Episode Show Notes



JACK: I want to tell you about Operation Lying Doggo. Have you seen those Lhasa Apso dogs? They’re the big breed dogs with really long, bushy hair. Like, you can’t even see their eyes. Or think about those mop dogs, you know, the ones that look like their hair is made of a mop? Well, there was a CIA operation which required the Special Agents to buy one of these big dogs that had this long, bushy hair. These agents then found someone who had permission to go into a high-security area. There were security guards in this area which would ID the people trying to come in and search the car. The CIA wanted to get into there, but they couldn’t; security was just too tight. But they came up with a plan to try to get this big-haired dog through the gate. So, they convinced some people who had access into the secure compound to let the dog ride in the back of the car every time they went in and out of the gate. The security guard would stop the car and check their IDs and see their clearances, and also look at the dog in the back. But when everything looked fine, he would let them go on. [MUSIC] The dog got into the high-security area. Phase 1 of the operation is a success, but now we’re on to Phase 2, which is to make the dog a regular visitor. They continued to put the dog in the back of the car and go in there over and over, driving through the security checkpoint, having the security guard look to see the dog in the back, and letting them through. Sometimes the dog was up walking around in the back of the car, sometimes it was laying down sleeping. This worked; Phase 2 is now complete. On top Phase 3. Once this routine was established, the CIA officers went to a wig-maker to create a fake version of this dog, sort of a disguise that was big enough that a CIA officer could put the costume on and hide inside. So, the wig-maker made the disguise, and when it was time for the CIA officer to sneak into the high-security compound, the officer put the dog disguise on and laid down in the back of the car, which looked just like how the real dog looked when it was sleeping in the back. The security guards were so used to seeing a big, fluffy dog in the back that they didn’t pay any attention to it and let the car right in. This is the length that the CIA goes through to sneak people into high-security areas. That was Operation Lying Doggo, and the CIA has conducted lots of secret plans to gather foreign intelligence like this. [INTRO MUSIC] This is called espionage and at times, it can be really intense. In this episode, I interview an ex-CIA officer to hear some stories about how he gathered foreign intelligence from people.

(INTRO): These are true stories from the dark side of the internet. I’m Jack Rhysider. This is Darknet Diaries. [INTRO MUSIC ENDS]

JACK: In 1976, Jim Lawler was a law student in the University of Texas. He was in his senior year, so him and all his classmates were trying to find jobs.

JIM: I saw on the job board that the CIA was coming to the law school and they were interviewing for attorneys for the agency’s Office of General Council. So, I went to this interview, and the gentlemen who interviewed me was a man named Mr. Bill Wood.

JACK: Mr. Bill Wood from the US government came to the university, and he was there to scout for legal talent for the US government. He sat down to interview Jim Lawler, and he saw something in Jim, something that Bill thought would be a good fit for Jim.

JIM: Two or three minutes into this interview, he looked at me and he said Jim, have you ever thought about the Clandestine Service? I said, no. In fact, I don’t even know what the Clandestine Service is.

JACK: [MUSIC] The offer was intriguing, but Bill couldn’t tell him anything specific. Jim knew he was from the CIA though, and had a pretty good hunch that this had something to do with working for them. But Jim was a law student and was planning to work for his family business, and wasn’t ready to drop all that to go work for a Clandestine Service. So, he thanked Bill and declined whatever mysterious opportunity there was, and went to work in the family business. Three years later, Jim was working hard, making good money, but he was becoming unhappy. The family business wasn’t quite as rewarding as he thought, and he never did throw away Bill Wood’s card. So, he reached back out to him and said hey, are you still hiring? Because now I’m ready. Jim’s hunch was correct; it was an offer to be tested to work for the CIA conducting espionage. Jim had to go through a series of tests to see if he was cut out for it, and he passed. He was officially hired by the Central Intelligence Agency as a case officer.

The first part of his training was to learn what a case officer is, or sometimes called an operations officer. So, let’s go over what that job entails. According to the cia.gov website, operations officers clandestinely spot, assess, develop, recruit, and handle non-US citizens with access to foreign intelligence that is vital to the US. That means it would be his job to travel to other countries and get people to tell him information that they shouldn’t be sharing with the US. On this show, I often talk about people known as social engineers, and there’s social engineering techniques to gather data that they’re not authorized to have. But the CIA uses the exact same techniques to gather foreign intelligence. The operations start with identifying the kind of information they want to gather. This might be military plans, trade deals, negotiations with other countries, or something that would be of interest to the national security of the US. Then they have to figure out who might know or have access to this kind of information, then they have to find a person who is susceptible to being persuaded to give the information up.

JIM: They expected me to manipulate, to exploit, to subvert, to convince people to commit treason.

JACK: Jeez, that’s intense. I mean, getting people to commit treason sounds illegal.

JIM: Absolutely, illegal against foreign laws, yes. That’s what makes it fun. No, we’re breaking other people’s laws. We’re not breaking US laws, but it’s called espionage. That is typically against the law in most countries.

JACK: [MUSIC] Okay, so there are some high stakes that come with this job. If you’re caught trying to recruit someone, it could be some serious jail time for you, or worse; you might be tortured or killed. But to Jim, this was exciting and he was eager to learn how to do it effectively, without getting caught. One of the parts of the CIA officer’s job is to identify the perfect person to recruit. This is often known as a source, since they’re the source of information. Today, you can easily look on LinkedIn to see who works for a certain department or office that you want to target, then just go down the line to find which person might be the most persuadable. But when Jim was in the CIA, LinkedIn wasn’t around, so Jim had to learn some techniques for how to find people’s names or job titles and as much information as he could gather from them to try to find their weakness. Did you use any of that spy gear, you know, secret pen microphones and cameras and stuff? Did you get into that much?

JIM: Oh, occasionally, but that stuff, it’s just toys. To me, that was never interesting. The interesting thing is the human interaction. That’s what’s the variable. That’s the thing that’s so fascinating to me.

JACK: Jim was drawn to the direct, face-to-face persuasion and manipulation of people, which is really important to the CIA. To get insiders to flip and help the CIA was always an important job, and this is called collecting HUMINT, human intelligence. Sure, some CIA operations are setting up long-range antennas and microphones to snoop on things, but Jim’s specialty was exploiting people, and during his time at the CIA, he learned that people will always be exploitable. After all, we’re only human, and humans make mistakes. There are flaws that exist in all of us which are like unpatched vulnerabilities.

JIM: That’s a good way to put it, an unpatched vulnerability.

JACK: So, they make something called a targeting package. [MUSIC] It identifies the information they’re after and the person who can potentially give up that information. Now, here is where Jim comes in to develop a relationship with the target person. He’ll need to fly into that country and somehow find that person and get close to them. The targeting package has everything you need to know in order to initiate contact, establish rapport, and build trust. What Jim likes to do is find the main source of stress in someone’s life, because people who are under stress are more recruitable.

