Books by David Wise

Released: Oct. 29, 2002

"Still, a first-rate true-crime story that gets inside the shadowy—and astoundingly average—world of spooks, moles, and ops."
A solidly paced, richly detailed account, by intelligence-community insider Wise (Cassidy's Run, 2000, etc.), of the FBI desk jockey who sold secrets to the Soviet and Russian governments for two decades—and came close to getting away with it. Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2000

A solidly told tale of a 22-year espionage operation aimed at foiling attempts by the Soviet Union to pilfer nerve-gas secrets. Though journalist Wise (Molehunt, 1992) works hard to make the story more spectacular than it actually is—after all, the annals of spying are chock-full of long-term agents—he does create a compelling portrait of Joe Cassidy, an American army officer recruited to serve as a "dangle" for the KGB. Cassidy met his Soviet handlers at a YMCA volleyball game in 1959, and for the next 22 years, through a series of secret signals, codes, and message drops like hollowed-out rocks, passed them countless secrets, all carefully vetted by a top-secret Pentagon committee that weighed each bit of information and misinformation. The operation had three purposes: to flush out the Soviet spies Cassidy would come in contact with, to learn how the Soviets functioned in the US, and to occupy them so they would have less time to recruit real agents. In addition, questions the USSR agents asked of Cassidy would reveal gaps in their knowledge that the US agents could exploit. Though Wise's subtitle is "The Secret War Over Nerve Gas," only a portion of Cassidy's career, and this book, deals with nerve gas. Cassidy starts by passing information about the nuclear-power plant at Fort Belvoir, Maryland, then moves on to the nerve-gas arsenal at Edgewood before rounding out his double life by leaking authorized secrets of the US strategic command in Vietnam. A fascinating portrait of Cassidy's double life, emphasizing particularly the toll the spy's career had on his personal life over a prolonged period, though Wise falls flatter when placing the significance of Cassidy's spy operations in the big picture of the cold war. Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1992

This Kafkaesque chronicle from CIA maven and novelist Wise (The Samarkand Dimension, 1987; The Children's Game, 1983, etc.) might just as easily be titled Damage: damage to an agency's morale, to its officers and their families, to civil liberties, and ultimately to US military and foreign policy in some of the hottest years of the cold war. The 1961 defection of KGB officer Anatoly Golitsin came just as the CIA was finally installing the first chief of its critical Moscow station, but the defection was anything but a harbinger of better things to come. The renegade spy's tantalizing clues about a traitor deep within the CIA—who had a last name beginning with ``K,'' a KGB code name of 'Sasha,' a Slavic background, and several years of service in Germany—fell on all-too-fertile soil in the hyperparanoid mind of counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton, already concerned about two turncoats (and about to be burned even worse by lunch companion Kim Philby). Although the alleged spy was never unmasked, the resulting hunt for the elusive mole had devastating repercussions for more than two decades: suspicions that British Prime Minister Harold Wilson was a Communist agent; the forcible detention for nearly five years of a later defector believed (but never proven) to be a Soviet plant; the possible ``burning'' of other defectors by the CIA; stalled recruitment of spies within the USSR; and, worst of all for CIA personnel, the investigation of over 120 suspects (including Angleton himself), several of whom were compensated by Congress in the 1980's for the harm done to their careers. Wise has uncovered the quiet agony of the molehunt victims through interviews with more than 200 people, many of them Company alumni. A solid journalistic contribution to one of the enduring controversies in cold war spookery, with close attention paid to the byzantine mind-games that the CIA waged against its enemy and, ultimately, its own staff. (Eight pages of b&w photographs—not seen.) Read full book review >