The CIA’s First Atomic Spy
   and His Secret Expedition to Lhasa
   Grove Press
   Hardcover, 1st edition May 2002
   364 pages ISBN: 0802117147
   US$ 26

   Paperback: 384 pages
   Publisher: Grove Press; March 2003
   ISBN: 080213999X
   US$ 15

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Into Tibet: The CIA's First Atomic Spy and His Secret Expedition to Lhasa




"A gripping tale…”
By James Rupert, Washington Post
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" Into Tibet brings alive the remarkable adventure of two American Heinrich Harrers and an event the CIA would still, more than 50 years later, like to keep quiet.."
Bruce Barcott, Outside Magazine

"A fascinating, groundbreaking work on a controversial subject about
which few readers will be familiar. Packed with vital new
information and insights, Into Tibet fills a blank space in the
hidden history of the Cold War."
By Chris Patsilelis, Houston Chronicle
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“Laird has gone to great lengths to penetrate the walls of secrecy the CIA constructed to hide the identity and the activities of Douglas Mackiernan, the first of its agents to be killed on duty.”
by Lucian W. Pye, Foreign Affairs
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"A scrupulously documented account of Cold War intrigue. . . . [Provides] a detailed view into the CIA's shadowy world and the havoc it wreaks on individual lives. . . . A grippingly good narrative."
By Luis H. Francia, Village Voice
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"One spring day in 1950, an American was shot and beheaded while attempting to reach Tibet from far northwestern China. He was Douglas Mackiernan, the first CIA agent killed in the line of duty. Mackiernan had been spying in China. Ironically, it was Tibetans who killed him. Details of his murder were kept secret for fifty years. Uranium, secret codes, the sticky fingers of Madame and Chiang Kai-Shek -- it's all in Thomas Laird's Into Tibet (Grove, $26). Laird, an American who has lived in Nepal "on the fault line between two worlds" for thirty years, wrote part of this Cold War page-turner in Albany."
BY ANNELI RUFUS, East Bay Express
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"presents his story as a spy novel, complete with reconstructed dialog, bureaucratic infighting, cinematic pacing, and crackling action. Much of the information is reconstructed from interviews and archival research and is hard to authenticate; still, the overall story of this incredible expedition and its political consequences rings true."
Library Journal, By Hayford,

The author's long-term residence in Nepal provides "a significant qualification for his wide-ranging and startling look into the activities of the agent behind the unnamed First Star on the CIA's Wall of Honor." This "[p]rodigiously researched" work provides "a thoroughly fascinating and informative read."
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It took six years of what he calls "unbelievably persistent" journalism, but Thomas Laird finally got his story…. As a storyteller, Laird..is at his best in his descriptions of the seemingly endless crossing of Tibet, a place where he feels so at home:
"They rode across a yellow plain, yellow with the short fuzz of dead grass. They rode toward a line of twenty-thousand foot mountains in front of them. No tree, no shrub, nothing interrupted the flat yellow plain of dead grass except the mountains. They rode through a vast tawny valley, across the plain between ranges of mountains until they came to the next line of mountains -- the journey itself was cold, windy, interminable, and mundane."
Laird also deftly re-creates the high altitude drama of the fatal meeting between Mackiernan's expedition team and the Tibetan border guards ordered to shoot unwelcome foreign invaders. Told twice, from different points of view, this charged and tragic incident parallels the larger and equally tragic saga of U.S.-Tibet relations.
By Whitney Stewart
Contributing writer, The Times-Picayune
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"…Into Tibet" stands as the definitive account of a shadowy series of events that read like an early spy thriller. Unfortunately, the repercussions of those events have cost countless lives and continue to reverberate today in China's control of Tibet. Today, traditional Tibetan culture is being obliterated and Tibetans are becoming a minority in their own country as Chinese settlers arrive in huge numbers.”
by Rick Sullivan, The Grand Rapids Press
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“Unwittingly the guards had killed the first CIA officer to die in the field. His name was Douglas Mackiernan and he was anxiously awaited by the Tibetan government for his anticipated help in organizing resistance against the impending Communist Chinese invasion. The only things the guards could send to Lhasa were the two live prisoners and the heads of Mackiernan and the two other men they'd shot. They had severed the heads and stuffed them in saddle bags as prizes leaving the corpses to Tibet's vultures. How Mackiernan came to meet this grisly fate is the subject of a fascinating new book by Nepal-based reporter and photographer Thomas Laird on the CIA's involvement at the onset of the Cold War in China's far northwest.”
By Max Woodworth, Taipei Times
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The Gambit, New Orleans
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"Laird does an exemplary job of investigating, reporting, and shaping the
events and personalities that compose the tragic story."
—Bob Shacochis, author of The Immaculate Invasion

"Laird has pieced together another unheralded saga of the Cold War. . . .
Laird's account is more than just an exposé of the early CIA. He provides
insights into the CIA's early effort to maintain an independent Tibet. . . .
Laird [also] provides enough action to satisfy most readers interested in
the Cold War."–C. C. Lovett, CHOICE Magazine

"An intriguing account of a tragic adventure."
–Kathleen Hipson, The Tampa Tribune

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