John Kiriakou has recently written The Reluctant Spy. The book recounts his fifteen years as a covert agent and his life in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as an operative and analyst. It details his take down of the infamous terrorist Abu Zubaydah as well as a day in the life as a CIA agent. NewsReal Blog interviewed him about his CIA career and issues he explored in his book.
NRB: Why the title?
Kiriakou: Because I was “reluctant” to leave the CIA.
NRB: You went into detail about the interview process-want to recap?
Kiriakou: I had to take an abundance of tests: a map test, a multiple choice test, a psychology test, and a polygraph test. They want to make sure you have a wide spread of knowledge. From beginning to end the interview process took 14 months.
NRB: Speaking of a polygraph test-what do you think?
Kiriakou: We all hate it. A polygraph is not a lie detector test. All it detects are changes in your physiology. The whole purpose is to frighten someone enough to admit something if they are guilty. In my experience we don’t do it to the terrorists. That should tell you something.
NRB: Can you talk about the operations course?
Kiriakou: Military in nature and some basic spy skills which are interpersonal skills. You have to get people to love you to the point they will commit treason. We had to learn surveillance and counter-terrorism techniques. You can’t trust anybody on the outside because you can never be sure that they are not a double agent.
NRB: Should there be any changes at the CIA?
Kiriakou: What the agency does need is more co-locations between the analyst and operatives side. Both sides need to sit together, work together to provide support for one another easily. For example in the Iraq group you have that happening permanently. They are face to face. It worked and that is definitely the trend.
NRB: How do you balance your professional VS your personal life?
Kiriakou: There is a high divorce rate. Agency romances are easier because you are both cleared. You don’t have to worry about leaking something to your spouse or having to lie about what you have been doing. There is an inherent lack of trust if your spouse is not in the agency. If you are in a place like CTC as an operative you are traveling constantly. A spouse in the agency can understand the requirements more.
NRB: You described the Agency -that is like a fraternity-please comment:
Kiriakou: I consider it to be a family. We are willing to shed blood for each other. We need to trust each other with our life. You form a bond, a real connection.