Cloak and Dollar.

Matthew X profrv at
Sat May 8 02:15:19 PDT 1999

Counterintelligence Book Review

By CI Centre Professor Hayden B. Peake

Con-Men At The Top?

Cloak and Dollar: A History of American Secret Intelligence
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002)
357 pp., endnotes, bibliography, index.
In this, his latest assault on American intelligence, Rhodri 
JEFFREYS-JONES—professor of American history at the University of 
Edinburgh—argues that in America there is a “special reason why secret 
intelligence has tended to run amok with taxpayers’ money... the emergence, 
within intelligence circles, of the confidence man.”  Using “smooth talk, 
hyperbole, deception
”   the “American spy
 has played a leading part” in 
the creation of “menaces and crises that were by no means always what they 
seemed to be.  They have ranged from Confederate assassination plots to 
Western land fraud, from white slavery to communism, from German sabotage 
to Chinese espionage, from crack cocaine scares to digital encryption.”
This view is in part provocative, misleading, deceptive and untrue.  The 
author’s confidence man role model is Civil War detective Allan PINKERTON 
who, we are told, “was dismissed from Abraham LINCOLN’s intelligence 
service for exaggerating enemy strength.  In an attempt to reingratiate 
himself with the president, PINKERTON warned of an assassination plot.”
For the record, LINCOLN never had an intelligence service and PINKERTON was 
not dismissed from anything.  Furthermore, PINKERTON warned the president 
about the assassination plot before his inauguration, not after.  And both 
of these events occurred before he made any enemy strength assessments.  He 
did offer his services to LINCOLN after the inauguration but never received 
a response.  PINKERTON served General McCLELLAN and quit when his boss was 
relieved after Antietam, in 1862, never to return to Washington 
officialdom.  In short, PINKERTON was a detective and did little for the 
intelligence profession beyond embellishing his memoirs with exaggerated 
often fictitious exploits.[1]
Although off to a troubling start, nothing diminishes the author’s 
unrelenting attachment to PINKERTON and his putative legacy¾he appears 
throughout the book.  This is as difficult to understand as his assertion 
that William “DONOVAN had become the new PINKERTON”¾a truly an odious 
comparison.  History is challenged further when he claims that “Allan 
PINKERTON put espionage on a professional basis.”  There are far better 
candidates for this distinction starting with George 
WASHINGTON.  JEFFREYS-JONES dismisses with gross distortions the formative 
contributions of DONOVAN and J. Edgar HOOVER on this point.  In any case, 
if credit is to be assigned for that contribution, others deserve it, not 
The FBI does not escape attention and the author consistently fails to 
distinguish between the half of the organization concerned with 
investigating crime and the portion formed much later, concerned with 
espionage.  The FBI’s predecessor, the Bureau of Investigation (BI), is 
identified in the book as an “emblematic secret intelligence” agency 
“formed in 1908.”  In fact, the BI took that name in March 1909 and before 
that time there was only a group of federal investigators headed by a Chief 
Examiner, Stanley FINCH.  He became Chief of the BI in 1909, when no part 
of it was an intelligence agency.  The JEFFREYS-JONES comment that ”FBI 
Chief Stanley W. FINCH insisted that no daughter, wife, or mother was safe 
from ‘white slavery’ gangs
” is out of context to say the least.   FINCH, 
of course, was never Chief of the FBI.  The “White Slave” controversy of 
1910 was investigated by FINCH’s BI in its capacity as a federal police 
organization charged with investigating and prosecuting crime.  Its 
involvement with espionage began during WWI and even then was not its major 
responsibility.  The implicit equating of the BI and later the FBI criminal 
investigation activities and their intelligence operations distorts and 
misrepresents the legacies of both.
In a remarkable chapter entitled “U-1—The Agency Nobody Knew,” Prof. 
JEFFREYS-JONES departs, without explanatory comment, from his “con-man” 
theme to argue that the State Department once controlled American 
intelligence through an “agency without a name
formed in 1915” that 
“flourished briefly and dominated the intelligence scene before the FBI 
finally made its mark.  Insiders referred to it simply as U-1.”  There is more:
U-1 was so obscure and so secretive that it did not even have to try to 
suppress the news of its existence
.It was elitist and snobbish, 
intellectual and quiet.  It was also in some ways effective, and an emblem 
of how American secret intelligence might be organized in the future.  Yet 
