Thursday, February 24, 2011

John Le Carre Donates Archive to Oxford

Legendary spy novelist John Le Carre has donated his personal archive to the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.

As a graduate of Oxford, it was unlikely Le Carre would place his papers anywhere else, although one British paper called it a "crushing blow to archive-hungry American universities.

The archive consists of over 85 boxes with multiple versions of some of his works. Several items will be included in the kickoff to World Book Day in 2 weeks.

The writings of Le Carre, 79, whose real name is David Corwell, are considered important to understanding the history of the Cold War, as well as the history and development of the spy novel.

Le Carre said Oxford is the spiritual home of himself as well as his famous character George Smiley.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Best Spy Fiction of 2011

Updated: 12/15/11

Do you agree with a book reviewer for the UK Spectator by the name of Lewis Jones that American spy novelists are "unreadable"?

The English fascination with spies is gloriously reflected in our literature, from Kim to A Question of Attribution, and while their Egyptian and Israeli counterparts remain untranslated, and the Americans unreadable, English spy novelists rule.

Here is a selection of noteworthy spy novels published in 2011:

  • Berquist, Drew. The Maverick Experiment. Author Berquist is a former spy. His hero Derek Stevens stalks the Taliban in Afghanistan.
  • Boyd, Noah. Agent X. Former FBI agent Boyd introduced his hero Steve Vail in last year’s crime thriller The Bricklayer. Now, Vail must find Russian moles feeding intelligence to Moscow. Reviews haven’t been kind, but the Amazonians generally like it.
  • Clancy, Tom with Peter Telep. Against All Enemies. Clancy/Telep introduce a new character, ex-Navy SEAL Max Moore. The Taliban and Mexican drug lords join forces.
  • Coonts, Stephen. Deep Black: Death Wave. Hero Charlie Dean heads up a National Security Agency team to foil a sinister terrorist plot hatched from the Canary Islands. This is the 3rd installment of the Deep Black series.
  • Cumming, Charles. The Trinity Six. The Cambridge 5 were Kim Philby, Anthony Blunt, John Cairncross, Guy Burgess, and Donald Maclean. But was there a sixth?
  • Deaver, Jeffery. Carte Blanche. US writer Deaver pens the latest James Bond spy thriller. Bond must stop a terrorist attack that could kill thousands.
  • Dunn, Matthew. Spycatcher. Superspy Will Cochrane chases a terrorist mastermind.
  • Finder, Joseph. Buried Secrets. Nick Heller must discover who kidnapped the daughter of a hedge fund titan. Early reviews are very positive.
  • Ignatius, David. Bloodmoney. Washington Post reporter Ignatius pens a story that asks who is killing the members of a CIA intelligence unit in Pakistan? The task of finding out what's going on falls on the heroine of this novel with the somewhat embarrassing name Sophie Marx.
  • Jacobson, Douglas W. The Katyn Order. Spy thriller about the 1940 Katyn forest massacre of 20,000 Polish officers by the Soviet NKVD.
  • Patterson, Richard North. The Devil's Light. Best-selling author Patterson crafts a timely story about CIA agent Brooke Chandler, who must stop an Al Qaeda nuclear plot.
  • Rimington, Stella. Rip Tide. MI5 officer Liz Carlyle investigates pirates off the Somalian coast. Author Rimington was Director General of MI5.
  • Silva, Daniel. Portrait of a Spy. Silva's superspy Gabriel Allon is faced with a series of bombings in Europe.
  • Thomson, Keith. Twice a Spy. Billed as a combination of humor and suspense. Terrorists and a nuclear bomb disguised as a washing machine. Old former CIA with Alzheimer's saves the day?
  • Thor, Brad. Full Black. Scot Harvath must save the United States from terrorists.

Also Noted:
  • Chadbourn, Mark. The Scar-Crow Men. Historical fantasy set in 16th Century England. Who is killing Queen Elizabeth I’s spies?
  • Willig, Lauren. The Orchid Affair. Historical romance set in Napoleonic France.

Read “The Best Spy Fiction of 2010

Read "The Best Spy Nonfiction of 2011"

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Japan Creates Foreign Intelligence Service

Japan has decided to create a foreign intelligence service for the first time since World War II, according to news reports.

Lacking vital intelligence on the leaders of North Korea and China, Japan is in a vulnerable position. The new agency will be modeled on western services such as the CIA, MI6 and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service.

The new agency will keep an eye on regional adversaries and gather information to prevent terrorist attacks.

The existence of the agency was revealed by WikiLeaks, which published a secret US diplomatic cable discussing the new espionage initiative.

Japan has been reluctant to move quickly on foreign espionage for fear of alienating diplomatic relations with friendly countries, but the country needs important information the agency could provide.

Japan admitted their best information about North Korean leader Kim Jong-il came from the published memoir of his former sushi chef.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Nano Hummingbird to Hunt Bin Laden

The Nano Hummingbird is a miniature drone designed by AeroVironment that could one day join the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

The bird-like nano air vehicle could provide covert surveillance and reconnaissance without alerting terrorists that they are being watched.

