INTELLIGENCE AND COVERT ACTION

Created: 12/1/1962

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STUDIES IN

INTELLIGENCE

A eollcclion ol articles on the historical, operational, doctrinal, and theoretical aspects ol intelligence.

All statements of fact, opinion or analysis expressed in Studies in Intelligence are those of

the authors They do not necessarily reflect official positions or views of the Central Intelligence Agency or any other US Government entity, past or present. Nothing in the contents should be construed as asserting or implying US Government endorsement of an amcle's factual statements and interpretations.

British experience in givingfor -psychological and paramilitary operations to an independent organization.

INTELLIGENCE AND COVERT ACTION

mV

After the failure at Cuba's Bay ofumber ofarticles appeared In the United Kingdom suggesting that the Americans take lessons from the British, styled ex-he organization and conduct of paramilitaryand other kinds of covert action. Some of these were reprinted or otherwise reflected, particularly on the subject of organization, in the American press, for example;

When the Office of Strategic Services was organized to World War n. the British argued long andhat the two(Intelligence and covert action! should bea far as the organization of intelligence is concerned, tbe British pracUce what they preach. Militaryas always been divorced from the Special Operations Executive, which acta on Ml S'a InformaUon.'

The BrlUsh, who have had long experience In these mattera. separate Mf fl, their intelligence agency, from their specialwith good reason. An organlxaUon that Is going to risk the lives of Its operaUvea will give Intelligencea severely pragmatic appraisal, it Is remarked. On the other hand, when the functions are combined, the confidence which the responsible official* feel In the Intelligence impel* them lo rush Into acUoa.'

rVew Tor* rhntj,pril

These preachments, like marry others In the wake of the Cuban affair, were crystallized outack of information. The facts are, first, that although the British specialorganization was independent of0 to the end of the war, MJ-fl had the responsibility for thesebefore that period and has had It since, and second, that the record of the wartime SOE, although It scored some bril-

' Hoe York Tfmei,prilrom London correspondent Drew Mlddleton.

Uant successes, was over all not such as to Inspire emulation. Some of Its most conspicuous failures are directly traceable to its separation fromnd the Britishagency, MI-6.

SOE Mission and Doctrine

At the beginning of the warhe Secret Intelligence

the planning and conduct of paramilitary activity and psychological warfare. The mushrooming Importance of these specialties led to the creation0eparate s/ agency for them, the Special Operations Executive, under the new Ministry of Economic Warfare and "for all ofpecifically military nature or which might bring militaryperationally under the Chiefs of Staff.'

It was SOE's mission to Influence public opinion abroad through covert propaganda and psychological warfare, to carry out sabotage, to organize and support guerrillaand to build up in German-occupied areas armed and trained forces to be held In reserve until Allied armies could begin their eventual assault. Major-General Gubblns. at one time Chief of SOE, explains:

The British Common wealth tu on the defeaHre and it was clear that it would be years before invasion would be.possible; what could, however, be done in tha meantime was to attack the enemy by unorthodox methods: attack his war potential wherever It was exposed and at least create some kind of running sore to drain his strength and disperse his forces and, finally, when Invasion of the Continent did taae place, to give the maximum of assistance to the forces of liberation.*

SOE realized that covert action such as sabotage, planned slowdowns, coup de main raids, and the creation of hidden arms-dumps called for very tight security. Andre Dewavrln, who used the alias "Colonel Passy" while working closely with

Sir Colin Oubblns,esistance Movements in the8 Januaryrinted In the Journal of Royal United Service Institution, London,.

.

