Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A common experience?

I am currently reading two book by ex-CIA employees. One is "From the Shadows" by Robert M. Gates (former CIA director and Secretary of Defense). The other is "The Master of Disguise" by Antonio J. Mendez. I find that both books contain almost the same story about maintaining a cover in Washington of working someplace other than the CIA.

From the Shadows:
At a cocktail party, a man came up and asked where I worked. I mumbled vaguely something about working for the government (a dead giveaway in Washington that you work for the CIA). He pressed me on what department and I replied "Defense." His face brightened and he said he did as well. Where did I work? I replied, "The Naval Munitions Building on Constitution Avenue." He said, "So do I -- where aer you?" I gave him my legend office number. He paused, then frowned and said, "They tore that wing down about two months ago." With an ease and suaveness Sean Connery would have envied, I -- totally undone -- muttered that "I don't get into the office much" and simply fled the conversation.
The Master of Disguise:
My cover legend was tested during my first year in the CIA at a party thrown by a neighbor to celebrate his promotion to air force lieutenant colonel. “So where do you work?” another guy from the block asked me. “For the government,” I replied. Unfortunately, that answer was always a dead give-away to the amateur spook hunters thriving in Washington. “What department?” he pressed. I responded with my nominal government agency, but he claimed to have friends there and asked me for the exact location of my office. Frustrated, I provided the floor and room of my cover job but a sly, grin spread across his face. “That’s the mail room,” he proclaimed. “I service the Xerox copy machines in that building.” He lowered his voice. “You work for the Company.” All that was missing from the encounter was a conspiratorial wink. After the James Bond craze, it seemed that everybody wanted to be a spy.
Leaves me wonder whether this is a common story / myth in the CIA that both authors thought would be a good anecdote for the book. Or perhaps they each had the same experience.

No comments: