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  • Spying on Science: Western Intelligence in Divided Germany, 1945-61
  • Richard J. Aldrich
Paul Maddrell , Spying on Science: Western Intelligence in Divided Germany, 1945–61. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. 344 pp. $99.00.

Spying on Science is one of the most impressive studies of Cold War intelligence to have emerged in many years. Although the book's main focus is scientific intelligence, its scope is far wider, offering a reliable and remarkably detailed picture of intelligence activity in Germany prior to the creation of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Maddrell's study makes use of a wide range of documents, including the relevant presidential files. However, its main strength lies in the painstaking analysis of two important archives: first, the records of the Scientific and Technical Intelligence Bureau, a revealing body of material concerning operational aspects of postwar Western espionage; second, the records of the Ministry of State Security (MfS, or Stasi) of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), which offer a fascinating insight into Communist counter-espionage work against the agents of the West. Each judgment in the book is carefully weighed, and each proposition is supported by meticulous use of evidence. In short, Spying on Science is a model study of intelligence activity.

Maddrell correctly asserts that the first decade after the Second World War witnessed a quantum leap in weapons technology. Although most historians associate 1945 with the arrival of nuclear weapons, developments in chemical weapons such as nerve gas and in biological warfare agents such as brucella were also highly significant. These developments were paralleled by novel forms of delivery, including ballistic missiles. Military disciplines such as electronic warfare, including radar and electronic countermeasures, also blossomed. By 1945, leading states had already concluded that no physical defense against some of these weapons would be feasible and were shifting [End Page 165] to a strategic philosophy of deterrence. They resolved to devote enormous resources to scientific espionage in order to probe this fantastic new field that framed the conflict between East and West.

The key intelligence battleground was Germany because the border between East and West there remained porous at some points, notably Berlin. Collection by the many intelligence agencies of the United States, Britain, the Federal Republic Germany (FRG), and other allies was conducted on an industrial scale. The foot soldiers in this espionage war were mostly Germans. Initially, the most interesting human subjects were those traveling to the West—defectors, refugees, and former prisoners of war (POWs) returning from Soviet-controlled areas to the Western zones—and they were debriefed and interrogated en masse. The East German scientific program was undermined when leading scientists and engineers were induced to defect to the West. Remarkably, some German POWs and former German scientists were retained by the East until 1955 and were often employed in sensitive locations. After fleeing to the FRG, they provided information on locations such as uranium factories, which Western intelligence had found hard to locate, never mind infiltrate with agents.

In parallel to the large programs for "wringing out" material from returnees, the two sides engaged in an agent war on a vast scale. Until 1955, the espionage agencies of the occupying powers were actually funded by occupation costs, giving both the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the British MI6 an additional incentive to build up huge stations in Germany. They obtained excellent intelligence and penetrated the GDR on a wide scale. Equally, the notorious Stasi was aware of this effort and devoted considerable resources to counterintelligence. For the West, the most serious problem was the aggressive high-level penetration of Western intelligence organizations. Information provided by double agents such as Heinz Felfe and George Blake resulted in the deaths of many Western agents in the late 1950s. The CIA worked with the NTS Russian Émigré organization in Germany which was also extensively penetrated by the Soviet Union.

Maddrell's coverage of the security operations in East Germany is enthralling. Often guided by information from figures such as Blake, the Stasi launched several major operations against Western spies and resistance operatives in 1953–1955. The largest was "Operation Blitz," which ran from December 1954 to the spring...


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