Fascinating memoir from a husband-and-wife team of spooky gamesmanship in the Cold War’s deadly back alleys.
Writing with the Agency’s blessing, retired CIA spymaster Antonio Mendez (The Master of Disguise, 1999) and agent Jonna Mendez offer a surprisingly open account of the intelligence community’s long, often deadly engagement with its counterparts in Russia, China, and Cuba. As their narrative opens, things have gone badly awry with American spying activities inside the Soviet Union; deep-cover double agents are being executed right and left, hapless Marine guards are letting secrets out of the embassy, and somehow the KGB is always a step ahead of the CIA, thanks in part to near-invisible “spy dust” that enables the Reds to track the movements of our men and women in blue. After the Mendezes learn that they’re being betrayed by Aldrich Ames and other turncoats within the agency, they put that knowledge to work concocting elaborate countermeasures and devious switcheroos. Avoiding the noir clichés of the spy genre, the Mendezes offer an eye-opening look at the complex business of gathering intelligence and spreading a few lies to disrupt the opposition, recounting rules that are “dead simple, and full of common sense: Never make surveillance mad or embarrassed—they will shut you down. Never look over your shoulder or steal free looks in store windows when on the street. Make them think it was their fault that they had lost you, not vice versa, because KGB officers know better than to report their own mistakes.” In the end, they argue, the CIA’s work was more often successful than not, citing no less an authority than former KGB general Oleg Kalugin, who reckoned, “In the final analysis, the score would be five to one in favor of the United States on counterintelligence issues.”
Solid storytelling brought to bear on engaging material: a real-life pleasure for fans of John le Carré and Tom Clancy.