Malcolm Gladwell writes in this week’s magazine about Kim Philby, a member of the British Secret Intelligence Service who spied for the Soviets for many years before and during the Cold War. On this week’s Out Loud podcast, Nicholas Thompson, the editor of newyorker.com, talks to Gladwell about Philby and other spies whose careers, Gladwell argues, call into question the value of intelligence gathered via espionage. Gladwell says, “There are many people, myself included, who are somewhere between hostile and agnostic on the notion of how crucial those kinds of secrets are. There is an enormous amount of back-and-forth over the period of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West on spies coming forward with information and secrets being sold and betrayed, and it’s really, really hard to come to any understanding of what the implication of those acts of treachery were.”
Gladwell and Thompson also discuss the political repercussions of relying on espionage, and the tension between trust and suspicion, which is crucial to spy operations, but can play out in almost any area of life. You can subscribe to the Out Loud podcast on iTunes. Click here for the latest episodes of all New Yorker podcasts.