tv The Spy Who Couldnt Spell CSPAN December 26, 2016 2:00pm-3:01pm EST
give us the back story of how you and it up >> i'd love to talk about that. so i actually came across this case of brian reagan who in the book is the spy who couldn't spell. i came across the case back in 2009, on a lark gone to the fbi lab in quantico to interview a crypt analyst and i wanted to hear about his last story, his name was dan olson. and he told me about a variety of cases and most of them involve codes that prison gangs use to communicate with each other and then right at the end of his little 10 minute talk to me, he described this case. and he said you know, i worked on solving some of the code that this five brian regan had used and i thought
surely this is an old case, old at least by newspaper standards . the condition had occurred in 2003 and i thought surely people have written about this but when i dug deeper, i saw that it hadn't been covered at all and the reason was that brian regan was arrested two weeks before 9/11 and he was convicted one month after the us invaded iraq so it was almost this story was kind of book ended bythese two major events . and it was sort of lowhanging fruit for me to go after . >> to rewind a little bit, your interest in going to this cryptology us, do you have a background in science writing so you were comfortable solving into it. as you get to the cryptology section, i think everyone except that hard-core cryptology us are going to
say, let me get a cup of coffee, this is serious. can you talk about what was your interest in cryptology before that? were you working on something? >> i didn't really have a specific interest in cryptology. i'm a science writer, i worked at science magazine for many years and when i went to the fbi lab, i was working on science. i was interested in codes. i was interested in this idea of hiding things from others. i've always been fascinated by characters who do that and i guess the making and breaking of codes involves hiding and encryption. oh that was my sort of general interest i wasn't kind of mathematically drawn to codes or anything like that but once i delved deeper into the brian regan story, i started learning more about codes.
i started learning more about the history of codes . what's interesting about brian regan 's even though he went through a couple cryptology courses, during his military training, he wasn't really a cryptology us in the formal sense and so he came up with these codes himself kind of invented them , i guess invented is a strong word but he used some very unconventional techniques to come up with these codes and that's partly why they proved so difficult to break. >> let's talk a little bit about brian regan himself. he is the sort of spy who couldn't spell. give us a thumbnail sketch of who brian regan is and how he found himself in this predicament brian regan was a an employee of the air force, joined the air force in 1980. he had grown up with severe dyslexia and as a result, he didn't do very well at school. he was also mocked by his peers, by his friends in the neighborhood not just because
of his dyslexia but because of certain corks in his personality which you can read all about in the book. he did pretty well for himself, even though he actually hadto cheat on the test, the military test to get into the air force . he did well enough to be absorbed into air force intelligence as a signals analyst . he did pretty well for 10 to 12 years. he served admirably during the post-gulf war in 1991, he was at the pentagon doing signals analysis to help the armed forces and then in 1995 he came to the national reconnaissance office which is this agency that manages all of the military spy satellites that the us government has but these are multibillion-dollar satellites.
