First Try! - Directorate of Science and Technology Part 2

First Try! - Directorate of Science and Technology Part 2

The amazing thing about DST is that it’s full of some of the smartest and most creative nerds you could imagine. At the same time, there are officers throughout its history that have touched every major event the Agency has been involved in since its inception.

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

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

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.

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.

Veterans Day

Since we cannot identify our current Veterans serving the IC, here are some of those we remember today, from a recent trip to Arlington National Cemetery.


The next time you are near our nation's capitol and can stop in, stop by and spend some time walking Arlington National Cemetery. Its quite a place to take in. 

Thank you all for your service.

Asset Termination

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.

All Filler No Killer

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.

Action: Your support needed for...

Action: Your support needed for...

The Congressional Gold Medal is one of the two highest civilian awards in the United States. It is awarded through an Act of Congress to individuals “who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement”. The first of these medals was awarded to then General George Washington in 1776 by the Continental Congress.

Camp Chapman Anniversary

Camp Chapman Anniversary

An ongoing goal here at the Inglorious Amateurs will always be to honor the memory of those who have given their lives in the performance of their duties serving the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This month, we remember and honor the 7 Americans who were killed at Camp Chapman 5 years ago on December 30th:

Jennifer Lynne Matthews, CIA Officer

Scott Michael Roberson, CIA Officer

Darren LaBonte, CIA Officer

Elizabeth Hanson, CIA Officer

Harold Brown, CIA Officer

Dane Clark Paresi, CIA security contractor

Jeremy Wise, CIA security contractor

A Memorial

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.

Vexing Vetting

Vexing Vetting

I think most within the CIA would be the first to point out that executing any Covert Action program that includes the arming and training of a foreign fighting force is a sketchy endeavor. Its also at the core of what the Agency was enacted to do, and takes its queues from its predecessor, in the OSS arming and training of resistance fighters during WWII. In short, this is not a new problem.

A Definite Review

A Definite Review

In order to effectively assess the causes of a tragedy like Benghazi, one needs to have deep domain expertise in both Military and Intelligence Community Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), relationships, decision processes, and/or be a skilled investigative reporter with access to real sources in those arenas. To approach this from any other angle is to do a disservice to those who died, and those who had to make tough decisions on the spot. To my understanding, while the authors have experience in the SOF community, it is very apparent that their interaction with the IC at significant levels is lacking.