I grew up watching the TV series Get Smart, where secret agents had code names and shoe phones, the cone of silence. As much as we want to believe there are gadgets, code names and spies all around us, there is very little truth in entertainment. The spy game is very much alive, but the perception has all gone Hollywood. I can’t imagine a professional writer thumbing through the phone book to call up CIA headquarters for a meeting with an operative, so they do what all good writers do. They call up other writers and assign names like Mars, Snickers, Oh Henry and begin to shadow the agents, join the same gyms, visit the same hairdresser and fake an injury in front of their vehicle when they put their car in drive. . The life of a writer can be a risky one – but SPYEX has come to the rescue… for both sides. They’ve taken the risk factor out and left the negotiations in. An organization that grew out of the need for good and accurate information on spy consultation for film, TV and business.
SPYEX is a unique new talent agency with a roster of secret intelligence professionals from the world’s top agencies and institutions, including the CIA, FBI, KGB and Mossad. SPYEX provides unrivaled access to experts trusted by world leaders – offering training, speaking and consulting on entertainment or business projects.
Unique new ‘spy agency’ now offers the real-world stories, skills and experiences
of elite international intelligence professionals to the private sector
Lindsay Moran was in the CIA and is now part of the SPYEX team. She has also written a book, Blowing My Cover, about her time as an agent. I’ve researched the book and there are some incredibly positive reviews on it, so I highly recommend it. Lindsay was my guest and she was amazing! I certainly wanted to press for inside information but we all have to walk that line of professionalism, so I offered up my hockey card collection with my Wayne Gretzky rookie card… and still no deal. Kidding aside, it was a true honour speaking to Lindsay Moran and listening to her talk about her career as a spy, an officer and the pressures that a career in the CIA can place on someone’s shoulders. Roll the tape!
HNMAG “Thank you so much Lindsay for your time in talking to us. This is a rare opportunity for us and we sincerely appreciate the opportunity. I’m a big fan of the show Homeland, so most of what I’ve learned about the CIA has come from the show.”
LINDSAY “It varies season to season on that show. A funny story about Homeland, TV Guide contacted me before the show came out and they wanted to interview me. They had explained that there was a new show coming out about a female CIA officer who was bipolar and had managed to hide it from the CIA. Initially, I didn’t find it very realistic – I wasn’t sure how you would hide something like that from the CIA because their recruitment process is so invasive and so thorough. I’m very snobby about Hollywood’s renditions and interpretations of spy stuff… but I loved it. I thought the first season, with a few exceptions – was very good at capturing something you never see on other shows, which is the psychological dynamic between CIA Officers and their colleagues, their superiors and the agents they’re running. I felt that it was the first show that fully understood and explored the fact – spying, espionage and human intelligence is not about gadgets and at times, is very low tech. It’s about relationships and human beings. I feel that Hollywood focuses on the less interesting aspects of espionage and it really takes away from these very compelling human stories.”
HNMAG “There must be a high divorce rate in this line of work, especially when your job comes before everything else?”
LINDSAY “It’s very high because it’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of relationship in that career. Most CIA officers end up dating or marrying other CIA officers… and then you’ve got two people, whose job it is – to lie, cheat and steal and they’re in a relationship together. I married someone outside the CIA and we got a divorce but we’re great friends. When I joined the CIA, a female mentor of mine, cautioned me on being careful because I’m lying for my job and lying all the time. This inevitably seeps into your personal life. Lying became so second-nature to me, that I found – I was lying about things I didn’t have to lie about. Leaving the CIA was difficult, because you’re back into a world where people are expected to be honest. Dishonesty is valued in the CIA, but not toward the organization. You’re lying all the time, so it becomes a habit.”
Lindsay added, “It’s called human intelligence and everyone thinks it’s exciting and sexy… and in some ways it can be – but in an abstract way. The reality of it is that it can be very lonely.”
HNMAG “Does the CIA act as bodyguards or security?”
