Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Day in a Spy’s Actual Life

I’ve heard that old line about life in the military: Long periods of boredom separated by short periods of sheer terror. This also applies to the life of a spy. The punishment for being caught is death (at worst) or at least prison until a trade can be arranged, which can take decades. The rewards for success are almost totally nonexistent.

When you wake in the morning, your “to do” list is similar to that of any white collar or blue collar worker. Get ready for work, commute, do your normal job (live your cover) and wait for an opportunity to seek and find valuable intelligence that can help your side. Sound boring? Sound routine? Well, it is. And when the opportunity to strike gold emerges, the sheer terror begins. Everyone lives with some level of fear. But, spies live with an unimaginable adrenaline rush. We all get used to it. Some, a very few, get addicted to the rush, and they take chances a rational human being would never consider. Are spies rational? Hard to say. After a decade of prowling around in darker corners of the world, I can’t claim I was. As a reformed spy, I guess I wasn’t very sensible in those days. It cost me a lot more than was advertised.

I spent hours being briefed, days undercover acting like what I was: a graduate business school faculty member and management consultant in some foreign country gathering information to write a report for my in-country client, and possibly an hour in some off-limits locations copying who-knows-what to bring home for my intelligence service. Then travel back home and debrief. Ten years. Some of my work was pure boredom. A bit of it was death defying. Glad it’s over

What does a spy do when their cover is blown and they’re discovered? RUN! Run as fast as you can, disappear, and find your way out of that country using one of your alternate legends. Get to somewhere safer. Then you must decide whether it’s safe enough to return back to your cover life at home, or to your real life, pretending nothing bad has happened, or a new legend somewhere far away. Very likely, you’re finished as a spy, and you should flee somewhere no one knows you. If you had a family, well, too bad

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