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My brother-in-law the spy

SHELBURNE - My brother-in-law Bob Wallace used to be a very secretive guy. Not anymore. In the last few months, he's been interviewed on CNN and "Good Morning America," and he's guested on countless radio shows. He's also featured in at least three YouTube.com videos. I keep waiting for him to appear on "The Colbert Report."

Why the initial secrecy? Bob worked for the CIA for over three decades, including nearly four years as the director of the CIA's Office of Technical Service. While there, he kept a low profile, and we family members were careful not to "out" him. We didn't want sinister foreign forces focusing on Bob, and we sure didn't want some zealous Patrick-Fitzgerald-type zeroing in on us.

So why is Bob hogging the spotlight now? A few months ago, he (and two other authors) published a book about the CIA, and he's been publicizing the book every which way he can.

The book is "Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA's Spytechs from Communism to Al-Queda". It chronicles the CIA's development of high-tech gadgetry for spying purposes.

"James Bond is all about assassination and seduction," Bob says. "Real agents are about communication and information. To be found out is to fail."

A wrist-watch camera. An inflatable plane. Paper that dissolves in water. A freeze-dried rat (doused in Tabasco sauce to deter hungry cats) with a message concealment cavity. They're all vividly described in Bob's book, and you can even see him demonstrate some of the gadgets on YouTube.

The CIA, not the most transparent of agencies, resisted the publication of Bob's book. Only after a personal request to the CIA's Associate Deputy Director was approval finally received-nearly two years after the original manuscript had been submitted for review.

In this year celebrating the centennial anniversary of Ian Fleming's birth (see last week's Times Sentinel about James Bond's foray into Vermont), check out Bob's book as a possible holiday gift for yourself or someone else. You can get more information about the book at www.ciaspycraft.com.

Which reminds me-I still have to figure out what to get for Bob. Maybe a BlackBerry that will fit into the heel of his shoe? Or a pen that he can use to videotape us at family gatherings? Knowing Bob-sigh-he probably already has both.

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