JIM: You do not recruit happy people. You recruit people who are under stress, and everybody’s under stress unless you’re dead. Everybody’s under stress, and my talent was – I was able to, over time, detect exactly what the stress was. So, I used to be a rock-climber. Are you a rock-climber, Jack?

JACK: I have done some rock-climbing, yeah.

JIM: Okay. When you are studying the rock, what are you looking for?

JACK: I’m planning right, left hand, into the cracks.

JIM: You’re looking for the crack system, right? If you’re a long way away from the rock, you can’t see that crack system. But if you get up close and you study it, you can find out what the crack system is. People are the same way; they have these emotional cracks and needs and stresses, just like the rock. So, if I study a person long enough, I can figure out what the crack system is. Sometimes it takes me a short time, other times it takes me a really long time. One time it took me eleven years.

JACK: There’s an acronym the CIA uses called MICE, M-I-C-E, and it outlines the different ways you can persuade someone.

JIM: M stands for money. I stands for ideology, because some people detest the country’s political system that they’re in, so they believe in the American system, so that’s an ideological recruitment. C stands for coercion. We don’t typically use coercion, but certainly the Russians and the Chinese will coerce people, blackmail them, frequently extort them to become a source. Then the final and actually most important letter in MICE is E, which stands for ego, because people do a lot of things for ego. In fact, rarely, never did I ever encounter anybody who did it purely for money. The money stands for something and yeah, I like to have money in the relationship because it focuses them, but it rarely was ever strictly a quid-pro-quo, strictly a financial thing.

JACK: [MUSIC] On Jim’s first assignment, he was sent to a foreign country and was given a whole new identity. He was told he now works for the US Embassy in that country.

JIM: I was operating under official cover. I was under State Department cover.

JACK: The embassy job was his pretext. He needed a reason to be there. His real mission was to identify, assess, develop, recruit, and handle non-US citizens with access to foreign intelligence that his government determined was important to its foreign policy.

JIM: So, I had to do both a – an official job as a State Department officer in an embassy, but I also had my clandestine job as a CIA case officer, and I would do that either after hours or when I had a free moment, I would go and do that.

JACK: So, during the day, he would study his targeting package and learn about his target and the information he’s after. But then at night is when he’d try to develop relationships with the target. His official cover also provided him with diplomatic protection, which was really important if he got caught, because this was a way for him to avoid any serious punishment.

JIM: Well, if you had diplomatic protection like I did, we call a black passport, the worst that can happen is you’re arrested, you’re taken downtown, and you demand to see a consular officer, somebody from the embassy, and then within a day or two, you’d be declared persona non grata, which means you have to leave the country along with your family.

JACK: So, Jim is in this foreign country just doing his cover embassy work…

JIM: When suddenly I – one day I got this cable, a classified cable from Washington, a message [MUSIC] which said in a couple of years or less than a couple of years, we are going to be engaged in some highly important negotiations with a certain country, and these negotiations are – we need to have sources to tell us exactly what their positions are.

JACK: Okay, sounds like Jim’s being assigned his first mission as a CIA case officer. This operation is asking Jim to find a source who would be able to supply intelligence that would help with upcoming negotiations that this foreign nation is engaged in with the US. It’s a big deal, and the message goes on.

JIM: We have very few, if any, sources on this. This is critically important to national security. So, they listed some qualifications that we should look for if any of us had these sources that had the following qualifications, then please increase your – what we call developmental activities, which is where you’re building trust with the person, the target, the person you want to recruit, and it turned out that I had met an individual who met that criteria exactly. I had met him in a ski class.

JACK: A ski class. See, Jim is an outgoing social kind of person. He likes outdoor activities like running and skiing, and he likes getting together with others to do it. Of course, as he’s doing all these social events, he’s keeping an eye on everyone he meets just in case he can use that person. In this case, he did remember somebody who would be the perfect target for this operation.

JIM: So, I then accelerated our developmental phase of the operation, where I started going out to lunch with him and having dinners and building that friendship. The most important thing is building the trust, and got to the point where I thought okay, I could pitch this person, basically lay out a recruitment pitch and recruit him.

JACK: So, Jim has already made a friend who he knows has access to this privileged information that the CIA wants, and now he’s gotta figure out, how do you recruit someone who’s a friend to become an inside source of intelligence? Jim remembers his training, to look for certain areas of stress or cracks in someone’s life. Jim couldn’t find any areas of stress in this guy’s life. He had a good job, a nice wife, a kid, his health, and he was happy all around. On top of that, he knew this guy was loyal. What do you offer someone like that to get them to betray their country? Jim’s only idea was because they were such close friends, he might be able to convince him to share information based on the strength of their friendship, but this is not an effective recruitment strategy. It’s risky and it doesn’t work well.

JIM: That’s typically not going to happen, but Washington was so desperate for sources, they absolutely – they agreed to this. So, I went into this meeting with him [MUSIC] and I laid my cards on the table, said I – we’ve got – our governments are about to go into these negotiations. I will pay you so much a month if you will provide me privileged insights and to share these with me.

JACK: That’s a big ask. This guy worked for a foreign embassy. He knew Jim worked in the US Embassy, and now Jim is offering him cash money for secrets going on in that foreign embassy? This must have been a heart-dropping moment for both of them, to just casually come out and ask your friend to betray his own country. Espionage is illegal. It’s risky for both sides. Up until this point, Jim had not done anything wrong, but now suddenly the wind has changed in the room and it got much hotter, because Jim is hyper-aware that what he’s asking is breaking the law.

JIM: Absolutely. Yeah, I mean, typically – and this is not unusual, Jack, the person that I’m about to recruit, the person that I’m going to pitch sometimes is already giving me classified information. We’re just not rubbing their nose in it. But then at some point, I may want to make it abundantly clear, and they know what’s wrong.

JACK: These were some intense moments for Jim as he waits for the guy to say something in response. He started thinking about some fallback strategies and things to say if it didn’t go his way.

JIM: We have a saying in the CIA; it’s okay to get turned down, but not to get turned in. What if he goes to his ambassador and he says you know, that Mr. Lawler, the third secretary of the American embassy, he just propositioned me to become a traitor, to commit treason.

JACK: This is why being a CIA operative is such a delicate job. If he’s too heavy-handed, it screws up the operation. If he’s too nervous, that could screw things up, too. At some point, you have to make a recruitment pitch, and if you miscalculated your source by the smallest margin, you could easily get turned in, which would be an absolute mess for you and your government. It could ruin the negotiations or the source could agree but then feed you false information.

