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Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy

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Call me naïve, but when I was a girl-watching James Bond and devouring Harriet the Spy-all I wanted was to grow up to be a spy. Unlike most kids, I didn't lose my secret-agent aspirations. So as a bright-eyed, idealistic college grad, I sent my resume to the CIA. Getting in was a story in itself. I peed in more cups than you could imagine, and was nearly condemned as a sexual deviant by the staff psychologist. My roommates were getting freaked out by government investigators lurking around, asking questions about my past. Finally, the CIA was training me to crash cars into barriers at 60 mph. Jump out of airplanes with cargo attached to my body. Survive interrogation, travel in alias, lose a tail. One thing they didn't teach us was how to date a guy while lying to him about what you do for a living. That I had to figure out for myself.
Then I was posted overseas. And that's when the real fun began.

295 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2004

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About the author

Lindsay Moran

5 books7 followers
Linsday Moran was a case officer with the Central Intelligence Agency from 1998-2003. She resigned in May 2003 to pursue freelance writing. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Washingtonian, New Jersey Monthly and Government Executive. She has been featured as an author and commentator on intelligence issues CNN, ABC, and Fox Network, as well as various national and local radio outlets.

Ms. Moran is a graduate of Harvard College (BA in English Literature, 1991) and Columbia University (MFA in Fiction Writing, 1994). She was an English literature teacher and Fullbright Scholar prior to her entrance on duty with the CIA.

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5 stars
287 (12%)
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681 (30%)
3 stars
896 (39%)
2 stars
327 (14%)
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76 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 311 reviews
Profile Image for Andrew.
Author 9 books36 followers
July 17, 2007
I admit that I couldn't put this book down, but it drove me CRAZY!!!!! because Moran validates, on almost every page, the chauvinism and prejudices and policies of the CIA that her book is a diatribe against. By the time she resigns, I felt physically relieved that she was no longer working for American intelligence. And, as my friend Cat Withrow put it, if she's so darned smart, why is her prose so darned mediocre?
Profile Image for Maurean.
906 reviews
April 1, 2008
On the inside cover, James Bradford says the book gave a candid insight that shows “that the ‘real’ life of a CIA spy is far from that portrayed by Hollywood.” If Moran’s book is any indication, I would say that’s no doubt true – the ‘real’ life is apparently much more whiny and, well, boring. But, of course, who out there *really* didn’t expect that to be the case? Obviously, Ms. Moran expected more “James Bond” and “Harriet the Spy”, as this is what she gives credit to as her source of inspiration for joining The Company, in the first place. We follow Lindsay as she interviews to be accepted, through her training to be a case officer, beyond her overseas posting, and finally to her eventual resignation.

While it was worth the few hours reading time to finish, this was NOT the “fascinating” look into the CIA that I was anticipating…nor, I’m sorry to say, was it as humorous as I was hoping it would be, either.
Profile Image for Thomas.
Author 159 books126 followers
August 16, 2009
I love this disarming, straightforward memoir of what it's like to be young, female, and working for the CIA. At times the author seems sort of frivolous and self-indulgent, but that's precisely what makes it so different than all the other intelligence memoirs out there, and fantastically readable. It's a great read and a lot of fun.

It's also an interesting glimpse of the reasons an entrenched, warped bureaucracy is not tolerated by people in my generation (Moran was born in 1969) the way it was with earlier generations. One of the greatest pleasures in reading this book was thinking how apoplectic the interpersonal segments of this memoir would make an 80-ish retired military acquaintance of the Korean War generation -- my God, it would make him scream. That made me ponder just how profoundly the cold warriors differ from the perspective of my generation when it comes to profound intelligence failures like 9/11 and the overseas agenda of the U.S. in general.

Great memoir -- read it.
286 reviews
January 26, 2009
I appreciated the matter-of-fact, almost cynical tone of this memoir. I think Moran captures the way it feels to walk the tightrope between the altruistic "helping-my-nation" sense of purpose and the cog-in-the-machine sense of purposelessness that goes with working for the government.
I can't say I'm surprised by the stuff in here that borders on absurd... but maybe was hoping her experiences wouldn't be so predictable or mundane. But that was the point.
Profile Image for Travelin.
467 reviews45 followers
May 17, 2014
I'm giving this book the full 3 stars because it probably portrays a truer picture of the CIA than anyone has dared to do. Lindsay Moran's undercover work involved riding a bicicyle around Skopje, Macedonia, sitting in cars with old Balkan men, listening to them drone on and on about history and paying them astronomical fees for so much nonsense, and then, finally, picking up strange Bulgarian men she's far too chic to marry. This doesn't seem to make readers of spy thrillers, Lindsay Moran herself, or victims of international intelligence failures, generally speaking, especially happy.

