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The Spy Who Knew Too Much: An Ex-CIA Officer's Quest Through a Legacy of Betrayal

Review

The Spy Who Knew Too Much: An Ex-CIA Officer's Quest Through a Legacy of Betrayal

The question that THE SPY WHO KNEW TOO MUCH attempts to answer is whether or not, in the pre-glasnost era, the KGB had a mole in the CIA who was never caught. Prolific author and former New York Times investigative reporter Howard Blum tells a convoluted story about Tennent “Pete” Bagley’s quest to unearth the mole, along with Blum’s own efforts to add context to that quest.

"Blum’s access to Bagley’s writings and other sources enables him to craft a cohesive and convincing narrative..."

A member of the CIA’s elite Soviet Bloc division, Bagley was working in Switzerland in the early 1960s when KGB agent Yuri Nosenko offered his services. Bagley interviewed him on multiple occasions, and over time he came to suspect that Nosenko, who defected to the U.S. after JFK’s assassination (Nosenko had conducted the Soviet “investigation” of Lee Harvey Oswald), was a plant. Part of his suspicion had to do with the remarkable similarity between his stories and the file of Anatoliy Golitsyn, another KGB agent.

However, Bagley was unable to persuade his superiors. Instead, he himself came under suspicion of providing intelligence to the Soviets. Certain that he was the victim of self-serving CIA politics, he retired peacefully to Brussels --- until the apparent death of John Paisley, a CIA official, in 1978 persuaded him to return to DC. Despite questions about the body and why Paisley was on a sailboat with sophisticated electronic equipment, his death was ruled a suicide. Although he was barred from the CIA archives, Bagley launched an exhaustive search and ultimately concluded that the purported victim was the mole.

Blum’s access to Bagley’s writings and other sources enables him to craft a cohesive and convincing narrative, despite stonewalling from intelligence agents and a lot of padding and idle speculation on the part of the author. But readers who stay focused will find this story about the politics of spycraft on both sides of the Iron Curtain to be absorbing.

Reviewed by Lorraine W. Shanley on June 24, 2022

The Spy Who Knew Too Much: An Ex-CIA Officer's Quest Through a Legacy of Betrayal
by Howard Blum

  • Publication Date: June 7, 2022
  • Genres: Nonfiction, True Crime
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0063054213
  • ISBN-13: 9780063054219