He was paid by a stranger walking through an airport who handed him a paper bag full of foreign currency. Sometimes it was in British pounds, sometimes in Japanese yen, but always a preferred currency. He would have bet on the denomination from week to week, but he had no one with whom to bet.

There was no real record of his existence. There was no personnel file at Langley. At most, there was a letter someplace rejecting his application to the CIA and thanking him for his interest. But even this probably didn’t exist. In fact, he had never been to Langley. He had not been trained on the farm (actually there are several farms), but overseas by private contractors, former British SAS, whose names he didn’t know and who didn’t know his. In a few cases, he lived with them while they trained him. When he moved on, so did they.

His first mission was to crawl through a tunnel into East Berlin and bring out an “asset” the U.S. wanted. On the West Berlin side he met Germans he didn’t know, whom he had to trust with his life to take him over to the other side. They were German nationals working for the U.S., part of an intelligence network reconstructed after the evisceration of the CIA by another political media star, Senator Frank Church. The senator wanted to be president, and chairing a committee parading the nation’s intelligence secrets day after day before the world’s cameras was to be his ticket to the White House.

Intelligence networks built up over decades collapsed as operatives feared that in America’s eagerness to do what no nation state had ever done — expose its deepest secrets to the world — they too would be exposed. Some piece of paper with their names on it would be waved before the world’s media in order to advance someone’s political agenda, even as two KGB officers dutifully and quietly sat at the back of the hearing room. One can only imagine what thoughts ran through their minds.