REVIEW: Espionage. An Encyclopedia of Spies and Secrets

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By Richard M. Bennett. London: Virgin Books, Ltd., 2002. 371 pages.

Compiled and reviewed by Hayden B. Peake


The dust jacket describes Richard Bennett as an "intelligence analyst since 1966," and lists other impressive credentials. Nevertheless, his encyclopedia of espionage, the most recent of the many books in this genre, stands alone as the most error filled contribution by any measure. This is particularly disappointing because reference works of this sort have a special obligation to get it right. In the Preface, David Shayler—the former MI5 officer charged with violating the Official Secrets Act— claims that the book is "a wealth of facts . . . which have never been available in one publication before." James Bamford, author of Body of Secrets, writes in the Foreword that Bennett "not only defines the language of spying, he also presents comprehensive outlines of the intelligence services . . . of the world today, and biographical sketches of key players, past and present." From these statements one can only conclude that the writers did not read the book or do not know the subject.

The entries are arranged alphabetically; they describe people, cases, and organizations intermingled with definitions and photographs. In this mix are included Bennett's own views supplied without the documentation that a conscientious analyst or reader would expect to see in footnotes. Typical examples include the statement that the "CIA does not seem to have an efficient, centralized analytic apparatus, one that can distinguish credible intelligence from fantasy;" and the..

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