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A Stroll Down Paranoia Lane

Today David Ignatius reviews the new book “Spy Wars” by former CIA officer Tennent H. Bagley, the man in charge of handling the famed KGB turncoat Yuri Nosenko (most recently resurrected in the film The Good Shepherd – although he did not actually commit suicide, and was made famous for talking about Lee Harvey Oswald, which will probably make this book very popular among a certain brand of conspiracy nuts).

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Bagley’s book, “Spy Wars,” should reopen the Nosenko case. He has gathered strong evidence that the Russian defector could not have been who he initially said he was; that he could not have reviewed the Oswald file; that his claims about how the KGB discovered the identities of two CIA moles in Moscow could not have been right. According to Bagley, even Nosenko eventually admitted that some of what he had told the CIA was false. What larger purpose did the deception serve? Bagley argues that the KGB’s real game was to steer the CIA away from realizing that the Russians had recruited one American code clerk in Moscow in 1949 and perhaps two others later on. The KGB may also have hoped to protect an early (and to this day undiscovered) mole inside the CIA. Take a stroll with Bagley down paranoia lane and you are reminded just how good the Russians are at the three-dimensional chess game of intelligence. For a century, their spies have created entire networks of illusion — phony dissident movements, fake spy services — to condition the desired response. Reading Bagley’s book, I could not help thinking: What mind games are the Russians playing with us today?