Surveillance and Sideview Mirrors

Surveillance and Sideview Mirrors

As a c/o, if you head out on your SDR and detect you have surveillance, you are not likely to make your original meeting, but instead, will change your plans. What you hope you don’t do is let surveillance know that you have detected them, thereby betraying that you are surveillance aware, and thus a likely intelligence officer. You want to lull them into a sense of complacency.

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? 

The CIA’s Intelligence Art Collection Part 2

The CIA’s Intelligence Art Collection Part 2

The Operational Collection includes intelligence-themed paintings and sculptures that record the experiences of intelligence officers in both peace and wartime. The Agency uses these artworks to strengthen and communicate its identity and corporate culture, providing a link for incoming officers to connect to the history of the organization.

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.

The CIA’s Intelligence Art Collection Part 1

The CIA’s Intelligence Art Collection Part 1

Art at the Agency wasn’t really anything I thought about when I wandered its hallways. For the record, like most Ops Officers, I tried to avoid Headquarters (HQS) as much as possible. But that wasn’t always possible. Additionally, I was 23 years old, and too excited about working for the CIA to pay any attention to art.

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.