CIA Humor


Title:                      CIA Humor

Author:                  Thomas Sileo

Sileo, Thomas (2004). CIA Humor: A Few True Stories From A 31-Year Career. Alexandria, VA: Washington House

OCLC:

JK468.I6 S55 2004

Table of Contents: . Introduction . The Director of Central Intelligence 3. Working in the United States for the CIA 4. Operations don’t always go smoothly 5. The CIA and the U.S. military 6. Funny odds and ends 7. Conclusion 8. List of abbreviations and terms.

Date Posted:      May 11, 2017

Customer Review by clark_aon[1]

The first of Sileo’s five chapters of anecdotes relate humorous stories about four Directors of Central Intelligence—William Casey, Robert Gates, James Woolsey, and George Tenet—though others are mentioned elsewhere. The other chapters cover working for the CIA in America, operations gone awry, the CIA and the military, and, finally, some odds and ends. In the latter category, Sileo tells a tale of advice to an analyst in the Directorate of Intelligence on how to pass the polygraph . . . from Rick Ames![3] (p. 89) Not all of the stories are funny, but they are all instructive—the attention-getting behavior of the KGB surveillance teams in Moscow, for example. In a different vein is the story of the security officer and Queen Noor of Jordan. The CIA wives are not forgotten, although Mrs. Sileo may wish her husband had omitted her encounter with the “six star general” (p. 70).

This little book will bring pleasure to many and probably invoke similar memories in other officers. So Sileo hints at the end he is considering another edition—a good idea!

[1] See clark_aon (December 24, 2007) at Amazon.com, (4.0 out of 5 stars), “A lighter look at the CIA

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Knight’s Black Agent


Title:                      Knight’s Black Agent

Author:                 John Bingham

Bingham, John (1975). Knight’s Black Agent. London: Gollancz

LCCN:    76366178

PZ4.C588 Ni10

Date Posted:      May 10, 2017

A veteran MI5 officer (actually Le Carrè’s mentor and model for George Smiley) reveals a case history. Bingham is a prolific author of books on agents.

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The Black Widow


Title:                      The Black Widow

Author:                 Daniel Silva

Silva, Daniel (2016). The Black Widow. New York, NY: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers

OCLC:    973883288

PS3619.I5443 B35 2016

Subjects

Summary:

Gabriel Allon, the art restorer, spy, and assassin, is poised to become the chief of Israel’s secret intelligence service. But on the eve of his promotion, events conspire to lure him into the field for one final operation. ISIS has detonated a massive bomb in the Marais district of Paris, and a desperate French government wants Gabriel to eliminate the man responsible before he can strike again. They call him Saladin, a terrorist mastermind whose ambition is as grandiose as his nom de guerre, a man so elusive that even his nationality is not known. Shielded by sophisticated encryption software, his network communicates in total secrecy, leaving the West blind to his planning — and leaving Gabriel no choice but to insert an agent into the most dangerous terror group the world has ever known. She is an extraordinary young doctor, as brave as she is beautiful. At Gabriel’s behest, she will pose as an ISIS recruit in waiting, a ticking time bomb — a black widow out for blood.

Date Posted:      May 9, 2017

Reviewed in The Intelligencer[1]

Another international thriller that finds Gabriel Allon, an art restorer, spy, and assassin, poised to become the chief of Israel’s secret intelligence service, suddenly grappling with an ISIS mastermind. On the eve of his promotion, events conspire to lure him into the field for one final operation. ISIS has detonated a massive bomb in the Marais district of Paris, and a desperate French government wants Gabriel to eliminate the man responsible before he can strike again.

[1] The Intelligencer (22, 2, Fall 2016, p. 142 ).

