Cassidy's Run is the riveting story of one of the best-kept secrets of the Cold War-an espionage operation mounted by Washington against the Soviet Union that ran for twenty-three years. At the highest levels of the government, its code name was Operation shocker.Lured by a double agent working for the United States, ten Russian spies, including a professor at the University of Minnesota, his wife, and a classic "sleeper" spy in New York City, were sent by Moscow to penetrate America's secrets. Two FBI agents were killed, and secret formulas were passed to the Russians in a dangerous ploy that could have spurred Moscow to create the world's most powerful nerve gas.
This is a remarkable true-life espionage thriller. For 21 years, beginning in 1959, plainspoken, modest U.S. Army Sgt. Joseph Cassidy successfully pretended to be a money-grubbing traitor to his country. In the eyes of his Soviet handlers, he was a mole planted deep inside the U.S. defense establishment. In fact, he was passing along secret nerve-gas formulas and military data--some of it genuine, some fake--to the Russians with the aim of sidetracking their chemical warfare program. Cassidy, now retired, was the star player in Operation Shocker, a top-secret FBI/Defense Department project that cost the lives of two FBI agents, flushed out 10 Communist spies and revealed the lengths to which Soviet intelligence would go to penetrate America's defenses. Wise (The Spy Who Got Away) takes readers deep inside the U.S. nerve-gas program, founded on theashes of the Third Reich when U.S. Army intelligence obtained from ex-Nazi scientists the formulas for lethal agents like sarin. Wise also interviewed Vil Mirzayanov, a senior chemist who worked for three decades in the Soviet nerve-gas program, and who was arrested in 1992 for telling the world that the U.S.S.R. had developed Novichok, a nerve gas capable of killing millions of people instantly. Although both the U.S. and Russia have pledged to dispose of their chemical weapons, Wise reports that the Russians still possess Novichok. His taut narrative is full of bizarre twists and James Bond echoes--coded Soviet messages on microdots left inside hollow artificial rocks; a Russian sleeper agent in the Bronx, awaiting the signal for nuclear Armageddon; Cassidy's marriage to an ex-nun who conceals her past from him (and vice versa). To say this book would make a terrific movie in no way diminishes its value as an investigative scoop. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 1999
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Excerpt from Cassidy's Run by David Wise
"LIKE A POLE THROUGH MY GUT"
The Cessna 172 seaplane had run into a sudden, dangerous summer storm. Flying low above the lake country in northern Minnesota, the light craft, with the pilot and one passenger aboard, was being buffeted by strong winds and torrential rain.
The pilot called the tower in Hibbing. He said he had to make an emergency landing. In the brief, terse conversation, he indicated he would try to set the plane down in Sturgeon Lake, northwest of Chisholm. But at the last moment, tossed about in the howling wind and rain, the pilot apparently changed his mind and attempted to land in Dewey Lake, which was much smaller but nearer to his position. The Cessna approached the north end of the lake, close to the shoreline. It was 5PM, Thursday, August 25, 1977.
Certain officials of the United States government were keenly aware of the flight and its secret purpose. The two men aboard were not vacationers looking for a fishing camp, nor were they businessmen returning home. The pilot, Trenwith S. Basford, and his younger passenger, Mark A. Kirkland, were both special agents of the FBI.
Only two weeks earlier, Mark Kirkland had turned thirty-three. His wife, Julie, decided to throw a surprise birthday party.