In a world where recognition is rarely given and then only privately, it was a great joy to see a public celebration of this man’s 28 years of service, all while surrounded by family, close friends and colleagues. For most of his family, it was their first time visiting CIA headquarters.

Tertia Optio Part 2

Tertia Optio Part 2
But why limit yourself to just a PMOO position? I can think of a number of other jobs I’d rather have within the Agency, right off the top of my head. The last 16 years haven’t seen PMOOs working too many other places (at least on PM tours) than war zones or conflict zones. I know it happens, but why further restrict an already small target?

Tertia Optio Part 1

Tertia Optio Part 1
The first time I ever heard about SAD or PMOO’s was because of the tragic death of SAD PMOO Mike Spann on 25 November 2001. The idea that the Agency had sent officers into Afghanistan before the Department of Defense was a revelation to me personally. I just hadn’t ever thought about it before.

First Try! - Directorate of Science and Technology Part 1

First Try! - Directorate of Science and Technology Part 1
I didn’t give much thought to positions within the CIA when I applied and went through recruiting. The vast majority of books on the Agency only cover broad history, operations or are memoirs by former Case Officers. That’s a pretty minute picture of a large agency. With the exception of Anthony Mendez’s memoir, “Master of Disguise” and the more recent “Spycraft" by Robert Wallace and H. Keith Melton (I’m leaving out “The Wizards of Langley” because I haven’t read it yet) there are very few works related to the officers I like to think of as the real “James Bond’s”, the Technical Operations Officers of the DST.

Risk Avoidance Is The Name Of The Game

At events like the Manchester attack, we tend to think we are safe. The arena has security, no weapons are allowed, it’s a fun crowd out for a fun evening. Attackers know these thing too and they tend to look for the weak points in security. In this case, the attacker choose a transitional space, a natural funnel between a primary exit from the arena, and the nearest public transport, the Manchester train station. He knew traffic flow from the concert would be heavy and concentrated. He knew the only likely security in the transitional space would be CCTV cameras (great for post mortem, not so hot for prevention). And he knew that by the nature of the transitional space, no one would think twice about someone loitering (waiting on friends? A train?) carrying luggage (it’s a train station entrance after all).

Crossing the Rubicon

One of the questions I am most often is asked about the Agency is, “How’d you get in?” Whether from a reader of espionage novels who assumes a grey beard from some good old boys club tapped me on the shoulder or a college student aspiring to become a “spy”, they all bring their own preconceived notions about the process. And what I have learned is that at least for case officers of my generation, everyone’s “origin story” as a spy is unique.

Doubling Down On Irony

I cringed as I read through Morrell’s opinion piece, wishing he had stayed neutral in his political leanings, as he stated he did during his career. Not because I disagree with a lot of his points...

30 December 2009

I was speaking with a former colleague recently about writing a piece about her remembrances of the 30 December 2009 Camp Chapman suicide bombing that we have covered here on Inglorious Amateurs before when she surprised me with something that I had not expected. 

She commented that her biggest memory of the event was being bewildered at how shaken up her fellow officers were back at Hqs, even weeks after the bombing. Her particular feeling being it was terrible, but we had already lost so many in conflicts and it was time to pull it together and move on, instead of feel sorry for yourself.

On the surface this might seem insensitive and harsh, especially towards the memories of those lost, but it was an important reminder for me in particular. I have been extremely lucky in my service to have not had to attend lots of memorial services for fallen colleagues. Its entirely likely I am in the minority here though. And though its important to always remember those who gave all to our country, its equally important not to get bogged down in that and drive forward. So I write this here this morning in memorial to my lost colleagues from 30 December 2009, to remember their sacrifice but also to remind myself there is still work to do and its my responsibility to do it, looking forward, not back.

What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

* Recently I was fortunate enough to have a few hours to kill in NoVa, so I stopped by Arlington National Cemetery. Regrettably I missed Darren LaBonte's grave, but did my own tour of the Agency officers I know of buried there. I've included the shots of Elizabeth Hanson and Jennifer Matthews here, as they relate. We are putting together a cleared tour of former Agency officer's graves at Arlington that will be coming in a future post.

Asset Termination

To the non-practitioners of our line of work, particularly those who like to read the more salacious authors of the genre, termination of an asset carries a particularly nefarious connotation. It is assumed to mean the actual killing and/or some other means of disposing of an asset. We all know that this is one of those instances where a word is just a word, nothing more.

Journalistic Discretion

Journalistic Discretion
I’m all about information. With a career in the investigations and intelligence world that should not come as a surprise to anyone reading articles on Inglorious Amateurs. One caveat is that I really dislike ambiguity, hedging, conjecture and embellishing with my information.  Simple enough, right?

All Filler No Killer

In his new book Baer draws from his own decades old stack of notes on 3x5 cards (his own case file, as it were) to tease out a narrative around the life and “works” of Imad Mughniyeh aka Hajj Radwan. Mughniyeh was a mysterious member of Hezbollah and agent of the Iranian government. That description isn’t really explaining enough about him, but needless to say he is believed to the driving force behind the many Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad Organization bombings and kidnappings carried out from the 1980s until his death by car bomb in Damascus, Syria in 2008.

A Memorial

33 lives lost, for a civilian agency is quite significant. I know I’ve read plenty of news stories about a risk adverse Agency culture. Its either that or they are gung ho cowboys. When I was in I remember having an easier time letting those jabs glance off than I do now that I have the luxury of actually getting upset and trying to respond to them. After all, I was usually reading them in the internal news and could only comment to friends via SameTime.