The Washington Post
Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spyby Lindsay Moran
Call me naïve, but when I was a girl-watching James Bond and devouring Harriet the Spy-all I wanted was to grow up to be a spy. Unlike most kids, I didn't lose my secret-agent aspirations. So as a bright-eyed, idealistic college grad, I sent my resume to the CIA.
Getting in was a story in itself. I peed in more cups than you could imagine, and was nearly… See more details below
Call me naïve, but when I was a girl-watching James Bond and devouring Harriet the Spy-all I wanted was to grow up to be a spy. Unlike most kids, I didn't lose my secret-agent aspirations. So as a bright-eyed, idealistic college grad, I sent my resume to the CIA.
Getting in was a story in itself. I peed in more cups than you could imagine, and was nearly condemned as a sexual deviant by the staff psychologist. My roommates were getting freaked out by government investigators lurking around, asking questions about my past.
Finally, the CIA was training me to crash cars into barriers at 60 mph. Jump out of airplanes with cargo attached to my body. Survive interrogation, travel in alias, lose a tail. One thing they didn't teach us was how to date a guy while lying to him about what you do for a living. That I had to figure out for myself.
Then I was posted overseas. And that's when the real fun began.
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Blowing My CoverMY LIFE AS A CIA SPY
By Lindsay Moran
G. P. PUTNAM'S SONSCopyright © 2005 Lindsay Moran Kegley
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI am in a medical laboratory at the Central Intelligence Agency, waiting to pee in a cup. The sterility of the atmosphere here-everything is white-chills me to the bone. I am slightly humiliated by the prospect of a drug test, but I want this job badly enough that I'm willing to submit to it.
I've just finished another test in a soundproof chamber, raising my right hand every time I hear a shrill high-pitched sound, not unlike a dog whistle. One among the many things I must prove over the next few days is that I am not deaf. The sight and hearing exams provide me a surging sense of pride-perhaps, like one of the pioneer astronauts, I possess "The Right Stuff." The drug test, on the other hand, just makes me feel like a derelict.
"Why would you want to work for an organization that doesn't trust you from the get-go?" my boyfriend had asked me about the week of screening required in my quest to be hired by the CIA.
"Drug tests are normal for any number of jobs," I pointed out.
"Yeah, but a lie-detector test is not," he said, referring to the polygraph, which will follow in the coming days.
"Be sure to provide enough urine to reach the designated spot." A Nurse Ratchet look-alike with eyes the color of acorpse hands me a plastic cup whose side has been marked halfway up with a thick black slash.
I take the cup and head into the restroom. My eyes dart about the tiny chamber as I wonder if the mirror is made of two-way glass. If not, where is the hidden camera? I sit on the toilet, plastic cup in hand, and think about how I got here in the first place.
Five years earlier, I'd given the commencement speech at my college graduation. I had concluded my-in retrospect-sanctimonious talk by saying, "It is my hope that each of us will influence a particular community, and that we will do so not by shouldering the expectations of others but by remaining faithful, foremost, to ourselves."
The day after I made this speech, I sent my résumé to the Central Intelligence Agency. At the age of twenty-one, this was my personal act of faithfulness.
My father, who worked for the Defense Department his entire life, was certain the CIA would never take me. "You're not their type," he said. "They look for people who've been the president of the Young Republicans Club."
Maybe my father's doubt impelled me to approach the CIA in the first place. I was intent on proving him wrong. Aside from that, I'd always wanted to be a spy and felt as if I'd spent my entire life in training. In childhood, my favorite books, which I would read over and over again, starred Harriet the Spy. When I'd been naughty and was sent to my room as punishment, I used the opportunity to monitor the movements of our next-door neighbors, the McCormicks. I routinely communicated in secret code, using a flashlight, with my best friend, who lived two doors down. I was expert at rifling through drawers or ferreting around the attic to find the Christmas presents, which I would open in advance and then undetectably rewrap. I also seemed to have no problem lying, especially to my parents.
Once, when my father confronted my brother and me about who had defiled the living room walls with green crayon, and neither one of us would less up, he finally said, "Okay, Lindsay, I know it was you."