they've taken years and years to develop, there's been decades of r and d behind them and the images these satellites gather and the signals intelligence that the satellites collect are what gives the united states such great military superiority in the world. so starting in 1997, because brian reagan was facing hardships in his financial life he was under severe credit card debt, his wife wasn't happy because of how much he was making. he had a large family, he had four kids and he was, he was frustrated. he was also frustrated because of the lack of respect at the workplace, even though he was a fairly decent worker. but again, just like it had happened in childhood, he kept getting lost. he kept getting ridiculed by
some of his colleagues. so sometime in 1998, he came up with a plan that he was going to steal american secrets and he was going to try to market them overseas to hostile governments. and so he came up with the espionage plan in 1998, september 18, 1999 and he went through a meticulous process of collecting these secrets which actually collecting them by itself wasn't that hard. that's something that we can talk about later about the vulnerability of the secrets that he had access to, much in the same way that snowden and manning or had access to them but to make a long story short, he tried, he actually succeeded in stealing the secrets. he succeeded in hiding them in these two state parks outside of dc and pascoe
valley state park and pocahontas state park and he came up with this ingenious method of burying them and then encrypting the geo coordinates of all these locations so what he had in the end of his theft was simply sheets of, sheets filled with letters and numbers that wouldn't mean anything to anybody else but where essentially thekeys to the kingdom . >> so if you haven't already bought the book, in the case of that on amazon there are books for sale that he will be signing after this but it's just a phenomenal story and i think one of the things you do well is you get this sense of what motivated him, oftentimes people are always looking for motivation and oftentimes it comes down to money and money was i think a factor here but it was this sort of proving himself not to be adult, that that was the sort of impression that
he was trying to pencil himself out. there was was this one scene where he visits his high school and you can see these worlds colliding like all that was phenomenal in getting into the psychology. you referenced snowden and manning, both of them played a kind of system admin role where they were not necessarily privy, they only had a right to know secrets and a right to access those secrets as a result of their technical expertise, not as a result of their espionage faculty, is that correct? >> that's right and i would say if you were to compare brian regan to these two individuals, brian regan had a curious, he knew the value of signal intelligence very specifically because he had helped to collect it, he had a to analyze it . at the nro, his job, part of his job involved maintaining
webpages for his particular group and so he had certain privileges, i don't know exactly what they were but it was quite familiar with how all of this information that was stored on the servers had to be used by the military in war and peace. and i think that that gave him, that made him dangerous area given his intent, it made him dangerous because he had both access, he had knowledge and he knew the value of these things and he knew which governments might value which kind of information so to read the book, you will find that he went through a process of sorting all the classified material that he had stolen in order to create separate packages, some of them containing the same information, create separate packages for the governance of libya and iraq and in fact ran to. >> and the nro wrote back,
this was one of the things that was interesting, we associate even as sort of a pre-snowden era, the nsa and secrets, we associate the cia with the spookiest of the spooky's and the nro and the nsa, that intelligence is oftentimes far more valuable. right? could you talk about that as sort of the nro in the spy agency that no one's heard of that is actually as of. >> that's a great question and i spent some time in the book sort of describing what the nro is, why it's important so the nro until 1992, the american public didn't know that the nro existed because it was just this little office within the air force completely classified, even his
existence was not known and there were people who work in intelligence agencies like the fbi who had no idea what the nro was. in 1992, it was declassified so it's existence became known area and so that's when the public starts to get a slight glimpse of what this multibillion-dollar agency did. since the 19, since the late 50s, this is the agency that sort of first came up with all the technology to photograph and collect signal intelligence from space and this is, through the 60s there were several movements made, the american public didn't know anything about it . in the 70s, 80s and that's when people started to get wind of it . so in short, the nro collected two types of intelligence mainly.
one is photographic intelligence. these images, high-resolution images of military installations, of weapons depots, there's a picture of qaddafi. >> yes, that's actually right and it turned out that particular image was not taken by the nro, it was taken by another middle eastern spy agency but in the book, you will find why that is relevant and it's a nice point but yes, the incredible amount of detail in photographs were able to show as the nro improved its capabilities have been instrumental in winning wars. and in fact the work that brian regan did during the first gulf war and he wasn't the only one ofcourse , those were sort of critical to so easily overpowering the iraqi forces when rack had invaded
kuwait. >> and the imagery that, these special operators and seals had in the raid on the bin laden compound as well. >> yes, in fact one of the individuals that was involved in collecting the intelligence that led to the bin laden raids which either way, has written a terrific piece on for the new yorker a few years ago, one of the individuals connected to that intelligence was called to testify, the brian reagan trial and i tried very hard to interview him but the agency didn't make that person available just because they knew that i might also startnosing around and asking about bin laden . >> so okay, we've got some sort of talked about at a macro level with the nro was
