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Wilderness of Mirrors: Intrigue, Deception, and the Secrets that Destroyed Two of the Cold War's Most Important Agents Paperback – July 1, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-1585748242 ISBN-10: 1585748242 Edition: 1st

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Wilderness of Mirrors: Intrigue, Deception, and the Secrets that Destroyed Two of the Cold War's Most Important Agents + James Jesus Angleton, the CIA, and the Craft of Counterintelligence
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press; 1st edition (July 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585748242
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585748242
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #285,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Enthralling, provocative, vividly controversial. Deserves to be widely read."
--Washington Post




"A remarkably detailed account of the internal disputes about the defectors and double agents that tied the CIA in knots during the 1960s . . . Intelligence buffs will savor each new revelation."
--The Wall Street Journal


From the Back Cover

William King Harvey, a hard-drinking, small-town Midwestern lawyer, earned a reputation as the American James Bond. James Jesus Angleton, orchid grower, Ivy League intellectual, and master of deception, led the hunt within the CIA for the Soviet Union's spies. But Harvey's career fell on hard times over a bizarre and unsuccessful plot to assassinate Fidel Castro. Angleton's search ruined careers, endangered relationships with friendly intelligence services, and virtually paralyzed the Agency's Soviet operations.
Based on scores of interviews and CIA insiders and thousands of pages of previously classified documents, Wilderness of Mirrors is a penetrating account of Cold War intrigue filled with strange doings and even stranger people.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Cindy Stevens on December 31, 2005
The term, "wilderness of mirrors," is still used today in counterintelligence circles to denote the feelings of paranoia that sometimes develop in the byzantine business of spyhunting, when one is no longer able to distinguish between what is real and what is illusion. When conjuring up images of this precise phenomenon, no name rings louder than that of James Jesus Angleton, who himself was enveloped and ultimately destroyed by his obsession with uncovering a "mole" within the CIA.

Martin's brief account of the CIA's largely unsuccessful efforts to spy on the Soviet Union during the Cold War alternates between the stories of "Jim" Angleton and "Bill" Harvey, two CIA trailblazers who undoubtedly left their marks in their profession. What's unfortunate is that while they may have scored some early successes, they spent the latter parts of their careers in shambles, with both resigning under hostile circumstances. Especially in Angleton's case, it is tough to objectively determine whether he did more good than bad.

For a more detailed account of the CI fiasco involving Angleton, Golitsin, and Nosenko, check out David Wise's "Molehunt."
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful By F. S. L'hoir VINE VOICE on August 16, 2005
This book, which relates the ongoing war between the CIA and the KGB, focuses on the activities of William K. Harvey, a gun-totin' ex-FBI agent (who does not seem to have entirely evolved in a social sense), and James Jesus Angleton, a Yale graduate who lived first in Italy and then in England, where he learned the fine arts of counter-espionage at the knees, as it were, of Kim Philby, and was in charge of counter-espionage at the CIA. The revelation that the latter was a KGB penetration agent in British Intelligence seems to have engendered extreme paranoia in the former, who was ever after on the lookout for moles in the Agency (and was even suspected by some of his colleagues of being one himself).

The tales of covert operations range from the amusing (an agent loitering in a park to make a dead-letter drop being arrested as a potential child molester) to the appalling (the dastardly enticement of the Soviet defector Yuri Nosenko with promises of a salaried job and then keeping him in what was tantamount to a cage for 1277 days (292 of which were devoted to interrogation) [p, 171], all because of the dubious word of Anatoli Golitsin, a previous defector--living high off the hog at taxpayer expense--who warned that the next defector would be a KGB plant.). Angleton placed his faith unstintingly in Golitsin, whose wild scenarios had Averell Harriman, a former United States ambassador to the Soviet Union, cast as a KGB agent. It never seems to have occurred to Angleton that Golitsin may have been the KGB plant, intent on making mischief.

The title, "Wilderness of Mirrors," was apparently coined by Angleton, who was a poet in his spare time. It refers to the labyrinthine world of espionage into which one is "lured deeper and deeper ...
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Retired Reader on March 21, 2008
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Since its establishment in 1947, CIA has enjoyed some modest successes as an agent for regime change, but does not to appear to have been a very effective intelligence agency. Yet during the first 25 years of its existence under the freewheeling influence of the many WWII Office of Strategic Services (OSS) veterans who formed its original cadre, it certainly seems to have been an interesting place to work. Indeed its halls were apparently filled with interesting and colorful characters who may or may not have been very good intelligence officers, but who were never boring. This very good book provides the story of two such characters who were at the heart of the CIA counterintelligence program.

James Jesus Angleton was clearly CIA material with his WWII OSS experience, Ivy League education, and international background. Yet he was also by all accounts one the strangest intelligence officers CIA ever recruited. An orchid growing intellectual, Angleton began his long involvement with counterintelligence with the OSS under the tutorship of Kim Philby, who even then was a Soviet mole. He appeared to thrive on the intellectual challenges presented by convoluted and complex work that was counterintelligence. From the first he applied himself to seeking out Soviet agents within CIA with the passion and zealotry of a Jesuit converting a heretic. In the end his efforts failed to find real evidence of Soviet penetration of CIA, but in the notorious `mole' search he initiated succeeded in virtually destroying its ability to run clandestine operations against the Soviets. Ironically for all his zeal, Angleton was unable to recognize that his mentor and friend Philby was a Soviet plant in heart of the delicate U.S. and UK intelligence relationship.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Black on May 29, 2010
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I found myself wanting to know more about the beginnings of the CIA as well as their cold war exploits. This book was recommended to me by a friend and is a good starting point to find out about some of the key players in the US intelligence of previous years. There isn't much about background or the beginnings of the CIA, this book is more of a character study of two men, James Jesus Angelton, who most people are familiar with and William Harvey, whom most people seem not to know(including me at the time). It is an interesting tale of how two men got so wrapped up in their own ego's as well as paranoia that they brought CIA intelligence operations to a halt. It also paints the CIA as an agency without a clear direction and poorly managed. This book had the effect that all good non-fiction books have on me, it casued me to do more research on the events and people in the book. Great read if you want to see the effect 2 men can have on an agency but don't expect a broad history of the CIA.
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