The Company We Keep

CIA operatives Bob and Dayna Baer first met in Sarajevo while both were conducting surveillance on Iranian-backed, anti-American group Hizballah. The Baers offer readers the story of their romance, but more importantly supply an invaluable insider account of how spycraft works in the real world. The Baers bring us inside their covert operations, from Iraq to Kazakhstan, showing us exactly how they maintained their covers, recruited informants, tailed terrorists, protected secret documents, and more.

 

It’s dangerous work, of course. During the Sarajevo surveillance of Hezbollah, a CIA colleague gets shot in a drive-by. Yet risk fuels romance, and, while blending into hostile surroundings, Bob and Dayna fall in love. Because of Bob, Dayna develops a more spontaneous approach to both espionage and life, leaving her husband just as Bob decides to leave his wife. The love story, however, is secondary: it’s the fascinating insights into the clandestine service that make this accessible book so revelatory.

 

Bob, who was portrayed by George Clooney in the film "Syriana," is uniquely gifted at recruiting intelligent sources. By book’s end, however, the veteran Baer admits that "[n]othing I did . . .added or subtracted from the mess out there."  In the most Sisyphean case, Baer works tirelessly to "turn" a Russian intelligence agent by offering him settlement in the U.S. and college admission for his daughters. Just as the ex-KGB agent agrees to supply information to the CIA, a mole inside the CIA (Aldrich Ames) thwarts Baer's plans by revealing them to Russian intelligence. Such twists, worthy of the most carefully wrought fiction, make this account of spycraft's actual challenges, as engrossing as a novel by Littel or le Carré.

 

April 16: ""Blue pottery vases and bowls for flowers are most attractive, and certain blue books...will repeat and emphasize color."

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