French section of SOE, has summarized the British

concept:

Itatter of being sure that,ay. we have oa band, at gl*en points In France, small armed groups provided with ex ploalrea and capable of carrying out destruction plana prepared by the inUr-Allltd Staff. What wa want la toirect control of these groups and to give them the means of communlcaUngrwith us, so that wa can be assured that whaUier ordersfl^jBg|eaiTled.out Irrjucdlatelv. "wVaise eonsWesTlTmportani that these teama or'smallgroups' <riu be absolutely separate, one from the other. In order to avoid the danger which threatens and will continue toarge resistance movement. It is Important to know that an accident to one group win not bringhain reaction, leading to catastrophe* which might extendarge reclon or even the entire country.

Our groups are small, strictly local, and therefore easier toand to lead than large movements which can never ba ordered to carryestruction plan without goingong and indefinitep of

Major-Oeneral Oubblns also notes SOE's concern for the safety of Its operations and people:

For overriding reasons of operational security, the control of signals traffic and of the training and despatching of personnel remained with SOE, and the team* in the field wera organized as far aa possible on the British model Into water-tight compartments, each with tu specific area and specific

But as SOE began to function abroad. It began tosome of the chair.-reaction catastrophies that Dewavrin describes the measures to forestall. It was soon evident that security demanded much moreoncept of compart-mentatlon. Major-Gcneral Oubblns said, "The history of the building up of the secret armies In France, as In other Western European countries thoughesser degree, was studded with sudden arrests of key men, with discovery ofets and setbacks of all kindshis admission Is an

from Colonel Pasay'*0 Duke St, tondrti tieMonte. Vol. ir. pp.p. eit,bid,.

L6

Cafasfropnei by Country

The most famous SOE disaster occurred ln Holland, where some of the flrat agents parachuted In were picked up bycounterintelligence and forced to transmit to London faked reports and arrange for drops of supplies and other agents, who could then be arrested as they landed and their communications also taken over. This ghastly game went on for twenty months, ln spite of severalwarnings thaf^eWrieer Lon3o

tton, untilgents had been arrested and all the operations they were supposed to be carrying out were frustrated. Forty-eight of the agents were eventually shot at

In Greece the firstaboteur team, were to be dropped from three planeslace where they could make contact with resistance leader Colonel Zcrvas. One of the planes failed to drop Its men, and the other two dropped them In the wrong place on ground totally unsulted forlandings. Their equipment was scattered, their radio smashed beyond repair, and the local Inhabitants had never heard of Colonel Zervas, who was many miles away."

In Denmark, of the first two agents dropped one was killed when his parachute failed to open and the other lost all bis equipment, Including his radio. He could therefore notwith London to get instructions, and he had been given no alternative contacts orecond team dropped later did manage to buildesistancebut within six months Its leader was killed, and thefloundered and gradually broke down, leaving SOEanish operation until IM3."

In Belgium SOE and the Belgian Deuxleme Section worked together to unify the resistance andidden army. In late3 eight keyleaders were Instructed by letter tooint conference ln Liege. When they arrived, two were shot and

'Sec Herman J. Olskcs" London Calling North Pott (New. 'Ronald Beth, The Undaunted: The Story of Reetttanee la Wutem Europe,.

The SOE

the remainder arrested by the Gestapo, which had arranged thehe following night fifty more wereThis mass roundup ended the hopenified

In France, where SOE operations were most Intense, both the Oestapo and Oerman military counterintelligencein penetrating and manipulating the nets. Through Infiltration they located and seb^dclumps of^axmj^an munition and entrapped aTsSgepBumixcV-of SOEeter Churchill andeader of theIn Paris. Maurice Buckmaster, head of the SOE French section at headquarters, says that Prosper's net waswith enemy1 More than one quarter of thegents dropped during the war lost their lives, ineries of arrests rolled up almost all SOE operations in France and left in Parts, for example,ingle radio operator."

Amateur* Against Professionals

What were the reasons for SOE's failures? Some of the causes could not have been corrected. It was not within SOE's power to alter the attitude of General de Oaulle, for example, toward British operations conducted In France, or to persuade the RAF to provide better air support. Scenespreading from traitors already encysted inundergrounds was also unavoidable. But there were deeper reasons.

