SACRED SECRETS: How Soviet Intelligence Operations Changed American History

By Binkley, John C. | Military Review, January/February 2004 | Go to article overview

SACRED SECRETS: How Soviet Intelligence Operations Changed American History


Binkley, John C., Military Review


SACRED SECRETS: How Soviet Intelligence Operations Changed American History, Jerrold and Lcona Schecter, Brassey's Inc., Washington, DC, 2002, 403 pages, $26.95.

Since the end of the Cold War, a wave of declassified espionage-related records, both in the East and in the West, has resulted in a variety of scholarly works illuminating a subject that has long been in the shadows. This genre is the one husband-and-wife team Jerrold and Leona Schecter explore in Sacred Secrets: How Soviet Intelligence Operations Changed American History.

The subtitle suggests that Soviet intelligence operations have had a profound effect on the direction of U.S. history. Unfortunately, the authors do not deliver on this proposition for three simple reasons. First, they try to show how the intervention of Soviet intelligence changed the direction of history, suggesting for example, that the manipulations of Soviet spies, such as Harry Dexter White, were what led to Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.

The authors also rely on Soviet archives to understand historical issues. However, there is an absence of such material in the authors' footnotes. Not that there are no references to archival material, rather it is how the authors cite their references. In the preface they state, "Russian intelligence documents are cited in the footnotes without specific details. Copies ... have been presented to the Hoover Library where they will be available to scholars and researchers in tea years." Unfortunately, there is no explanation for this peculiar arrangement, which precludes other scholars from examining and assessing the authors' research.

Instead of using original Russian archival material, the majority of the book's footnotes are either memoirs of former Soviet intelligence operatives or Western secondary sources, which supply little new information. The use of archival sources would have bolstered the credibility of public sources. The authors claim to rely extensively on the recently declassified Verona messages, which were U. …

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