The Spy Who Couldn't Spell: A Dyslexic Traitor, an Unbreakable Code, and the FBI's Hunt for America's Stolen Secrets

The Spy Who Couldn't Spell: A Dyslexic Traitor, an Unbreakable Code, and the FBI's Hunt for America's Stolen Secrets

by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee


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The Spy Who Couldn't Spell: A Dyslexic Traitor, an Unbreakable Code, and the FBI's Hunt for America's Stolen Secrets by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee


The thrilling, true-life account of the FBI’s hunt for the ingenious traitor Brian Regan—known as the Spy Who Couldn’t Spell.

Before Edward Snowden’s infamous data breach, the largest theft of government secrets was committed by an ingenious traitor whose intricate espionage scheme and complex system of coded messages were made even more baffling by his dyslexia. His name is Brian Regan, but he came to be known as The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell.
In December of 2000, FBI Special Agent Steven Carr of the bureau’s Washington, D.C., office received a package from FBI New York: a series of coded letters from an anonymous sender to the Libyan consulate, offering to sell classified United States intelligence. The offer, and the threat, were all too real. A self-proclaimed CIA analyst with top secret clearance had information about U.S. reconnaissance satellites, air defense systems, weapons depots, munitions factories, and underground bunkers throughout the Middle East.
Rooting out the traitor would not be easy, but certain clues suggested a government agent with a military background, a family, and a dire need for money. Leading a diligent team of investigators and code breakers, Carr spent years hunting down a dangerous spy and his cache of stolen secrets.
In this fast-paced true-life spy thriller, Yudhijit Bhattacharjee reveals how the FBI unraveled Regan’s strange web of codes to build a case against a man who nearly collapsed America's military security.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781592409006
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/01/2016
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 788,199
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)
Lexile: 1200L (what's this?)

About the Author

Yudhijit Bhattacharjee is an award-winning writer whose features and essays on espionage, cybercrime, science and medicine have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, Wired and other U.S. magazines. Yudhijit spent 11 years as a staff writer at the weekly journal Science, writing about neuroscience, astronomy and a variety of other topics in research and science policy. His work has been anthologized in the Best American Science and Nature Writing series. Yudhijit has an undergraduate degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, and a master's in journalism from The Ohio State University. He lives in a suburb of Washington, D.C., with his wife, his two children and a big red dog.

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The Spy Who Couldn't Spell: A Dyslexic Traitor, an Unbreakable Code, and the FBI's Hunt for America's Stolen Secrets 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
scull17 More than 1 year ago
I received a copy of this book from Goodreads Giveaways. A very engaging account of the FBI’s hunt for stolen government secrets. The thief, Brian Regan, was working with “Top Secret” clearance at the NRO (a US intelligence-gathering agency so secretive and shadowy, the American public did not know of its existence for decades) when he decided to sell classified intelligence to Libya, Iraq, Iran, and China: an act of treason that could have had a devastating and deadly impact on American military and compromised the security of the US itself. Bad as that was, his reasoning behind the crime he was committing was also misguided; unlike some spies who were motivated to become moles in the first place because of political or nebulous moral issue against the US, Regan was doing it solely for money. So why do I still feel sorry for this traitor? Perhaps it’s the underdog against The Man aspect of the book; perhaps it’s Regan’s unhappy childhood: the bullies, the abusive alcoholic father, the humiliations he suffered due to dyslexia (the stigma following him well into adulthood where coworkers brushed him off as stupid and slow) and his own efforts even as a child to compensate for the disorder; perhaps it’s his own lawyers’ decision to ironically use his learning disability as a defense during his trial: telling the jury their client is too stupid to possibly pull off a sophisticated and difficult espionage; perhaps it’s the harsh sentence in the end. Lastly, I recommend that people read the “Acknowledgments” section of this book; typically this part is just a whole bunch of names where authors thank everybody and their momma; it’s almost like actors when they win an Academy Award: they go up on stage, then subsequently go on and on and on about every person they’ve ever known since the day they were born. Anyway this is not that. We learn in this section the tragic yet inspiring fate of the lead investigator of the case against the spy who couldn’t spell.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A well-written account, but I didn't find the story as enthralling as advertised.
onemused More than 1 year ago
“The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell” is one of the best non-fiction books I have read in a while. Although it is recapping past events, it reads like a fiction novel, uncovering piece by piece how the FBI uncovered the attempted espionage of Brian Regan and the steps leading up to Regan’s choices/inability to sell America’s secrets (thank goodness). The book covers motives, events, and explains how cryptologists worked on the codes/how they are typically used. It was really fascinating. The book gives in-depth information about Regan’s life and events but also gives some tidbits about the investigators which leads into why things happened and played out the way they did. There were parts that made me laugh out loud, parts that really made me think, and parts that flowed so beautifully it is possible to forget it was non-fiction. The book begins with the opening of the case and goes all the way through prosecution/trial. I really enjoyed every minute of it! This is a really fascinating book- for people who love FBI/CIA, espionage, cryptology, and/or history! Everything flows so beautifully and is really well explained. I’d highly recommend this book! Please note that I received this book through a goodreads giveaway. All opinions are my own.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
he Spy Who Couldn't Spell: A Dyslexic Traitor, an Unbreakable Code, and the FBI's Hunt for America's Stolen Secrets is a rarity. It is a non-fiction book that reads like a Jason Bourne spy thriller. It is that compelling. In 2001, Brian Regan was a former Air Force sergeant working for the agency in charge of our nation’s spy satellites. He took a walk in a D.C. park and buried thousands of hyper-sensitive documents dealing with China, Libya, Iraq, Iran and China. He planned on selling these documents to the highest bidder. Regan had been trained in cryptanalysis and used this skill to deceive and perpetrate his acts of treason. When he was detained and questioned the investigators found numerous papers containing random words and numbers. Over time multiple codes were cracked and Regan was convicted of attempted espionage. The Spy Who Couldn't Spell: A Dyslexic Traitor, an Unbreakable Code, and the FBI's Hunt for America's Stolen Secrets is a most interesting read. It is scary because it reveals how vulnerable we are to anybody who has the desire, ability, and ambition to damage the United States. I heartily recommend this book. It is fascinating and revealing. As to why the book is named what it is, that is a mystery that can only be solved by buying the book.