Operation Valuable Fiend

Operation Valuable Fiend: The CIA's First Paramilitary Strike Against the Iron Curtain

  • Hardcover: 368 pages. Also available as e-book and audio book.
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing (June 3, 2014)

  • Amazon
  • Barnes & Noble


In 1949, a newly minted branch of the CIA (the precursor of today’s National Clandestine Service), flush with money and burning with determination to roll back the Iron Curtain, embarked on the first paramilitary operation in the history of the agency. They hatched an elaborate plan, coordinated with the British Secret Intelligence Service, to foment popular rebellion and detach Albania, the weakest of the Soviet satellites in Europe, from Moscow’s orbit. The operation resulted in dismal failure and was shut down by 1954.

In Operation Valuable Fiend, Albert Lulushi gives the first full accounting of this CIA action, based on hundreds of declassified documents, memoirs, and recollections of key participants, including Albanian exiles recruited for missions and their Communist opponents. Up till now, the story of the operation has been obfuscated and even distorted. Some blamed the Soviet mole Kim Philby for sabotaging it; the communists credited the prowess of their secret police; and CIA memoirs were heavily sanitized. Lulushi documents a range of factors that led to the failure, from inexperienced CIA case officers outsmarted in spy-vs-spy games by their ruthless Stalinist opponents; to rivalries between branches of the CIA and between the agency and friendly intelligence services; and conflicts among anti-Communist factions that included Albania’s colorful exiled leader, King Zog.

The book also shows how this operation served as the proving ground for techniques used in later CIA Cold War paramilitary actions—involving some of the same agency operatives—including the coup d’états in Iran and Guatemala and the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.

Praise for Operation Valuable Fiend

“In Operation Valuable Fiend, Albert Lulushi has told a fascinating story well and made excellent use of untapped archival resources."—David Robarge, Chief Historian, Central Intelligence Agency

“[For the operation's dismal failure, h]istorians have blamed Soviet mole Kim Philby, who worked in British intelligence and knew of the operation, but Lulushi disagrees. His lively, detailed account of Hoxha’s viciously efficient intelligence service, the exiles’ terrible security, and CIA naïveté make a convincing case."—Publishers Weekly (Read the full review)

“[Lulushi's] is the most complete account to date and well worth close attention."—Studies in Intelligence, Intelligence Officer's Bookshelf (Read the full review)

“An important and well-researched account of one of the Cold War’s less known and often misunderstood clandestine operations . . . The book tells a lively and well-written if discouraging story. Any reader has a treat in store, and any student of the history of America’s role in the Cold War will find the book indispensable.”—Ambassador Frank G. Wisner, former ambassador, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and Under Secretary of State for International Security Affairs

“In Operation Valuable Fiend, Albert Lulushi has done a splendid job in updating our knowledge of the clandestine activities that CIA and its partners conducted in Albania in the late 1940s and early 1950s.”—Nicholas C. Pano, Professor Emeritus of History, Western Illinois University