Spying Through a Glass Darkly
American Espionage against the Soviet Union, 1945-1946
David Alvarez and Eduard Mark
For the period between World War II and the full onset of the Cold War, histories of American intelligence seem to go dark. Yet in those years a little known clandestine organization, the Strategic Services Unit (SSU), emerged from the remnants of wartime American intelligence to lay the groundwork for what would become the CIA and, in ways revealed here for the first time, conduct its own secret war of espionage and political intrigue in postwar Europe. Telling the full story of this early and surprisingly effective espionage arm of the United States, Spying through a Glass Darkly brings a critical chapter in the history of Cold War intelligence out of the shadows.
Constrained by inadequate staff and limited resources, distracted by the conflicting demands of agencies of the U.S. government, and victimized by disinformation and double agents, the Strategic Services Unit struggled to maintain an effective American clandestine capability after the defeat of the Axis Powers. Never viscerally anti-communist, the Strategic Services Unit was slow to recognize the Soviet Union as a potential threat, but gradually it began to mount operations, often in collaboration with the intelligence services of Britain, France, Italy, Denmark, and Sweden, to throw light into the darker corners of the Soviet regime.
“Well written and informed by deep archival research, Spying through a Glass Darkly is the first account of the operations and activities of the SSU. . . the authors engage a number of important historiographical discussions—the nature, efficacy, and ideological predispositions of the early intelligence community, and more broadly, on the origins of the Cold War. . . . It is a must-read for scholars of American intelligence and the early Cold War.”
“Poses a fresh challenge to revisionists about the origins of the Cold War, Scholars of intelligence, U.S. foreign relations, and the Cold War will find this work valuable.”
—Journal of American HistorySee all reviews...
“The product of prodigious research in a dizzying array of sources, this volume is both a meticulously detailed study of the organizational and operational history of the Strategic Services Unit and a superb primer in how to tease information from often stingy archives.”
“Makes a valuable contribution by presenting a complex picture of divers U.S. intelligence agents, including some whose avid anticommunism led them to fall for Soviet deceptions and other whose caution led them to be skeptical of fantastic right-wing or émigré reports of imminent communist revolutions.”
—Journal of Military History
“This is the most definitive study available concerning this crucial phase of US intelligence history. Highly recommended.”
“The last big piece of missing American intelligence history—how the United States confronted aggressive Soviet intelligence organizations throughout Europe during the critical years between 1945 and the founding of the CIA in 1948—has been filled in by David Alvarez and Eduard Mark. This is an important book that should be in every serious library.”
—Tom Powers, author of Intelligence Wars: American Secret History from Hitler to Al-Qaeda
“David Alvarez has written an original and well-constructed book that throws light on a vital but hitherto neglected period in the history of American intelligence. His account of the work of the Strategic Services Unit is clearly written and credible, and historians will now have to take seriously his thesis that the Unit influenced President Harry Truman’s strategic thinking.”
—Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, author of In Spies We Trust: The Story of Western Intelligence
“Spying Through a Glass Darkly will interest historians of both the American intelligence community and the origins of the Cold War. It is a fitting tribute to the memory of late Eduard Mark by his co-author David Alvarez.”
—Wilson D. Miscamble, C.S.C., Professor of History, University of Notre Dame
“A fascinating story for anyone interested in espionage and its role in the beginning of the Cold War.”
—Loch K. Johnson, author of A Season of Inquiry Revisited: The Church Committee Confronts America’s Spy AgenciesSee fewer reviews...
Bringing to bear a wealth of archival documents, operational records, interviews, and correspondence, David Alvarez and Eduard Mark chronicle SSU’s successes and failures in procuring intelligence on the capabilities and intentions of the Soviet Union, a chronicle that delves deeply into the details of secret operations against Soviet targets throughout Europe: not only in the backstreets of the divided cities of Berlin and Vienna, but also the cafes, hotels, offices, and salons of such cosmopolitan capitals as Paris, Rome, Budapest, Prague, and Warsaw.
A remarkable account of a clandestine war of espionage, kidnappings, blackmail, disinformation, and political subversion, Spying through a Glass Darkly also describes the quantity and quality of intelligence collected by SSU and disseminated to its “customers” in the U.S. government—information that would influence the attitudes and actions of decision makers and, as the Cold War evolved, the course of the nation in a new and dangerous world.