Book Review: Honorable Treachery by G. J. A. O’Toole (Three Stars)


Book Review: Honorable Treachery: A History of U. S. Intelligence, Espionage, and Covert Action from the American Revolution to the CIA by G. J. A. O’Toole

(Three Stars)

Encyclopedic but mind-numbing. To cover the topic O’Toole set out for himself necessarily demands an encyclopedic effort. On a technical level he succeeds.

“We find by fatal experience, the Congress consists of too many members to keep secrets.” John Jay, 1790

Reads like a history book, footnotes and all. Too many biographical personal details about the people and too little about what they did. Published in 1991.

“We failed to anticipate Pearl Harbor not for want of relevant materials, but because of a plethora of irrelevant ones.” “The president’s chief intelligence office, the one person in the government responsible for national intelligence, had not even been told of the existence of Magic.”

The quality and success of American undercover warfare often hinges on the imagination and integrity of leadership. The nation produces no end of creative, dedicated people to ferret out intelligence and do the necessary to defend the nation. Putting it all together and guiding it has been much harder.

“A man of undoubted good intentions, Wilson acted as though his own personal sense of ethics and morality was all America needed to deal with the world.”

O’Toole shows notable restrain in avoiding attacks on personalities, though person such as Woodrow Wilson and J. Edgar Hoover out themselves.

“Reports confirming one’s worst fears or fondest hopes ought to be given the closest scrutiny.” “It is bad Christianity, bad sportsmanship, bad sense to challenge the integrity of the Soviet government.” Joseph E. Davies, American ambassador to the USSR

Wishful thinking is major roadblock to intelligence work as it is to politics, economics, and most every other area of life.

“No one who reviews the events of October 1962 can say that it was not a very, very near thing. But neither can one deny that intelligence may have made the difference between a near thing and nuclear holocaust.”