First of all. the SOE was an organisation of amateurs. Unlikend MI-C, both of whichontinuity of doctrine and of personnel, SOE was thrown together byup from the armed forces and from every walk of civilianarge number of people who spoke some foreign language and who seemed, according to the Intuitive feelings of the SOE chiefs, to be proper material. Psychologists were hired

- Ibid,.

"MauriceThey Fought Aloru (London.This was Row Inayat Khan, whose pathetic story la told in Jean Puller's Madetetiut (London,ean Putter's books shoot SOI women In Prance, together with Elisabeth Nicholas'Be Not Proud (London.tir In Parliament on the question whether SOE was careless in its training and direction of staff agent*.

to assess candidates but were not told the purpose of theand according to Buckmaster the psychological findings were largely Ignored. Above all. because Buckmaster and other chiefs were themselves chosen by equally random methods, there was nowhere In the newly formedolid core ofadre of professionalism in theof the clandestine.

This Initial weakness was compounded by the fact, pointed

SOE conducted all of its own training. Candidates wereariety ofJumps, marksman-ship, the employment of explosives for sabotage, etc. SOB was scrupulous In checking their language qualifications, their forged documents (although the quality of the forgeries was not uniformlyheir clothing and other personaland Just about anything else that might betray them as undercover agents. It also taught them theuniforms, Insignia, and decorations of the Germans. But It could not teach them the organization, modus operandi, and psychology of the German Intelligence and securityand It did not call upon thendxperts who did know the subject. The consequences of this shortcoming are evident In the Oerman counterintelligence coups In France, Belgium, and Holland.

No available sources indicate that SOE maintained card files or other rosters of known and suspected Germanand security personnel or of their collaborators of other nationalities. Buckmaster does say that Scotland Yard was "at all tunes at our service and they were Immediatelyto usumber of ways: not only did they provide ushorough account of the history of possible recruits to our work, but they also put at our disposal experts whose Job it was to detect enemy agents in this country and who were therefore able to help us protect our own men againstut the help available from thistton for Internal police work was necessarily limited.

In short, the root of SOE's difficulties was Its lack ofwith the British espionage and counterintelligence services.reach of distrust widened betweennd

" Buckmaster. op. eft,

mcntary protection b

at^T^ or nearly "totally. tte^essemtla? advantages

tarlntelllgence might have supplied. Highly powered butbrakes, SOE was certain toeries of imash-ups.

The British learned their lesson. At the end of the war the Foreign Office and the Chiefs of Staff agreed to return the responsibility for covert operations to the Jurisdiction of the Secret Intelligence Service. There were three reasons for the change: to ensure that secret Intelligence and specialwere the responsibilityingle organisationingle authority; to prevent duplication, wasted effort,of operational wires, friction, and consequent Insecurity; and to tailor the size of the covert action staff to the greatly reduced scale of peacetime needs. The peacetime condition alsoew factor which greatly increased theof consolidation.

The covert operations conducted during the war did not have to be unattributable. On the contrary; saboteurs, for example, tn order to avoid precipitating reprisals on the local population, would leave behind evidence which tended to Indicate that British agents wereecurity and secrecy were important, but only tactically Important. It was Important that the Oermans should not know the Identities and homes of the resistance workers, but It never mattered at all that the Oermans should know that the work was directed. acted as publicity agents for these resistance movements.

In time of peace the situation Is quite different, for it is this strategic security which Is all-important. Becausecannot acknowledge the fact that they are under-

Beth. op. ett.

taking clandestine operations, there has beenhole new, delicate technique, the technique oruccessful nonattrlbutable operationong, tedious, touchy, and complicated affair which, the British recognized, not only requires background Intelligence but, more Importantly, cannot be undertaken except bycase officers.

Thus the SOE-SLS disharmony and Its consequences

ice should be responsible for all clandestine and covertundertaken by tbe nation.

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