Famous Ex-CIA Agent, Victoria Plame, Speaks at Western New Mexico University

Victoria Plame, former CIA Agent and author of “Fair Game,” spoke at Western New Mexico University in October. Plame told the crowd about her CIA career and how it came to a sudden end in 2003 after her cover was leaked to the press.

Plame began her career with the CIA in 1985 after being accepted in the officer training class. Plame was given various roles overseas which included non-official cover (NOC) and undercover assignments.

In 1997 Plame returned to the United States, accepting an assignment at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia where she met Ambassador Joe Wilson. Wilson became Plame’s husband in 1998 and the couple welcomed twins in 2000. By 2001 Plame was already deep in her work again, resuming her overseas travel throughout the next three years.

Plame’s assignments included meeting with nuclear industry workers and cultivating relationships to ensure that Iran wasn’t able to obtain nuclear weapons. During a trip to Niger, Plame’s husband – Joe Wilson, investigated the claim that Saddam Hussein had access to uranium materials. Wilson reported the claims as false but after President Bush announced the opposite facts in January, 2003, the Ambassador was dismayed.

In July, 2003 Wilson published an op-ed in the New York Times entitled “What I Didn’t Find in Iraq.” The op-ed caused chaos within the Republican leadership and within two weeks, a Washington Post columnist revealed Plame’s role as a covert operative in the CIA – effectively blowing her cover and ending her career.

“Suddenly I knew that everything that was to come in my life would be different from what had come before,” Plame said. She expressed her fear for her safety and that of her children as well as her undercover European contacts.

Plame officially retired from the CIA in 2006 and moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is now an advocate for Global Zero, an international organization which aims to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons across the globe.

Jeanne Vertefeuille—the Former CIA Typist Who Led the Efforts to Catch a Soviet Spy

Despite a steady disappearance of assets against the Soviet Union, many in the CIA refused to believe there was a traitor. However, the Chief of the Soviet/East European Division, cabled the CIA counterintelligence agent Jeanne Vertefeuille to come work on his “Soviet problem.”

Vertefeuille led a five-person team determined to find out what was behind the troubling loss of assets, some of whom were executed. Some people even thought that outsiders had intercepted CIA communications.

However, perpetrator Aldrich Ames’ extravagant lifestyle was to be his downfall. Ames started spying for the Soviet Union in 1985 and received great sums of money. In fact, he made the most money of any individual known to have penetrated the US government.

It took nearly three years after he came under suspicion, but Sandy Grimes—a member of the team—found out that Ames made large bank deposits every time he met with a particular Soviet official.

Although Ames’ job entailed meeting with Soviet officials, this evidence was so damning that the FBI took over the investigation and used surveillance to build a case. After discovering additional incriminating evidence in his house and home computer, authorities arrested Ames on February 21, 1994.

Ames plead guilty to federal charges and is serving life in prison. Ironically, he had told his Soviet handlers that Vertefeuille was someone who could be framed for his treason.

Jeanne’s fame was such that TIME Magazine finally persuaded her to do a photo shoot even though some members of her own family did not know whom she worked for.

Considered an “icon,” Vertefeuille paved the way for women to work in the Directorate of Operations. Hired as a typist in 1954, Jeanne rose steadily through the ranks of the CIA.

CIA-Backed Weapons Program Remains Tabled Despite Growing Violence in Syria

A plan by the Obama administration to provide additional firepower to Syrian units backed by the CIA remains in limbo after the proposal was introduced during a national security meeting with the President. The proposal would give the forces weapons to aid in defending themselves against Russian artillery.

U.S. officials believe that the current administration is skeptical about widening the covert CIA program which over the last three years has trained Syrian fighters and equipped them with weapons. The operation is a core piece of the U.S. strategy to pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to abdicate his presidency.

Officials have said that Obama’s reluctance to move forward with the CIA program means that his successor will be tasked with the decision. Critics believe that increasing weapon supplies will escalate the fighting in Syria and have no real impact on improving the situation there. Others say that inaction will likely lead to the fall of Aleppo and “tens of thousands of CIA-backed fighters will search for more-reliable allies.”

CIA Director John Brennan and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, support the proposal known as “Plan B”, though Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed apprehension at moving forward with it. Carter believes that a “doubling down of the CIA program” would drive up the costs of Moscow’s efforts in the area, thereby straining their finances.