"Me?!" I wailed, injured by and indignant over his accusation. "How do you know it was me?!"
"First of all, your brother would not graffiti the walls," my father said. And then, with somewhat more gravity: "Second of all, your brother would not lie."
I couldn't really argue. I was naturally subversive, and always had been. During my teenage years, my albeit mild acts of sedition included skipping school, forging excuse notes, sneaking out of the house, and raiding my father's liquor cabinet. Throughout my liberal arts education-when I at least excelled academically and everybody was telling me that I should be a writer, or a lawyer, or go into politics-I always thought, What I really want to be ... is a spy.
My fascination with all things espionage was consummate. I devoured spy novels and CIA memoirs, and delighted in the occasional James Bond triple feature at the cheap movie theater in Boston. I wasn't naive enough to think that the life of a CIA agent was all Hollywood glamour, but I was pretty sure I'd be good at it.
Also, I harbored what I now realize was a delusion: that espionage was something of a family legacy, and therefore my destiny. While Dad always had maintained that he worked at "the lab," his inability to talk about top secret projects, coupled with his frequent travel and late-night comings and goings, had me convinced that he must be a spy. I used to go on business trips with him and keep an eye out for possible surveillants. Or I would pack my own luggage in a particular, persnickety way so that I could detect if someone had tampered with it. Even after I realized Dad was unlikely a covert operative-and that he probably was the naval architect he claimed to be-I remained equally suspicious about his dad, my grandfather.
Boompah had lived all over the world, supposedly as a U.S. Army engineer. It seemed coincidental, to say the least, that during each of his overseas postings, an unexpected coup toppled the government of the country where he was stationed. Boompah died before I got a chance to question him, but a part of me suspected I would find out the truth if only I could get inside the CIA. In doing so, I also would fulfill my cloak-and-dagger birthright.
I proved my father wrong early on. Within one month of sending off my résumé, I was invited, by way of a succinct letter, to an informational CIA meeting in Washington, D.C.
And so, at the tail end of a long, hot summer, I traveled by train from my postcollege home of Boston, joining a group of about twenty other slightly anxious-looking young men and women in a banquet room at a Holiday Inn. The CIA representatives who greeted us were somewhat disappointing: a dowdy, middle-aged woman with thick glasses and orthopedic shoes, and a paunchy, balding guy who had the aura of someone just completing a messy divorce.
They explained to us that the CIA had four primary components. In addition to Directorates for Science and Technology (DS&T) and Administration (DA), there were two others that the CIA particularly hoped would interest us: the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), composed of overt "information analysts," and the Directorate of Operations (DO). This last, the bald guy said, was "where the real work of the Agency gets done."
Within the DO, there are two main positions, he explained-reports officers, who take raw intelligence and prepare it for the DI analysts (primarily by making sure the source of the information is obscured), and case officers, the ones who gather the intelligence in the first place. "The case officers are the actual spies," he said.
There was no doubt in my mind when I left the meeting that day: If I was going to work for the CIA, I was going to be a case officer. The DI seemed like a confederacy of dweebs, and the reports officers sounded like glorified secretaries.
Like everyone else at the meeting, I left Washington with an application in hand-a fifteen-page document far more exhaustive than the Harvard application I had filled out four years before. I found a seat by myself on the train back to Boston, pulled my knees up to my chin, and began thumbing through it. In addition to essay questions and biographic queries about everyone in my family, it asked me to list all the places I had lived, and give a personal reference for each location. I thought about the room I'd rented in a Boston University frat house the summer after freshman year, and shuddered to think what anyone would say about me from those days.
It also asked about criminal activity and drug use. I knew a polygraph exam would be administered before I was hired, so I decided I would be honest about the fact that I'd used drugs. My father's words rang in my ears: "You've smoked pot. They'll never hire you."
Dad might have had a valid point, but I was no less determined to prove him wrong. As soon as I arrived home, I returned to my apartment, shared with two other postcollege friends, and hunkered down in the makeshift bedroom we'd created for me out of curtains and screens. Using a black ballpoint pen, I began to fill out the application. Eventually, one of my flatmates called through the curtain, "Are you okay? What are you up to in there?"
