It's fun to be a spy

Spying can be fun. And often no harm is done. The two sides simply cancel each other's efforts out and then go on to other things. One former CIA man said he once spent a great deal of time in a foreign capital playing tennis and partying with a Soviet counterpart. While bantering and enjoying themselves, he and his CIA colleagues were studying the Russian and his family, trying to see if there was a weakness or need the Americans could satisfy. They would then begin recruiting the Soviet to work for them.

The CIA team made elaborate contingency plans. It looked for the right moment to make a pitch to the Soviet, or to "pop the question," as they say in the spy trade.

The Soviet, for his part, appeared to enjoy the swinging Western way of life that prevailed in that particular diplomatic community. But he, too, was a devoted professional, and he was looking for a way to "turn" one of the CIA men.

Neither side succeeded in its designs. But everyone had a good time trying.

Another CIA man, who retired recently, told how he made meeting one of his foreign agents more agreeable. His agent had arranged their first contact near a drab and obscure castle outside a West European capital.

It was a hot and dusty day, and at the end of a long bus ride, the CIA man found himself in the absurd position of marching in the woods near the castle wearing a gray suit and carrying a briefcase. He had not expected to be taken so far from the capital.

"Don't you ever do this again," the CIA man recalled telling the agent after they had stopped to talk. "If you're so security-conscious, you can make the meeting places a different place each time. . . . But I want you to give me an education in this country."

The only requirement was that each meeting place be of culinary or cultural interest -- a three-star restaurant, an art exhibition, or an antique show, for example.

The arrangement worked incely. The CIA man could now write a Guide Michelin of sorts for other visitors to that country.

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