RALEIGH, N.C. -- One of the most remarkable spies in history never bothered to use an alias, even as he recruited a group of operatives that would become known as the Cambridge Five spy ring.
Arnold Deutsch spied for the Soviets in the 1930s while living in England next door to crime writer Agatha Christie. His storied career was recounted Thursday at the Raleigh Spy Conference, an annual gathering held at the North Carolina Museum of History.
Deutsch had amazing skills as a recruiter, said Nigel West, a British intelligence expert and frequent guest at the conference.
"What makes Deutsch so extraordinary is that because of his background as a psychologist, he didn't just pitch an individual" to join his spy ring, West said. "He wrote very long psychological profiles of the people he intended to approach.
"It was almost like a relationship between a psychiatrist and a patient."
The three-day conference attracts an eclectic mix of scholars, history buffs and retired FBI and Central Intelligence Agency officers who come to revisit the glory days.
Hal Hyde drove to Raleigh from his home in Columbus, Ohio. He worked for the CIA in Washington and Latin America in the 1960s.
"It's just kind of fun to get close to the old business," he said. "It's sort of like going back to alumni day."
The conference concludes Friday with one of the highest-profile speakers it has ever had: Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the only person who has headed both the National Security Agency (1999 to 2005) and the CIA (2006 to 2009).
His topic for the talk -- the operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden -- is expected to draw a big crowd, said conference founder Bernie Reeves, editor and publisher of Raleigh Metro Magazine.
Though he never served as a covert agent himself, Reeves said he developed an interest in the history of spying as the Cold War ended and reams of documents were declassified in both the former Soviet Union and the West.
"Thousands of pages are being declassified weekly, as compared to literally nothing after World War II," Reeves said. "It's helping us rewrite the history of the Cold War. This conference started on that basis."
The materials made public about Deutsch are a good example. They provided a wealth of information for West, a leading nonfiction author about espionage issues.
West traveled to the KGB archives in Moscow to sift through documents detailing Deutsch's work.
West has a theory for why people continue to be interested in espionage, even after the Cold War.
"The work is so dangerous," he said. "There is no protection. You know that people are putting their lives on the line, literally."
Former CIA officer Brian Kelley, known as the "wrong man" in the investigation of FBI traitor Robert Hanssen, also spoke Thursday at the Raleigh Spy Conference.
Kelley was one of the CIA's top spycatchers until he became a suspect in a case that eventually led to Hanssen, one of the most damaging moles in U.S. history. Kelley's career was ruined for a time. Then, he was exonerated.
Kelley didn't mention Hanssen in his talk. But when an audience member asked about the case during a Q-and-A period, Kelley responded by describing details of Hanssen's life in prison.
Hanssen is held in an isolation wing at a "super-maximum" security facility in Colorado, Kelley said. He is given a few reading materials, and he is allowed to call his wife once every three months. The furniture in his cell consists of a concrete desk and chair. Under such strict confinement, Hanssen hasn't been outside in at least 10 years.
"He is not a very happy camper," Kelley said.
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