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 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.”

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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