A former Washington Post reporter, he is the author of books about the Aldrich Ames and John Walker espionage cases. His book Circumstantial Evidence: Death, Life, and Justice in a Southern Town. won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Fact Crime Book in 1996. This book helped free an innocent man from the death row in Alabama. His book about John Walker spy ring, Family of Spies, was a New York Times bestseller and was made into a CBS miniseries starring Powers Boothe and Lesley Ann Warren. In 2007, he was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize for his book Crazy.
His most recent book, Comrade J, is about Russian SVR defectorSergei Tretyakov.