The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames

The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames

by Kai Bird


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The Good Spy is Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Kai Bird’s compelling portrait of the remarkable life and death of one of the most important operatives in CIA history – a man who, had he lived, might have helped heal the rift between Arabs and the West.
On April 18, 1983, a bomb exploded outside the American Embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people.  The attack was a geopolitical turning point. It marked the beginning of Hezbollah as a political force, but even more important, it eliminated America’s most influential and effective intelligence officer in the Middle East – CIA operative Robert Ames.  What set Ames apart from his peers was his extraordinary ability to form deep, meaningful connections with key Arab intelligence figures. Some operatives relied on threats and subterfuge, but Ames worked by building friendships and emphasizing shared values – never more notably than with Yasir Arafat’s charismatic intelligence chief and heir apparent Ali Hassan Salameh (aka “The Red Prince”). Ames’ deepening relationship with Salameh held the potential for a lasting peace.  Within a few years, though, both men were killed by assassins, and America’s relations with the Arab world began heading down a path that culminated in 9/11, the War on Terror, and the current fog of mistrust.
Bird, who as a child lived in the Beirut Embassy and knew Ames as a neighbor when he was twelve years old, spent years researching The Good Spy.  Not only does the book draw on hours of interviews with Ames’ widow, and quotes from hundreds of Ames’ private letters, it’s woven from interviews with scores of current and former American, Israeli, and Palestinian intelligence officers as well as other players in the Middle East “Great Game.”
What emerges is a masterpiece-level narrative of the making of a CIA officer, a uniquely insightful history of twentieth-century conflict in the Middle East, and an absorbing hour-by-hour account of the Beirut Embassy bombing.  Even more impressive, Bird draws on his reporter’s skills to deliver a full dossier on the bombers and expose the shocking truth of where the attack’s mastermind resides today.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307889751
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 05/20/2014
Pages: 448
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

KAI BIRD is the coauthor or author of four previous books: American Prometheus, Crossing Mandelbaum Gate, The Chairman, and The Color of Truth.  He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Writing Fellowship.

Table of Contents

Author's Note xi

Cast of Characters xiii

Prologue 1

1 The Making of a Spy 7

2 The Agency 20

3 Arabia 38

4 Aden and Beirut 51

5 The Red Prince 83

6 Secret Diplomacy 116

7 Headquarters, 1975-79 163

8 The Assassination 207

9 The Ayatollahs 222

10 Jimmy Carter and Hostage America 232

11 Bill Casey and Ronald Reagan 251

12 Beirut Destiny 291

13 The Enigma of Imad Mughniyeh 323

Epilogue 349

Acknowledgments 357

Notes 361

Bibliography 403

Index 411

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The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well written book and very informative. If you are interested in the CIA, Middle East, and political alignments in the Middle East this book is for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was very good. Robert Ames worked for the CIA, but I wouldn't call him a "spy". He recruited sources for information, but it wasn't a bunch of letter drop stuff. He would have lunch with the sources. I admired him, but his poor family sure missed him.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book detailing the life and times of Robert Ames as a CIA agent as well as the ever developing events in the Middle East. I highly recommend this book. The author does a great job of detailing the development of Ames. Give the book a chapter or two to develop, but this is important to appreciate the human side of Ames which is a central part of the book. The author does a fantastic job of detailing the recruitment and relationship of his asset and the asset's "handler" as well as giving context to the highly volatile situation in the Middle East. I have a much greater appreciation and respect for the history and political events within the Middle East and how the CIA managed the situation. This is a non-fiction espionage thriller of real life events. Again, I highly recommend this book.
MUNIR More than 1 year ago
Chowbell More than 1 year ago
This book was very thoroughly researched, and anyone with an interest in this subject should enjoy and learn from it. The author gave background stories on the main players which really helped flesh them out.
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