THE SPY WHO COULDN'T SPELL : A DYSLEXIC TRAITOR, AN UNBREAKABLE CODE, AND THE FBI'S HUNT FOR AMERICA'S STOLEN SECRETS
by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee
Could someone be a dyslexic cryptologist? Sounds like an oxymoron. Except that being dyslexic means poor spelling and a cryptologist uses numbers to formulate codes. So, it is entirely possible even though it sounds impossible. There was somebody, though, who fit this characterization and he ended up being the first American in history to attempt espionage.
Brian Patrick Regan was always socially awkward. In school he was taunted by classmates and bullied, plus his teachers didn't think much of him either. He was terrible at spelling and was not so good at reading.
After high school, Regan enlisted in the Air Force. He was determined to make something of himself. Regan had to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test and, incredibly, was among the high scorers. He actually qualified for doing intelligence. Regan learned how to use Morse code and how to interpret and analyze signals. Being dyslexic was almost a plus for analysis because thinking in pictures, not words was a huge advantage. Regan did well and moved up the ranks. In 1995 he got a job with the National Reconnaissance Office and four years later thoughts of doing espionage began to fester in his brain.
The Spy Who Couldn't Spell is not your traditional story about famous spies like Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames, but it comes close. Brian Regan really believed that he would not get caught as he imagined that he was better than the other spies who were. He was cunning and thought that finally people would stop underestimating him and no longer consider him to be stupid. Fortunately for us, but unfortunately for him, Regan was sloppy. The dyslexia that helped him to be brilliant with codes was a major part of his downfall in being a successful spy.
If you're a numbers person and are interested in figuring out codes, you'll definitely want to read this book. It's well-written and not what you would expect a spy to be like.