“Wilderness of mirrors…”

This is what Keith Melton called the world that spies and intelligence officers inhabit.  He was giving journalists a tour of “Spy: the Secret World of Espionnage” at the Discovery Times Square and, trailing the little group of notebooks was  former KGB General Oleg Kalugin (whose bio I wish I had read before meeting him), along with former FBI Special Agent Jerry Richards, whose job included ferreting out Gen. Kalugin’s spies.  It is a world in which greed and fear are traded commodities and second-guessing has as many layers as a hall of mirrors. Here, a mole can be a person, an animal or a facial blemish…that might, in turn, be a pooling of pigment or a microdot with state or industrial secrets.  In fact, Mr. Richard pointed out that microdots — microscopic photographs that are virtually undetectable — might make a comeback in this age of passwords.  As a fan of “Moscow rules” I cannot wait…

Slipping  across borders like mist, this gray, formless world is as rich and creative as any borderland can be.  In World War II, the most  sophisticated get-away equipment was a collapsible motorbike parachuted into occupied France or along with agents; in 2001, the get-away technology consisted of a horse saddle and colorful blanket that agents could throw onto the back of horses then disappear into the mountains of Afghanistan.  Where else can dead rats double as dead drops, pigeons turn photographers,  and the desire to spy on earthly neighbors  engender technology that allows us to peer into deep space… perhaps one day to spy signs of intergalactic neighbors….?

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