Espionage is a mysterious thing by design. Practitioners generally keep quiet, especially if they are old school (per the old MOSSAD curse: “May we read about you in the newspapers!”). Virtually since the dawn of civilization it has been the “hidden hand” behind war and diplomacy. Journalists and screenwriters have filled the knowledge gap, though the efforts are customarily more exciting than accurate.
This blog represents an effort to discuss intelligence not just in a learned and informed way, but in a nuanced one as well. People overly interested in espionage easily forget that spies are seldom the prime movers of major events, and they always operate within a (sometimes stifling) context of bureaucracy and strategy, and of course among mere human beings with agendas and egos.
Counterintelligence is a particular interest of mine for years, and its worldview – based on a nagging sense that much in life is not quite what it seems to be – informs everything you will read here. America, and the West generally, understand counterintelligence poorly, and hardly ever in an intuitive sense; regrettably, many of our enemies have this angle down.
The blog takes its name from the legendary XX Committee of World War II fame. This small, super-secret body, led by Oxford professor John Masterman, created and managed the Double Cross System, the most successful counterintelligence operation in modern times. In the early years of the war, British counterintelligence identified and turned the entire German agent network in Britain – a strategic head-fake which the Germans never detected and which, thanks to excellent big-picture deception, cut months and possibly years off the war for the Allies.
So welcome to the ride … enjoy. Per the old counterspy’s mantra: Admit nothing; deny everything; make counter-accusations.
Congratulations, and welcome to the blogosphere, John!
Excellent – I look forward to reading your thoughts and analysis here.
Right on, Man!
‘the most successful counterintelligence operation in modern times’ ? ?
You’d be surprised to know that the Germans did the same thing to the Brits in Holland and France.
Yes, because the Brits were able to use the XX System to “playback” against the Germans in strategic deception (ie FORTITUDE). In terms of sheer numbers, the massive Soviet OFCO ops on the Eastern Front were bigger but probably less strategically consequential.
As to the Germans double operations, there were only two really effective ones the Germans carried out. Their operation in the Netherlands and establishing their own stay-behind networks overseas which were used to spirit out and/or protect fugitive Nazis.
I’m reading Robert Gates’ book “From the Shadows” and he mentions the “40 Committee” a few times. I immediately thought of your site even though the two committees were different.
Hi John. Really loved your Putin-Hitler comparison article. Very well written and extensive. It would be interesting also if you can do a Netanyahu-Hitler comparison article as well. I mean so much in common, both kill children , both are racist, both think their kind are the “chosen people” , both ran an apartheid country killing, imprisoning and humiliating anyone, race or thing that wasn’t their own, and the list goes on. But I do understand how things work in the US, as you’ll probably get crucified if you merely mention Israel in a negative way, as you will automatically be fired from your job, smeared by the media, labeled anti-sematic, accused of being a Jew-hater, undemocratic, pro-Hamas and ultimately left begging at the door of some Jewish organization such as AIPAC and many others asking for forgiveness , and asking them to teach you how to be a “better person”. So, stick to the safe mainstream journalism, cause in the end, we all need a job to pay our rent.
You must be an undemocratic pro-hamas jew-hater. Don’t bother asking for forgiveness, however. Your kind are best suited for human-shield duty in Gaza.
Counter intelligence is a fascinating area of study … my current film project, which I started research and writing in 2010 “I Belong to the Shadows” (https://www.facebook.com/IBTTS) focuses on the role of the sniper during WWII and is based on a survivor who landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day; obviously he is now a very old man now. My intention is to release the film as soon as possible as it is pertinent to the current chilling atmosphere of geo-politics we are all experiencing. I find your blog, the focus and the perspectives interesting, thank you.
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