In This Review

Seduced by Secrets: Inside the Stasi's Spy-Tech World

Seduced by Secrets: Inside the Stasi's Spy-Tech World
By Kristie Macrakis
392 pp, Cambridge University Press, 2008

This book includes everything you ever wanted to know about the East German security service's penetration into West Germany's scientific, industrial, and military secrets, and more. Macrakis grew up in East Germany, but only later, as a historian of science, teaching in the West, did she become fascinated with the world of spying and the science the East Germans obsessively sought to steal together with the organization and technology they applied to the task. The first half of her book features who was involved and how they did it; the second half focuses on the techniques and, particularly, the curious, fiction-inspiring tools they used to film, eavesdrop, follow, communicate, and disrupt. Her research, both archival and based on interviews, including with the famous East German spy chief Markus Wolf, is prodigious; the detail is somewhat overwhelming and, at times, repetitive. But one comes away from the book with a well-tutored sense of the scale and the precise nature of East German and, by extension, Soviet industrial and military espionage. Macrakis' larger point emerges only briefly and between the lines: that in the nature of the enterprise, what the East Germans and the Soviets did was not so different from what their Western counterparts did -- but that in the case of the East Germans, the preoccupation with secrecy as an end in itself and with technology as the means to nearly all ends was ultimately dysfunctional.