doing and what the us public did itself. let's do more micro-. brian regan is accumulating all this information and collecting information in his house and stashing it in the woods. his family does have suspicions, doesn't have suspicions but talk a little bit about that. how he managed to keep that secret from his colleagues and family and then eventually how he was outed. >> so brian regan was a recruit, he was closed off. he didn't really have friends at the nro. he didn't have many friends in his neighborhood and as his wife told me many years later when i was working on the book, that he's not somebody that i even knew you and so the layers of deception that he was able to deploy are as fascinating as the quote that he created. in the book i described him
as being a code that i sought to unravel through my recording. he stashed the materials first at the nro itself in one of his cabinets and there's a scene in the book where he goes off on travel duty and the nro office managers come and they are removing excess furniture and they take away hiscabinet . then they unlock it and they discover all thesepapers in it . and they say oh, it probably belongs to the sky and whenhe returns, they call him and say hey , it was actually a credenza, they say there's all this stuff you have. you need it? and he says yes, sure, please. and they send it back to him. so some of the security lapses are simply laughable and certainly should concern
us but aside from that, he did a good job himself of keeping it a secret. when he brought it home and he was sorting it, is wife and kids were away and so he was able to sort it in his basement and soon after that, he took it out, he first sorted the public storage facility while he was kind of putting this together so there were multiple steps for how he stored this information and of course snowden didn't have to do any of this, not that snowden was a traitor in this sense. it's debatable what he did was entirely good or bad but he did take information that he wasn't supposed to take and so far as that goes, snowden didn't have to go through the trouble of printing stuff out and putting it in a credenza and putting it in tupperware
containers and burying it in the middle of the forest as brian reganhad to do . >> so he sorted these files. he then sends a letter to the libyan embassy. >> that's right. so he goes through great pains to first create a letter that's entirely coded and then creates a sheet and he sends out a letter that's really in sort of three parts. it has a code sheet, it has the instructions for how to resolve the code and then there's this letter which is entirely coded. and so all of this is his way of trying to remain anonymous because he's really paranoid about being found out as anybody would be. so he sends these two the libyan embassy and he addresses the letter to
saddam hussein, sorry, to qaddafi, he has a separate letter that goes to saddam hussein and one of these, actually all of these letters get intercepted by the fbi and by a source they had in the libyan embassy. i've never actually figured out, i never got much clarity on that and justifiably so because the fbi needs to protect its sources and methods and that's how the spy hunter began and it took several months for the fbi to figure out who had sent those letters. [inaudible] sorry. talk about the craft of your own investigation and reporting and writing. how much did you sort of struggle with wanting to uncover all the sources and
methods to deal with and see exactly how they did it and also respecting the fact that the fbi has sources and methods ? your own personal journalistic ambitions, how did they contradict professional ambitions of the fbi in their own sort of credential sources ? >> well, i knew this was an important part of the story but i knew that that was just sort of the beginning of the story. and i was happy enough to let that lie, really because after all i needed all these agents to talk to me for the next two years, telling me how they cracked the case and if i had gotten hung up on how they got the tip and just insisted on finding that out, well, this book wouldn't be here. so i didn't think that it was germane to the story. however, when i saw in the prosecution phase the lengths
to which the government had to go to build the case without bringing in the informant, i knew how important it was to keep the informant behind the scenes and later on when i discussed it with counterintelligence agents , i learned that there could be tremendous risk to this individual. he could have immediately been killed by the qaddafi regime for having the trade, or essentially done what brian regan was seeking to do to this country there's this concept of gray mail in the us public prosecution where in cases of counterintelligence cases and they are bringing the evidence all the time, the prosecution will say this guy is a criminal but we can't tell you how we got what we got in a secure conversation. was there an attempt by regan
to gray mail the government into compromise? in fact, that's exactly what brian regan did. brian regan knew that the government would not be able to bring in his informant to testify. he didn't know exactly who had tipped off the fbi but he knew that even if the fbi resented these letters, these anonymous letters in court, they would have a hard time showing that these letters were actually sent to an embassy and so he attempted to blackmail the government by saying look, i'm not giving anything up. and i think that i deserve less than nine years in prison for what i've done. and only if you give me that short sentence, relatively speaking will i help you to dig up the secrets that i
have buried and so this was highly unusual and this was i think, this was probably the worst, this was the worst judgment call that brian could have made and that's what fascinated me. and i wanted to dig deeper into his life to understand what kind of childhood and adolescence and youth he had had that would lead him to think in this way, that he could outsmart and outmaneuver the government after being caught with his pants down. >> so he tried to outmaneuver the government in the legal phase . the chase itself, the letter comes in. you have this fantastic fbi agent, your protagonist. talk about howthey build the case against mister regan . >> so the first phase of the investigation was just
