Sunday, October 1, 2017

Spooks: The haunting of America : the private use of secret agents

A common politcal fate in America
Jim Hougan's 'Spooks' provides a well written, informative and indeed entertaining exploration of the world of "spooks". America, Hougan maintains, is "haunted" not by ethereal spooks from beyond the grave but the flesh and blood variety, from the underworld where power politics, government, big business and organised crime merge.

Hougan's subtitle addresses the 'private' use of spies. 'Private' is meant to be distinct from 'public' sector spy agencies' like the CIA, FBI etc. Of course, as Hougan demonstrates, telling 'private' from the 'public' in the spookdom is more séance than science. It is this nether region, contrary to his subtitle, that is the real focus of Hougan's book. Apart from Howard Hughes' use of detectives to tail prospective girlfriends, Hougan doesn't really spend any time on "purely private" espionage, for example, industrial espionage or marital snooping.

Hougan, who is also the author of "Secret Agenda", one of the key books of the Watergate revisionist movement, spent four years investigating and interviewing real spooks. So this is real journalism, indeed history, and not just a kennel of pet conspiracy theories.

Of course, and I am sure Hougan would agree, disentangling threads, most of which were deliberately hidden or obscured to begin with, is inherently difficult and error prone. This is perhaps the real reason why mainstream scholars reflexively reject 'conspiracy theories'. To prove or disprove them, and to have all that verified, requires too much work and there is a high probability that the investigator will return nothing more than questions. This is hardly an ideal outcome for the investigator but it is, after all, what the instigator had in mind.

Spooks, published in 1978, is constructed like a good spy novel. .... Each chapter is a 'case study' and each case is linked to subsequent chapters.

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