Richelson, Jeffrey T. 1949–

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Richelson, Jeffrey T. 1949–

(Jeffrey Richelson, Jeffrey Talbot Richelson)


Born December 31, 1949, in New York, NY; son of Herbert H. and Edna Richelson. Education: City College of the City University of New York, B.A., 1970; University of Rochester, M.A., 1974, Ph.D., 1975.


Home—Alexandria, VA.


Writer, educator, policymaker, and consultant. University of Texas at Austin, visiting assistant professor of government, 1976-77; Analytical Assessments Corp., Marina del Rey, CA, research associate, 1977-81; University of California, Los Angeles, senior fellow at Center for International and Strategic Affairs, 1981-82; American University, Washington, DC, assistant professor of government and public administration, 1982-87; writer and consultant, 1987—; National Security Archive, George Washington University, Washington, DC, senior fellow.


Association of Former Intelligence Officers, Naval Intelligence Professionals, National Military Intelligence Association, Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.



The U.S. Intelligence Community, Ballinger (Cambridge, MA), 1985, 4th edition, Westview Press (Boulder, CO), 1999.

Sword and Shield: The Soviet Intelligence and Security Apparatus, Ballinger (Cambridge, MA), 1985.

(With Desmond Ball) The Ties That Bind: Intelligence Cooperation between the UKUSA Countries, Allen & Unwin (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1985.

American Espionage and the Soviet Target, Morrow (New York, NY), 1987.

Foreign Intelligence Organizations, Ballinger (Cambridge, MA), 1988.

America's Secret Eyes in Space, Harper (New York, NY), 1990.

A Century of Spies: Intelligence in the Twentieth Century, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1995.

America's Space Sentinels: DSP Satellites and National Security, University Press of Kansas (Lawrence, KS), 1999.

The Wizards of Langley: Inside the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology, Westview Press (Boulder, CO), 2001.

Terrorism and U.S. Policy, 1968-2002, ProQuest Information and Learning (Ann Arbor, MI), 2003.

Presidential Directives on National Security: Part II: From Harry Truman to George W. Bush, ProQuest Information and Learning (Ann Arbor, MI), 2003.

Spying on the Bomb: American Nuclear Intelligence from Nazi Germany to Iran and North Korea, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to economic and political journals.


An expert on government spying and the intelligence community, Jeffrey T. Richelson has written numerous books and articles on espionage and the technology associated with it. His first book, The U.S. Intelligence Community, which has been updated in three subsequent editions, is a comprehensive look at the network of intelligence-gathering organizations in the United States. Compiling data and anecdotes via the Freedom of Information Act and numerous interviews, Richelson describes the history of the CIA, FBI, and military intelligence groups and shows how these various organizations work together to form a sophisticated American intelligence system.

"Despite the end of the cold war, there remains a need for a significant intelligence collection and analysis establishment," Richelson once told CA. "In addition to understanding the dynamics of individual countries and regions—from Russia to South Africa—there are a variety of problems such as proliferation of advanced weaponry and international terrorism that will require attention from the U.S. and allied intelligence communities."

Although the intelligence community once avoided Richelson as an outsider and a security risk, his scholarly efforts over the years eventually led to his legitimization as an astute scholar of intelligence gathering. As noted by Bruce D. Berkowitz in an ORBIS review of Richelson's A Century of Spies: Intelligence in the Twentieth Century, "These days the intelligence community cooperates with Richelson by providing unclassified, on-the-record interviews and responding to his Freedom of Information Act requests (Richelson may be one of the largest FOIA users)." Berkowitz added that Richelson "is recognized as a member of the professional community to the extent that he is invited to CIA sponsored conferences."

This acceptance by officials in government intelligence helped Richelson provide an inside history of intelligence gathering in A Century of Spies. In the book, Richelson recounts the history of espionage from Czarist Russia and the early British Secret Service to spying in the modern era after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted: "His comprehensive survey explores the impact of spies and their special technology on world events in this century, showing how intelligence gathering and espionage have become a multibillion-dollar enterprise." For example, the book relates how intelligence efforts helped lead to the development of computers and long-distance telegraphs. Calling the book "almost encyclopedic in scope" and "valuable and comprehensive," reviewer David Fromkin, writing in Foreign Affairs, commented that "A Century of Spies reminds us how central the ordinary business of spying and counterspying has been to the politics, diplomacy, and wars of modern history." A Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded: "This decade-by-decade review of key events and breakthroughs in intelligence and espionage is masterly."

Richelson has continued his work through his appointment as a senior fellow with the National Security Archives located at George Washington University. In America's Space Sentinels: DSP Satellites and National Security, he provides a comprehensive account of the development of infrared missile-launch detection satellite platforms and includes a discussion of how their use has had a long-term influence on American national security operations. Writing in Aerospace Power Journal, Clifford E. Rich noted: "I was impressed that the author's style of writing effectively weaved history, geopolitics, and technical jargon in such a way that this work will appeal not only to people in the space and intelligence career fields but also to a cross section of operators, strategists, and engineers." Echoing these sentiments in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, James Bamford praised Richelson for paying "tribute to the thousands of nameless engineers and technicians who developed, launched, and ran America's nuclear-war sentry post in space."

