Friday, January 22, 2016

Book review by Hayden B. Peake

Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

Primer on Intelligence Studies

Date Posted:      September 25, 2015

Compiled and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake.[1]

The State Department formed the Secret Intelligence Bureau (SIB) in 1916 to deal with cases of pass-port fraud linked to espionage. The SIB has since gone through several reorganizations and is today called the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (BDS). Retired special agent Robert Booth spent 28 years with the BDS working cases overseas and domestically. State Department Counterintelligence reviews his career and the BDS history with emphasis on three of the major cases with which he was involved.

The first case he discusses concerns retired State Department officer Kendall Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn, whose affection for Fidel Castro and Cuba led them to become Cuban moles. Kendall is now serving life without parole in a supermax facility; Gwendolyn received an 81-month sentence. Booth tells how he was brought out of retirement as a consultant to BDS in 2003 and ended, up working the case with the FBI. It is a thorough treatment, hiding none of the frustrations endured or tradecraft complexities.

The Taiwanese Femme Fatale, or the case of Donald William Keyser, is the second case Booth discusses. Keyser was principal deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific Affairs and became involved with Isabelle Cheng; “a young, female, Taiwanese clandestine intelligence officer.” (p. 81) He also kept top secret CIA documents at home. (p. 157) Keyser served a short term in prison, but did not lose his pension; Isabelle went on to pursue her doctorate in England. How BDS solved the case and why Keyser was treated so leniently by the judge makes interesting reading.

Operation Sacred Ibis, the third case Booth examines, is still in some ways unsolved. The KGB planted a “high quality transmitter in a seventh floor conference room” (p. 279) in the State Department. Booth reveals how it was discovered and describes some strange post-Cold War security procedures regarding unescorted foreign diplomatic access that may have contributed to its installation. But if it is known just how the SVR did it, Booth isn’t saying. The one benefit was that they found the device—an actuator—that caused the transmitter to function. The details of this device are interesting.

Booth also includes a section on leak cases that reveals how they are treated. It is rather depressing, not because they weren’t all solved) but because they occur so often and some leakers are not disciplined even when caught. Booth speculates that those may have been “authorized.” (p. 250)

State Department Counterintelligence is an interesting and worthwhile account of a relatively unknown organization that shows why it exists) and where it fits in the Intelligence Community.

[1] Hayden Peake, “Intelligence Officer Bookshelf,” The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Stuidies (21, 2, Spring/Summer 2015, p. 127 )Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of his reviews cited have appeared in recent unclassified editions of ClA’s Studies in Intelligence. These and many other reviews and articles may be found online at

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