How the US does Spying
29 March 2020
Some years ago, I had lunch with an acquaintance of mine who was a reasonably successful manager, with a slightly less successful relationship history with men. She was keen that I meet her latest beau, so we had a small group lunch.
The man in question was a fit-looking American in his early 50s who was keen to talk about himself, so we let him. He was an ex-US Navy Seal. He would not quite admit that he was down on his luck, but he had a lot of training that the US needed to use, but they would not hire him in the Navy, though he could get ‘contract work’. He would not be quite specific about this, and he assured us that if the missions went well, no one noticed anything. That was the ideal outcome. His life was at risk and he was well paid for each mission, but there was no ongoing commitment or pension if he was injured or had other misadventure. As the dinner went on he said that he had recently been on a mission in Asia where he had done something and been caught at it. He was chased by an angry mob up to the first storey of a building. He was trapped and jumped out a window onto the canvas roof of a fruit truck. He had gone straight through the roof of the truck and landed amongst the fruit, spraining his ankle, but nothing further. He was very lucky because just as he landed the truck drove away from the angry crowd while he lay low in the fruit. When he got to the destination not far away, a number of people lined up and formed a human chain to unload the truck and he, being disguised and made up joined the line passing the fruit boxes and got a few coins for his efforts when the unloading finished, before slipping away into the crowd. All very James Bond stuff.
Asked how he knew who the goodies and baddies were in all this and he said that this was defined in his brief. In short, he was an agent acting for the US government but they were in a position to disown him if he got into trouble. He was a pleasant enough fellow, and more interesting than many dinner companions, but I have not seen him again.
So I was interested to read the article below about how ‘an ex-FBI agent had died in Iranian custody’, having ‘disappeared in murky circumstances in March 2007’, ‘during an unauthorised trip for the CIA to gather intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program’. Iran had ‘kidnapped a foreign citizen and denied him any basic human rights’. He was ‘a gentleman’ and ‘outstanding’ said President Trump. Perhaps. And I like to think of myself as a champion of human rights. But people do not go on spying missions for personal curiosity and this is a deadly game, ruthlessly played. The story in the SMH is sourced from Reuters and the Washington Post but does not quite make this clear.