Cultures of Spying

Issue: Winter 1994-1995

In the United States, spying has often been regarded as necessary, at times even as vital. But it has never been regarded as a normal peacetime pursuit. During the Second World War, the CIA's precursor, the OSS, mounted a vast cryptographic effort against Germany and Japan, thanks in part to the support of Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson. Yet Stimson was also the man who, as Secretary of State in 1929, closed up the State Department's cryptographic section with the famous quip that "gentlemen do not read each other's mail." With its post-Victorian overtones, that quip now has the resonance of a bygone age. Not so, however, the assumption that lies behind it: Spying has no place in a "normal" world.

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