Military Review English Edition March-April 2016 - Page 133

BOOK REVIEWS A VERY PRINCIPLED BOY: The Life of Duncan Lee, Red Spy and Cold Warrior Mark A. Bradley, Basic Books, New York, 384 pages P etraeus, Cartwright, Sterling, Kiriakou, Manning, Snowden—these are military and civilian officials who, admittedly, reportedly, or as revealed after conviction in a court of law, provided classified information to those without requisite security clearances or a need to know. Recipients included lovers, journalists, and—perhaps directly or eventually—foreign intelligence services. Former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director David Petraeus paid a fine, and he remains on probation. Jeffrey Sterling, a former midlevel CIA officer, was prosecuted and sentenced to prison. With regard to the case of former Marine Gen. James Cartwright, the information that would have been needed to be released in support of a court proceeding was, reportedly, deemed too sensitive. While critics have suggested nefarious motivations for this variance in prosecution, this is not the first time our leaders have struggled with how far to go in prosecuting espionage. Such is the setting for Mark Bradley’s A Very Principled Boy: The Life of Duncan Lee, Red Spy and Cold Warrior. The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was the predecessor of the CIA, and in 1943, Duncan Lee worked in the office of OSS director William “Wild Bill” Donovan. J. Edgar Hoover’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) knew Lee was also a Soviet spy and investigated him extensively, but Lee died a free man in 1988. How did he get away with this when others did not? Mark Bradley, himself a former CIA officer, taps into declassified primary and secondary sources for Principled Boy, providing readers with a valuable examination of this ultimately feckless counterintelligence prosecution, hobbled as it was by internecine politics and national security concerns. Things went awry for Lee when his second Soviet NKGB (Soviet secret police) handler, Elizabeth Bentley, with whom he claimed to have had a sexual relationship, voluntarily provided detailed information to the FBI about the network of spies she ran, including Lee. It seems obvious what should have MILITARY REVIEW  March-April 2016 then happened: the FBI’s star witness provides enough information to allow the FBI to investigate Lee fully, collect additional damning evidence, and prosecute him in a court of law. As the reader learns, Lee quite cleverly committed his information to memory and only delivered it verbally to his NKGB handlers. As such, the FBI had no “smoking gun” documents to use in court as evidence of his betrayal. The FBI did, however, have the Venona transcripts—decrypted Soviet communiques that confirmed Lee’s identity as a Soviet source and corroborated Bentley’s information. Even so, and perhaps as a result of parallels to current cases, U.S. national leadership at the time decided that the revelation of its intelligence capabilities—specifically, the ability to decrypt Soviet communiques—would do more damage than the value gleaned from its use in a criminal court proceeding. This is where Principled Boy gets interesting—not so much for the information Lee was reported to have provided or his motivations, but rather for the government’s inability to prosecute. Over the years, Lee was able to keep his story straight enough, and FBI surveillance never was able to identify any incidents in which he conducted espionage. Lee thus benefited from the officials’ appropriate concerns regarding inadvertently providing sources and methods to Soviet intelligence, raw politics, Cold War national security excesses (McCarthyism), and the intercession of high-level supporters. Donovan, who hired Lee in the first place and who may have been as much or more interested in preserving his own reputation, continued to support Lee even as Bentley’s revelations surfaced and the FBI and State Department took steps to deal with Lee. The section of Principled Boy that addresses Ruth Shipley, director of the State Department’s passport office, and her Ahabian efforts to refuse Lee a passport, are quite entertaining, especially if you have any direct experience dealing with government bureaucracy. The reader interested in a detailed history of Cold War espionage, and looking for useful lessons related to today’s counterintelligence challenges, will find A Very Principled Boy thought provoking and informative. John G. Breen, PhD, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 131