The dank mists of the Cold War swirled back in June 2010 as the U.S. Justice Department announced it had arrested 11 members of an alleged Russian spy ring. Unlike information thieves of the great espionage novels, though, this group appears to have lived comically pedestrian lives—as suburban parents, college professors, and business entrepreneurs like Anna Chapman, pictured here. Prosecutors still have not pointed to any classified information uncovered by the so-called spies that they couldn’t already Google. One commentator even called it the “lamest espionage conspiracy … ever.”
Still, it got NEWSWEEK all nostalgic for the glory days of the CIA and KGB, when every covert rendezvous in a faraway capital might be blown up by an exploding cigar. Even then, some of the cleverest, sneakiest, and strangest operations were undone—by small mistakes, good counterintelligence, or dumb luck. To put the current caper in context, here are some of our favorite real-life episodes of espionage (the ones we know about, anyway).