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American Espionage

By Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones

“If American espionage continues to be a bastion of democracy, democracy remains the scourge of espionage.”

With the spy’s prevalence in popular fiction, it is argued that through common misuse the term “intelligence” now loosely includes covert and paramilitary operations.

From private detectives to the attaché system, and a host of agencies vying for dominance in between, espionage has long been a part of the very fabric of America.

In time State Department involvement led to a greater emphasis on processing and distributing intelligence in the interests of national security, rather than simply gathering it.

Facing the same questions as a peacetime military establishment, their purpose was ruthlessly scrutinised, the threat of reduction or disbandment ever present.

People respected the need for intelligence, yet given reason would criticise its instruments. It is an argument still alive today.

Focusing on the fifty years preceding the CIA’s founding and laced with anecdotes, Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones follows America’s political development of continuous central intelligence.


Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones is a Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Edinburgh, and respected authority on the history of American intelligence. He has written numerous works on the subject, as well as on women and foreign policy, Vietnam and the American Left.

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