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The English Teacher


Title:                      The English Teacher

Author:                 Yiftach Reicher Atir;

Reicher Atir, Yiftach (2016). The English Teacher: A Novel. New York: Penguin Books

LCCN:    2015049266

PJ5055.39.E42 M6713 2016

Summary

  • “For readers of John Le Carre and viewers of Homeland, a slow-burning psychological spy-thriller by a former brigadier general of intelligence in the Israeli army. After attending her father’s funeral, former Mossad agent Rachel Goldschmitt empties her bank account and disappears. But when she makes a cryptic phone call to her former handler, Ehud, the Mossad sends him to track her down. Finding no leads, he must retrace her career as a spy to figure out why she abandoned Mossad before she can do any damage to Israel. But he soon discovers that after living under cover for so long, an agent’s assumed identity and her real one can blur, catching loyalty, love, and truth between them. In the midst of a high-risk, high-stakes investigation, Ehud begins to question whether he ever knew his agent at all. In The English Teacher, Yiftach R. Atir drew on his own experience in intelligence to weave a psychologically nuanced thriller that explores the pressures of living under an assumed identity for months at a time”.– Provided by publisher.

Subjects

Date Posted:      May 8, 2017

Reviewed in The Intelligencer[1]

After attending her father’s funeral, former Mossad agent Rachel Goldschmitt empties her bank account and disappears. But when she makes a cryptic phone call to her former handler, Ehud, the Mossad sends him to track her down. Finding no leads, he must retrace her career as a spy to figure out why she abandoned Mossad before she can do any damage to Israel. But he soon discovers that after living under cover for so long, an agent’s assumed identity and her real one can blur, catching loyalty, love, and truth between them. In the midst of the investigation, Ehud begins to question whether he ever knew his agent at all.

[1] The Intelligencer (22, 2, Fall 2016, p. 142 ).

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Loose Threads


Title:                      Loose Threads

Author:                 Elizabeth Ticknor

Ticknor, Elizabeth (2016). Loose Threads, a Mystery. Bookstand Publishing (self published)

ISBN:     978-1634983815

Unknown catalog classification

Date Posted:      May 5, 2017

Reviewed in The Intelligencer[1]

Lil and David, retired CIA operatives living in the quiet coastal town of Lewes, Delaware, use their operational skills to help their friend and neighbor, Ruth, track and apprehend two murderers. They pursue their instincts to trap the killers, following their trail to Ecuador, Alaska, Arizona and Nevada.

[1] The Intelligencer (22, 2, Fall 2016,  p.  141).  This book is one of selected fiction recommended by AFIO members.

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The Master and Margarita


Title:                      The Master and Margarita

Author:                 Mikhail Bulgakov

Bulgakov, Mikhail (1967). The Master and Margarita (translated from the Russian by Michael Glenny). New York: Harper & Row

LCCN:    67022898

PZ3.B869 Mas2

Notes

  • “Published in the winter of 1966-67 in two issues of Moskva. About 23,000 words … which were omitted from the Moskva version, have been restored throughout.”
  • First appeared in Russian in the magazine Moskva in late 1966 and early 1967.

Date Posted:      May 3, 2017

Why would the devil pay a visit to a contemporary city, and what sort of business would he conduct there? What seems a fanciful premise was perhaps less so for a persecuted writer in the Soviet Union under Stalin. Mikhail Bulgakov completed his novel The Master and Margarita just before his death in 1940, but it remained officially unpublished until 1966, whereupon it achieved the status of an underground masterpiece.

In the book’s first chapter, the devil appears briefly to Berlioz, a literary magazine editor, as “a transparent citizen,” a “phantasm” (p. 8) that disappears after Berlioz closes and opens his eyes. Then, in the midst of a conversation between Berlioz and Ivan, a poet, about whether Jesus was real or fictitious, the devil appears to both of them and joins their conversation, looking only unusual enough to be thought “a foreigner” (p. 10). He is troubled by their atheism and their corresponding belief that humans determine their own fate. Besides assuring them that Jesus did in fact exist, the devil predicts the precise manner in which Berlioz will die, and he turns out to be right. Slipping on spilled sunflower oil in the third chapter, Berlioz falls onto the rails of an oncoming tram-car, which severs his head. From this beginning, we might assume that Woland (the name Bulgakov eventually gives the devil) will perpetrate evil and, while he is at it, prove the powerlessness of humans to predict or control the future. But the novel’s epigraph, from Goethe’s Faust, has prepared us for something else; it is a question asked by Faust, answered by Mephistopheles: “ ‘…who are you, then?’/’I am part of that power which eternally/wills evil and eternally works good.’ “