ominously for the quieter mode of espionage, U-1 was dissolved in 
.  The appellation U-1 stems from terminology introduced following WWI 
(p. 60).
As Prof. JEFFREYS-JONES himself acknowledges, what became U-1 after the war 
was set up as a coordinating element within the State Department.  For 
reasons not clear, he attaches organizational powers to it far beyond what 
he is able to document.  The other elements of American intelligence during 
WWI¾the Army’s MID, and Navy’s ONI, the BI, and the Secret Service, were in 
no sense subordinate to U-1, an interpretation one might reasonably infer 
from his assertions.  Nor can U-1 be considered dominant in any sense of 
that word.  The State Department did run agents in Russia, but so did 
MID.  U-1’s official demise in 1927 came about from its inability to even 
coordinate intelligence effectively.[2]
Despite occasional admissions of a “deserved reputation for past 
successes,” JEFFREYS-JONES hammers away at his agenda chronicling the 
familiar failures of intelligence in chapters on DULLES and the CIA, the 
Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Watergate, and Iran-Contra.  While the basic facts 
are correct, JEFFREYS-JONES views each as the logical consequence of a 
“tradition of hyperbole and spin” rather than unsuccessful, if in some 
cases cockamamie, attempts to implement Presidential policies aimed at 
countering Soviet Cold War realities, or just plain security 
failures.  There are also comments on the Church Committee hearings that 
created “a new atmosphere of trust,” and some recent counterintelligence 
cases--AMES and briefly, HANSSEN--though NICHOLSON and PITTS are excluded.
Returning to his central theme, we learn that the DCI’s were not the sole 
advocates of the “PINKERTON legacy”.  Recent presidents also encouraged the 
con-man tradition.  Ronald REAGAN, became a player according to 
JEFFREYS-JONES when he “told the American people” to trust him “to twist 
the truth in your interest.”  The words are JEFFREYS-JONES’, not 
REAGAN’s.  President CLINTON too, played along writes the author, though 
“he was not so much hooked by the Agency as sold on it.”  Or as his quote 
of Washington Post columnist Mary McGORY puts it, CLINTON “dares not lift a 
finger against the spooks.”  All this will surprise many who served during 
the CLINTON years.
In the current post Cold War era “the CIA and its siblings” are portrayed 
as the heirs of the con-man tradition underpinning what the author calls 
“the real American Century,” the 21st century, as described by the “Cold 
War triumphalists.”  An additional bonus came, he adds, with the events of 
September 11, 2001, which created a “custom made” situation “for the 
intelligence confidence man and his political allies.”  Once again, writes 
Prof. JEFFREYS-JONES, came the cries to “unleash the CIA.  Once again it 
was tempting to reward failure
.”  The source of the “cries” is not given, 
the source of the conclusion is obvious.  With these deeply held views, 
this history of American intelligence ends on a note calling for “the 
United States intelligence community to become more a part of the wider 
world that has inspired and continued to invigorate the great nation of 
immigrants.”  Some in America would argue that goal was achieved long ago.
If the distorted unbalanced assessment of American intelligence presented 
by Prof. JEFFREYS-JONES stimulates constructive discussion of all points of 
view, it will serve a useful purpose.  But as a stand alone survey of the 
role of intelligence in America and the world, it is a gross 
disservice.  The students deserve better and so does American history.
[1]  For more on PINKERTON’s contribution, see Edwin C. FISHEL, The Secret 
War for the Union: The Untold Story of Intelligence in the Civil War 
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996).
[2]  The documentation given by JEFFREYS-JONES for the creation of U-1 is 
slim.  Endnote # 3, page 299 gives a clue citing a Frank POLK diary entry 
for 16 June 1916, and adding that “A more extensive treatment of U-1
 is in 
JEFFREYS-JONES’, American Espionage
” though there is nothing there that 
documents its creation further.  On page 79 of this book, the official end 
of U-1 is noted quoting a memo from the Secretary of State.  U-1 is 
mentioned in Christopher ANDREW’s For The President’s Eyes Only (p. 37) 
where the associated endnote indicates it was formed in 1916; the same 
diary entry given by JEFFREYS-JONES is cited.  George O’TOOLE also mentions 
U-1, but cites JEFFREYS-JONES American Espionage as his source.  Neither 
reference indicates that U-1 “dominated the intelligence scene” or was 
elitist and snobbish.”

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