LINDSAY “No, they don’t but they’ve employed contractors before to act as security. Nine times out of ten, your typical case officer won’t be carrying a weapon. People often mistake CIA case/operations officers with the FBI or Law Enforcement, when really… most of the job is social skills. Trying to find people and trying to convince them to commit espionage. You don’t do that with a gun, you do that with your charm and ability to manipulate people. It’s much more of a psychological profession than it is a physical one.”
HNMAG “Is it the CIA’s responsibility to create protocols as counter measures to prevent outside threats to the country or government?”
LINDSAY “Yes, definitely. The CIA has gotten better at cooperating better with the FBI since 911. September 11 was a colossal intelligence failure, largely because of the CIA – in my opinion. We did have information on those hijackers that were living in the US and going to flight school… and we didn’t share that information with the FBI. As a CIA operative, I cannot make arrests in the US or anywhere, it’s not what we do, but the FBI can. The CIA has learned to be more adaptable, given the increasing terrorist threat and the areas where we’re operating. They’ve really beefed up their Paramilitary operations and in doing that, the human art of espionage has been lost, in my opinion.”
HNMAG “Would the CIA have a higher authority over the FBI or is it equal?”
LINDSAY “I think the CIA has a certain allure and back when I was in it, there was always a cultural rift between the two. For lack of a better word, the CIA is a snobbier organization. The Ivy League used to be the breeding ground for CIA officers. They would recruit from Yale, Harvard and Princeton. It’s no longer true but some of that cultural bias persists. Working with the CIA, there’s perhaps more prestige attached, but of course nobody can know about it. You sometimes have to remind yourself that you’ve got the coolest job in the world but you’re telling everyone that you have a boring job, you’re a lonely bureaucrat. We were told to make your job sound so boring that people want to walk away from you (laughing). It’s hard to do when you’re a people person. I’ll be honest, the people that are attracted to the job of a caseworker, tends to be risk takers, and some larger-than-life characters. It can be hard to adjust, to making yourself boring and invisible. Ironically, sometimes the best case officers and spies are people that you’d never suspect because they do seem so boring and so uninteresting. I’m a storyteller, so I can go into any room and talk to anybody. However, when shifting into listening mode and being silent with sources, you’ll find that people will start to talk if you’re silent for too long. I really had to condition myself to not jump in, when there was silence, to see if they would fill it with more information.”
HNMAG “When you watch other TV shows that haven’t been diligent enough to work with professional consultants like yourself, how disheartening is it to watch those films?”
LINDSAY “I really lose interest. If it’s an espionage film and I can tell they didn’t speak to anyone from the CIA or someone that used to be an operative. If you were to film a CIA officer’s day in and day out, it would be boring television. There’s a tremendous amount of writing involved and you’re always doing surveillance detection routes, which are not car chases. You’re driving around trying to bore anybody that’s following you, to death. First you have to determine if you’re being followed, if you are then you’re supposed to bore them. There are some shows that can strike a good balance and one of them is, The Americans. It was created by an ex CIA officer and it’s a period piece, so it takes place during the Cold War. It really captures the psychological elements of espionage. When I watch a season of a show or a film, I can tell if there’s been a CIA hand in it. Another great example is the film, Zero Dark Thirty. The CIA cooperated with that show and you can tell that elements of it were very true to life, very realistic.”
HNMAG “When you’re in a writer’s room, would you ever find yourself having to deny the writers some details of a scenario, due to sworn secrecy?”
LINDSAY “Yes, definitely. When I’m working with a writer or producer, they’d rarely ask me to create a scenario but I have. When I do, I’ll leave out the specific location, nationality, I might change or leave out any details that could potentially expose anything that I’m not supposed to expose. I’ve always found, when working with writers, producers, documentarians, there’s always a way to give them a realistic and truthful answer without divulging secret information.”
HNMAG “I know that there must be certain protocols in place for dealing with unimaginable threats to the country. Assuming that’s true, would there be a protocol in place for a UAP (UFO) threat?”