JIM: That’s when he looked at me and he said Jim – he said look, you and I are friends but what you’re proposing, that’s morally wrong. Now, I’ve pitched fifty or sixty people in my career, Jack, and I can tell you he’s the only guy who ever posed a moral objection to a recruitment pitch. Most of the time they object based on one thing and one thing only, and that’s fear. So, I went away from that dinner feeling pretty low. Here, I got turned down and I’m thinking uh-oh, what’s going to happen next? When is the next shoe going to drop? Then after about two or three days, I finally thought you know, I better call him and take his temperature and see if he’s mad at me or not. He didn’t act mad at the time, but I thought gee, this could be bad. So, I called him up and much to my relief, he didn’t hang up in my ear. I said to him you know, I had a really good time last week at that dinner. I was wondering if this Friday you might be free again; we could do it again. Well, I was greatly relieved when he said you know, Jim, I was thinking the same thing. That would be good.

So, I thought okay, I don’t think he made a complaint about me to his ambassador, so I’m just going to go to this next dinner and make sure we’re still buddies. So, we went. I showed up, he showed up. He seemed in a good mood. The waiter came over, dropped the menus off, stepped away from the table, and the first words out of my friend’s mouth; Jim, that offer you made me last Friday, is that still good? I said yeah, it is. We’re friends; that’s why I offered it to you. He said well, what you don’t know is about three days after that dinner, my wife announced that she wants a divorce, [MUSIC] and I can’t afford to pay her the alimony to which she’s entitled and put my two teenage boys in private schools when we go home next summer, because in my country, you can’t get a good education unless you’re in a private school. He said, I can’t do that unless I accept your offer. I know it’s morally wrong. Well, I started to say something about it’s never morally wrong for two friends to help each other, but he kinda put his hand up and he said Jim, he said it’s morally wrong, but I’m going to do it. One of the things you learn in law school is if the judge rules in your favor, shut up and get out of court. Don’t argue with him. So, I said okay, great.

Well, he started bringing me out a lot of classified information, sometimes – I mean, sometimes it would be six or seven inches thick. Then I found out it wasn’t just his financial needs that convinced him to do this. No, not – I mean, that might have pushed him over the top, but that wasn’t it, really. What it was was this guy absolutely detested his ambassador. As he would hand me the intelligence that he was giving me, he said Jim, when I hand you this, he says, I – what I’m gonna try and tell you right now is I absolutely hate my ambassador. He claims credit for everything that I do and everything that everybody else in the embassy does. This worthless son of a gun, he goes around this country saying what a great guy he is when the whole time, he’s stealing credit. He says, as I hand you this intelligence, it’s like I’m kicking that son of a bitch in the face. I said hey, we’re buddies. Go get me some more of this and let’s kick that son of a bitch again. He did, he did. He was – so, it was – what I’m trying to tell you, Jack, is revenge is a big, big motivator in espionage. Because most people – like he did, initially on the moral basis, most people have been taught from a early age you don’t betray your family, you don’t betray your country, you don’t betray your friends. But in his case, he felt like he had been betrayed first. So, all he was doing was evening the score.

JACK: Remember MICE? Money, ideology, coercion, and ego? Revenge falls under ego. This guy really didn’t like his boss taking credit for his work, and because he didn’t like his boss, this really worked well for Jim. So, his source provided Jim with key information about the negotiations that country was conducting, and Jim passed this information back to Washington, who then used the intelligence to their advantage. As it turned out, the US used this information when negotiating with that country, and was able to save billions of dollars from this. Because imagine doing some kind of negotiation deal with someone when you already know what the lowest number they’re willing to negotiate with. It was a major success for Jim and the US. This was the beginning of what went on to be a twenty-five-year-long career for Jim as a case officer in the CIA. Over that time, he pitched lots of people and recruited many to be sources, and he did this in over a dozen countries all over the world. Over the course of his career, he mastered the art of persuading people and getting them to give him information.

JIM: Sometimes it may be something very innocent. I might go to a lunch with somebody and they share some things not really classified, but something that’s maybe a little inappropriate.

JACK: To Jim, these are signs that the person could become a source, [MUSIC] and he’s got a few tricks up his sleeve to try to recruit them so they can provide much more valuable information to him.

JIM: I would come back at the next luncheon; I’d say you know, that information you shared with me, I’ve gotta thank you for that. I found out that Washington liked that so much, they gave me a $2,000 performance award. I can’t take it all; I’ve gotta share it with you, because this was your intellectual property. I had maybe $1,000 or $500, and I’d have it in an envelope and I’d send it across the table, and they say oh, you don’t need to do that. I say no, you gotta take it, because I feel guilty now. I took your words and Washington’s paid me, and we’re making a great team here. Get them boosted up. Somebody once said that I’m nothing but a cheerleader, and I said well, okay, if I make you feel good, if I say you know what, the president of the United States read this and he absolutely respects you like you wouldn’t believe, appeal to their ego.

JACK: Another strategy he uses is called a reverse pitch.

JIM: I’ll say well, Jack, two friends of mine – one guy, he had something that the other one needed and they worked on this, and man, it just worked out so well for both of them. Then after a while, Jack says well, gee, Jim, you and I could do that. I say oh, tell me how we could do that. It’s basically where you get the person to basically volunteer.

JACK: Here’s one that’s really bizarre; sometimes the CIA recruits people who don’t have any access to any information, but they do what’s called a seeding operation, where they help get this source into a position that would give them access to the intelligence that the US wanted.

JIM: So, you recruit the person before they have access, and then you seed them in or feed them into that organization to be a penetration. The most famous seeding operation in history was run by the Russians. It was called the Cambridge Five.

JACK: [MUSIC] The Cambridge Five is a fascinating story. University of Cambridge is a prestigious school in the UK. Lots of students that go through there end up in high ranks of society, especially in the 1930s. So, what the Soviets did was they got one of their spies to be a professor at the university. This was right before World War II, so there was a lot of talk about Marxism, fascism, and capitalism. Well, the Soviet spy professor convinced one of the students that Marxism is better equipped to handle the oncoming problems of the world. Then he started asking the students if they wanted to help fight fascism. This is how the first of the Cambridge Five was recruited, Kim Philby. Now, once Kim was onboard to help, it was easy to get him to convince some of their other friends to help. Soon, there were five students within the University of Cambridge that were now working for the Soviets. But there’s not really much for some college kids to report, and that’s where the seeding comes in. It wasn’t about the information they had now; it was about the information they could get access to later in their careers.

JIM: So, they recruited them and then fed them into the British Intelligence Service and the British Domestic Service. The most famous was a man named Kim Philby, and Kim Philby was so successful, he almost became head of British Intelligence, he and his four, the other four. Incredible amounts of secret information they provided the Russians over the years. Fabulously successful seeding operation.

