The Company We Keep

CIA operatives Bob and Dayna Baerfirst met in Sarajevo while both were conducting surveillance onIranian-backed, anti-American group Hizballah. The Baers offer readers thestory of their romance, but more importantly supply an invaluable insideraccount of how spycraft works in the real world. The Baers bring us insidetheir covert operations, from Iraq to Kazakhstan, showing us exactly how theymaintained their covers, recruited informants, tailed terrorists, protectedsecret documents, and more.

It’s dangerous work, of course.During the Sarajevo surveillance of Hezbollah, a CIA colleague gets shot in adrive-by. Yet risk fuels romance, and, while blending into hostile surroundings, Bob and Daynafall 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, issecondary: it’s the fascinating insights intothe clandestine service that make thisaccessible book so revelatory.

Bob, who was portrayed by GeorgeClooney in the film “Syriana,” is uniquely gifted at recruiting intelligentsources. 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 workstirelessly to “turn” a Russian intelligence agent by offering him settlement inthe U.S. and college admission for his daughters. Just as the ex-KGB agentagrees 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 byLittel or le Carré.