LINDSAY “If there is, I was not privy to it and I’m not just saying that. I wasn’t part of any of those programs but I understand that the CIA recently acknowledged that they have been involved in an investigation into UAP’S. I don’t know how many resources the CIA devotes to that but I’m someone that believes there is some other form of life out there. It’s not entirely outside the scope of reality that we might encounter some other form of life at some point. Is there some kind of protocol to combat that threat, to my knowledge – no. We never talked about it when I was at the CIA, even if there was such a program but I don’t think it’s preposterous. If someone were working on a sci-fi project and they wanted to create a CIA character, I feel that I could help advise on the character creation, on how the CIA might be involved to put a realistic spin on it.”
HNMAG “In film and television, we always see agents planting a bug in an office or in clothing. Have you ever personally planted a bug/listening device?”
LINDSAY “I wouldn’t say that I’ve planted a bug but I’ve made secret recordings on behalf of the CIA (laughing), with either a hidden microphone or hidden camera.”
HNMAG “This sounds like a fun gig, to continue utilizing your skills without the risk of peoples lives in danger. Do you ever miss it?”
LINDSAY “Every once and awhile, I do miss the intrigue and in a weird way, some of the community within the CIA… but I feel like I have the best of both worlds because of the experience, the amazing training and because I was able to work successfully as a spy. After I got out and started a family, I really couldn’t imagine balancing, being a good mom and a good CIA officer. In some ways, you are expected to be married to the organization. It’s a big decision and I think the family members of undercover officers suffer to a certain extent because there’s a natural reserve that you have to have. You can’t tell your young kids that you’re working for the agency. I never felt any risk, never felt my life was endangered – not sure why I didn’t feel that way but those were less of a concern to me. It is an extremely stressful job and when you go to bed at night, you’re thinking about the agents you’re running, the sources, the ops plan’s you have and what can go wrong and worrying about it. I don’t miss that. When you’re a CIA Officer, you really don’t have the ability to turn it off and relax. A weekend is not really a weekend.”
HNMAG “You must have seen a great deal while you were an officer.”
LINDSAY “It was an incredible 5 years. Sept. 11 happened while I was there, we invaded Iraq and it was a very active time to be at the CIA.”
HNMAG “Have you ever met with a high-ranking terrorist while working at the CIA?”
LINDSAY “Not to my knowledge. It’s interesting because the thing about human intelligence, many times the person you’re recruiting is very low level. To infiltrate a group like al qaeda or similar groups is extremely difficult and I don’t know if we’ve managed that to this day.”
HNMAG “I thank you for your time and I’ll only ask you one final fun question. If you could interrogate anyone in the world to find an answer to a question that has always haunted you, who would it be?”
LINDSAY “I thought about this one, so I’m going to give a silly Hollywood North type answer (laughing). As a CIA officer, we pride ourselves on elicitation and not interrogation, meaning… being able to extract information from someone without them ever realizing that you’re interrogating them. In saying that, I would use elicitation to find out from Carly Simon, who the song ‘You’re So Vain’ is really about (laughing). I don’t think CIA agents see themselves as interrogators, the art of elicitation is much trickier in some ways. It’s more strategic thinking, more subtleties and it’s like playing chess instead of football.”
I thank Lindsay Moran for her very honest and enlightened answers about the agency. It’s a very rare opportunity and it couldn’t have happened without the cooperation of SPYEX.
The SPYEX roster includes some of the most acclaimed professionals from the world of secrets, including the senior intelligence officer who brought Sergei Skripal from Moscow to London in the infamous 2010 spy swap, and the exceptional female analyst who helped President Obama to find Osama bin Laden. Clients can now tap a former Head of Training at British Intelligence and a Former Head of Training at CIA, alongside undercover hackers, special ops leaders and counter-terrorism experts.
“Our experts have worked at the highest levels of security clearance and lived through mind-bending experiences,” said SPYEX spokesperson Lisa Paul. “The skills and experiences they offer are directly applicable across the private sector, and are now available through SPYEX to businesses of all shapes and sizes.”
For more information on SPYEX, visit: https://www.spyex.com