Mini Book Review of ‘Class 11: My Story Inside the CIA’s First Post 9/11 Spy Class’ by T.J. Waters

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If you are looking for a comprehensive examination of the CIA, this is not your book. Rather, this is book explores the training of a single CIA class. The 11th Class of spies was the CIA’s first class following 9/11. What made this story interesting to me is that 9/11 marks a pivotal point in the history of espionage in out country. In all appearances, human gathered intelligence had failed us in a major way. This presented a choice for the CIA. Would they continue with business as usual or would they learn from their mistakes. This book explores that struggle by telling the story of the largest class of spies in CIA history.

This book was a bit of a deviation for me. Most of the espionage titles I’ve read center around the Cold War Era. What surprised me was how much of the training and experiences of Class 11 seemed similar to what the CIA has always done. It seems to me that in many aspects, the CIA was playing catchup in an attempt to keep itself relevant. That was a bit of a disappointed. What wasn’t disappointing, however, were the sacrifices and motivation of the would be Case Officers. If you’ve never read anything about the training of CIA Case Officers, you will find this book informative. You will learn what life is like on The Farm and how such training impacts the trainees and their families.

I found this glimpse into the family life of the author very interesting. I’m not sure if T.J. Waters has written anything else, but I would be interested to see what his CIA life was life post training.

Mini Book Review of “Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy” by Lindsey Moran

blowingmycoverI really enjoy true life, behind the scenes, espionage titles. In most cases, truth is far more incredible than fiction. This title from Lindsey Moran should have checked off all my boxes, but in many ways it left me wanting. Her story was incredible enough; as a CIA Case Worker with an interesting foreign post, her story was intriguing. I especially enjoyed the details she shared concerning her time in training. She also did a good job portraying the melancholy I am sure many CIA Case Workers feel. Unfortunately, despite her service to her country, she almost conveys a sense of regret. She doesn’t seem proud of her career (as I feel she should). It’s hard to explain entirely … I could understand a sense of regret, however, she almost seems remorseful and maybe even spiteful. The author conveys a sense of regret for the sacrifices she made regarding her personal life in favor of her professional one and ultimately (no spoilers here) is faced with a decision.

While I enjoyed parts of this book, there are much better ones out there.

Mini Book Review of ‘The Spy With No Name’ by Jeff Maysh

spyThis short Kindle Single book can be read about an hour. It tells the true story of a Cold War era spy deeply embedded in Great Britain. The plot thickens however when the long lost mother of his assumed identity tracks him down in an attempt to orchestrate a ‘reunion’. There is something devastatingly sad about the lives that got tangled up in this single spy’s espionage. If this book lacks anything, it is that some of the details are lost in its brevity. I feel like it just scratched the surface of the story that could have been told.

Review of Jack Barsky’s “Deep Under Cover: My Secret Life & Tangled Allegiances As A KGB Spy in America”

BarskyI was fascinated by this book from the first moment I saw it. It was on a Christian shelf at Barnes & Noble, however, at first glance I couldn’t figure out why. It is the story of Jack Barsky; a deep, undercover KGB spy who was deployed to the United States during the Cold War as part of the Russians’s “illegals” program. I love Cold War stuff and thought I had lucked into a book that had been placed on the wrong shelf at the book store. I snatched it up.

Barsky grew up in post World War II East Germany under the thumb of the Soviet Union. He lived in an atheist, communist state and his personal ideoligies reflected his surroundings. It is no exaggeration to say that Barsky was a genius. He was recognized as an academic and became a brilliant professor of Chemistry and Math before he was recruited by the KGB. Once in the United States, Barsky actually graduated as a valedictorian with a degree in information technology.

In this book, Barsky details his life as a spy and the way his lifestyle ran roughshod over his personal life. But along the way he undergoes a remarkable transformation. From KGB spy to American. From communist to capitalist. From atheist to Christian. To borrow the book’s afterward, Barsky went from a devotee of the gospel of Marx and Lenin to a devotee to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is an incredible story and proves the notion that truth truly is more fascinating than fiction. I highly recommend this book.

Mini Review of “The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal” by David E. Hoffman

billionspyI’ve attempted reading fictional spy stories over the past couple of months and given up on each of them. This book, however, has taught me a powerful lesson. While I enjoy Cold War era history, it is a subject matter that proves the truth is far more fascinating than fiction. The Billion Dollar Spy is is a detailed account of the CIA’s handling of Adolf Tolkachev. Tolkachev spied for the United States deep under cover in Soviet Moscow and provided the United States with technology secrets that gave them a definitive advantage in aerial combat.

People who are looking for a “James Bond” like thriller will find the pace of this book slow. However, the appeal of this book isn’t in the action; rather, it is in the decisions the CIA made in handling their most valuable spy. Do they meet his demands or risk making him unhappy? Should they attempt to sneak him and his family of the Soviet Union? What techiniques should they use to keep his presence secret from the Russians? I found this all very interesting!

If you are interested in the Cold War, you need to learn about Adolf Tolkachev. His story is incredible and the United States owes him a debt of gratitude for the risks he took.Mini

Mini Book Review: The Billion Dollar Spy by David E. Hoffman

spyThis book is the true story of Adolf Tolkachev who delivered Russian secrets to the the CIA for seven years during the Cold War. The sheer impact this one spy had on the United States military, specifically in aviation, is astounding. His secrets contributed to the United States’ air superiority throughout the world for long after the Cold War ended and helped topple the Soviet Union. It is an incredible story. As I read the account of Tolkachev, I couldn’t help but wonder how his story ties in with other known spies of the era. People like Aldrich Ames and Robert Hannsen may have contributed to the ultimate downfall of Tolkachev and it is mind-boggling to consider the interwoven web of espionage that permeated the Cold War. In a world focused technology and “wiki-leaks”, this book reinforces the necessity of human intelligence. I highly recommend it if you are interested in Cold War espionage.