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But there were Vatican successes as well. The KGB scoured schools in the Ukraine for young men who were schooled in spycraft, then steered into the priesthood. But within months, many were detected and dispatched home by Father Robert A. Graham, originally from San Francisco, a Jesuit counterintelligence expert who had learned his trade fighting Nazi infiltration of the Vatican.

In Poland, the communist services recruited an estimated 10 percent to 14 percent of the serving priests to spy on the church. Inquiries are ferreting out and humiliating these persons with regularity.

Mr. Koehler accepts contentions that ultimate responsibility for the attempted murder of Pope John Paul II lies with the Soviets, acting through Bulgarian surrogates. The myriad theories swirling around Europe — a cottage industry rivaling in scope the JFK assassination — are beyond the scope of a 500-word commentary.

Mr. Koehler, a former Army counterintelligence officer, reported for the Associated Press for 40 years, chiefly from Europe. A must-read that ranks with his earlier book on the Stasi.

Joseph Goulden is writing a book on Cold War intelligence. His e-mail is