Insofar as Woland’s evil manifests itself in the sudden, menacing disappearance of various characters, as well as the deaths of Berlioz and Baron Meigel, he inevitably reminds us of how Stalin dealt with actual and potential political enemies. But Woland is also a force for good, as evidenced by his orchestration of the reunion of the novel’s other central figures—the master, an unnamed novelist whose manuscript has been publicly denounced and denied publication, and Margarita, his married lover. Moral ambiguity is central to the novel. As Woland says to Matthew Levi, “what would your good do if evil did not exist, and what would the earth look like if shadows disappeared from it?” (p. 360).

The interconnectedness of opposing ideas or concepts, frequently demonstrated by strange reversals, is one of the principles upon which the novel is constructed. Near the middle of the book, the personal secretary for the head of the Commission on Spectacles and Entertainment of the Lighter Type describes an encounter between her boss, Prokhor Petrovich, and Koroviev, one of Woland’s retinue. Annoyed by Koroviev’s assertiveness, Petrovich quickly loses patience, shouting, “What is all this? Get him out of here, devil take me!” Koroviev is only too happy to oblige: “Devil take you? That, in fact, can be done!” (p. 189). Petrovich is thereafter nothing but a suit, though one which continues to go about Petrovich’s business and speak with his voice. This incident is but one example of a running joke in the novel—its characters invoke the devil in a figure of speech, only to have their words make even more literal than figurative sense. Like all deeply funny jokes, this one is in the service of a serious idea. The distinctions we draw between the literal and the figurative—or between good and evil, real and imagined, life and death, art and reality, the material world and the spiritual world—have a certain kind of utility. They bring order to the randomness and chaos of personal experience. But they also limit our sense of what is possible. What Bulgakov’s novel suggests is that when order is imposed externally—such as the extreme measures employed by Woland to emphasize human powerlessness or by Stalin to maintain political power—the personal experience of those upon whom order is imposed becomes so detached from reality that the feeling of randomness and chaos is heightened, not reduced.

If Woland, despite his resemblance to Stalin, is too complex to fit inside a simple framework of good and evil, so too are the master and Margarita. It may be tempting to see the master as a representation of the pure artist made to suffer in an environment that can accommodate neither him nor his art. But we are given to understand, though indirectly, that Yeshua (the name given to Jesus in the master’s manuscript) considered cowardice among the worst of vices, and we must ask if it is not cowardice that causes the master to try to burn his manuscript. Also, when considering what the master’s fate will be, Woland agrees with Matthew Levi’s assessment that the master “does not deserve the light, he deserves peace” (p. 361). Is peace a greater or lesser reward than light?

Margarita is even more complicated. Though her husband is “young, handsome, kind, honest, and adore[s] his wife” (p. 217), only the master makes her happy. It’s never entirely clear whether Woland or the police are responsible for the master’s disappearance, but a member of Woland’s retinue, Azazello, offers to reunite them if Margarita will agree to become a witch and host Woland’s ball. Woland’s power frightens her, but she alone among the novel’s characters uses it for her own—often altruistic—ends. Perhaps the most striking example is Margarita’s request, when Woland offers her a reward for hosting the ball, that Frieda be released from her eternal torment, the nightly appearance of the handkerchief with which she suffocated her baby. Unlike Faust, Margarita is happy to have made her bargain with Woland; when she wakes up the morning after the ball back in the natural world, everything is “as if it ought to have been so” (p. 331). Is it her love, albeit adulterous, for the master that prevails? Is it her commitment to the value of his art? Since she and the master leave this world at the end of the novel, what kind of triumph does she achieve?

