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In Spies We Trust: The Story of Western…
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In Spies We Trust: The Story of Western Intelligence

by Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
In Spies We Trust: The Story of Western Intelligence, by Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones

This book is primarily an overview of the history of American and British intelligence relations in the 20th century. It has much less to say about the role of France, Germany and other NATO countries.

The special relationship between Britain and the United States has influenced the foreign policy of both countries for decades. It was cited as the chief reason Britain so quickly joined the U.S. in both Iraq and Afghanistan. For the political leadership, and especially the leadership in the intelligence community, this cooperation has long been a given. Jeffreys-Jones argues that it was not always so, and that major changes in the relationship are coming.

In WWI, Britain was clearly the elder, more experienced partner who had successfully built and managed an empire. The United States was new to the game and eager to learn. It was less eager to support Britain’s colonial ambitions, but cooperated nonetheless. Yet it was clear from incidents such as the British choice to withhold the Zimmerman Telegram until the U.S. had already broken the code that the two countries had separate agendas.

RJJ traces the growing competence and power of the US intelligence effort before and during WW2. At the war’s end, the balance of power had shifted in favor of the US as former British colonies began to gain their independence. The alliance remained firm, in part because many of the new US intelligence professionals were Anglophiles who identified themselves with the British aristocrats running the other side. History and a shared culture were enough to overcome the change in power.

RJJ argues that the widening gap in the political importance of the two countries, together with demographic change, most significantly in the US, will continue to erode or at least change the special relationship. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the US has become the sole surviving superpower and has increasingly chosen to act unilaterally whenever posssible. Britain has supported it, perhaps to increase its own influence. While Britain continues to share intelligence with the US, the author’s perception is that the UK has become more of a recipient than contributor, and thus, less significant to the US.

At the same time, the once predominant Anglophilia in the US services has begun to change, in part because of the recruitment of a more diverse workforce, the increasing diversification of the US population itself, and the broadening of US interests beyond Europe.

Both countries now have the option to explore other bilateral and multilateral intelligence relationships. Some potential partners, such as the EU and the UN, have not yet matured nor gained sufficient independent resources to become fullfledged substitutes, but they will probably grow in time.

Though a bit dry and sometimes wonky, the book is well written and presents enough background and detail to support the author’s argument. Stressing the class basis of the special relationship is a refreshing change to the usual unquestioning acceptance of the intelligence establishment’s norms. The text could have benefited from a more dramatic presentation of the major missions, showing rather than telling, but the book remains and important contribution. ( )
  fredvandoren | Jun 3, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this book from Library Thing to read and review. This is a great book, with lots of insight, if the reader can only get through it. I realize I received an advance copy without final edits, but I certainly hope the never-ending message of such will be eliminated from the final edition, as seeing it every other page was both a bit much and distracting. In addition, the book needs work on dividing it p into chapters. The copy of the book I had went on and on and on, and there were no real breaks, except for the unending notice that this was an unedited advance copy proof. This made reading difficult. I realized, from the start, that this was no mystery novel or romance novel, so was expecting a long, historical recount of the intelligence community, and that is exactly what this book is. If the reader is looking for something other than a long, history type book, this is not the book to choose. However, the author does demonstrate his expertise in the area, from either interviews or research. Having worked my entire career in the military intelligence area, I was not sure what to expect, but this book was interesting and fascinating, and gave me numerous new and interesting tidbits about the history of US-British intelligence and how they were formed and worked together during the early years. This book will provide any necessary background to understand what is going on today in the arena of inter-country relationships and exchange/sharing of facts, philosophy and ideas. It will also provide some good background to the reader of spy novels and thrillers, helping the reader to better understand what is often going on behind the scenes. I agree with one reviewer that the ending could have been more substantial, except that this may be the only realistic way to end this book—why fabricate events and occurrences just to create a big ending? This is the book for the reader who is interested in learning more about the US-British intelligence community, for someone who is fascinated by and devours spy novels and thrillers but still longs for more background, or for the history buff. Intelligence is important in more ways than everyone realizes, and this book can definitely shed some light on understanding this usually hidden area. ( )
  KMT01 | Sep 19, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The book focuses on the special relationship of sharing intelligence and intelligence methods between Britain and the US from the turn of the 20th to the 21st centuries. The first part of the book that deals with the pre-World War II kinda bogs down as deals with a lot of organizational details.
The middle of the book that deals with WWII and the Cold War picks up as interest as it details many of the well-known historical, events as well as some less well known, such as the Congo and British Guyana.
The last part spends a lot of time on the new European Union struggles in the intelligence arena and the terrorism and the monumental failures of US intelligence in this era.
I'm ambivalent on the book. I lost interest in the last part with the European story. The book tells its story pretty much about the people and personalities and not so much the technology. ( )
  rhbouchard | Sep 2, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0199580979, Hardcover)

In Spies We Trust reveals the full story of the Anglo-American intelligence relationship - ranging from the deceits of World War I to the mendacities of 9/11 - for the first time.

Why did we ever start trusting spies? It all started a hundred years ago. First we put our faith in them to help win wars, then we turned against the bloodshed and expense, and asked our spies instead to deliver peace and security. By the end of World War II, Britain and America were cooperating effectively to that end. At its peak in the 1940s and 1950s, the 'special intelligence relationship' contributed to national and international security in what was an Anglo-American century.

But from the 1960s this 'special relationship' went into decline. Britain weakened, American attitudes changed, and the fall of the Soviet Union dissolved the fear that bound London and Washington together. A series of intelligence scandals along the way further eroded public confidence. Yet even in these years, the US offered its old intelligence partner a vital gift: congressional attempts to oversee the CIA in the 1970s encouraged subsequent moves towards more open government in Britain and beyond.

So which way do we look now? And what are the alternatives to the British-American intelligence relationship that held sway in the West for so much of the twentieth century? Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones shows that there are a number - the most promising of which, astonishingly, remain largely unknown to the Anglophone world.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:31 -0400)

"In spies we trust reveals the full story of the Anglo-American intelligence relationship - ranging from the deceits of World War I to the mendacities of 9/11 - for the first time. Why did we ever start trusting spies? It all started a hundred years ago. First we put our faith in them to help win wars, then we turned against the bloodshed and expense, and asked our spies instead to deliver peace and security. By the end of World War II, Britain and America were cooperating effectively to that end. At its peak in the 1940s and 1950s, the 'special intelligence relationship' contributed to national and international security in what was an Anglo-American century. But from the 1960s this 'special relationship' went into decline. Britain weakened, American attitudes changed, and the fall of the Soviet Union dissolved the fear that bound London and Washington together. A series of intelligence scandals along the way further eroded public confidence. Yet even in these years, the US offered its old intelligence partner a vital gift: congressional attempts to oversee the CIA in the 1970s encouraged subsequent moves towards more open government in Britain and beyond. So which way do we look now? And what are the alternatives to the British-American intelligence relationship that held sway in the West for so much of the twentieth century? Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones shows that there are a number--the most promising of which, astonishingly, remain largely unknown to the Anglophone world."--Publisher's website.… (more)

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