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The Spy Fact And Fiction in History
SPIES – FACT AND FICTION
An Historical View
I have always been intrigued by stories of spies and espionage. The tensions, thrills, and heart-stopping activities of spying – both real and fictitious – will always send a tingle down my spine.
Throughout history, spies – both men and women – have played a role in creating or toppling Kingdoms, winning or losing Wars, disposing of leaders, or just providing intelligence enabling one country to exert its power over another.
These events have been well documented over the centuries. Ancient writings of Chinese and Indian military strategists focused on deception and subversion. The Egyptians had a thoroughly developed system for the acquisition of intelligence, and the Hebrews used spies throughout their long history. Feudal Japan had intricate methods of gathering intelligence, and spies played a significant part in Elizabethan England, and throughout English history.
Espionage played a major role in the American Revolution. Nathan Hale, an American Patriot, was captured with notes and drawings of British troop deployments, which he was trying to deliver to General George Washington. He was subsequently hanged by the British in 1776.
The American Civil War Generals on both sides heavily relied on spies, for their strategic battle plans. They often employed women who were successful because they were unsuspected.
World War I saw the Dutch nude dancer, Mata Hari, accused of being a double agent for the French and German armies. She was executed by the French in 1917, but to this day, her name evokes a female spy who uses her sexuality to access information from unsuspecting men.
World War II led to the introduction of modern espionage, using radios, electronic devices, codes, and code breakers. Men and women spies were used by both sides. Propaganda broadcasts played an important role for the first time. Iva D’aquino (Tokyo Rose) was convicted of treason for her radio broadcasts, aimed at undermining the morale of U.S. Troops
Marlene Dietrich was best known as the first German actress to succeed in Hollywood, but what was less known about this Hollywood Star, was that she made a significant contribution to the War effort. During World War II, she recorded a number of anti-Nazi albums in German for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). These record albums were a part of an effort by the OSS Morale Operations Branch, to create propaganda that would lower the morale of German soldiers. There were reports that she was approached in the mid-1930s by Nazi party representatives to return to her native Germany. She turned them down and, in 1939, became an American citizen.
The Cold War from 1950 onwards involved intense espionage activity between the US and its allies, and the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China and their Allies. Each side was focused on obtaining Military secrets, particularly those about Nuclear Weapons. Spies were often caught and became bargaining chips, for exchanges of captured officials on both sides.
With the fall of the Iron Curtain, the once Communist East stumbled and collapsed economically. It was in desperate need of financial aid from the West, as it struggled to adopt democracy. The Soviet Union was no more, and Russia was no longer the arch enemy which had done so much to sustain the espionage services in both the East and the West. The very existence of the CIA came into question. There were serious discussions in the U.S. Congress about disbanding it all together. In the event, this did not transpire and finally the political tide turned again.
The rise of Muslim Fundamentalism and the terrorist attacks of 9/11 resulted in the creation of the Homeland Security Department in the U.S. and the reaffirmation of the CIA and its espionage and spy services. It seems unlikely that terrorism and World unrest will end soon. Thus, the need for intelligence gathering, counter-espionage, and counter-terrorism on a global basis is likely to be with us for many years to come.
Espionage methods used in the modern world are often based on well-established procedures going back hundreds if not thousands of years.
Spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential, without the permission of the holder of that information. This may lead to a change of plans or other counter measures if it is known that important information is in unauthorized hands. Espionage, another word for spying, usually involves accessing the place where the desired information may be held or creating access to the people who might divulge secret information.
There’s considerable risk in spying and espionage. A spy breaking the host country’s laws could be deported, imprisoned, or even executed. A spy working against his own country could also be imprisoned for espionage or treason or executed.
Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were arrested in 1950, convicted of treason, and executed in 1953, after a long trial, for passing US secrets to the Russians.
Aldridge Ames, another US citizen spying for the Russians handed a stack of dossiers of CIA agents in the Eastern Bloc to the KGB. At least ten people were secretly shot, and several Eastern Bloc US spy networks were broken up.
Hugh Redmond, a CIA officer in China, spent 19 years in a Chinese prison, after being arrested for espionage, and subsequently died there.
The “Cambridge Four” – Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, Donald MacLean, and Kim Philby, met at Cambridge University in England in the 1930s and were recruited to work for the Soviet KGB. All four went on to hold high positions within the British government, including the British Secret Intelligence Services. They were active on behalf of the Soviet Union for thirty years, and even though they were subsequently exposed, they all escaped to the Soviet Union and were never caught.
The US defines espionage towards itself as “the act of obtaining, delivering, transmitting, communicating, or receiving information about the national defense with an intent or reason to believe that the information may be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.”
The United States conducts espionage against other nations under the control of the National Clandestine Service (NCS). Britain’s espionage and spy activities are controlled by the Secret Intelligence Services (SIS).
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