Meanwhile, Yugoslavia, next door, is in the throes of collapse. Somewhere in Afghanistan an 18 year old boy from California (the "American Taliban") shows up gibbering in self-taught Arabic and manages a meeting with bin Laden, while the CIA infrastructure is creaking back and forth, sitting in cars with boys.

There's a lot about the CIA I didn't learn in this book. I also didn't learn anything about the region's history. I did read a good joke from the Bulgarian boyfriend she dumped once she went back to America.

One needs to read a bit of Russian history to get some sense of how ill-favoured a really active intelligence service could be. Where is the compromise between extreme renditions and incompetence? Aren't they the same, really?

It's funny that Ms. Moran was interviewed as some sort of expert on just this question. You can see it here:
Profile Image for J.T. Patten.
Author 12 books167 followers
February 14, 2014
I loved this book. Moran nails the inner turmoil that one has with the Agency. It is a love hate relationship perpetually that she captures. From the very get go, recruitment and benign instructions starts candidates off in a wilderness of mirrors. Self doubt, peer doubt, honor doubt. It is a life of questions and uneasiness. There is no HR rep to call, no manager to chat with. Unless you are on the inside, you will never know what it is like---unless of course you read Lindsay Moran's account.

The book is honest, well written, funny, and sad, which showed me the author gave it her all and spoke from the heart.

I highly recommend the book to anyone who ever wanted an unvarnished glimpse of the CIA.
Profile Image for Frederick Bingham.
1,062 reviews
January 1, 2012
This is the story of the author's 5-year employment as a CIA case officer. Most of the book describes the training she had to go through and her decision to work for the CIA. She is eventually assigned to Skopje, Macedonia in '2000-'2003.The author eloquently describes life in the CIA at "grunt level" as a foot soldier dealing with hidebound bureaucracy and sleazy situations. It did not in the least glamorize the life of a spy. In fact it made it seem downright miserable. One can understand from reading this how the CIA screwed up so badly on 9/11. It also gives little hope that there has been much change for the better since. It shows how creativity and talent are driven from the system.The most searing image is on the day she decided to resign, she had a conference with a security official at headquarters. The guy had an envelope labeled "Top Secret" in which he was to send his report about her exit interview. He used the envelope to pick lunch out of his teeth.
Profile Image for Wellington.
679 reviews22 followers
March 11, 2015

This is certainly no James Bond novel. James Bond novels involve villains plotting to take over the world. This book starred a woman who was plotting to take over my last nerve.

I was expecting some joking/ridicule of the CIA from this book. She painted the CIA more like "The Office" filled with horribly incompetent agents - especially herself.

She comes across as whiny and I felt more like I was reading a Sex and the City episode with Lindsay so preoccupied with rock climbing, boyfriends and quality time with her girl friends.

If Lindsay is the type of person gathering intelligence, I worry for the safety of America. If she's the type of writer that America is producing now ... well, she's a decent enough writer.

This is a 1.3 star book.
6 reviews
September 11, 2008
This was fast reading, but it wasn't until after I finished it that I realised that it was fast reading because there wasn't very much in it. I guess the main problem I had with the narrative was that she came up with a bunch of stories about why the CIA was boring. However, inasmuch as the names and locations have been changed, not only was the book filled with boring stories, the boring stories weren't, presumably, even true. So I guess... life in the CIA is boring... kinda like this book.
Profile Image for Anaszaidan.
528 reviews791 followers
June 30, 2012
كتاب جديد في عالم الجاسوسية الغامض.

