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The Spy Within: Larry Chin and China's Penetration of the CIA [Hardcover]

Tod Hoffman


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Book Description

Sept. 9 2008
The Spy Within is the riveting true story of one of the most significant cases in the history of espionage, the longest-running penetration of an intelligence organization ever discovered.
In October 1982, the FBI received notice from the CIA that was as cryptic as it was chilling: China was running a spy inside US intelligence. The CIA did not know, however, his identity, the agency he worked for, how long he had spent inside America’s secret community, or what information he was passing to China. Over the next three years, investigators labored frantically to identify the mole, to discover the secrets he had betrayed and the agents he had endangered, and to collect the evidence that would see him prosecuted for his crimes.
The FBI’s expansive investigation ultimately revealed that for more than thirty years – years encompassing such pivotal events as the Korean War, the Cultural Revolution, the Vietnam War, and President Richard Nixon’s groundbreaking visit to Beijing – Larry Chin, the CIA’s own top Chinese linguist, had been China’s top spy. Chin’s reports were circulated to China’s senior leadership, read by the likes of Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and Deng Xiaoping. The methods employed by the intelligence services of China’s Communist regime – methods still very much in use today even as the two nations have evolved from Cold War enemies to economic rivals – have never before been so clearly and compellingly revealed to a general audience.
Tod Hoffman conducted exclusive interviews with key players in the affair, gained access to previously unreleased documents, and applied his own practical expertise as a spy-catcher to spin a captivating cat-and-mouse tale that is sure to become regarded as a classic of intelligence literature.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Steerforth (Sept. 9 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586421484
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586421489
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.8 x 2.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 558 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #677,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Suspenseful cloak-and-dagger reenectmentment of the FBI sting that exposed a Chinese-American double agent in 1985.... Hoffman possesses a solid command of his material and conveys the secretive nature of espionage agencies with a novelist's panache."
Kirkus Reviews

"Hoffman is a skilled writer and definitely succeeds in producing a page-turner. It is written much like a screenplay, with a lot of attention paid to describing characters, their thoughts, and their surroundings. He lets you live inside the mind of a Chinese spy, an American traitor, or a stressed and sleep-deprived FBI agent. Hoffman allows you to experience the isolation, the fear, the adrenaline, the disappointment, and the huge responsibility weighing on the shoulders of all of his characters. This book was born to be made into a great spy thriller movie."
The McGill Daily

About the Author

Tod Hoffman is the author of three previous books, including Le Carre's Landscape and Homicide: Life on the Screen. An eight-year veteran of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Hoffman served for a period on the Counter-Intelligence: China desk. He attended the Institut d’etudes politiques de Paris and earned a master’s degree in political science from McGill University.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Spy Within Oct. 7 2008
By Cynthia Welsh - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I debated about whether to give this book a 4 star for the information and subject matter and a 3 star for the book's organization and writing. The author is inconsistent when he shifts from a non-fiction factual style to a novelistic style of writing. The author certainly has good credentials for writing this book. He has worked in the intelligence field. I hoped that his being Canadian would give a outside party point of view as to why this deep penetration of our CIA went on for so long.
I particularly appreciated the author's addition of information to set the historical background of the Chinese Civil War, Korean War, Cultural Revolution, and Nixon's visit to China. I felt he was weak in explaining China's role in the Vietnam War and Sino-Soviet relations during the Cold War. The author seems to jump to conclusions about reliance on Mr. Chin's spy activities by Chinese top leaders. I especially saw this lacking during the explanation of Chin's role during the Korean War.
Although I find the information about spycraft and the recruitment of spys fascinating, I particularly wanted to find out what motivated Chin to be a spy in the first place. The author, Tod Hoffman, does a good job in the comparison and contrast of Oriental and Western European motivations and values. At the beginning of the book Hoffman briefly describes Chin's ultimate vulnerability, his children. But, there is probably not even a paragraph's worth of information about them for the rest of the book. I am fascinated with someone like Chin who does not seem to be very ideologically motivated and who has been exposed to advantages of living in the USA and yet continues to spy on behalf of the PRC. He is a much more complex person than seen in this book or he is a person who only craves money and recognition.
The book ends with an extensive bibliography and endnotes. In particular, I referred to the endnotes numerous times while reading to find out the source of matters claimed to be fact. The conspiracy allegations in the final chapter left me curious for more information. I tried to locate a copy of Mrs. Chin's book: Death of My Husband, but I was unable to locate it through either my local library or Amazon.com or even the Library of Congress. I am rather curious about this book since Mrs. Chin alleges in the Abatement court documents that she did not speak/read/write English very well and was dependent upon her husband.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Spy Within: Larry Chin and China's Penetration of the CIA Oct. 13 2009
By OldRoses - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I was still a student when China was in the throes of the Cultural Revolution. I distinctly remember my Social Studies teacher talking about the Bamboo Curtain. He very dramatically announced that no one knew what was really going on in China. He showed grainy photos taken illicitly during the Great Leap Forward in the 50's and smuggled out of the countryside that showed backyard ore smelters. For many years afterward, that's what I pictured in my mind any time the subject of China came up either in print or in conversation.

I was on the edge of my seat when Nixon visited China. Finally, we would be able to peer behind the Bamboo Curtain and see what was going on. The backdrop to the visit was the Cold War and Nixon's policy of triangulation. The Soviets and their spies were an ever-present danger. The likelihood that China might also be spying on us didn't appear to me to be a viable possibility. The Chinese were too different. Their culture and values were alien to the West. Their people didn't even look like us. They would seemingly not be able to blend in like Russian agents.

Little did I suspect that it was that dissimilarity in culture and language that made us vulnerable. Who better than a native speaker to translate documents and broadcasts coming out of the PRC? The story of Larry Wu-Tai Chin, born and educated in China who became a translator for the State Department in 1948 and later for the CIA, all the while spying for China until he retired in 1981, is told in this volume.

This is a compelling story that is not done justice by the author, Tod Hoffman. The book's biggest flaw is its choppy narrative flow. What could have been written like a thriller is instead told from too many points of view with the author occasionally injecting himself into the narrative "imagining" scenes and dialogue where a source is missing. The story jumps around in time, going back and forth between the "now" of whichever source is being used as a viewpoint and the past. In between scenes from the FBI's investigation and subsequent interrogation of Larry Chin, we are treated to, among other things, a brief history of 20th century China, the author's vision of how an informant might be recruited and the tale of a French spy who was seduced by a Chinese man posing as a woman. All of which serves as a huge distraction from the unique story of a spy who managed to remain undiscovered for his entire active career.

Mr. Hoffman's writing is as inconsistent as his storyline. It veers from novelistic to scholarly to what appears to be his research notes merely cut and pasted into the text. He is also prone to slang ("being as...") which can be jarring in the midst of more scholarly prose.

Larry Chin's career spanned many decades. As the Freedom of Information Act brings more material to light, additional details of his activities will likely be discovered. It is my hope that in the future another, more able author will pen a new telling of this incredible tale and do it the justice that it deserves.
5.0 out of 5 stars I really enjoyed it as it shows the mind of the Chinese ... July 2 2014
By Wells - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed it as it shows the mind of the Chinese and their approach to things as opposed to ours and why many of our leaders just play it wrong with them. Also great background on Korea and Viet Nam wars and Russia's control.It'll open your eyes.

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