Mar 08

Espionage and Covert Operations (Teaching Company), by Vejas Liulevicius ★★★★

This is an enjoyable set of 14 – 1/2 hour lectures on the history of spying from earliest records until the year 2011. There is much to like about these lectures. Liulevicius is quite entertaining as a speaker, and covers the topic of spying fairly broadly, from episodes of international intrigue, to states spying on their own citizens, and ending the series offers a solemn warning about care with the state spying on you. What I find intriguing is how often spy craft gets it wrong, often leading to worse consequences than if there were no spies, a recent example being intelligence evidence for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The few spying successes were found in WWII with the code-breaking of the German and Japanese communication signals. Our eagerness to maintain an international spy network has been troubled by numerous moles, leading to probably more deaths from spy activity than lives saved. Interestingly, misinformation given to spies has been quite effective at creating international pandemonium, and when international news alleges certain things, a strong aura of disbelief is healthy. I had wished that Liulevicius had spent more time talking about actual spy craft, perhaps even just a lecture on the nature of actually being a spy. One lecture did delve into spies in the literature and movies, and interestingly, many of these books, such as the books by Ian Fleming and LeCarre, were written by ex-spies. So, enjoy these at your own risk.

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