Tradecraft and countersurveillance references

A few sources on intelligence and surveillance, for students in KCDC’s Tradecraft and Countersurveillance for Amateurs class.


First off, there are a bevy of old training films from the British police, the US Army, and the FBI:


You can find a lot in print, at least through interlibrary loan.

Peter Wright, a senior officer with MI5, left for Australia after he retired. The agency wouldn’t give him his full pension, so he wrote Spycatcher, a memoir about his time in intelligence. It’s a reasonable book, although the details are hard to verify, and he talks up his own accomplishments generously.

Richard Tomlinson is a more recent disgruntled ex-British intelligence officer. Following an employment dispute with MI6, he fled the country and wrote a book, The Big Breach. The British government blocked publication, so he released it online. Eventually, the government relented and allowed him back into the country; you can now find the book in print.

If you’re really curious, the CIA publishes non-classified articles from its inhouse journal, Studies in Intelligence.

David Kahn’s The Codebreakers is a far-reaching survey of secret and not-so-secret communications through about 1975.

For an account of intelligence analysis in in the Second World War, look to The Wizard War by Dr. R. V. Jones, who led the British scientific intelligence effort. Dr. Jones talks about how his organization helped discover and counter German radars, and weapons like the V-1 and V-2. It helps that the author is a lucid and engaging writer, a model of how to talk about technical subjects without losing the reader in jargon.

In fiction, John LeCarre is a former spook, and he writes thoughtfully and with a fine feel for his former trade. LeCarre acknowledges that he’s made up most of the specialized jargon, though.


If you wish to go visiting, the National Cryptologic Museum is on the grounds of Ft. Meade. There’s a good exhibit on aerial photography and satellite reconnaissance at the Air and Space Museum.

On screen, The Wire cares intensely about the minutiae, and gets most of the little things right. The old British series The Sandbaggers commemorates the smoke-stained, frumpy world of the 70s.

Online, Cryptome contains a vast array of stuff, but it’s a mess.

Bruce Schneier, a computer security expert who’s branched out, runs an intelligent, thoughtful security weblog (when he’s not writing op-eds for national newspapers).