The Good Spy; the life and death of Robert Ames

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First and foremost, please do not confuse Robert Ames, with Aldrich Ames. Both worked for the CIA but that’s where their connection ends. They are not related. The former remained loyal to the United States until he died while serving his country overseas. The latter sold secrets to the USSR and is currently serving a life sentence. They could not be farther apart.

That being said, this was a truly fascinating and captivating read. It was written well and the voice acting brought the story to life. I will say right away that I highly recommend it. The author does a fantastic and well-researched job of presenting his findings and telling the story of Robert Ames, a legendary CIA operative who had a profound impact on middle-eastern CIA operations. More than that, however, it was the story of a man who succeeded because he took a different approach than those around him. He was a successful family man in a crowd of divorced men, the second CIA officer in the middle east to speak Arabic, and formed personal relationships instead of trying to bribe his contacts; each of which people around him thought weren’t necessary; it’s the story of an underdog.

I do have one criticism of this book. Robert Ames is best known for his contribution to opening relations with Palestinian leadership at a time when such a move was highly controversial. The author presents Robert Ames as doing it because of his conviction and sympathy for the Palestinian cause. That may have been true. However, in his book “Rise and Kill First; the secret history of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations” Ronen Bergman (a leading Israeli investigative reporter) writes that the CIA opened relations because Palestinians provided intelligence on Soviet Union’s operations in the middle-east. Kai Bird seems to have missed this point entirely. In fact, he didn’t say much at all about the Soviet Union, and the impact the cold war had on the CIA’s mission and Robert Ames’ actions. That seemed odd to me.

Be that as it may, I enjoyed the book and would most definitely recommend it.