identifying who this person was and so they cast a wide net. they had the nsa, they looked up the cia and the and counterintelligence people within the cia said this is going to be our guy. he has all this bad spelling in these letters because we have much more elite people serve in our agency. >> riddled with spelling errors would be an accurate way to put it . >> so this is in fact, as a side note, this is what fascinated me about regan because he would be so meticulous. he would be so smart and then he would do one thing that would be so dumb that would completely you know, that would be the end of his plot and this happens repeatedly through the story i discovered but back to the chase, the fbi started to do audits of these servers to
see who had access to certain things and what brian regan had done was as a sample of the intelligence hewas going to sell , he had printed out several documents from intelligence which is the classified internet of the intelligence community and it included 23 or 24 pages basically, about 19 documents. in this package he had mailed and so that was the clue that the fbi was trying to connect to whoever the mailer of the package was so to make a long story short, eventually the fbi found one particular document that had been printed out on july 9 of 1999 and they were able to narrow down a number of people who
had access to that document onthat particular day . and that's when brian regan's name sort of came to the forefront. they also had other clues. they were looking for a bad speller and when they looked into brianregan files , the letter that he had written, his email communication, they could tell that he was probably their guy. but the intelligence investigations are incredibly complex . if they are pulled up in court, there's a whole lot of evidence because all the defense has to do is inject reasonable doubt and so they went to a long process of first confirming that he indeed had done it and there are moments in the story for example when he is seen going into a library in maryland where fbi agents are watching
him and he's doing these searches for the addresses of libyan embassies and iraqi embassies in europe and once again as a side note, he goes through incredible effort to cover his tracks and then he leaves the browser open when he walks off from the terminal. if he had just refreshed it, they would not have been able to see what he had been looking at. so that's just an example of brian regan, why brian regan came to be known as mister 80 percent by the fbi agents because they would see that he was brilliant 80 percent of the way and then suddenly he would make a left turn to stupidity. so once they knew that he was their guy, they still needed evidence that he was doing something because they didn't know what he had stolen even
at that point area they were simply starting to see that he had done all these searches on intel link so they ultimately, they brought him back to the nro contractor which was a risky move and they rigged up cameras and in his cubicles so they can watch his every move, his every keystroke and finally when he was about to leave the country, the market this information to this information to the embassies overseas, that's when they finally caught him. >> so he never successfully passed off any of that intelligence that he was attempting to sell? did the fact that he had obtained them, in effect that they had been accessed and they were no longer in the confines of intel, did that jeopardize all the sources and methods that were used to gather all that information do you know?
>> i guess you are asking whether there was a skill outstanding even though he had been able to sell the information. >> i guess the person who took the photograph of cut off these yacht, when they know that he had that photograph in his possession, does that mean that that person who took the photograph is potentially, is no longer usable because he's somehow compromised even if not in a significant way? >> yes, i will briefly use that question. since that photograph was taken by another intel agency, one of our allies in the middle east, there wasn't any particular risk standing just from that photograph but all the materials that he had stolen and he had very would have compromised billions of dollars worth if they had
been found and keep in mind that even after he was arrested, he wasn't giving up anything. he wasn't pleading guilty. he wasn't saying here's what i did, here's how i get it and i swear i haven't actually given any of this to anyone so the fbi thought he may have given some of it off, there might be, he may have already communicated with hostile intelligence, giving them some of these locations where he may have buried stuff but they didn't even know he had buried stuff . that was not evident from the evidence they had collected. they just knew hehad made stops and parks, he had this habit of going into the forest. they were trying to piece all this together. so that's the interesting part about the case. while there was no damage done , potential of damage was so great that the fbi had no choice but to dig up each of these packages which they didn't know existed at that point. all they knew was that he had printed stuff out because in his letter to the libyans he
had said i have printed out 800 pages of documents, it turned out he had printed 20,000 pages of documents. so it was critical even after his arrest to find what he had done and then to recover whatever he had stolen and that process took about nine years. >> so let's open it up for questions if no one else has any but i would imagine there has to be some and we can make a conversation, does anybody want to raise your hand and do we have microphones we are going to pass out anyone, questions? front . >> my name is stephen showalter, do you think deep down he wanted to get caught? >> i don't think he wanted to get caught. i think he wanted to be able to say to himself ha ha, i outsmarted them all. so it was sort of an internal
need for validation. of course, he was afterthe money because he was in bad debt . but i think that because of the ridicule that he had suffered through his life, he just had his personality of trying to prove that he was, that he had an ace up his sleeve that nobody else knew about. and that is what led him to make those bad decisions after he was arrested frankly , because if he had simply confessed at that point, he wouldn't be spending the rest of his life in prison . >> at the back? >> thanks. dan revere with cbs news. a fascinating story. as far as the cryptology goes, was it especially challenging because these codes were meant only to be understood by himself, not shared with any agency or any allies of his.
