This week we welcome Benjamin Cunningham to the show. Cunningham wrote the recently released book The Liar: How a Double Agent in the CIA Became the Cold War's Last Honest Man a book that the publisher calls “the Cold War meets Mad Men in the form of Karel Koecher, a double agent whose shifting loyalties and over-the-top hedonism reverberated from New York to Moscow.”
It’s a wild story of swapping secrets, wife swapping and spy swaps.
We talk about the Prague Spring, declassified documents, and interviewing difficult subjects. All that and more in this episode with Spybrary host Jeff Quest.
So what is The Liar: How a Double Agent in the CIA Became the Cold War's Last Honest Man about?
The Cold War meets Mad Men in the form of Karel Koecher, a double agent whose shifting loyalties and over-the-top hedonism reverberated from New York to Moscow
In the mid-1970s, the CIA and KGB watched Karel Koecher closely—they were both convinced he was working for the enemy. And they were both right. Traveling with his wife, Hana, Koecher posed as a Czechoslovak asylum seeker and arrived in the US as a Communist sleeper agent. After parlaying a doctorate from Columbia into a job at the CIA, Koecher proceeded to operate as a double agent at the height of the Cold War.
Shunning a low profile, the Koechers embraced Manhattan’s high life—with cocaine, swinging, and parties emblematic of the times and their penchant for risk. Hana, who was no more than a shy teenager when she arrived, grew into a sophisticated international diamond dealer who relayed messages to Karel’s handlers. Riding a wave of euphoria, the Koechers felt unstoppable. But it was too good to last.
Using newly declassified documents, interrogation tapes, and extraordinary firsthand accounts from the Koechers themselves, Cunningham reconstructs their double lives and the fading Cold War, where a strange moral fog made it hard to know what truth was being fought for, and to what end.
Books and Resources Mentioned on this Episode of the Spybrary Spy Podcast
Benjamin Cunningham’s website – https://www.bcunningham.org
Benjamin Cunningham’s Twitter – https://twitter.com/cunning_tweets
Trailer for The Liar – https://youtu.be/H-Um1o1lCgk
Where to buy The Liar – https://www.publicaffairsbooks.com/titles/benjamin-cunningham/the-liar/9781541700819/
Jeff’s Website – https://spywrite.com/