Recalling the bald guy's instructions not to tell anyone except immediate family members that I was applying to the CIA, I stashed the stack of papers under a pillow. "I'm fine!" I called back, sounding-I am sure-slightly panicked. "I have cramps. I'm just lying in bed."
About two hours later, I put the completed application in my desk drawer, intending to send it in the next day.
That night, I had a dream in which my family was reunited for a picnic in a grassy park, a place where Mom and Dad had taken us as children to hear Peter, Paul and Mary perform. In my dream, my deceased grandparents were there, sitting on a patchwork blanket spread out over the lawn. Even my mother and father, who in reality had been divorced for years, were laughing together as Mom assembled plates of fried chicken and potato salad. Everybody was got up in the kind of loose, hippie clothing we used to wear. My older brother was with some girl I didn't recognize, but who appeared to be his wife. I approached the group and went to give my grandmother a hug. She didn't acknowledge me, but rather turned away and sat stonily facing the opposite direction.
"Tell Memo it's me," I said to my father.
"Who are you?" he said.
"It's me!" I cried. "Lindsay!"
My mother laughed. "Lindsay?! We haven't seen her in years."
"You must have the wrong family." Boompah lit his pipe, then dismissively tossed the match over his shoulder.
When I woke, the dream, on the cusp of my decision to apply to the CIA, freaked me out. I couldn't help but interpret it as a sign that I was on a course I would later regret. Perhaps my family was right; maybe the CIA wasn't for me, at least not now. I was too young to embark on such a serious career-to embark on any career at all, for that matter. And so I never sent that application.
Instead, I moved to California, waitressed in a coffee bar, and worked as an assistant to a man who was writing a "Complete Guide to Cocktails." Later, I went to graduate school in New York. When New York had exhausted me, I took a job overseas-teaching English to exceptionally bright young students in Bulgaria, an unlikely and at that time dismal locale, but a country I would come to love and whose people would entrench themselves in my heart. After a year in Bulgaria, I came back to the States and-eventually-back to the CIA.
The Agency was like an itch that I had to scratch. In 1997, I was working as a writing teacher at a community college in San Francisco when that itch resurfaced. I had lived overseas and loved it. I missed Bulgaria terribly. Thinking of ways to return, the idea of the CIA resurfaced. Why not spend my future living abroad? I thought excitedly. Why not make a career out of learning foreign languages, experiencing exotic cultures, having adventures in far-off lands? Why not go through with it this time? Now I was older; now I felt ready.
The CIA also seemed to me a way to fulfill a sense of civic duty. The fact that my brother was serving our country in the U.S. Navy inspired me and provoked my own patriotic urges, but I knew I wasn't military material. Teaching-a profession of inarguably noble intent that I'd hoped would assuage my feelings of civic obligation-ultimately left me restless and bored. The CIA began to seem like the answer to me: a way to serve both the needs of my country and those of myself.
About the same time that I sent in an application to be a Fulbright Scholar back in Bulgaria, a decent if not surefire backup plan, I again sent my résumé to the CIA. I was twenty-six years old now, five years older than when I'd originally expressed interest. I wondered if the CIA had a record of me, and whether it would give me a second chance.
Again, the Agency responded quickly. Within a month, they had sent me another application, which I filled out and sent in. A few weeks later, someone called and, without introducing himself or saying whom he represented, informed me of an interview the following week at the Holiday Inn Fisherman's Wharf. He instructed me to make no inquiries at the reception desk and to take the stairs, "not the elevator," to Room 219 and knock twice. I briefly wondered if the caller might be one of the few people who knew I was applying to the CIA, my brother or my boyfriend, playing a prank.
But a few days later, I presented myself at the rather shabby-looking Holiday Inn, taking the stairs and knocking twice on the door of Room 219. I felt silly and was more than a little apprehensive that I would startle whatever tourists actually were staying in the room, the predictable punch line of this elaborate hoax.
