The Anatomy of a Traitor: A history of espionage and betrayal
Factors that lead us to choose (and stay in) our professions are numerous, overlapping, contradictory, and, above all, not obvious. This books sets out to discover “why spies spy.” Indeed, understanding the psychological makeup of spies helps protect governments by helping them spot potential spies within their own departments, and it helps them identify potential spies and exploit their services to serve the government. It is a high-stakes game that bears out that it is not material possessions that are valuable but information – especially “good” information.
After the introductory chapter, each substantive chapter focuses on one motivator and provides examples from recent history where spies have fallen prey to that vice discussed. Inevitably (as the examples show), there are several factors at work as well. The prime motivators discussed are sexual relationships, money, patriotism, ego, or need for adventure or risk, revenge, or morality. Most of the examples presented are of recent vintage (Cold War and later). There are some older examples, but those are few. The last chapter turns its attention to Donald Trump (asking if he is an “unconscious spy” for the Russians) and to Edward Snowden (asking if he is a whistle-blower or spy).
The biographical sketches are very interesting, and readers may read of previously unknown personalities or gain greater insight into the lives of known personalities. The narrative is easy to read and seems to move quickly. There isn’t much analysis of “why spies spy” – the central question posed in the introduction. Hence while the book provides readers with plenty of data on spies, it leaves them to their own devices to figure out what motivates a spy.