The hummingbird could be used to surreptitiously locate a target while an armed UAV is brought in for the kill.

Ideally, it would make sense for the hummingbird to come equipped with its own armament, but that seems further down the road.

As unmanned drones become smaller and smaller and can be made to mimic the look of birds or insects, the next step would seem to be a Nano Fly, which would be even smaller and less noticeable than the hummingbird.

Once these devices are integrated into the search for terrorists, it would appear Osama bin Laden's days are numbered, as it would be nearly impossible to keep a mini drone & its on-board camera out of any room anywhere in the world.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Panel Releases Report on Anthrax Letters Case

A National Academy of Sciences panel released a report reviewing the scientific approaches and scientific conclusions reached by the FBI in their investigation of the anthrax letters case of 2001.

While faulting the FBI for overstating the strength of the genetic analysis linking the anthrax letters to a supply kept by Bruce Ivins, the panel's findings back up the previous conclusion that Ivins was the perpetrator of the anthrax crimes.

The evidence, the panel said, is consistent with and supports an association between the letters and Ivins' anthrax flask.

The FBI and Justice Department issued a joint statement responding to the committee's work and reiterating that Ivins was determined to be "the perpetrator of the deadly mailings."

Reports in the news media play up the critical aspects of the report, but nothing in the report absolves Ivins from guilt.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Algeria Is the New Egypt

(LNS) Emboldened by events in Egypt, thousands of protesters gathered in Algiers, Algeria, demanding a change in government.

The gripes of Algerians are similar to those in Tunisia and Egypt: unemployment, high food prices, corruption, and weariness with a police state offering no real democracy.

A state of emergency has existed in Algeria for nearly two decades. Fearful of the wave of protests sweeping the Middle East, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika claimed he would soon lift the emergency measures.

Protests are officially banned in Algiers, and hundreds of riot police confronted protesters.

France was rocked this week by revelations that the government authorized a shipment of tear gas grenades to Tunisia in the days before President Zine el Abidine ben Ali was toppled from power. Last year, France trained the dreaded Egyptian police force in crowd control as well. France has a long historical relationship with Algeria.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Best Spy Nonfiction of 2011

Update 9/15/11: Just added: Warrick, Joby. The Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole Who Infiltrated the CIA. (See listing below)

In the year 2011, we see intelligence and espionage dancing around on the world stage, captivating attention. Here are the latest nonfiction books on the intelligence world.

Obama's Blame Game on Middle East Intelligence

With the 2012 presidential election season fast approaching, President Obama is playing the blame game on intelligence "failures" regarding the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

Obama said he was "disappointed with the intelligence community" in not predicting events in Tunisia, but does Obama really understand intelligence and what it can and can't do?

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden, with his usual tactfulness, doesn't come out and call Obama an ignoramus, but does contradict his assessment:

Suggestions of intelligence failure miss the mark and betray a lack of understanding of what intelligence can and cannot do.
Has Obama read Hayden's commentary? He needs it more than anyone.

Didn't Obama hire Leon Panetta to run the CIA, a guy with no intelligence experience? Didn't Obama just change horses in midstream by hiring a new Director of National Intelligence? Isn't Obama the guy who hired Janet Napolitano as DHS chief, though she has no national security background?

These facts betray a lack of seriousness on Obama's part with respect to intelligence, and now he wants to play the blame game, and it's a game he himself doesn't even comprehend!

House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers praised the intelligence community on its "impressive" work on the uprising in Egypt.

Democrat Dianne Feinstein of the Senate Intelligence Committee also directly contradicted Obama by saying "there was a good deal of intelligence about Tunisia," although she wants to argue about what was known about Egypt.

Everything indicates Obama is well behind the curve on intelligence, doesn't understand the issues, and is making public statements with an eye toward the next election.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

HuffPost Deal: Drudge Next?

The Huffington Post is now part of AOL's empire and two questions are paramount in the minds of pundits:

1. Was it a smart deal for AOL? Is Arianna Huffington and her website worth the $315 million investment or will it turn sour?

2. Will Arianna stay on the left side of the political aisle or turn centrist, as she claims has been her recent trend? What's best for business?

Our impression is that Arianna was never really a liberal or a conservative, she's an Arianna.

Could we see more acquisitions of independent media outlets? Is Matt Drudge ready to sell? His site these days provides links rather than any original breaking stories and steers discussion to favored topics. Would Rush Limbaugh want Drudge for his website, or would Fox News have an interest?

Is Rush looking at Drudge or Free Republic and its staunchly conservative audience, or will he continue to go his own way and develop his website without acquisitions? Are sites like these coveted by media empires?

Monday, February 07, 2011

The Taliban Versus Al Qaeda

Substantial friction exists between the Taliban and al Qaeda, a new report asserts.

The Taliban could be persuaded to renounce al Qaeda by focusing on commonalities between them and the United States.

Under a new relationship, the Taliban could conduct counter-terrorism operations against al Qaeda with US Special Forces along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

It seems a bizarre possibility, but the report suggests the Taliban may be ready for a break with al Qaeda and might be interested in keeping the Afghan border terror-free.