Proponents believe that the CIA effort has accomplished its goal of becoming a threat to Assad and despite Russian military action the Free Syrian Army (FSE) is intact. One U.S. official said that the FSE is the only option the U.S. has of succeeding in its mission. “We and our partners will continue to provide support to the opposition and Syrian civil society in a manner that advances those objectives,” said another senior official.

Groundbreaking Female CIA Agent Remembered for Her Extraordinary Service

Doris Bohrer, a former CIA agent died this past August at the age of 93 in Greensboro, North Carolina. She spent 27 years working at what was then known as the Office of Strategic Services, a World War II intelligence agency which eventually evolved into the Central Intelligence Agency.

Bohrer, who was then Doris Sharrar, took the Civil Service exam in 1942 and was offered a job as a clerical worker at the O.S.S. headquarters where she typed up intelligence reports. She was chosen to attend a reconnaissance school after a year with the agency and posted to Egypt. Her duties included creating relief maps of Sicily made from balsa-wood to assist the Allies in their invasion of Italy.

Her next assignment was on the Adriatic coast in Bari working with the 15th Air Force where she helped gather intelligence on the movement of the German military. Sharrar also helped choose where O.S.S. agents would be dropped behind enemy lines based on her studies of aerial photographs. “That’s how we knew where the concentration camps were located, but we were too late. We kept wondering where the trains were going,” Sharrar said in a 2011 interview with the Washington Post.

After the war, Sharrar married Charles Bohrer and continued working for the agency which was succeeded by the CIA in 1947. She moved to Frankfurt where she was responsible for writing intelligence reports about German scientists who the Soviet Union had detained. When she finally returned to the United States she was appointed deputy chief of counterintelligence in Washington where she trained staff on East German and Soviet intelligence services.

Mrs. Bohrer, retired from the CIA in the 1970’s and sold real estate and her husband Charles became director of the CIA’s office of medical services.

“She was ahead of her time and did what was necessary, as all the Greatest Generation did when called to service,” said Bohrer’s son Jason.

Former CIA Director Speaks of Importance of Culture Immersion

Staff and faculty of the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey, CA were recently visited by former director of the Central Intelligence Agency National Clandestine Service, Frank Archibald. Archibald held the position from May 2013 until January, 2015.

During a speech to the faculty, Archibald explained the importance of language and culture in his career with the CIA and encouraged teachers to push their students to become more proficient in these areas. He spoke about the power of the individual, especially in today’s technological society. “Technology can be a power for good or a power for evil,” Archibald said.

Archibald’s national security career took him to places like Zaire (Democratic Republic of the Congo) where he would visit eastern cities that typically did not receive visits from Embassy officials. These immersion trips sharpened his language skills and gave him a greater understanding of the various cultures. In his speech, Archibald related his experiences with these immersion trips stressing the importance of learning not just the spoken language of another culture, but also the body language. “These things often become lost through use of interpreters,” he said.

Archibald asked teachers to remind students that language fluency is a lifelong effort. He called the ability to speak a foreign language and understand a different culture a gift that can be enjoyed throughout a lifetime. He also stressed that this type of achievement takes a commitment from both teachers and students.

The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey is one of several training facilities throughout Europe, Korea and the United States. It is part of the Department of Defense (DoD). The Monterey attachment provides resident instruction in 23 languages and since 1941 it has graduated over 220,000 linguists. The Washington D.C. location has the capacity to instruct in an additional 65 languages.

Former CIA Agent Brings Spy Training to Vegas

Though the name “Spy Escape & Evasion” hints at learning to be the next 007, former CIA Agent Jason Hanson’s seminar is more than fun and games.

Hanson, who boasts a six-year career within the CIA, is bringing his skills to Las Vegas for a two-day seminar with plans for future seminars in the works.

Topics covered in the seminar include the following:

  • Escaping duct tape, rope, handcuffs and zip ties in less than 30 seconds
  • Picking locks
  • How to react in a crisis
  • Basic counter-surveillance
  • Hotwiring a car
  • Situational awareness
  • Hands-on training
  • Surviving a home invasion

Hanson explains that being prepared for an emergency allows a person the chance to survive. Most people, he says, give up in a situation, not understanding how easy it can be to escape.

