We have a range of interviews on espionage and spying, with book recommendations on the subject from foreign correspondents, academics and experts and former intelligence officers.
The academic Michael Goodman chooses his best books on the pioneers of intelligence gathering, focusing on the early years of the CIA and Britain’s MI6. Rory Cormac discusses the history and morality of covert actions. One of his recommendations is Keith Jeffrey’s authorised history of MI6, MI6: The history of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949.
Keith Jeffrey himself gives us his top books on the UK’s Secret Service, both history and fiction. Ex-CIA officer, Robert Baer, offers his best books on espionage, and reflects on the ups and downs, pros and cons, of serving in the field. Tim Weiner chooses books specifically on the US intelligence services and the journalist Edward Lucas chooses his best books on Putin and Russian history.
Veteran foreign correspondent Richard Beeston chooses his favourite books of spies, lies and foreign correspondents, focused on novels and history that deal with the mid-20th century, including The Master Spy by Philip Knightley, a biography of the British traitor and Soviet agent, Kim Philby.
Focusing on more recent events, Ben Macintyre offers his best choices on spies, including The Defence of the Realm: The authorised history of MI5 by Christopher Andrew. British spy fiction writer Charles Cumming also revealed his favourite books on espionage.
Four of our interviewees recommend books by John Le Carré: Ben Macintyre and Keith Jeffrey both recommend The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, Charles Cumming picked The Constant Gardener and Robert Baer chose Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
Of recent books, Ben Macintyre's The Spy and the Traitor was chosen as one of our best nonfiction books of 2018; it's a true story that reads like a thriller. Also, A Woman of No Importance, a biography of Virginia Hall, who became the Gestapo’s most wanted Allied spy, is one of our best biographies of 2020.
The British public-school system, with its hidden homosexuality and feelings of loneliness, encouraged subterfuge and led to a generation of great spy writers and spies, suggests author and journalist Ben Macintyre. He picks the best books on spies.
Covert Action: Central Intelligence Agency and the Limits of American Intervention in the Post-War World
by Gregory Treverton
Executive Secrets: Covert Action and the Presidency
by William J Daugherty
MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949
by Keith Jeffery
The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West
by Christopher Andrew & Vasili Mitrokhin
Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel's Targeted Assassinations
by Ronen Bergman
Many of us live in democracies and believe in government transparency, but the truth is our leaders have considerable scope to engage in secret operations overseas. Rory Cormac talks us through five books on ‘covert action,’ and some of the countries that have embraced it as a policy tool.
The former foreign correspondent takes us on a gloriously anecdotal ramble through the history of war reporting, espionage and journalistic half-truths, and recalls his encounters and friendship with “the third man” Kim Philby
The job of the intelligence services is to understand others and help leaders act more wisely, says the author of a new history of the FBI. There’s a balance to be struck between liberty and security but when the CIA and FBI do not harmonise their intelligence missions, people die.
There’s an unseen, mostly unacknowledged cyber war going on. British journalist Misha Glenny, author of Dark Market, tells us who’s involved, how far it spreads and what could happen if we let it continue unchecked. He picks the best books to get a better handle on cybersecurity.