But a man answered the door and, after darting his head out and looking up and down the hallway, quickly ushered me into Room 219. This man, who introduced himself as "Dave," seemed more auspicious than the previous CIA recruiters; at least he was young and fit. As Dave walked across the room to the small table by the closed blinds, I noticed he had a slight limp. I was pretty sure that he had been shot in the leg, performing some kind of supersleuth derring-do. Years later, Dave-who would end up being one of my instructors-confessed to me that he had sustained the injury in a softball game against some guys from the FBI.
As we began our conversation, Dave turned on the television-"sound masking," he explained-to an episode of Teletubbies. The singing, dancing, and hugging multicolored creatures were incongruous, not to mention distracting. I strained to focus as Dave spoke.
Dave said that he was a case officer and described some of the places he had served, all of which sounded exotic and exciting. He spoke several languages, had lived all over the world, and seemed slightly annoyed at spending a year Stateside, conducting interviews for new recruits.
Still, the interview went well, and at the end of it Dave said he thought I was a strong candidate to be a case officer. At his recommendation, I probably would be called to Washington for a week's worth of screening and further interviews.
I left the meeting giddy with excitement, even though my family and boyfriend were all dead set against my joining the Agency. My father remained convinced I would never be hired, owing to my liberal, lawless ways.
Excerpted from Blowing My Cover by Lindsay Moran Copyright © 2005 by Lindsay Moran Kegley. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Lindsay Moran is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today. From 1998 to 2003, she worked as a case officer for the CIA.
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300 pages of drivel...this woman obviously joined the CIA for all the wrong reasons, and casts blame on everyone but herself for her inevitable failure. Hmm...can't imagine why your boss would get upset by you leaving the country you're assigned to -- without telling anyone -- in order to meet your foreign boyfriend. Don't buy this book -- read something from someone who's actually accomplished something in their life.
The portions where the author focuses on her training are interesting for someone wondering what it would really be like to enter a career as a case officer in the CIA. Her experiences, doubts, successes, and failures are all covered. It is also insightful regarding the toll that the job must have on relationships with friends and family outside the agency. It is frustrating how much of the book is her own sophomoric angst about her love life, as every boyfriend is described and fretted over as much as anything job-related. The writing isn't even intersting in any 'wonkette' way, nor is much of it particularly important to the book. In style, the book is a bit over-written. For a Harvard and CIA trained person, she's careless with words and hyberbole (things are often neverending, countless, endless, etc.) and the book could have used a more heavy-handed editor. When describing downtrodden Macedonia, after a while you get the feeling she'd describe a bouquet of flowers as dingy, dull, and depressing. In the end, she comes off as more than just naive, she comes off as immature. She notes that taxpayers would be upset how much is being spent on dinners for her training, missing the larger picture that by quitting so quickly, she herself wasted every dime spent training her. She seems as if she's amazed she'll have to lie to people about being a CIA officer and manipulate her agents. As if she hadn't thought of that before. She seems too smart to buy into the rah-rah patriotism or ignore the moral ambiguity of the job, but not dedicated or strong enough to live with the sacrifice required for the job she chose. She ends the book quickly with some comments about 9/11 and Iraq (and more boytalk) but this - which could be the most important part of the book - is flat. As a low level functionary, she has little insight on 9/11 we all didn't share, other than feeling somewhat responsible for her employer's failure as an employee. She ends her chapter on learning of 9/11 with a pledge to put asside her misgivings and dedicate herself to her job. The next chapter begins (after several pages on swimming to prepare to see her boyfriend) with a statement that due to the agency's inaction, she was less motivated than ever. So much for the post-9/11 dedication. On Iraq, she has a few insider comments on the lack of evidence and drive to war. But, given her role, it is like an intern at a large company complaining about the corporate strategy. Interesting from an insider, but we've heard more and from bigger names. One is left to wonder whether - given her current career choice as a writer - some of her CIA time wasn't just fodder for her future, or whether in the end she's just taking advantage of the taxpayers again by now cashing in on the training she got for the job she left.