The seminars come at a time in the world when attacks are happening at an escalating rate. The sheer number of victims in the Orlando nightclub shooting, the 2012 theater shooting in Aurora or the attack in San Bernardino, demonstrates the need to learn defensive tactics when out in public.

Hanson points out the need for situational awareness and watching the people around you for clues that something is about to go wrong. “You know if something looks right. You know an angry face anywhere in the world…,” he said. He also gives simple suggestions for survival such as knowing at least two exits when in a theater or mall.

Though Hanson’s show has been around since 2010, it is gaining attention thorough its Las Vegas production. It was originally aimed at executives that traveled to dangerous regions in the world but evolved into a show for the average citizen.

Hanson admits that the world is becoming more dangerous but says simple things like paying attention and not freezing up can save lives.

An Inside Look at the Life of a Young CIA Agent

Douglas Laux was studying to become an eye doctor when 9/11 happened. Like many Americans, the terrorist attack changed Doug’s life, but for him, it was much more than a shift in perspective. Immediately after graduating with his undergraduate degree, he joined the CIA and found himself in the middle of Afghanistan with no knowledge of the local culture, no local contacts, and no knowledge for how to insert himself into Al-Qaeda networks.

Years later, Douglas published Left of Boom, a memoir about his time in Afghanistan and the struggles of living a double life as a boyfriend and CIA agent. Over the course of eight years with the CIA, Doug went on two tours and built connections with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda that had never been built before. But he also lost friends back home who he had to lie to in order to keep his mission safe.

In a Q&A, Douglas said that typical representations of the CIA in popular media are a bit off. Zero Dark Thirty gets close to the truth, but many other films miss important elements of secret intelligence work. James Bond and the Bourne films exaggerate for the sake of action, but they aren’t realistic portrayals of that kind of life.

Now that Douglas is back in the states, he realizes that the person he is today can be traced back to his decision to join the CIA. Even as he chose to be social and deal with the intricate web of lies he weaved, the sociopathic behaviors he developed to stay alive still effect how he acts. It’s much easier for him to spend time with other agents, people who have gone through the same things and get the struggles. Now, he’s spending time with his dad in Ohio, enjoying a simpler life.

Former CIA Agent Reveals the Key to Life as a Spy

American culture has always had a strong fascination with spies. Often the notion of undercover agents often conjures images of famous spies like Sherlock Homes, James Bonds or characters from the television series The Americans. Of course, these are all examples of fictional spies glamorized by Hollywood for our viewing pleasure because, let’s face it, real life spies have a huge knack for secrecy.

And former CIA agent, Douglas Laux, knows all about secrecy.

Laux spent eight years working undercover as a Central Intelligence Agency Case Officer in Afghanistan and counties throughout the Middle East. Now retired, he has chronicled his undercover adventures in a new book entitled “Left of Boom: How a Young CIA Case Officer Penetrated the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.” He also recently hosted a Q & A event thread on Reddit.com to help satisfy public curiosity.

In his memoir, Laux admits lying to his family and friends about his career by telling them he worked as a low-level salesman. As expected, his pseudo-profession did not invoke much interest or follow-up questions among his peers. Compartmentalizing his life was the only way to be a successful spy.

New York Magazine quoted Laux as saying, “I do not regret that my life was a fabricated lie because it was only my job that I was hiding from everyone.”

Although constantly betraying everyone he met was definitely stressful, Laux knew it was a means to an end. Yet, not everyone is equipped to handle the psychological anxiety of leading a double life. Could you?

According to Scientific American, a group of Dutch researchers released a list of 18 characteristics that convincing liars share, including:

  • Ability to manipulate
  • Acting
  • Expressiveness
  • Physical attractiveness
  • Natural performers
  • Experience
  • Confidence
  • Emotional camouflage
  • Eloquence
  • Well-preparedness
  • Unverifiable responses
  • Information frugality
  • Original thinking
  • Intelligence
  • Good memory
  • Truth adherence
  • Decoding

Spouse of CIA Whistleblower Submits Petition for His Release

Even since her husband, ex-CIA agent and whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling, was handed to a 42-month prison sentence for sharing information regarding CIA’s covert Operation Merlin, Holly Sterling was been looking for ways to get him a presidential pardon.

Holly Sterling started a petition campaign with the help of social awareness groups like rootsaction.org and change.org in the pursuit of justice for her husband. Her petition drew national attention, effectively attracting the 100,000 signatures needed to elicit a presidential response.