>> but yes, he came up with certain weird ways of encrypting these coordinates and that certainly because it was personal in nature, that made it harder for the fbi to crack it. do you -- >> that theory he may have had contact of some sort, where does your reporting thinking you leaving? >> i don't think he actually was able to make contact. there's a scene in the book where sometime in june of 2001,
this is about two months before he got arrested, he did actually fly to europe and he did go to the libyan embassy and he went in and he, he said, can i speak to your security officer? and he was trying to tell them that he had information that he wanted to sell. but because of his bumbling ways and because of the way he came across, he immediately came across as a provocation, that he was just a dangle. in the intelligence world, you know, agencies do this all the time. intelligence agencies will send one of their own to pretend to be a spy into, you know, another consulate or to knock on the doors of another intelligence service and so, he got booted out of this. and i think this is partly because of his personality. if he had sort of -- he didn't
know, he thought he knew all about spying but he actually didn't and that's true for everything he did. he thought he knew he was smarter than everybody else thought but he was not as smart as he thought he was. and so, he ended up, you know, he ended up making mistakes like that. if he had indeed studied spy craft he might have found a way to first make contact with somebody at the embassy to introduce himself bit by bit. if you read some of these other successful spy stories, well, success being, being a loaded term, but cases where traitors were successful in selling information, you will see that you know, they didn't go to great lengths to hide the information in the way that he did but they went to great lengths to establish relationship with, you know,
whatever intelligence service they were going to work for. >> life lesson, don't be arrogant. sir, go ahead. >> understanding that that we, given we don't know all the particulars of the martin case that came up and seems like his intent was rather different than he brian reagan's, can you comment how whether this case happened so many years before the harold martin case sort of the physical security aspects, why did the nsa let harold martin take home so many documents physically? >> it stumps me as much as it stumps you. i recently wrote in an op ed for "the new york times" precisely asking that question.
the brian reagan case offers so many lessons about both digital security as well as classified security secrets, before his case happened before 9/11 it got lost. even so many in the intelligence community haven't heard about the brian reagan case. so many things that needed to be learned how to protect secrets in the digital age were never taken seriously, they weren't applied until several years later. now the arms race continues between insider threats planning to do something like this, be it for espionage purposes or for other, you know, more supposedly noble purposes.
there's just, i have lost my train of thought but, there's -- >> harold martin. >> yes, right. >> left the physical security -- >> right, right. so i have no idea how harold martin was able to take thumb drives and cd-roms and what not containing classified information and store it in his garage for years. i mean, maybe he started taking them back in 2003, who knows. >> yeah. no one else has questions, really? is that possible? go ahead. >> thank you. i'm interested in your process of collecting the information. your bio doesn't seem like you're super connected into the cia, the nsa and all that, so how hard was it for you to sort of get all the different folks to talk? >> it was, it wasn't that hard to get the lead case agents, steve carr, to talk. you know, i first came across
the story like i was telling nick earlier, back in 2009 when i had gone to interview dan olson, the crip to gift who worked on case. i ended up writing a piece for "wired" magazine about the cryptology part. after i had done that i became friend with the lead agent, steve carr and, and as we talked, i could sort of gather that there was more to the story. that there was a lot more that could be told. at the time i didn't know what that was. i just had a vague notion but i kept pursuing it. ultimately i was able to get, you know, some cooperation from the fbi because, unlike most espionage cases this one had gone to trial. so there was quite a bit of information already in the public domain because of that.