JACK: It’s absolutely incredible that the Russians would recruit teenagers and then help them get into top-secret jobs. Then the Russians would get fed this classified information all throughout World War II, even. This was one of the most successful spy rings ever, and I believe the CIA took notes on this kind of seeding operation and has conducted their own seeding operations since then. Now, sometimes when Jim is recruiting a source, he keeps his cover. He has an alternative persona and acts like someone else. But there are times when he has to drop this cover and say something like hey, well, actually, I’m a CIA officer and I have an offer for you. They call this dropping cover, and it’s gotta be a weird experience to make friends with someone for months and then suddenly discover they’re really a CIA officer and they want access to your classified information.

JIM: It would depend on the target. If I think the most effective thing would be break cover, tell them I’m really a CIA officer, then I would do that. Or I might make allusions to my agency, my organization, without rubbing their nose in it. I’ve recruited people under commercial cover where I pretended to be a businessman. Basically, I pretended to be a – what we call a NOC, because they might be willing to, say, accept a consulting fee and provide information to a businessperson but not to a person from the American embassy, and I’ve done that successfully, where I pose as a businessperson and said you know, this is great; we could – I’m a consultant. I would like to hire you as a consultant, and if you just provide me all of the information on this, then I will pay you so much a month. But never any mention either of CIA or of the US government, ‘cause some people would find it more palatable to deal with, say, a businessperson than to know that they’re involved in real, legitimate espionage.

JACK: What’s the most you think you’ve ended up paying someone?

JIM: Oh, I know exactly. It’s highly classified, but let me put it this way; it’s in the millions. It was worth it.

JACK: It was worth it because it saved the country…

JIM: Potentially saved hundreds of thousands of lives. [MUSIC] What’s that worth?

JACK: Once a CIA case officer successfully recruits a source, then they give the source to a handler, which is a person who will work with the source to keep the information flowing.

JIM: I was also a handler because once you recruit a source, then you are expected to handle the source; meet that source clandestinely, get the information that he or she are privy to, and then you report that information in classified channels back to Washington where it’s sorted out and combined with the intelligence from other case officers or perhaps all source intelligence from the signals intelligence that the NSA captures through phone conversations or through computer penetrations. But I would be a handler; I would set up a time to meet my sources clandestinely and I would find out exactly what kind of information – how much information they had stolen and then I would report that information back to Washington.

JACK: How are you getting data from these people, information from your recruits, from your sources?

JIM: Sometimes they would actually hand me, physically hand me documents, classified documents.

JACK: How do you do that secretly? That’s what I’m wondering.

JIM: Well, they’d meet me at a safe site, maybe at a safe house or at a car pickup or a brush pass where they hand me things. They might also just observe stuff. We have a verbal debriefing; I would ask them things, take notes. Again, meet maybe in a hotel room or a safe house or some place out of sight. We might equip them with what we call a covert communication device where they can electronically provide you with the information you need using some type of – nowadays, some type of encrypted system. These days, they might download stuff to a thumb drive and provide it to me either physically or do a dead drop where they hide the thumb drive or whatever it is somewhere at a pre-arranged spot. They make a mark on a wall that I observe, then I go by and I service the dead drop. I recover the thumb drive. So, there’s a bunch of ways you can do it.

JACK: Yeah, yeah. It’s just all out of my purview, right? The mark on the wall; I walk by that wall, I don’t notice the mark, but you walk by it, you do.

JIM: Right. So, that means that you or somebody, my source, has put something in a dead drop which may be miles away, but they’ve gone by with a piece of chalk or put a piece of tape on a wall. Nobody else even notices, but I notice that my friend, my source, has now concealed a thumb drive or some type of information somewhere that I need to recover.

JACK: Gosh, there’s got to be a whole secret language that you’ve gotta learn, like which way your shoelaces are tied is your – are your glasses up on your head or are they down on your nose? All these different things I bet mean stuff.

JIM: Right. If I’m meeting somebody and my source – I’ve told him look, if I see you take your glasses off, that means that you think you’ve been followed, and so, I’m not gonna meet you. Or if I’ve got my hat cocked to a certain side, that means just keep walking; don’t approach me. On the other hand, if I’ve got a certain color book or a newspaper in my hand, in my right hand, that means it’s okay; come on, let’s go to the nearest cafe or to a hotel somewhere. So, you have these secret signals to say that either you’re under observation or no, it’s – actually, it’s safe, and we can meet.

JACK: What about encryption? You know, one-time pads and these kind of things.

JIM: Yeah, those are all used. We would encrypt messages and send it, and then you have something – you decrypt it. For years and years, we and the Russians would use one-time pads which are basically, like they say, one time, you would decrypt a message, get a series of numbers and things, and then you’d have a code book that you would look in. It’s very tedious, but virtually impossible to break.

JACK: [MUSIC] We’re gonna take a quick break here, but you’re gonna want to come back, because we’re gonna talk about one of the most important CIA operations ever. In another one of Jim’s assignments, he was handling a source, but that source retired. He was still providing good intel, though.

JIM: Very friendly guy, much beloved by most of the people in his foreign ministry, and he started giving me some excellent information coming from a young woman who had decided to spend the summer with her brother who was my source’s best friend.

JACK: Okay, so Jim had a good source to get intel on what’s going on in that target country, but that source retired. He was slowly losing his connections for gathering intel. But now Jim is hearing his old source is getting good intel from a woman. Now, the woman was a secretary at the foreign ministry inside her home country. Jim wasn’t in that country, but wanted intel from that country. But for Jim to go into that country to try to recruit sources, well, that’s a bit risky. So, luck would have it that the woman his source was getting intel from just happened to be traveling to the same country where Jim was. She was just taking a month-long break from work to visit her family. Well, this was quite an opportunity for Jim. If he could convert her while she’s on vacation and then she goes back home to work in the foreign ministry again, it could be a gold mine of intelligence.

JIM: My friend, since he was working for us, he takes her out sightseeing, took her for coffees and dinners and things like that, and developed a good relationship with her. She was – really loved our guy. She liked him a lot.

JACK: As a secretary in a foreign ministry, she wasn’t a decision-maker at all, but she saw what decisions were being made. So, now that he had learned about this secretary working for the foreign ministry, she made a really good target for Jim. Jim gets his source to arrange a meeting with her, but it was important that Jim not uncover his source. He did not want her to know that this guy is feeding information to the CIA. It might spook her. It might make her turn that guy in. For this, Jim decided to come up with a pretext, a cover story for why he needed information from her.

JIM: [MUSIC] So, I had to engineer a scenario.