On February 17, 2016 Holly Sterling finally came before White House officials to formally submit her petition, and now awaits a decision from the Obama administration.

Jeffrey Sterling was found guilty of nine criminal counts for violations under the Espionage Act after jurors determined he had shared sensitive CIA information to New York Times journalist James Risen.

Accusations surrounding Sterling stemmed from a book published by Risen offering details on CIA’s failed Operation Merlin. The operation was intended to use a Russian nuclear engineer to deliver inaccurate nuclear blueprints to Iran in 2000. However, the plot was irrevocably bungled when the scientist noticed said inaccuracies and notified Iranian recipients.

The Department of Justice immediately cast suspicion on Sterling as Risen’s source point since he had previous filed a discrimination lawsuit against the CIA, alerted the Senate Intelligence Commission about the mishandling of Operation Merlin, and had past correspondences with Risen. In fact, Risen had even reported on Sterling’s CIA discrimination case.

Yet, Sterling has vehemently denied any wrongdoing. Risen has also refused to offer his sources pertaining to Operation Merlin, despite a subpoena issued by the Bush administration compelling him to do so. The Department of Justice eventually retracted the subpoena prior to Sterling’s trial in 2015.

5 Times the CIA’s Twitter Account was Way Too Cool

Television and movie depictions of CIA agents typically show them as black-clad, stern faced, and secretive. While that is certainly the case some of the time, the CIA is capable of a bit more levity than TV tends to show. The CIA official twitter account is a fantastic example of the agency’s ability to have fun and show off some of its secrets. Here are five times the CIA tweeted something incredible.

  1. The Photo of William E. Colby, leader of Operation RYPE

The tweet contained a photo of Colby, smiling for the camera in his skis. But he wasn’t on vacation, Colby was leader of “the first and only combined ski-parachute operation ever mounted by the United States Army.” Colby, who served as the CIA’s tenth director, led a team of 24 OS and OSS officers as they jumped from a plane into German held territory, skied for miles across rough terrain and blew up a bridge that would prevent 150,000 Germans from joining the final battle of World War II.

  1. The Woodsmen’s Pal, the anti-katana

The CIA tweeted a picture of a strange looking knife that appeared to be a cross between a pirate’s cutlass and a bowie knife. As odd as the knife might look, it was designed for two incredible purposes. First, the knife was designed to cut easily through the tropical brush of the Philippines, China, and Burma, and was a standard part of survival kits given to American soldiers in those areas. Not only that, but the knife also came with an instruction manual that explained how to use the Woodsmen’s Pal to defeat a Japanese soldier wielding a samurai sword.

  1. One of the earliest mentions of the CIA in pop culture was the first 007 novel

Before Daniel Craig, Sean Connery, and all the other Bonds first ordered a martini on the big screen, Ian Fleming penned the first 007 novel. Casino Royale, which would eventually turn into a movie by the same name, was one of the earliest pieces of pop culture to mention the CIA. The novel was published a mere six years after the CIA was first founded in 1947.

  1. The CIA put a radio receiver in a tobacco pipe

On television, the CIA is often shown wielding strange futuristic gadgets hidden in everyday objects, and that is somewhat true. The CIA tweeted a picture of a special kind of radio receiver that was built into a small working tobacco pipe.

The pipe would transmit messages and commands to the agent by conducting sound through the bones in their face to the ear canal. Anyone nearby would see the agent smoking and go about their business, but the agent would hear tactical information as if someone were speaking to them. Move over James Bond.

  1. Virginia Hall, the one-legged woman who hiked into Spain to escape the Gestapo

In World War II, Virginia Hall drove an ambulance in Paris until she joined the British Special Operations Executive, A British equivalent to the CIA. The CIA wrote about Hall’s exploits in a series of tweets. According to the twitter feed, she lost her left leg in a hunting accident, but continued to organize agent operations in Paris and help POWs escape from Nazi encampments until the Gestapo cracked down on the operation.

Known as “the Limping Lady,” to Germany, she fled into the Pyrenees when they attempted to capture her. She hiked the mountains alone, escaped to Spain, and eventually returned to France as an OSS operative to sabotage German forces.

For more content like this, follow the CIA’s official twitter account at @CIA.

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