We are told that intelligence activities are eye-wateringly secret. Yet they have been surprisingly prominent of late. Senior politicians and armies of online bloggers alike are trading bitter accusations about dark arts and dirty tricks. This is covert action: perhaps the most sensitive – and controversial – of all state activity. What is striking, however, is the visibility of the supposedly hidden hand behind recent operations.
Spy fiction has been a popular genre for over 100 years. Tales of Bond and Bourne continue to fascinate audiences worldwide. Sometimes, however, the realities of the shadowy world of espionage can be just as engrossing. There is just one problem: finding out what actually happened. This is especially the case when writing about deniable interference in the affairs of others: intelligence officers know it as “covert action.”