Such agreements would necessitate looking at the Taliban in a different light than previously.

The New York University report is available at this website.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Why Hotties Never Shop at Victoria’s Secret

Every large shopping mall in the country boasts one or both of the famous women’s lingerie stores Victoria’s Secret or Frederick’s of Hollywood.

Every time I walk by I say to myself, I wonder if there are any hotties in there right now? And after looking through the doorway and windows and passing by, the answer is invariably No. Not even close. It doesn’t matter what mall it is or where, attractive women are never to be seen shopping in one of these stores.

The only time you see pretty girls at these stores is when they are professional models paid to appear on their websites or in their catalogs. You too can look just like this! Just buy something and you’ll be hot, too!

Sometimes I’ll feel sorry for those I do see rummaging around in there and say to myself, not even Victoria’s Secret can help that poor girl. The stores clearly cater to those born without a heaping helping of natural beauty.

Why do the most attractive women seemingly avoid these stores as if they were a fashion plague—or as if wearing their apparel would produce the opposite of the intended effect? Because they only shop by mail order? It’s can’t be true that hotties use nothing but mail order and unattractive women take the trouble to physically trudge into the stores and perhaps solicit some much-needed advice from the clerks. That just can’t be.

Women such as Reese Witherspoon or Taylor Swift don’t need to wear sexy lingerie to accentuate their attractiveness. They would look good in a burlap sack.

Standard lingerie on attractive girls underscores their natural beauty. Expensive lingerie isn’t needed. Perhaps might even be counterproductive. They know they don’t need anything more than something plain without frills and can flaunt their lack of need for anything sensual. It’s like saying, It’s not the lingerie, it’s the girl!

Not needing sexy lingerie is proof that one is irresistible without it.

Women who aren’t hotties need all the help they can get. They are the customer base of lingerie shops. Without them, these stores couldn’t exist.

Lingerie boutiques make a profit by adorning average women with such enticing sensual lingerie that their men will drool at the very sight of them and find them irresistible. And if they weren’t wearing slinky panties, well, things might be different. If not, then why bother?

Next time you’re at the local mall, take a look inside and see if it isn’t true.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Obama Was Warned About Egypt, CIA Official Says

A CIA official said today that the Obama Administration was warned in late 2010 about instability in Egypt.

Stephanie O'Sullivan, nominated to be deputy director of national intelligence, said the intelligence community didn't know exactly what might trigger the instability, but did warn about it.

The political stagnation in some Middle East countries is untenable in the long run, she said the intelligence community has warned for some time.

She made the comments at a hearing regarding her nomination.

It is unclear what use, if any, Obama made of the information, if any policy was changed, or if his administration discussed problems with Hosni Mubarak as a result.

Mice Sniff Out Explosives

Tired of intrusive body pat-downs at airports? The solution could be mice.

A company in Israel, BioExplorers, believe trained mice can be useful for detecting explosives at airports and other places as well.

Mice have some drawbacks, but in their favor, the critters have a more acute sense of smell than dogs, which are commonly used to find explosives.

The company's recent field tests have been positive, however there is little scientific study on the use of rodents as detectors of explosives.

Dirty Bomb Fears Grow

Scotland Yard and MI5 foiled an Al Qaeda plot in 2004, according to newly released documents.

Recent terrorist activities related to dirty bombs throughout the world have been listed in the media, and the verdict is that one will be detonated at some point in the foreseeable future, and such an event can't be stopped but only delayed.

Al Qaeda has the ability to build a dirty bomb and has been trying to recruit rogue scientists to assist them. But so far the logistics of emplacing it in the US and detonating it haven't been surmounted, otherwise it would already have happened.

European Leaders Call for Egyptian Transition

The leaders of several western European countries issued a joint statement calling for an orderly transition of the Egyptian government to begin "now."

We have been calling for world leaders to issue such statements, but unfortunately, they have yet to address Hosni Mubarak specifically and demand that he himself step down "right now."

The death toll in Egypt is rising. One wonders how many more will die before world leaders understand their public appeal must mention Mubarak and the need for him to leave now, and not 6 months down the road.

The time for diplomat-speak is over.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Mubarak's First Bloody Day of Transition

Hosni Mubarak told the Egyptian people he would begin the transition of power and not run for reelection in September.

Pro-Mubarak supporters suddenly appeared soon after his speech and clashed with opposition protesters in Tahrir Square with predictable bloodshed.

If Mubarak honestly intended to give up power, this would never have happened. A lot can happen when a dictator claims he will give up power 6 months into the future. People have a habit of changing their minds.

Today proved Mubarak and his supporters have no intention of giving up power, and Mubarak is willing to risk civil war to keep his job.

This is the result of the US never pushing Mubarak hard enough on establishing an honest democratic opposition. President Obama and world leaders must unite in demanding that Mubarak leave immediately.

Things will only get uglier until Mubarak leaves.

Anything can happen in such circumstances, and Mubarak's wish to die on Egyptian soil could end in a way he didn't quite imagine.