JACK: Jim comes up with a pretext. He’s gonna call himself Jack Mitchell and pretend to be a commodities trader.

JIM: I told him to show up at a certain restaurant at a certain day, and then I would show up a little bit later and pretend that I was waiting for someone. So, he’s seated near the door with this young woman and they’re having dinner, and he sees me come in and he turns to the young lady and he said oh, look, there’s Mr. Jack Mitchell. I just met him at a cocktail party three nights ago. I’m gonna go over and say hello, which was the polite thing to do. So, he did, and I chatted with him. Then after about five, ten minutes when my supposed dinner date has never shown up, he turns to her and says, why don’t we invite Mr. Mitchell to come over and at least sit down and have a drink with us? I pretended like oh, no, I’m sure my friend will be here any moment. He said well, look, just sit down with us, have a drink until your friend comes.

JACK: He sits down at the table with his old source and this potentially new source that he’s trying to recruit, the secretary. She didn’t suspect this was anything other than a chance encounter, but of course it wasn’t, and now Jim needs to start making his moves.

JIM: Introduced myself in my alias, Jack Mitchell, and I said that I was a oil and gas commodities trader. It turns out her nation is one of those nations in the world that is absolutely blessed with a – riches of gas and oil. [MUSIC] It’s obvious that her nation has access to a lot of information on what the organization for the petroleum exporting countries, OPEC, is doing, what their quotas would be, and that kind of information could be worth a gold mine to somebody who’s an oil and gas commodities trader.

JACK: Hm, interesting cover, a commodities trader. It works because trade deals in her country do influence the stock market, so he was just making clear how valuable this kind of information would be to him.

JIM: You can make or lose a fortune in oil, and if I have insights into what her country’s going to do, this – I’m not making this up; you really could make a fortune in the oil and gas market. So, I’m going to pay her a certain amount to give me advance heads up which way her government is going on quotas and things like that. Are they cheating on their other OPEC partners?

JACK: At least, that was his plan, but this was the first dinner. He didn’t ask for any of this information on the day he met her. No, he’s gotta finesse it and take it slow to build the relationship. But he starts putting these questions in her head at least, making it clear what kind of information he would love to get his hands on.

JIM: What are they going to do, how much oil are they shipping out of their ports? I mean, it really and truly would be worth a lot of money.

JACK: First dinner went great. Jim or Jack Mitchell hit it off with her, and their relationship was going well.

JIM: So, I said gosh, this is great. How about we have lunch together? She thought sure, why not? So, I asked her out to lunch a day or two later, took her to lunch. We had a good time, and within one or two meetings, [MUSIC] I proposed a commercial relationship with her, saying that if she would give me the privileged insights into what her country was doing in the oil and gas market, then I would provide her with so much money a month.

JACK: Jim’s source had given him more information about the secretary, which showed Jim where her cracks were.

JIM: She had a health issue that needed some attention. Her government back home wouldn’t pay for it. It was about a $5,000 medical procedure, because their philosophy was if you want us to pay for it, then you come home and we’ll do it here, in our home country. But we’re not going to pay somebody in this European country to do it. She didn’t want to stop her very nice summer vacation with her brother, so she was faced with this dilemma; I need 5,000 bucks to get this procedure done. I don’t have it. So, naturally, her new best friend, Jack Mitchell, proposes that for $5,000 and a certain monthly stipend, if she would share these insights with me, then she’s going to get this great consulting fee and the $5,000 signing bonus.

JACK: I guess this one’s a little bit softer of an ask, ‘cause it sounds like oh, I’m just trying to make money on the stock market, so hey, would it be possible for you to give me some insight or info. That’s not as scary of an ask versus can you betray your country so my country can…?

JIM: Absolutely. Yeah, it’s a much softer thing because she’s – all she’s doing is giving me a little heads up on which way the oil and gas market’s going to go, and I’m gonna make a fortune and she’s gonna make money, too. So, is it technically illegal? Yes, but it’s just consulting. It’s not treason. So, she readily agreed. We had a bottle of champagne, we celebrated. I went back to my home office and people were jumping up and down because she was the first one from this country who had been recruited in a long time.

JACK: Success. Jim recruited a secretary in a foreign ministry. Now he could reliably continue to get intel from her and information about this nation. It was a big win for Jim.

JIM: Then my boss dropped the hammer on me and he said now you gotta go back and tell her that you really work for the CIA. [MUSIC] I was stunned, ‘cause I hadn’t thought about that. He said we – when she goes back to her home country, we’re not gonna be able to communicate with her except through some kind of clandestine communication system, because we don’t have an embassy in that country anymore. He said there’s a lot of questions we need to ask her that we know she has access to that have nothing to do with oil and gas. So, you gotta go down and you gotta break cover and tell her she’s really working for the CIA. To be fair, you really need to let her know that this is a much more sensitive relationship than just a commercial consultancy, because if she thinks it’s a commercial consultancy, she might brag to some of her friends at her office and they may think, what is she doing? So, we need to let her know this is a sensitive relationship. I thought oh, jeez. So, I go down there and I apologize, I break cover, tell her I really work for the CIA, and then of course, that’s when she looks at me and she said Jack, look, listen; you’re a good guy, but she said before, that was just commercial consulting. Yeah, a little bit on the shady side, but it’s not espionage. Now you’re asking me to be a spy. Said, I can’t do this. I’ll try and get you your money back, but there’s no way I can do this. Of course, I was thinking lady, you’re a smart gal. I don’t blame you one bit, so I didn’t argue with her at all.

JACK: Jim goes back and tells his boss she quit, just like he thought she would. But his boss was not having it. He wanted Jim to find a way to recruit her and said no, this is not acceptable; try harder.

JIM: Nothing like a little pressure. She was scheduled, at that point, to leave in about three weeks and go home. So, I thought god, is there any way I can salvage this thing and turn her around? I struggled with that for a good two or three days. [MUSIC] I called her up; I said could we have a going – farewell dinner? ‘Cause even though she’s now turned me down and quit, she wasn’t that mad at me. So, I said how about a farewell dinner? She said, that sounds fine. So, I arranged to meet her at an extremely romantic restaurant that just had beautiful views of the mountains and the lakes.

JACK: There weren’t any romantic intentions with this dinner, though. Jim wanted to try to salvage the relationship which fell apart. He wanted to seem like a nice guy, charming, caring, and maybe even come off as a friend.

