A New York Times Espionage Bestseller

The Spy Who Couldn't Spell

The thrilling, true-life account of the FBI’s hunt for the ingenious traitor Brian Regan—known as the Spy Who Couldn’t Spell.

Before Edward Snowden’s infamous data breach, the largest theft of government secrets was committed by an ingenious traitor whose intricate espionage scheme and complex system of coded messages were made even more baffling by his dyslexia. His name is Brian Regan, but he came to be known as The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell.

In December of 2000, FBI Special Agent Steven Carr of the bureau’s Washington, D.C., office received a package from FBI New York: a series of coded letters from an anonymous sender to the Libyan consulate, offering to sell classified United States intelligence. The offer, and the threat, were all too real. A self-proclaimed CIA analyst with top secret clearance had information about U.S. reconnaissance satellites, air defense systems, weapons depots, munitions factories, and underground bunkers throughout the Middle East.

Rooting out the traitor would not be easy, but certain clues suggested a government agent with a military background, a family, and a dire need for money. Leading a diligent team of investigators and code breakers, Carr spent years hunting down a dangerous spy and his cache of stolen secrets.

In this fast-paced true-life spy thriller, Yudhijit Bhattacharjee reveals how the FBI unraveled Regan’s strange web of codes to build a case against a man who nearly collapsed America’s military security.

Buy on Amazon


“An excellent, highly engrossing account of the search for a man who was cunning, avaricious—and a dreadful speller…. It is a pleasure to be in the hands of a writer who so skillfully weaves his assiduous research into polished prose…. The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell presents an estimable, thoroughly enjoyable overview of espionage in the digital age.”

The Wall Street Journal

“A gripping tale and a powerful case for spell check.”


“What distinguishes this real-world chronicle from similar others…is the author’s humane perspective…Recommended for spycraft buffs and general enthusiasts of U.S. intelligence operations and psychosocial factors behind espionage.”

Library Journal (starred review)

“Like the FX show The Americans in a contemporary setting, or a John le Carré novel, The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell is the dramatic nonfiction story of the pursuit, capture and conviction of United States spy Brian Patrick Regan. . . . Alongside news of WikiLeaks, Snowden disclosures, the Panama Papers, The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell is as real as it gets. Cryptography, hard drive scrubbing, server spoor tracking, old-school surveillance tails and wiretaps, psychological profiling and high-definition courtroom drama: Bhattacharjee tells a story that would make a kickass movie.”


“Yudhijit Bhattacharjee has brought to light an intriguing tale of espionage and betrayal—a tale filled with twists and turns and powerful revelations.”

David Grann, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

“Brian Regan was an all too human spy, a trailblazer in the digital age—a mole who managed to squirrel away thousands of classified documents—and a brilliant, dyslexic cryptologist who was caught in part because he couldn’t spell. Yudhijit Bhattacharjee has penetrated the FBI and other parts of the intelligence community to write this fantastic true story—a captivating, gracefully-written narrative that is destined to become a classic in the history of code-breaking.

Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize-winning Author of The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames.

The cat-and-mouse espionage tale at the heart of The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell is so strange and so riveting that you can’t help but marvel at every turn. Enriched by years of painstaking reporting and a keen eye for detail, Yudhijit Bhattacharjee’s true-life page turner explores not only the complexities of modern spycraft, but also the ways in which humans can lose their moral bearings. This is a book to be savored as an expertly crafted thriller, and pondered as a nuanced meditation on the banality of evil.”

Brendan I. Koerner, Author of The Skies Belong to Us and Now the Hell Will Start