Friday, January 29, 2010

Spy vs. Spy


It is really hard to gauge what makes for a good spy book by the cover, but ever since the release of the Mitrokhin Archives, there has been a new round of books on Cold War espionage.  Some recent titles include:

Tim Weiner’s engrossing, comprehensive Legacy of Ashes is a litany of failure, from the C.I.A.’s early days, when hundreds of agents were dropped behind the Iron Curtain to be killed or doubled (almost without exception), to more recent humiliations, like George Tenet's now infamous “slam dunk” line.

In the “maze of mirrors,” as Bagley describes the spy-vs.-spy game in his dense but often fascinating cold war memoir, Spy Wars, things were often not what they appeared to be. To find out whether Nosenko was telling the truth, the C.I.A. decided to squeeze him a little.

The old saying that one cannot judge a book by its cover could be tweaked to observe that sometimes one cannot glean the truth by a book's title. This is especially so in the case of  Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America  regarding the thin documentation of journalist I.F. Stone as a stellar spy in the 1930s.

1 comment:

  1. I just saw your comment about I.F. Stone.

    I'm assuming Stone was probably a communist at least at some point in his career. It would seem totally in his character. But a stellar spy? Hardly seems possible. His crime was telling the truth about what was happening in Washington to those willing to listen. That will get you every time!