered me the American poetess Katharine Lee Bates" and her „America the Beautiful".Regarding the Appendix, I dare to add to the list David Wise’s „Nightmover” or David E. Hoffman’s „The Billion Dollar Spy” and maybe Ronald Kessler’s “The Secrets of FBI”. Surprisingly, a very interesting book that I really love - “Circle of treason” - written by two former colleagues in SE Division (Sandy Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille) is missing from the list and also from the notes section or the main text (The Second Commandment: Honor your professionals!). Also missing is Michael Sulick’s “American Spies: Espionage against the United States from the Cold War to the Present”, somehow similar with this book in exploring some spy cases.Finally, there is a useful notes section and bibliography to indicate the sources of various statements, so the readers can verify their accuracy, consider the context, or follow them further. There is also a comprehensive index.A drawback in this study, I consider, is the lack of any illustrations; with so many persons mentioned I found this aspect a little bit strange which makes the reading sometimes dull.A compelling Cold War and beyond volume that illuminates the essence of CI operations, this fresh tome is an essential reading for any reader and intelligence professionals interested in the realities behind Cold War espionage and beyond. Recommended!

by F. Carol Sabin, May 13, 2019


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Good read. Could be better.

This book is 2/3 interesting material about counterintelligence and 1/3 gratuitous statements that the author is a former practitioner who now teaches at the Bush school. I seriously don’t know how an editor didn’t control+F every unnecessary and repetitious mention of the Bush school. I don’t say this to diminish the author’s credentials, it’s just that I don’t need to be reminded on every other page of the author’s resume.The book is still worthwhile, but it’s name is a little misleading. This is more of a book of war stories and general opinions from an experienced CI professional than it is an organized and thorough discourse on the “art of counterintelligence.” The stories are the best part and do introduce many CI concepts, but there’s a lot of unnecessary filler that could be cut to make the book better.

by G. Tanner, July 29, 2019


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This should be required reading for any HR, Management or Security position in Corporate America

To Catch a Spy: The Art of Counterintelligence is an excellent book. James Olson is a 34 year veteran of the CIA and a former Director of Counterintelligence. Before becoming one of the top experts in Counterintelligence for the CIA, he served in the Clandestine Services. Olson is a highly successful case officer recruiting and handling penetrations into foreign governments during the Cold War; so naturally he is going to be one of the best at catching others trying to penetrate the United States. Olson shares his knowledge and analysis pertaining to the current state of our Nation’s security in an eye-opening fashion citing case after case in our recent history. I think this book should be required reading for Human Resources, Security and Leadership in any company or government entity that has any sort of research and development program that they are not posting on the web for everyone to see. While government entities, for the most part, are aware of attempts by foreign intelligence agencies to steal secrets, much of corporate America is ripe for the taking. I am hoping that this book becomes a wake-up call to the private sector and will help stem the tide of the rampant security breaches that are plaguing our Country today. Olson points out many of the warning signs to look for when a foreign service is attempting to steal or penetrate an organization.

by Dave M, May 12, 2019


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A must-have for all readers interested in Counterintelligence

Jim Olson's years of experience in Counterintelligence at the CIA have served him well to write this insightful book about the CI profession.His initial review of the threats China, Russia and Cuba pose to the US -and, certainly, to our Western lifestyle- is a good introductory analysis to those interested in CI and how intelligence services other than the CIA operate.Chapters 4 to 7 provide the reader with knowledge that, until now, only the fortunate students at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M have been able to reach. Especially notable are Olson's own 'Ten Commandments of Counterintelligence' -reviewed in depth in this book- and his 'Three Principles of Workplace Counterintelligence.'His passion for Double-Agent Operations and how to manage them (chapters 6 & 7) serves the neophyte reader in Intelligence studies to begin to grasp one of the most exciting type of CI operations. He crafts a good definition of Double-Agent and provides useful examples to understand what Double-Agent operations are and the advantages that come from conducting these operations against enemy intelligence services.Finally, chapter 8 is rich in relevant and varied CI case studies that will teach future CI professionals a good lesson on how to avoid traitors within the intelligence agencies if Olson's 'Ten Commandments of Counterintelligence' and the 'Three Principles of Workplace Counterintelligence' are observed.This book is populated with Olson's own experiences and thoughts on the tradecraft, all told in a fluid narrative style and with a powerful voice.To Catch a Spy is bound to become an essential reading on Counterintelligence that all intelligence professional must add to their personal bookshelves.

by Amazon Customer, August 26, 2019


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Disappointed with book

Content was ok but there is just over 200 pages of large paragraphs that made it hard to read.

by nexus, April 21, 2020


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Wie man Spione enttarnt und überführt

James M.Olson was responsible for counter intelligence (CI) at the CIA. He knows what he is talking about from first hand experience. CI is a bit like software testing. You have to be patient, and how need to see the slightest sign of an error.The cases are interesting, and when the lessons learned are applied, the FBI might expose more foreign spies.A book worth your time.GEORGE THALLER, author

by Georg Erwin Thaller, July 10, 2021


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One of the very best books I've ever read

You will not only love this book if you are specifically interested in this topic. But if CI is a topic you are particularly interested in, then this book is an absolute must. It is the result of a rare coincidence that one of the best experts is also a very talented writer.

by alpha lambda, January 1, 2020


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Great

I think it's one of the best books in counter-intelligence i've ever read.A lot of anecdotes, case studies and advices.I recommand it to everyone.

by Pierre, May 30, 2020



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