أنقل لكم ابتداء من مقدمة المترجم، خالد كسروي: "وعندما أنهت ليندسي تعليمها الجامعي وأرسلت طلب التحاقها لوكالة الاستخبارات المركزية؛ بدأت تتشكك منذ اللحظة الأولى لإجراء اختبارات الالتحاق في خطأ التصورات التي ترسخت في أذهاننا جميعاً عن هذه المؤسسة الاستخباراتية، وبعد أن قبل طلب التحاق الكاتبة بالمخابرات، وبدأت تتلقى تدريباتها على مهارات التجسس بالمزرعة مع زملائها تحولت شكوكها إلى يقين. وتنقل لنا الكاتبة طبيعة التدريبات التي يتلقاها الضباط الميدانيين بالإضافة إلى طبائع شخصياتهم وطريقة تفكيرهم من خلال احتكاكها بهم أثناء فترة التدريب، ثم تنتقل بنا الكاتبة إلى العالم الميداني حيث عملت كضابط ميداني بدول البلقان لتنقل لنا صورة حية عن طبيعة عمل الاستخبارات الأمريكية بهذه المنطقة في فترة الاضطرابات التي حلت بها منذ أزمة البوسنة والهرسك وحتى أزمة الألبان والمقدونيين وكيف تعاملت الحكومة الأمريكية مع هذه الأزمات وسياسة الولايات المتحدة بهذه المنطقة من العالم بالإضافة إلى طبائع شعوب منطقة البلقان. وخلال سرد الكاتبة لبعض مهامها التي كانت تقوم بها في منطقة البلقان في فترة من أوائل 2001 إلى أواخر 2002. تذكر لنا كيف تمكن العديد من البسطاء من ابتزاز أموال الوكالة بمنتهى البساطة. وانتقلت الكاتبة لتتناول أحداث الحادي عشر من سبتمبر وكيفية تعامل الوكالة معها وكيف استثمرت الإدارة الأمريكية هذه الأحداث لتحتل دول العالم الإسلامي.

وزاد استياء الكاتبة من الوكالة بعد تكليف جورج بوش لها بتلفيق أدلة لتبرير شن الحرب على العراق.
وقررت الكاتبة في النهاية أن تترك العمل بوكالة الاستخبارات المركزية وتتفرغ للكتابة لتخرج لنا هذا الكتاب الذي يقلب الكثير من المفاهيم ويكشف لنا الكثير من الحقائق التي كانت غائبة عنا". انتهى كلام خالد كسروي، والآن إليكم تعليقي ورأيي المتواضع.

سأبدأ بجلد الناشر والمترجم، ومرورا بناسخ الترجمة أومصففها، وانتهاء بالكاتبة
1- الناشر لم يلتزم بالطريقة التقليدية في التعريف بالكتاب. إذ ينبغي كتابة الكتاب واسم المؤلف باللغة الأصلية للكتاب. وهو ما لم أره.

2- الكتاب قرأته باللغة العربية باسم (كشف المستور) وتحتها عنوان فرعي (أغرب خفايا الــ CIA)، بل قد جعل الناشر عنوان الغلاف الداخلي هكذا: (كشف المستور) وتحتها عنوان فرعي (قصة واقعية لعميلة CIA)! لهدف تجاري واضح. وكلاهما ترجمة غير دقيقة ��اسم الكتاب، الذي يعني تقريياً (انكشاف غطائي: حياتي كعميلة في السي آي إيه). وينبغي في حال وضع عنوان قريب من عنوان الكتاب بلغته الأصلية، أن يكتب المترجم أسباب اختيار هذا الاسم. وأظن كما أسلفت بأن السبب تجاري بحت لا علاقة للمترجم. وأنا إذ أكتب الترجمة، لا أتحدث بصفتي مترجما، بل من خلال إلمامي باللغة الإنجليزية.

3- الكتاب الذي من طباعة غراس للنشر والتوزيع بالجيزة في مصر، وترجمة خالد كسروي، مليء بشكل غير منطقي بعشرات، بل مئات الأخطاء اللغوية والإملائية والنحوية والتحريرية. لدرجة أنني الذي أعتبر نفسي بثقافة متواضعة بالنحو، لكوني لم أقرأ فيه بعد تخرجي في الثانوية، قد امتشقت قلمي الأخضر بعد عدة صفحات من بداية الكتاب لأحدد في كل صفحة ما 3 إلى 10 أخطاء، وأنا مستمر في القراءة، لا أتوقف لأدقق في الكلام أكثر. فالفاعل قد يكون منصوبا، والمفعول به يترك دون نصب منون ( ��ن باب سكّن تسلم!)، وهمزات القطع مفقودة، مع وجود أحيانا الخطأ الأكثر شهرة في مصر، وهو كتابة الياءات ألفا مقصورة وبالعكس، وجعل حرف الذاء زاياً كعادة المصريين في قلب الذاء!!.