but then, once i started to sort of going through witness testimonies and you know, nick can tell you all about this process, this investigative process. i started finding people who knew bits and pieces, you know, some of them had retired. there were others who were willing to talk, just because i knew steve and they knew i had done a good job on the "wired" article, it took years and years to actually get everything together. what was more difficult to find enough information about brian reagan's childhood because believe it or not, when somebody gets branded as a spy, nobody wants to claim that they ever knew him. i mean it's worse than being a pedophile, really. because it's so deeply stigmatized that, anybody who's been accused of treason, you
don't want to touch that person with a 10-foot pole. so it took me a great deal of effort to track down friends of brian reagan from childhood, so i could slowly bit by bit, piece together the story of his dysfunctional growing up years. , and bring that to bear on some of the decisions that he made. >> your access, your attempts to get in touch with reagan itself, talk about a little bit. >> reagan, for five years i fought a battle with the department of justice and nro, a few other agencies trying to communicate with brian. brian reagan is one of maybe 50 to 100 federal prisoners who are under known what is called special administrative measures. these are special terms of incarceration that prevent people like reagan and the boston bomber, for instance, from being able to communicate
freely with the outside world. and. so i never got the permission. the ostensible reason being that reagan was this unpredictable character. he might divulge something in his interviews with me just to get back at the government and to further harm national security. it has been more than 10 years. it actually has been 13 years he has been in prison. so, i was, i was not able to speak to him. i was able to collect a lot of information from a psychiatrist the defense team employed to speak with him. i was able to dig up some notes that a government psychiatrist had made interviewing brian reagan before the trial began to
assess if he was in a sound mental condition. these notes were not covered by any privacy rules. so i as was able to connect a lot of dots, speaking with friends, notes from the psychiatrist which was basically a transcript of an interview the psychiatrist had done with brian reagan. most importantly the nro and the fbi debriefed brian reagan 25 or 30 sessions after all the secrets had been dug up. they went over with him precisely what he had done and why he had done it and when he had done it. and i benefited from the agents who were in the room when those conversations were taking place.
i wasn't able to get the recordings of these sessions. they exist. >> anyone knows how to obtain those, you send them to udigit. will you be able to send book to him? >> i would like to be able to send a book. you know, i've tried sending him letters but they keep getting intercepted and, you know, also i couldn't try anything funny like asking one of his family members to send a letter because, you know, then they would stop his contact with family members. at some point i have to draw the line. >> thought about a code? >> it would have been, it would have been interesting, especially if i had misspelled his name. he would have very easily misspelled mine i'm sure. the so. >> other questions? yes, sir? >> has there been any congressional oversight over
these happens? i'm sorry, has there been any congressional oversight over this case and the security laps laps -- lapses and security lapses after the arrest? >> yes, while the case was going on during the investigation there were briefings done on the hill in closed room sessions and i'm sure that such briefings are pretty routine from security lapses. i don't know, you know, what changes have been made as a result. i know the nro made several changes and improved its digital security. so not to knock on them. they ultimately were able to salvage the situation by cooperating with the fbi, and ultimately no damage was done. and, i think that's the weird thing about this case, that even though he got away with stealing the information, he ultimately wasn't able to pass it on to a
foreign service and so from a broad counterintelligence perspective, it seems like, oh, no harm, no foul. let's brush this under the carpet and forget about it. but actually, you know, manning and snowden and now harold martin, i don't know if he, i think the justice department is talking about charging him, charging martin with espionage. all of these -- this is not a threat that has gone away, you know. this has, we're just seeing one example where the person was caught and no real damage was done. but, there must be at least a few out there and it's the job of the fbi and other agencies to weed them out. >> other questions? all right, i will ask one i was curious about. what, in the years of reporting
and access to documents and the conversations with the all the players what surprised you most? what was the conversation that you left, wow, that just shined a light on an aspect of either espionage or counterintelligence that you had not anticipated? >> it was more about human character. that you know, i was really surprised when i learned that brian reagan, just as he was about to bury these packages out in pocahontas, he actually sorted all of the information one last time and he discovered some documents that he thought were very, very sensitive, and he decided that they were so sensitive, that he was not going to sell them. and so he tried to flush them down the toilet of his motel room and, of course that didn't work.