I would recommend this if you are interested in reading about the trials of an educated young woman searching for a career and a lovelife. Her depiction of the CIA training facility known as the 'farm' is told from an interesting point of view. However, it becomes very clear that this was someone who romanticized working in the intelligence community. It will appear to the reader that she could have served her country well by committing to the job she selected. Unfortunately, she elects to fulfill her own interests and leaves the agency to find happiness in married life and what I imagine she hopes will be a career in writing. Ordinarily, this would be acceptabe for a young woman in a similar position but the original career she specifically picked is one of self-sacrifice. This she knew well before deciding to seek employment with the CIA. I think she deluded herself into thinking she would be part of some hollywood spyworld even though she knew the truth going in. I find her story disappointing because, our intelligence community has significant difficulty in recruiting good qualified people to join the ranks with the idea that they will enjoy long careers in the service to their country. Ms. Moran does not hesitate to point out the government waste within the agency and its operations but fails to acknowledge how much time, effort and money was invested in her. She and those individuals like her are the fortunate few who have become the most valuable tool we have to combat our modern enemies. Her loss is much more sizable than simply the loss of a young recruit.
Lindsay Moran grew up wanting to be Harriet the Spy; unlike most former little girls, she made it, becoming a CIA case officer in 1998 and spending several years with the Agency until she just couldn't take it anymore. Blowing My Cover is the story of that journey. Moran's voice is breezy and informal, and the recounting of her misadventures sounds much like "Stephanie Plum Goes to Quantico". She takes us through her induction, testing and training (which comes off as the adventure camp from hell) into her overseas postings in the Balkans, giving us a full dose of the bureaucracy and absurdity as well as a few moments of genuine suspense. She paints quick but vivid portraits of both fellow CIA members and some of the oddballs she either suborned or worked with overseas. Like others who have written my-life-as-a-spy books, Moran finally left the Agency not because of the danger or often primitive living conditions in her near-Third-World assignments, but because of mundane office politics, the crazy rules and contradictions, and especially the difficulty of being an agent and conducting a normal human relationship. Her colleagues' lives -- as those of other CIA agents in other books of this sort -- are littered with broken marriages, abandoned children, alcoholism and wrecked health. She got out before the work ruined her, and you'll be glad she did. It's a side of spying we never see in movies or read about in the more breathless thrillers. This ultimately is the greatest strength of Blowing My Cover; it's an enjoyable, engaging look into the rough reality of one of the world's oldest and most misunderstood professions.
The book was a complete waste of time and money and completely contradicts the book cover. After reading the book, I knew more about her bodily functions than the agency. Her complete lack of interest in her job, her attitude towards the agency and more focus on her personal life than the training and recruitment process makes this a personal memoir of 'me, me and more me'. There are plently other good books that you will find more helpful if you want to read up on the agency and the recruitment process.
I'm a little torn on this one. While finding it an enjoyable and easy read I also tend to doubt some of its veracity. I say this simply by having family members in various government positions and I know it can be difficult to get things published OR often there are some, let me see how to explain this, less than truthful things put out there to get people to believe the wrong thing--manipulation so to speak. Yes, I'm aware that last statement hardly made sense but cut me a little slack, I'm having a serious bout of insomnia. I did like the use of terms and codes and the description of the "farm" but I find it interesting that some of these nervous people "passed" the training. And what about stating that none of the people in her group could master the trouser floatie option in water survival class? My whole 8th grade swimmer's rescue class passed that without any problems--CAKE! Not that we couldn't pick them out before, but now when someone tells you that they were a CIA Agent we can now ask the loser (who is most probably lying) if he was a CIA Agent or Case Officer and now know the difference. While being quite bright, it's obvious the author was very naive in her venture of wanting to join "the company" (a term she did not address). Still, I don't doubt the passages that referred to her inner turmoil regarding her job. I would still recommend it to others as an interesting read.
But it was an okayread on how it felt for one person to work for an infamous agency. her story supports the notion that peoplewho work for the government must not have trouble lying to people closest to them. This policy seems eminently unfair to those who love such employees. One might also wonder if people are tricked into signing documents that put them in service of any U.S. intelligence agencies. The reader might also wonder whether the government blackballed Ms. Moran after she resigned by making work opportunities impossible to find or meddling with her finances or other aspects of her personal life. Do agencies such as the CIA,NSA and others target individuals for which there is a need then destroy their lives if they do not want to become part of such organizations? This is a question for Lindsey!! We never find out what happened to Lindsey as a result of her decision to leave the agency!