الغريب أن الناشر حذر من طباعة أو تصوير أو إعادة تنفيذ الكتاب و و و...إلخ. والسؤال الذي يطرح نفسه: من ذا الذي يريد سرقة مثل هذه الطبعة المليئة بالأخطاء المخزية؟!!

4- نأتي إلى الترجمة. الترجمة لغتها ركيكة وعادية ، لغتها تشبه لغة الشارع في التعبير، أو لغة المنتديات الإلكترونية. صحيح أنها مفهومة إلا أنني صاحب الثقافة المتواضعة، كنت أقرأ بعض المقاطع، وانزعج من ضعف لغة التعبير عند المترجم وضعف بلاغته.

5- نأتي إلى التصفيف: السطور متفاوتة الأطوال، لسبب بسيط. وهو أن المصفف لم يضغط في ملف الوورد على الزر الذي يجعل الأطوال متساوية!. فضلا عن المسافات الزائدة بين الكلمات، وفضلا عن علامات الترقيم التي تختفي في بعض المقاطع!.

6- نأتي إلى اللب، الكتاب:
أقول الكتاب يتحدث بتفصيل دقيق عن حياة شابة كانت تدرس الإنجليزية لغير الناطقين بها خارج الولايات المتحدة. تتحدث الكاتبة بتفصيل مطول، وقد يكون شيقا لمن يحب أن يعرف مستوى المخاطر التي قد يتعرض لها العميل، والتدريبات التي يتلقاها حيال ذلك.
بعد ذلك تعرج المؤلفة إلى قصة عملها في منطقة البلقان. لم تكن مطولة كما هي قصة تدريباتها. تعرضت المؤلفة لقصة تعارفها على بعض قادة المليشيات. والغريب أنها كانت تعرف بنفسها لهم على أنها دبلوماسية أمريكية، ولا أدري أي نوع من الغطاء أو التنكر هذا الذي يجعلها تعرف بنفسها على أنها دبلوماسية وتعمل في السفارة مع القطاع الحكومي السياسي الأمريكي!!.
الكتاب لم يتكلم عن طبيعة ما كانت تجمعه العميلة، بقدر ما كانت تصف علاقتها بمعارفها، وأين سافرت وأين قعدت!!. أستطيع أن أعزو هذا لكون السي آي إيه تراجع كل ما ينشر عنها، وتشطب كل عبارة قد تكشف شيئا لا يرغبون بنشره. ولكن ما بقي عبارة عن دردشات نسوية عن السفر والأكل وحضور الحفلات، وقليل جدا من المغامرات.
رأيي أنه بقدر ما كان السرد شيقا، كان الكتاب لا يكشف أسرارا أو ما يشبه الأسرار، ككتاب جورج تينت (مدير الاستخبارات الأمريكية) في كتابه (في قلب العاصفة)؛ لذا لن أعطيه أكثر من نجمتين.

أنس زيدان
30 june 2012
657 reviews
February 15, 2016
I found this book mildly enjoyable. It was a quick read which helped. The author tells amusing stories. She has a way of making light of what could be serious situations. But all in all, I couldn't help but think about the Mrs. Pollifax books.

The author tells about how she wanted to be a spy as a child and how she was certain that her father and grandfather were spies before her. She had a couple "false starts" where she was in the application process, but then backed out. She enjoyed most of the training - it was like playing a game, but realized during that time that perhaps she wasn't really field agent material. She felt bad about deceiving people into doing the actual spying. (A field agent's job is to convey the information back to Washington that others told her.) She felt like she was using people who could be very badly hurt or even killed if they were caught.

Ultimately, she did leave. I had mixed feelings about her "adventure." I understood WHY she felt that she was using vulnerable people. But her anger at the whole agency after 9/11 left me a little disappointed. She knew during training that she wasn't really cut out for the job and talked to people about leaving before she finished the course at "The Farm." I was a little disappointed in her inaction about leaving then because I thought she was a stronger person. But she allowed herself to be manipulated into staying. Her will was too weak to say to them, "No. I'm out of here." It took her years to get enough backbone to say what she knew instinctively all that time.

