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Chicken Soup Starring: The Marx Bros.

        "How can tyrants safely govern home I Unless abroad they purchase great alliance?"—William Shakespeare

There is something compelling in reading about spies and something compelling as well about spying, or we would not have so many spies to read about, fictional or not. Our century has been a century of spies: Stories of espionage since the late 19th century have been told many times as entertainment, and as history as well. Scholarly books emerging now, such as Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America by Haynes and Klehr, and The Crown Jewels: The British Secrets at the Heart of the KGB Archives by West and Tsarev (both from Yale University Press), have taken the study of espionage to a new level. Gordon Thomas's new book on the secret history of one of the most paradoxically famous and secret espionage organizations is not a scholarly book, but it is based on research and interviews. Perhaps the most striking implication of Mr. Thomas's work is that, like Soviet espionage, Israeli espionage in America has been aided and abetted by Americans. The complex senses of embarrassment with which Mr. Thomas's book must be read also include a struggle to distinguish between the story he has told and the way he has told it.

Mr. Thomas has a way of regressing to a vulgar pseudo-fictionalized method to recount episodes and dramatize tales—a...

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