Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Prisoners, Lovers, And Spies: The Story Of Invisible Ink From Herodotus To Al Qaeda

Veteran journalist, author and authority on espionage Joseph C. Goulden offers a good review of Kristie Macrakis' Prisoners, Lovers & Spies in the Washington Times.

At hand is an utterly fascinating account of how secret writing has evolved from wartime messages written on the shaved head of a slave so he could slip undetected through enemy lines, to spy communiques concealed in pornographic postings on the Internet.

The author, Kristie Macrakis, knows her territory. A professor at Georgia Tech, she is a historian of science as well as espionage. Her earlier books include the well-received “Seduced by Secrets” on the Stasi, the former East Germany security agency.

She has cast a wide research net, trolling up lively evidence not only in intelligence archives, but also in literature. Indeed, one of the first printed references to secret writings she found was in “The Art of Love,” a “racy manual on seduction” by the Roman classical poet Ovid. If necessary, how could lovers exchange private notes? The author cites what she found to be “the earliest reference” to a form of secret ink:

“A letter too is safe and escapes the eye, when written in new milk: touch it with coal dust, and you will read.”

Most assuredly, modern secret writing is a bit more complex, and the account related by Ms. Macrakis makes clear the importance of spymasters allying with chemists to conceal their secrets.

You can read the rest of the review via the below link:


You can also read my interview with Joseph C. Goulden in Counterterrorism magazine via the below link:


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