Wednesday, July 11, 2007


kw: book reviews, nonfiction, espionage

I have a low tolerance for high drama. I'm the one that cries at weddings, even those that I conduct. So I began reading Spy Wars: moles, mysteries and deadly games by Tennent H. Bagley, but soon set it aside. I skipped around a bit, then passed quickly over to the conclusion. I won't spoil that.

It's not that the book isn't well written. Bagley is brilliant, was a brilliant agent, and is a fine writer. He is mortally disturbed at the poor condition of our intelligence services. Much of this comes out in the book. But the book centers on one man.

Bagley is the agent who greeted Yuri Nosenko in 1964 when the latter defected...perhaps. Nobody is yet satisfied with any of the explanation and speculations surrounding Nosenko, who is the primary source of information about Lee Harvey Oswald's apparent Russian interlude.

Thirty years later, in retirement, Bagley found himself drawn to post-USSR Russia to interview former (and some probably current) KGB agents regarding the Nosenko case. There is still considerable US-Russian tension among these old adversaries; this was no "old boys' club" affair.

As you might suspect, Nosenko was a deceiver, but it is not at all obvious what kind of deceiver he was.

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