JIM: She liked me, I liked her. It was going to be a very nice farewell dinner, and yet, I had no intention of trying to dissuade her or persuade her to change her mind. I’d just given up on that, but what I had done when I arrived in the city that she was in, I had bought a little bud vase in a gift shop that I paid the equivalent of maybe $30 or $40 for. It was about six inches tall, very delicate, very pretty little bud vase. I had it gift-wrapped and I took it off to this very nice restaurant. We sat there and chatted for probably a good hour and a half or more just about our families and lives and things like that. So, here we are, seated at the restaurant, dessert and coffee have come and gone, and my foot touches the present that I had bought her under the table. I had almost forgotten about it, and I pulled it out and I put it in front of her. I said here, I did get you something. [MUSIC] She said well, what is it? I said well, just open it. You’ll see.

So, she opened it and she’s looking at this little bud vase and I said, what I’d like you to do is I’d like you to take that with you when you go home in a couple of weeks, and if you want to, maybe you could even take it to the foreign ministry and put it on your desk. When you look at it, you’d be able to think about me. She looked at it, stared at it, didn’t say anything, and then I noticed that she was crying. I thought oh, what did I say to upset her? I heard her say something under her breath and I leaned in and I said, what did you say? She said Jack, I can do this. I said I know you can do it, but I said, I don’t want you doing this unless you really want to do it, which I really – I didn’t want her to do it if she wasn’t really in wholeheartedly. She said no, Jack, I can do this. And boy, could she do it. We trained her, we sent her in. She worked for us for five years and she identified every deep cover intelligence operative from her nation, all over the world. She was a secretary but she was a secretary to the foreign minister, so consequently, everything he saw, she saw, and we saw.

JACK: It’s unbelievable that the CIA has these kind of eyes and ears that are – it’s in the secretary of the foreign minister.

JIM: Well, we did.

JACK: Of course, most nations with an intelligence branch do the same thing to us. They profile the people who work in US embassies or military bases, they hang out in the bars in Washington, DC, hoping to rub elbows with some senators or clerks or anyone who might have good intel to report back home. There’s a huge network of spies that span the globe, and it makes you wonder, you know, what would it take for someone to get you to flip, where you’re now handing information over to an intelligence officer in another country? Sometimes the bar is just real low. I’ve seen people who had bad days at work or just don’t know better and post stuff to social media, exposing some of the company’s secrets. But then, there are others who might feed information to someone for a few hundred dollars.

But not you and me, right? We’re good, strong, loyal people who don’t accept money from some random person asking for information, [MUSIC] unless maybe you’re in a tough situation, you want your kid to attend a nice school but you can’t afford it, or your mother is dying and you can’t afford the doctor bills, or something else that makes you think, you know what? If I can get $10,000, my life would see a big improvement, and just then, someone from the CIA comes up and offers it to you and wants some classified information from you. Now, that becomes a much harder thing to turn down. It just kinda clicked in my head where people asked me hey, do you think everything is hackable? Every company, every computer? I say yes, because at a nation state level, you’ll have people like you who are getting people to work at the company that you want to take secrets from or information, and the NSA might be asking you for something like hey, can you get someone in this company for us? It’s not always a state secret; sometimes it’s, I don’t know, something else.

JIM: Right. All of your cyber-defenses are worthless if I have somebody on the inside. It’s just totally worthless. If I have an employee in an organization I want to penetrate, then it doesn’t – I don’t care what their cyber-defenses are. It becomes an electronic Maginot Line where you think you’re protected and you’re not.

JACK: Oh, and by the way, the CIA often works closely with the NSA to conduct certain missions. Sometimes the CIA needs information that the NSA can get, and sometimes the NSA needs help from the CIA, because the NSA collects signals intelligence and the CIA collects human intelligence, and when you combine these two together, it really becomes an unstoppable force. I guess that just makes me wonder, is there any kind of strategy to keep the CIA from getting people to leak information?

JIM: Let me reinforce that; there is no way. There’s ways maybe to detect it over time, there’s ways to filter out some people. The best thing to do with your employees is to build trust, make them feel like they’re part of a team. If you do that, if they feel like they’ve been treated fairly, it makes my job as an operations officer very difficult to penetrate your organization. But if you don’t treat them right, you’re setting these people up to betray you, and they’ll betray a company much more quickly than they would betray a government. [MUSIC] This sounds self-serving, but I actually – I am a consultant; I’ve done talks like this. I have a talk that I call Soul Catcher where I give about an hour and a half’s worth of illustrations of how I recruited sources, and some big companies have hired me to give their employees this type of talk. The basic message that I try to convey is if something is too good to be true, it’s too good to be true. I talk about how I took advantage of people, exploited them, recruited them as sources just to enlighten people to be aware of people like me in their orbit.

Again, I want to stress that if a company treats its employees well, it’s much more difficult for me to develop a relationship with them and to recruit them. It’s not impossible, but it makes my job a lot more difficult. Yet, you don’t give people everything they want. You can’t. But if people feel like they’ve been treated fairly and that everybody in the company gets basically the same fair deal, that really makes it hard to penetrate and be aware of stresses, be aware of people that are under stress, because that’s when they’re most vulnerable. I’m not saying that everybody who goes through a divorce is susceptible, but I can tell you this; in a certain short time period, I recruited three people going through divorces, and headquarters jokingly referred to me as Doctor Divorce. Because if you’re going through a divorce, you are in an absolute psychological and financial tumult, and if somebody like me is in your orbit and can become your best friend and I detect that you’ve got something I need, guess what? You become very susceptible to a recruitment approach. I’m looking for the loner who comes out, and he’s disaffected, he’s maybe shunned by the others, and guess which one we’re looking for? It’s that guy. We’re looking for the one who doesn’t feel like they’re part of the team.

JACK: Jim has been an avid runner most of his life, and wherever he gets assigned, he likes to go on a run there.

JIM: I was stationed in Paris and every morning I would go on a long run. One morning, I was running and I passed a German shepherd. Dog was just lying there; I ran past it. The dog didn’t growl or bark or anything. I got about maybe ten yards past that dog when [MUSIC] suddenly I felt the most horrendous pain in my right leg, and he was biting me with his jaws. German shepherds, I think, have the most powerful bite of any dog imaginable.

JACK: He was able to get free and go to the doctor. The doctors were concerned this dog had rabies, and he went back to the spot to try to find the dog, but he couldn’t. Well, it just so happened that the rabies vaccine was invented in France, so he went to the Pasteur Institute to get treated.

JIM: I went in, met a very, very nice French doctor, and told him what happened. He said well, then you’ve gotta get the rabies shots, because he said if you don’t get it, he said there’s only been one survivor of rabies in the entire history of man. But if you get the shots, you’ll be fine. In fact, you’ll actually be immunized for at least a year.

JACK: So, Jim gets the rabies shot and was fine, but whenever there was someone he didn’t like at work, he would sometimes joke that he was gonna bite them.

JIM: So, that’s how I earned my nickname Mad Dog.

