George J.A. O'Toole


O'Toole, George J.A. "Benjamin Franklin: American Spymaster or British Mole." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 3, no. 1 (Spring 1989): 45-53.

Was Benjamin Franklin Richard Deacon's "tool of the British Secret Service" or Allen Dulles' "cunning American spymaster?" The author believes Deacon's charge was "delivered ex cathedra." O'Toole also looks at the "circumstantial" case made by Cecil B. Currey, Code Number 72 (1972): "72" was British code for Franklin, not an agent number. What is the strongest argument against Franklin as British agent? O'Toole notes that "without Franklin's strenuous efforts there would probably have been no Franco-American alliance." Mole? "Absurd." Spymaster? "Perhaps" -- although there is "no evidence."


O'Toole, George J.A. "The Chesapeake Capes: American Intelligence Coup?" International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 10, no. 2 (Summer 1997): 196-205.

The author looks at the story that a British Naval signals book had been stolen and passed to French Admiral de Grasse prior to his victory over the British at the Battle of the Chesapeake Capes on 5 September 1781. O'Toole finds the roots of the British defeat in an inflexible tactical doctrine and the limitations of the ship-to-ship flag signalling system, rather than the actions of some Patriot spy.


O'Toole, George J.A. The Encyclopedia of American Intelligence and Espionage: From the Revolutionary War to the Present. New York: Facts on File, 1988.

Clark comment: Within the range of its subject matter -- American intelligence -- and the time period covered ("the present" is the mid-1980s), O'Toole's work gets my vote for the "best of show." It is usually accurate, shows the result of thoughtful selection criteria, avoids polemics, and is nicely illustrated and presented.

Campbell, IJI&C 3.1 recognizes that O'Toole has done a "massive amount of research" and produced "a volume of generally high standards.... The role of intelligence in American wars is discussed in a particularly helpful manner." The entries are "generally accurate, though the author does make some minor errors"; and the treatment of the subjects "is, for the most part, objective." This is "an impressive work which should be in every intelligence library."

For Weber, JAH 76.4, the Encyclopedia is "a first-rate and fascinating contribution," comprised of data "drawn from wide-ranging open sources." O'Toole's "map of the foreign intelligence field contains many basic bench-marks for all American foreign intelligence specialists." While generally positive about O'Toole's work, Lowenthal suggests that it often reads "like an OSS roster." Clark comment: There is some truth to Lowenthal's comment, but O'Toole is also quite strong on brief biographies from the American Civil War period as well.


O'Toole, George J.A. Honorable Treachery: A History of U.S. Intelligence, Espionage, and Covert Action from the American Revolution to the CIA. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1991. 1992. [pb]

Clark Comment: Honorable Treachery covers from the American Revolution to 1962. The book reads well and presents its subject matter in an informed fashion. Used in a classroom setting, students should find it "user friendly." To Hood, IJI&C 5.3, Honorable Treachery is the "best-documented and most comprehensive history of American intelligence yet written." Similarly, the MI 19.1 reviewer sees it as "an excellent starting point for further historical studies." It is the "best one-volume account of the evolution of American intelligence."

Bates, NIPQ 9.2, believes Honorable Treachery "would be a good text for intelligence or American history studies." However, because O'Toole "uses only secondary sources," his work "suffers from the inaccuracies of these sources.... His history is even-handed to January of 1946 and the creation of the Central Intelligence Group. After that, precious little is said about the rest of the intelligence community."

For Farwell, WPNWE, 23-29 Mar. 1992, the work is a "splendidly written, impeccably researched, and perfectly fascinating history" of American intelligence, while Surveillant 2.2 enthuses that this is a "magnificent, detailed review" that is "[h]ighly recommended." A Choice, May 1992, reviewer comments that O'Toole gives a "good overview of popular sources, but he does not attempt to survey in depth the resources or scholarship for any period of intelligence history."

Booth, I&NS 8.2, says the author provides "almost too much detail" and the "importance of many spies and their exploits recounted ... is questionable.... Chapters 13 ... and 16 ... recount episodes of seemingly little importance in excessive detail." Although there is a "good deal of new information and insight," Honorable Treachery is "at best a stunted history ... [as it] carries the narrative only down to 1962." There is a "curious lack of perspective in his treatment of some of the more controversial aspects of the CIA's record.... Angleton ... merits only two brief sentences." Nevertheless, this book is the "product of exhaustive research and evocative writing."


O'Toole, George J.A. "Kahn's Law: A Universal Principle of Intelligence?" International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 4, no. 1 (Spring 1990): 39-46.

"Emphasizing the offensive tends toward a neglect of intelligence. The implicit First Corollary is...: Emphasizing the defensive tends toward an emphasis of intelligence.... Second Corollary: Emphasizing the offensive tends toward an emphasis of counterintelligence.... Third Corollary ... seems to be: In situations of stalemate, both sides tend to emphasize intelligence equally.... Fourth Corollary: An offensive operation that acquires defensive aspects tends to increase the emphasis on intelligence."


O'Toole, George J.A. "Our Man in Havana: The Paper Trail of Some Spanish War Spies." Intelligence Quarterly 2, no. 2 (1986): 1-3. [Petersen]


O'Toole, George J.A. The Spanish War: An American Epic. New York: Norton, 1984.

Petersen: O'Toole gives "good coverage of the intelligence episodes of the war, including U.S. penetration of a telegraph office in Havana, efforts to thwart a Spanish spy ring in Montreal, and communications with Cuban insurgents."


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