Richelson turned his focus exclusively to America's most famous intelligence organization with his book The Wizards of Langley: Inside the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology. Supplying numerous anecdotes, Richelson provides a historical look of the Directorate of Science and Technology, one of the CIA's three main divisions and the one responsible for developing the modern tools of the spy trade, from misguided efforts to use cats as bugging devices to highly successful U-2 spy planes and reconnaissance satellites. Reviewers noted that, like most of Richelson's books, the heavily detailed The Wizards of Langley is primarily for those interested in the spy business. Called a "fine and meticulously researched study" by a reviewer in Publishers Weekly, the book has also received praise for its account of the infighting between the CIA and the military over who would control the high-tech spying devices. As noted in a review by Martin A. Lee in the Washington Post: "Richelson's book offers a rare glimpse into a vital aspect of U.S. intelligence."

Richelson looks at intelligence gathering from the angle of foreign espionage in Spying on the Bomb: American Nuclear Intelligence from Nazi Germany to Iran and North Korea. The book stands as an "authoritative and definitive account of U.S. nuclear espionage from the earliest days of atomic research in WWII to the present," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer. He has "brought together a huge amount of information about Washington's efforts to track the nuclear weapons projects of other countries," stated David Holloway in the New York Times Book Review. Beginning with Nazi Germany in World War II, Richelson looks at nuclear projects in fifteen countries, such as China, the Soviet Union, France, Israel, Pakistan, India, Iran, North Korea, Iraq, and elsewhere. He mines information from declassified documents as well as relevant interviews to construct a comparison between what is currently known about the nuclear aspirations of these countries with what was known at the time in history when the assessments were originally made. "This may sound like heavy going, but Richelson writes with admirable clarity. And along the way he has fascinating stories to tell," commented Holloway. He tells how plans were made to assassinate German physicist Werner Heisenberg during World War II. He notes that Presidents Kennedy and Johnson seriously considered attacks on Chinese nuclear installations. And, he covers more recent and more salient controversies on the alleged nuclear capabilities and intentions of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Richelson points out the difficulties of gathering reliable nuclear intelligence on foreign countries and relates some measures taken by foreign nations to evade information gathering by satellite, human spies, and other techniques.

Booklist reviewer George Cohen called Spying on the Bomb a "searching and informed analysis of our nation's nuclear espionage" programs throughout nuclear history. A Kirkus Reviews critic named it "useful for students of nuclear policy and intelligence." All of the case studies addressed by Richelson are a "sobering reminder of how often the professionals in the nuclear-intelligence business have been at least a little wrong in a field where being a little wrong can have catastrophic consequences," observed Commentary contributor Patrick J. Garrity.



Aerospace Power Journal, fall, 2000, Clifford E. Rich, review of America's Space Sentinels: DSP Satellites and National Security, p. 122.

American Historical Review, April, 1997, Thomas R. Mockaitis, review of A Century of Spies: Intelligence in the Twentieth Century, p. 430; February, 2001, T.A. Heppenheimer, review of America's Space Sentinels, p. 214.

Arms Control Today, March, 2006, review of Spying on the Bomb: American Nuclear Intelligence from Nazi Germany to Iran and North Korea, p. 47.

Booklist, August, 2001, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Wizards of Langley: Inside the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology, p. 2062; February 1, 2006, George Cohen, review of Spying on the Bomb, p. 10.

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, January, 2000, James Bamford, review of America's Space Sentinels, p. 65; September, 2000, Jeffrey T. Richelson, 'Shootin' for the Moon," p. 22.

Choice, December, 1999, W.M. Leary, review of America's Space Sentinels, p. 744.

Commentary, April, 2006, Patrick J. Garrity, "Guess-work," review of Spying on the Bomb, p. 81.

Economist, February 17, 1996, review of A Century of Spies, p. S4.

Foreign Affairs, January-February, 1996, David Fromkin, review of A Century of Spies, pp. 165-172.

Journal of American History, December, 1998, Nick Cullather, review of A Century of Spies, pp. 1146-1149; September, 2000, Andreas Riechstein, review of America's Space Sentinels, p. 738.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2006, review of Spying on the Bomb, p. 77.

Library Journal, August, 1995, H. Steck, review of A Century of Spies, p. 98; August, 2001, Stephen L. Hupp, review of The Wizards of Langley, p. 133.

New Scientist, December 9, 1985, Michael Herman, review of A Century of Spies, p. 50.

New York Times Book Review, March 26, 2006, David Holloway, "Other People's Nukes," review of Spying on the Bomb, p. 19.

ORBIS, fall, 1996, Bruce D. Berkowitz, review of A Century of Spies, pp. 653-663.

Publishers Weekly, June 12, 1995, review of A Century of Spies, p. 52; September 10, 2001, review of The Wizards of Langley, p. 83; December 5, 2005, review of Spying on the Bomb, p. 42.

Reference & Research Book News, August, 2006, review of Spying on the Bomb.

Washington Post, September 30, 2001, Martin A. Lee, review of The Wizards of Langley, p. T04.

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Richelson, Jeffrey T. 1949–

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