and so, he sort of picked all of that up out of the toilet and put it in the bathtub and then tried to mulch it. and he just let the water run and he tried to stomp on it and tried to sort of destroy these documents. he wasn't able to do that. he ultimately just, wrapped it all up and threw it into a dumpster. and so i was, i found it very strange that somebody who had embarked on what was at clear plan to commit espionage, somebody who didn't give a damn about the quon sequences, he was obviously concerned about the consequences for himself but didn't give a damn about the consequences for the country, that he had this stirring of conscience. that made me think about the complication of brian's character.
from all the reporting i did after i learned of this incident, i discovered that brian reagan was a really, you know, he was a troubled human being. he had difficulties growing up. he had overcome a lot of challenges to have the career that he had and yet his quest for respect, you know, just kept getting stymied. you know, he would get to 80% and then something would happen and he would find himself back at square one and this just happened over and over with him. and so i never thought, when i started this project that i would have sympathy for a guy who decided to commit espionage especially when i was hearing the story told by people like steve carr and you know, all the people who hunted him down and brought him to justice but as i learned more about his
childhood, and his, and his dysfunctional life, i, i felt very sorry for him and i didn't expect to feel sorry. that was i guess the biggest surprise to me. >> come for the cos and stay for the character development. we'll all read the book. when will we get to watch the movie? >> well, coming to a theater soon. i don't know. there's, you know, i think it's a real interesting story. i think it is ripe for movie treatment because at the heart of the book is a really complicated character, a really fun chase, and the story doesn't end with brian reagan getting caught. it actually goes on because there's a cat-and-mouse game that continues even after brian reagan is in prison. i think it would make a great movie. >> thank you all so much for
coming. thanks for the awesome book. thanks for having us. >> thank you, appreciate it. [applause] thank you all, i really appreciate it. thanks for the questions. >> as 2016 comes to a close, many publications and media organizations are offering their picks for best books of the year. here are some of the titles that national public radio has selected. thomas recalls the life of america's first foreign-born first laid, luisa catherine adams. in the glass universe, david
sobel about the woman who acted as human computers at harvard college observatory in mid 19th century and their impact on astronomical discoveries. a look at the enslavement of native americans, in the other slavery. npr notable books of 2016 continues with rebecca traster, writer at large for "new york" magazine details contributions ever unmarried women in american history in, all the single ladies. in born the crime, trevor noah remembers his childhood in apartheid era south africa. >> i was born at a time in south africa, due to the laws of apartheid my parents weren't allowed to be in any shape or form in contact with one another. you know, i grew up during a time when we were governed by the laws of interracial
relationships were forbidden. mixing of races was forbidden. essentially, i mean, being born from my parents, white swiss man, and a black woman from south africa. i was essentially born a crime, you know. the very exist continues of me was something that was against the law. what my parents had done was breaking the law and, because of that, our lives were impacted in a way we could live as a family under those laws of apartheid. >> that is a look at some of this year's notable books according to national public radio. booktv has covered many of these authors. you can watch the full programs on our website, booktv.org. >> so 1953 there is an up rising in east germany. workers protest living and working conditions and demonstrate for basic human rights and for reform and freedom.