In a sense, Bulgakov’s novel follows them. The final chapter concludes in the supernatural world, and the epilogue concludes in the novel’s material world. But both ultimately end with the last sentence of the master’s manuscript, as if to suggest that only in art do we ever find complete resolution. Throughout the novel, Bulgakov has exploited art’s capacity to represent the unassimilable, the unfathomable, the illogical. At the same time, he reminds us of its related capacity to fulfill dreams. The results elicit terror, laughter, sadness, and wonder.

ABOUT MIKHAIL BULGAKOV

Mikhail BulgakovBorn in 1891 in Kiev, now the capital of Ukraine, Mikhail Bulgakov studied medicine at Kiev University, practicing briefly before being drafted by the Whites (anti-Bolsheviks) in 1918 as a field doctor. He was sent to the Caucasus, where, after leaving the military, he began working as a journalist. Along with humorous sketches, Bulgakov wrote White Guard (1924), an autobiographical novel about his experience in the civil war and one of the first serious works of literature on the subject. The Days of the Turbins (1926), a play based on White Guard, was supposedly one of Joseph Stalin’s favorites and helped establish Bulgakov as one of Russia’s preeminent playwrights.

However, the reaction of the press to Bulgakov’s plays in an ever more ideologically rigid society was hostile, and all of his plays were banned in 1929. He wrote to the government about his plight, and Stalin replied, sending him to work at the Moscow Art Theatre. Bulgakov adapted Gogol’s Dead Souls and Cervantes’ Don Quixote for the stage, but he also wrote plays about Moliére and Pushkin that portrayed the conflict between artists and repressive governments. His works were usually banned once they began public performances, and so Bulgakov took a position as a librettist with the Bolshoi Opera in 1936. In 1939, he attempted a return to drama, as well as the good graces of the Soviet authorities, by writing Batum, a play about Stalin’s early years as a revolutionary, but it was banned before rehearsals started.

Bulgakov began working on The Master and Margarita, his masterpiece, as early as 1928; he dictated the final revisions weeks before his death in 1940. In 1932, he married his third wife, Elena Sergeevna, thought to be a model for Margarita. Bulgakov knew he could never publish such a subversive novel during his lifetime. The existence of the manuscript was unknown to all but a small group of people until Moskva, a monthly magazine, finally published it, heavily censored, in two parts in 1966 and 1967.

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Herblock A Cartoonist’s Life


Title:                      Herblock A Cartoonist’s Life

Author:                 Herbert Block

Block, Herbert (1958). Herblock’s Special for Today. New York: Simon and Schuster. LOC: 58013755, E835 .B56

Block, Herbert (1964). The Herblock Gallery. New York: Simon and Schuster. LOC: 68055952, E846 .B55

Block, Herbert (1968). Herblock’s State of the Union. New York: Simon and Schuster. LOC: 70189745, E855 .B55

Block, Herbert (1968). Straight Herblock. New York: Simon and Schuster. LOC: 64024335, E841 .B58

Block, Herbert (1993). Herblock: A Cartoonist’s Life: Self-portrait and vies of Washington from Roosevelt to Clinton. New York: Macmillan. LOC: 93010098, NC1429.B625 A2 1993

Date Posted:      May 1, 2017

The prize-winning Washington Post editorial cartoonist Herblock is feared by erring politicians and admired by others for his humorous and pointed drawings on issues of the day. Along with 200 examples of his graphic style and ingenious ideas (Nixon holding the GOP elephant hostage, Carter viewing his own “Fuzzy” TV image, Ollie North turning shredded evidence into lucrative contracts), the artist here engagingly recalls a baseball-and-trolley-car Chicago boyhood followed by his start as a poorly paid cartoonist, a career which ultimately won him nation-wide recognition. Block includes hard-hitting capsule histories of Nixon, Reagan and Bush administration scandals he chronicled. His quietly told press corps anecdotes, such as helping a colleague authenticate a letter from President Truman, his insider bits on the famous and descriptions of correspondence he has received from people he has criticized are all pure delight.

 

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