JACK: [MUSIC] The deadliest weapon on earth is the nuclear bomb, and Jim was in the CIA while some of the US’s adversaries were developing their nuclear capabilities. The US did not want some of these countries to have nuclear capabilities, and stopping opponents from gaining this power is a delicate job and done through diplomacy and espionage. There was a player in the underground nuclear arms scene called Dr. A.Q. Khan. He was a Pakistani nuclear physicist and metallurgical engineer, and he was working for a company that enriched uranium when India, the enemy of his home country, successfully detonated their first atomic bomb. This made A.Q. Khan want to rush to get Pakistan nuclear weapons so they could defend themselves from India. One of the things he did was steal the plans for centrifuges and the enrichment process, which this helped Pakistan develop the bomb. Pakistan tested it by blowing up a mountain with their atomic bomb, and it was a success. But after that, some other countries started contacting A.Q. Khan, who also wanted these weapons. He was selling blueprints for centrifuges and enrichment materials to other countries like Iran and North Korea. This was not good for the US, since these were not friendly nations. So, the US wanted to stop the underground nuclear weapons trade. In the late 90s, Jim led a team tasked with disrupting the spread of nuclear weapons technology, and one of the first things they start looking into was trying to figure out what A.Q. Khan was up to.

JIM: We discovered that he was taking the proliferation of this technology private. He was offering this to other nations without the Pakistani government’s knowledge. I was running an operation where we became privy to this, to the knowledge of this.

JACK: He learned that A.Q. Khan was preparing to provide Libya with nuclear capabilities. Now, at the time, Libya’s leader was Muammar Gaddafi, who the US did not have good relations with. Gaddafi had taken responsibility for a few terrorist attacks such as Pan Am Flight 103, which had a bomb on board and killed over 200 passengers. The US thought surely if Gaddafi had an atomic bomb, he would use it. So, this meant A.Q. Khan would have to be stopped, and it was on Jim to do it. [MUSIC] Jim had to come up with a plan, and he would turn to the Russians for inspiration.

JIM: Back in the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, Lenin appointed a man named Felix Dzerzhinsky to be the first head of Soviet intelligence. Dzerzhinsky was not even a Russian; he was a Polish aristocrat, but he was extremely smart and he was faced with a real existential challenge to the Soviet regime, and that was the fact that the British and the Americans were sending in forces to overthrow the revolution. We were sending in counterrevolutionary forces into the Soviet Union. So, Dzerzhinsky thought if I want to defeat the counterrevolutionaries, I have to become a counterrevolutionary. So, he fanned his assets. The organization was known as the Cheka. He fanned his Cheka assets out all across the Soviet Union, pretending to be counterrevolutionaries, and they so penetrated the real counterrevolutionary’s organizations, that they were able to systematically roll them up. They even controlled the financing lines.

JACK: Interesting. So, for the Soviets to defeat their enemies, they became their enemies. This looked like a great strategy for Jim to try to infiltrate the underground nuclear arms market.

JIM: My decision was if I want to defeat proliferators, I have to become a proliferator. So, we created entities that held themselves out to be proliferent.

JACK: Jim instructed his team to act as underground nuclear arms sellers. I don’t know what, exactly; maybe they were offering centrifuge plans. But they didn’t go straight to A.Q. Khan and tell him okay, look, we got these plans for sale. No; instead, they started working with some of the other people who A.Q. Khan was selling to, and this made them discover that there were a lot of people interested in what he was selling, which gave Jim and his team a great amount of intel related to the underground proliferation market. The story goes that you somehow made yourself known enough that they came to you.

JIM: Right, which lowers their counterintelligence concerns, because you’re always suspicious if somebody comes to you, but you’re not suspicious if you were the one that approached the other person. So, we made ourselves attractive and guess what? They came knocking on our door.

JACK: During this time, Jim was getting a good view into this market, which gave him knowledge of who some of the key players were, and he started getting close to some, and eventually got some to give him key information that was very helpful at knowing what was coming next. Can you talk about Urs Tinner?

JIM: No, I can’t.

JACK: Okay, can you talk about Friedrich or Marco?

JIM: No.

JACK: Hm, interesting. Jim did not want to go into any detail about his mission to stop A.Q. Khan. As far as I know, he’s not gone on the record with any author or journalist about this.

JIM: I can’t go into details about how we did it, but it was using classic espionage.

JACK: Hm, classic espionage. Well, there is a book by Catherine Collins and Douglas Frantz titled Fallout, and it’s the story of the CIA’s secret war on nuclear trafficking. [MUSIC] In it, Frantz goes into some pretty good detail of what Jim did. Friedrich Tinner is a Swiss nuclear engineer and long-time friend and associate of A.Q. Khan. Friedrich and his two sons, Urs and Marco, were all part of Khan’s proliferation network. The CIA wanted to get inside Khan’s network quickly, and there simply wasn’t enough time or opportunities to develop a relationship, so they brought in Jim. Jim discovered that Urs had some legal issues in France and thought this might be a good way to apply pressure. So, he arranged for Urs to find out that the French authorities were looking for him. CIA agents surveiled Urs until they determined the best time and place to approach him, a hotel bar in Dubai that he frequented. That’s where Jim casually offered to buy Urs a drink one evening, and they chatted for a while until Urs was getting ready to leave. That’s when Jim mentioned that he knew about the problem with the French authorities and that he could help make it go away in exchange for some information. Urs sat back down, and Jim started talking. This wasn’t a position Urs wanted to be in. He tried to exit the conversation multiple times, but he was simply no match for Jim. A couple of meetings later and he became an informant, providing Jim with eyes and ears in the Khan network.

Now, let me be clear; this is stuff I’m reading from a book. When I talked with Jim about what he supposedly did in this book, he says the book is wrong. The details are not correct, but he cannot say what details are wrong. You’d think, why should I even read from a book that’s wrong? Because the author is a Pulitzer Prize award-winning investigative journalist and did a lot of work to put this information together. So, I feel like there must be some truth to it. We just don’t know what to trust, which is kind of like what this whole episode is about, right? Trust? This book, Fallout, continues. It says the CIA wanted to stop Khan quick, because the last thing they wanted was for two dangerous regimes, Libya and Iran, to get nuclear weapons. So, they used coercion and money, paying Urs hundreds of thousands of dollars over the span of months to provide key information and sabotage shipments. The book says Jim also recruited Urs’ brother Marco, and his father, Friedrich, and they learned a lot from the Tinners, which gave them the opportunity to pull the plug on the largest nuclear proliferation network in history. There was just one more thing to do; verify that the Tinners had not been deceiving them. [MUSIC] So, Jim devised a plan. He set up a meeting with the Tinners at a hotel. All three of them were already on the payroll and had received a few hundred thousand dollars. However, this meeting, they were offering them a significant amount more, one final payout of a million dollars as well as continued protection.

