Books: Octopus the Second Oldest Profession

by Phillip Knightley Norton; 436 pages; $19.95

Journalist Phillip Knightley prefers his legends lightly tarnished. An earlier book, The First Casualty: From the Crimea to Vietnam: The War Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist, and Myth Maker, removed the romantic luster from combat journalism. The Second Oldest Profession: Spies and Spying in the Twentieth Century is a pickling look at the romantic past and bureaucratic present of the flourishing espionage business.

Understandably rough figures are offered in evidence. The U.S. and the U.S.S.R. each spend more than $7.5 billion on intelligence services. The British tally is given at $900 million. The number of people directly or marginally employed in spooking...

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