Hey, reading this book, I learned more about this girl's bodily functions than I did about the CIA! The first third of the book is about her indecision whether or not to join. The second third is an attempt to make her expensive training seem like a waste of resources. Her actual field work is covered very briefly, well, no, it ain't covered at all, but I'll allow that there may be a reason for that. Once she's on the job, all she discusses is her lousy love-life and the cute guys she meets. What she does tell us about the CIA portrays the agency as an over-funded, incompetent organization. When she drags 9/11 in as some sort of climatic moment in the book and her life, I just about quit reading 'cause it was all sounding like some gothic novel. Everyone time the author wrote something that revealed her age, I was surprised to recall that the book discussed the experiences of a late-twentiesomething, not a teenager or dopey college kid. A friend really enjoyed this book, but she's pretty young, too. The book really left me cold. I'm glad I read the library's copy and didn't waste my own money. I've read worse, but not often.
I picked this book at an airport just for being curious about CIA. If you are looking for facts and figures of the CIA don't pick this book, however this is an incredibly honest tale of a girl who chased a dream that ended up not being the reality she needed. Perhaps there's no wisdom but the book it's filled with genuine emotions that all of us can relate to, or at least those that have the ability to question themselves beyond the mere justification of their acts. I recommend this book to young people on their early 20's since it deals with facing reality, and the need to match your expectations with the real world. The book is easy reading and the pace is just right, a refreshing reading.
What I took away from this book was that the CIA during the Clinton Administration went out of it's way in an attempt to recruit leftist elitists, females, minorities, and others whether or not they had the personality, belief system, and just plain guts compatible with a life in an intelligence agency. Throughout this book it is grossly apparent that the writer never really believed in the mission and constantly whined about how lonely it was, even though she apparently had multiple sexual partners who she admits were bums and someone who frequently broke the rules endangering herself and the mission. I think that speaks volumes about this person's lack of moral values and psychological makeup. THAT is what I see as one problem with the CIA which began during the unfortunate time period that the Clinton Administration was running the show. Many highly experienced case officers actually resigned during the Clinton era due to a mindset that was antithetical to good intelligence operations; that is the book that should be written and which we all should be reading. Now with a new director (Porter Goss) who himself was a spook from the old school, we hopefully will see a major shift in the methods and recruitment by the CIA toward the better. Summary: this book is not about the CIA, it is about a whining Harvard elitist who now has the job she really wanted all along; a liberal freelance writer for a few left-leaning publications.
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It's not exactly an adventure story. The speaker is not a larger-than-life death-defying super heroine. She is a real person with real frailties and vulnerabilities. I wouldn't recommend it for someone who wants an edge-of-your-seat spy thriller. I would recommend it for someone who is genuinely interested in what life in the CIA is like for the average person (just as someone embarking on a career in teaching might read the autobiography of an educator). Instead of gun battles and explosions, the book is made interesting by the very personal and touching descriptions of the simple daily life of an intelligence officer and the effects that her work has on her. I recommend this book for people who are more moved by stories of inner struggle than by assassinations and car chases.
I like this book a lot. It's easy to read, with a lot of detail on the way the CIA works. It comes away with a perspective that things need to be changed, and it does this through examples, and what the author feeling.
I found it very entertaining. I could not put it down as a matter of fact. Good luck to the author,
I agree with everyone who marked this book bad. She is a liberal whiner. BUT, the book was great. It accurately depicted the emotions and realities one must face if they decide to take a job with the agency. Her motivations were wrong for joining, but her reactions, thoughts, and feelings are very accurate. I beleive that everyone should read this book before joining. I think if she could have read the book before joining, she wouldn't have. Lets say this book is somewhat accurate... there are those that will say they want to do the job or those that say they won't. In both instances, that has only helped! This book would never turn away someone who is truly dedicated to the work. It will turn away those who are not as dedicated... that is a great deed!