Leland McCaslin worked in a variety of U. S. military and government intelligence positions from about 1970 to 1996, including positions in Europe when the Cold War was going on between the Soviet Union and the United States and its European allies. Since the Cold War was not open warfare between armed forces, intelligence played a particularly important role for the U.S. in maintaining its readiness and in counteracting activities of the Soviet Union and its satellites the Eastern European nations. McCaslin writes about the structure and particular agencies of the intelligence services as well as operations. Often he lets others involved in the intelligence services speak for themselves in lengthy passages which are like journal entries. The mix of styles from sections like an administrative or bureaucratic manual on organization to vignettes by intelligence personnel with engaging details and dramatic situations gives the book an unevenness. But this is an incident drawback for any reader interested in unique details on this major area of Cold War espionage. Though U.S. intelligence operations are the main subject. Soviet intelligence operations receive a good deal of attention as well not only for thoroughness in covering the topic, but also so the reader can understand the context within which the U.S. intelligence services were operating.
McCaslin had the book reviewed by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other government agencies to ensure he was not inadvertently divulging any secret material even though considerable time has passed since the Cold War ended. If anything the author wanted to get in was kept out, it’s hard to imagine what this was. For one finds all kinds of specific details the lay reader would not normally think about regarding intelligence services and their activities as well as what must have been at the time highly secret, daring missions. The 13-page Glossary provides an overview of intelligence agencies plus some terms such as “plausible deniability” and “false flag approach” having to do with principles and tactics of operations.