but the red army moves in with tanks and crushes the rebellion. hundreds are killed. tens of thousands are arrested for their role in participating. some 100 organizers are executed. and along with around 20 soviet soldiers who were executed for refusing to shoot demonstrators. and now the sigh credit police tells -- secret police, tells the police to do whatever is necessary to make sure an uprising never happens again. so about 1960 some 3 million, around 1/6 of the population has fled and the regime decides that the time has come to do something to stop the hemorrhaging of its labor force, if they don't want to see their country collapse all together. while the border between east and west germany is secured in berlin due to interconnected nature of the city people are still able to escape into west berlin. by now there are rumors that the
regime plans to some day build a structure, perhaps a wall, to permanently separate west berlin from the east. thus cutting off the last hope of escape. and so by the early 1960s, 2,000 east germans a day are fleeing into west berlin. the east german leader tries to quell the surge of escapes by going on airways and saying, this is a quote, no one has any intention of building a wall. but one month later that is exactly what he does. what starts as a bausched wired and brick wall, eventually become as 12-foot high, three feet thick high wall with rounded top to prevent grasping. wire mesh, elect call fencing is installed, tripwires, searchlights and death strip, a 100-yard gauntlet of carefully raked sand which makes it easy
to spot the footprints of escapees. the wall stretches over 100 miles, completely encircling berlin and seals the country. one year later in 1962, to my grand parents, especially my opas great disappointment, his youngest son, my uncle kai, is ordered to be a border guard to serve at the berlin wall. between the building of the wall in 1961 and the fall of the wall in 1989, almost 150 people would be shot trying to escape. some 1,000 others killed while trying to cross the border elsewhere or drowning in the baltic sea or berlin's river. the berlin wall was clearly built to keep the people in but the east german leadership tells its people, the wall is built to keep subversives out. subversives from the west out. but the families in the east knows it.
although some east germans might be fooled, millions of others know exactly why the wall was built. so by now oma, my grandmother has built a wall of her own. even gives it a name, the family wall. so i just like to read another excerpt from the book. the safe haven that she had begun to create the day the soviets stepped foot in to shelter the family from the suffocation of the regime now had a name. she declared the family wall a sanctuary, a refuge where the family would preserve their souls by keeping the good in and the bad out. the children followed oma's lead and the concept took hold. inside of the family wall the children let down their guard. as the fabric of east german society began to fray under the yoke of an orwellian climate of repression, families wondered whether they could trust their
spouses parents or siblings, oma demanded family trust and loyalty. behind closed doors, insisted that they foster the idea of the family wall if they were to have any chance against a regime out to crush the spirit of its people. so the cold war rages on. the space race takes off. the nuclear arms race continues, with both the soviet union and the u.s. building their nuclear arsenals. major world tensions pit communism and democracy against one another. president kennedy and soviet leader khrushchev go head-to-head in various conflicts. khruschchev essentially saying to the west, we wilbury you. after the wall is built, east germany's reputation after the wall plummets. it launch as sports program, the likes of never been seen in the
history, in history at all. suddenly the tiny country of east germany is producing extraordinary athletes. the country's reputation goes up for a while. the world stopping to watch every time an east german shatters a record at worldcomticss, and at the olympics. but then it is discovered that east germany is doping its top athletes. back in home, opa continues to speak up against the regime, chalks up more black marks. essentially pays the price for his bell ridge rans, he is denounced, marginalized from the society, kicked out of the communist party, banished to a remote area in east germany, even sent for a time to an insane asylum where he has to undergo reeducation training. the family makes its way in the system. most of the children grow up to be teachers. they live their lives by following the rules, following
the laws in trying to preserve their self-dignity and trying to live a life of meaning in this restricted environment. heidi, the little sister grows up. she and her husband both do not join the communist party. they suffer consequences especially professionally. but they also create a sort of little secret hideaway, sort of a magical place with a flower garden that becomes kind of a refuge where they can escape emotionally from the stresses of society. paradise bungalow what they call it, becomes a tiny oasis of freedom and life energy. i have won't ruin that story for you. you have to read that one. >> watch this and other programs online at booktv.org. [applause] >> thank you. thank you. well, welcome to the 33rd
miami book fair. [applause] some of us have been involved from the beginning. many some of us gray beards realize we've been doing this more than half our lives which is pretty astonishing when i think about it. what an affair we have for you this year. we have everyone from james car develop to dane that perino to, we're doing a program this year call read caribbean. we have programs in spanish. we have wonderful new part of the fair called the porch, which is right that way. and as you know, after tonight, we have every evening we have authors coming in leading to the street fair which happens on friday where we have over 500 authors coming, programs in spanish and english and creole and there is literally something for everyone. we hyo