Thursday, February 2, 2017

Spy Sites of Washington, DC (book)

By Robert Wallace and H. Keith Melton (with Henry R. Schlesinger)

Spy Sites” could be considered two books in one. It is a capsule history of spying in and around D.C., with crisply written profiles of the major players.

Even intelligence buffs will encounter a few unfamiliar names. Consider, for instance, Thomas Atwood Digges, a Marylander who worked in London to free American sailors imprisoned by the British. Yet he was so sloppy with his accounts that Benjamin Franklin (for whom he was a sometime courier) denounced him as a rogue and scoundrel. But there is a monument to him on the Digges family estate across the Potomac from Mount Vernon.

“Spy Sites” is also a guide book that should be invaluable for weeks of Sunday afternoon spy walks or drives — from downtown to tranquil suburbs. With maps and photos, it enables the reader to view the obscure dead drops that such rogues as Aldrich Ames, John Walker and Robert Hanssen used to pass secrets to the Soviets — “you are there” experiences of the first order.

There are also some seldom-discussed secrets as to how FBI and other counterintelligence officers “spied on the spies.”

Readers can trust the expertise of the authors. Robert Wallace ran CIA’s Office of Technical Services, which invents spycraft equipment for communications and other covert chores. R. Keith Melton, an Annapolis graduate, owns one of the largest collections of spy artifacts in existence.  more