In exchange for this money, they wanted two main things. First was the willing participation in extensive interrogations over several days to ensure they accurately divulged everything they knew. Second was access to all the documents and drives. Since Jim didn’t trust them, the deal was conditional on taking the information while the Tinners were at the hotel. According to the book Fallout, under the cloak of darkness, Jim and a small hand-chosen team of CIA agents broke into Tinner’s office, copied all the drives, and photographed the documents. Marco was the record-keeper of the family business, so the following night, the agents picked the lock to his house and silently entered. They quickly went to work copying drives, photographing documents, and searching for everything relevant. Jim stepped into Marco’s closet and discovered a hidden laptop, which he handed to the tech. After copying thousands of files and documents and e-mails, they silently slipped out and vanished back in the night. Everything they recovered was quickly sent back to Langley, Virginia, CIA’s headquarters, to be analyzed. As expected, they found designs for two centrifuges that Khan had stolen and sold to Iran and Libya, and they also found designs for a third, more advanced centrifuge. This meant that Khan’s buyers were closer to nuclear weapons than they thought. They had underestimated Khan again. They also discovered something potentially far worse, a significant amount of centrifuge equipment had disappeared from shipments and were quite possibly sold to an unidentified fourth customer. This was far worse than they thought. It was time to pull the plug.

JIM: [MUSIC] There was a – probably a period of a few months that were ideal to stop him, and we hit the sweet spot. George Tenet talks about it in his memoirs. He was, of course, the director of the CIA, and he finally decided that he was going to confront President Musharraf with the fact that Dr. A.Q. Khan was betraying his secrets to the Libyans. So, he met with President Musharraf, he revealed Khan’s treachery, and President Musharraf first said he was going to kill Khan, and Director Tenet said no, we don’t want you to do that. So, instead, President Musharraf put Dr. Khan under house arrest where he remained for the next five or six years. That led to the disarmament of Libya, Gaddafi turning over their nuclear technology to us, which could have been a nightmare, had – you probably remember that in – I believe it was in 2011 when Gaddafi’s people rose up and basically killed him. Well, you can imagine if Libya had been a nuclear-armed nation then, how they might have used nuclear weapons on their own people.

JACK: For infiltrating and disrupting A.Q. Khan’s network, Jim and his team received the Trailblazer medal, which is one of the most distinguished honors the CIA gives out. Oh, and in August of 2021, A.Q. Khan tested positive for Covid-19 and was admitted to a hospital. He died two months later and is considered a national icon by the people of Pakistan. When Catharine Collins and Doug Frantz were researching their book Fallout, they met with Jim to ask him some questions. Here, let me read for you the opening section of the book. Quote, “Early in our research, we finangled a lunch with the CIA case officer known as Mad Dog. He’s a man of honor, tenacity, and humor. He wore a baseball cap to the meeting embroidered with the image of a bulldog and the words Mad Dog on it. He steadfastly refused to discuss any aspect of the decade he spent leading the CIA’s investigation of Khan or his role in bringing it down. He was scrupulously silent about everything except the weather, running, and how he got his nickname. He brought along a copy of our first book and said we got some things wrong it in, but he wouldn’t say what.

As he stood to leave, he reached into his wallet and pulled out a slip of paper. I thought of you when I saw this, he said. The paper contained this quote from Barbara Kingsolver’s final novel, The Lacuna; ‘The most important part of the story is the piece you don’t know.’” End quote. The thing that kinda puts me in deep thought about this is the ethics of it all. As Jim says, espionage is illegal in most countries. If it had gone wrong, he could have been arrested or possibly killed, which means the CIA is knowingly breaking laws around the world in many countries. So, when the CIA goes around the world and completely ignores and disrespects the laws in those countries, how can the US expect other countries to respect their laws? You can’t. All you can do is brace for it. Because of the negotiation information that Jim was able to collect, he saved the US billions of dollars. But he also cost that other country billions of dollars, and the intelligence that Jim gathered saved the lives of thousands of people by keeping weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of Gaddafi. Sometimes people, even nations, have to work off of a higher code of ethics which transcends the law. Once you kinda have a permission to break the law, sort of thing, where does that stop? Or asked another way; what kind of oversight is there to make sure you don’t break the wrong laws or too many laws? Or what’s the limit there?

JIM: Well, we have an approval process. Before I pitch anybody, I have to submit – there has to be – a, there has to be a need for whatever information or intelligence this prospective recruit has. We don’t just willy-nilly go around and pitch people unless we have a real need for their access. So, it all hinges on access. If we have a target, someone who we believe will cooperate with us and we have a strong indication that that person has access to protected information that we need for our national security, then I would outline a recruitment scenario for headquarters where I would say okay, I’ve known this person for X number of weeks or months or however long. We know or we strongly suspect that he or she, by virtue of their position, has access to this protected information, and therefore, I believe I could recruit this person because of the following vulnerabilities or the following statements from the person. Then headquarters would say okay, we’re going to give you a provisional, operational approval to do this. So, they would – I wouldn’t just pitch somebody without having headquarters, my headquarters, say yes, we think that’s worth the risk, go ahead and go for it.

JACK: While Jim has not provided much information to journalists about the nuclear proliferation program that he brought down, he did recently publish a book himself called Living Lies: A Novel of the Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program. Jim tells me it’s entirely a fictional story, but his book is about a CIA agent who disrupts Iran’s nuclear weapons program, only for a different agent to discover that there’s another nuclear program that the world doesn’t know about. If you’re into spy novels, this is a must-read, and that’s just the first installment of a series he’s working on. The second book in the series is titled In the Twinkling of an Eye, and it just came out a few days ago. It tells the story of state-sponsored development of a biological weapon.

(OUTRO): [OUTRO MUSIC] A big thank-you to Jim Lawler, AKA, Mad Dog, for sharing some fascinating stories with us as a CIA officer. Don’t forget to check out Jim’s books. I’ll have links to them in the show notes. This show is made by me, the sleeping agent, Jack Rhysider. This episode is produced by the prodigy, Lowell Brillante. Sound design by the resonating Andrew Meriwether. Oh, and Andrew just started releasing some of his original music so that you can use it in your storytelling. He calls it the Cue Shop, spelled C-U-E. Visit cue-shop.com to listen to what he’s been making. Editing help this episode by the slippery Damienne, and mixing done by Proximity Sound. Our theme music is by the illustrious Breakmaster Cylinder. I had an idea for a movie where a retired CIA agent is searching for his daughter in Paris. Turns out that movie was Taken. This is Darknet Diaries.


Transcription performed by LeahTranscribes