And, to go back to my initial thoughts, I think I will go reread Mrs. Pollifax. Yes, that's a novel, and this is a biography, but Mrs. Pollifax gets close enough to the truth and is much more entertaining.
Profile Image for Rachel.
131 reviews8 followers
July 5, 2011
Ms. Moran is a good writer, and she does best describing the training of potential operatives at The Farm, as the CIA training facility is known colloquially. Training is in many ways not as intensive as I expected - only five days of hand-to-hand combat, and the firearms proficiency test is a mere written exam. However other requirements, such as the hostage scenario and defensive driving course, not to mention parachuting out of a plane while loaded down with gear, seem designed to test the mettle and courage of the applicants. Candidates are ordinary people with squeaky-clean backgrounds, not necessarily multi-lingual geniuses with Ivy League degrees. Ms. Moran seems motivated by a sense of patriotism and a rather naive desire to be a "spy." This is a job which inevitably seems more fun in the movies and television. In reality, soliciting people to betray their country by pretending to be their friend is a dreary task. For CIA operatives, lying is a way of life, and apparently Ms. Lohan wasn't cut out for that. I can't say I blame her, although she has received much criticism for being too naive to know what she was getting into, but most people do not have an accurate view of the lives of CIA agents, as the media has led us to believe that they operate like military special forces, rapelling walls, shooting bad guys, breaking into clandestine buildings. Ms. Lohan reveals that the life of a CIA case officer is mostly paperwork, lies, and much time with desperate, unsavoury people who have little to offer in the way of information. Her book is entertaining for anyone who wonders what it would be like to work as a CIA case operative.
Profile Image for Daniel.
635 reviews83 followers
August 6, 2021
I love this book. This is indeed a candid autobiography of the author’s time in CIA. We learnt that she has to undergo lie detector tests on top of background checks and stressful interviews. Then she went for training, which included obstacle course, orienteering, parachuting, dangerous driving (towards parked cars and brick wars) and spy craft. And lots of repeat writing. The main job of a Case Officer is to recruit agents to obtain state secrets from ‘agents’. Often the agents will be executed if discovered. They need to have alias at work where they are stationed and another one if going to another country to meet their agents. At first she felt bad because she was asking people to betray their country, but she managed to do it. The main problem though was the toll on her relationships. She absolutely could not tell her friends what she really did; foreign boyfriends were banned; in the end, she chose love over her career, and married the handsome James.

The CIA was totally misogynistic then. Male officers were told they could visit prostitutes, but only once. Female officers were told not to have any boyfriends in the host country.

The book was hilarious and fun to read, I totally enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Meri.
1,033 reviews25 followers
July 27, 2009
Lindsay Moran's account of her harrowing recruitment for the CIA, training that bordered on the absurd, then her work in Eastern Europe changed a lot of the ideas I had about the organization. Though she reiterates several times that being a case officer is very different from what one would think from the movies, the skills she learns (detecting and shaking a tail, never using a land line, disguises, and dead drops, to name a few) are pretty dramatic. She writes of an organization that is so tied up in regulations that she has to apply for permission to have her foreign boyfriend visit her--which is granted long after he has left. She writes of the loneliness of always having to lie to people. I was surprised at the absurdity of it all: the CIA spends a lot of money to procure information and guard its secrets, yet is so busy chasing its own tail that it gathers little information. Moran's informants often have little to offer, but the CIA keeps paying them money so that she can gain experience. The ineffectiveness of the organization really came to light on September 11, 2001, and Moran quit soon afterward. It was a very entertaining read.
Profile Image for Bookmarks Magazine.
2,042 reviews734 followers
February 5, 2009

Blowing My Cover offers an inside look at America's recent failures of intelligence, the CIA, and its tragic missteps in the Iraq war. Moran, a disenchanted CIA case officer between 1998 and 2003, relates her (mis)adventures with wit and intelligence-she's an unglamorous Bond Girl with Bridget Jones's sensibilities. Most critics embraced Moran's personal approach-her honest, humorous descriptions of grueling training (defensive driving, assembling explosives, handling weapons) and journey toward emotional fulfillment. Who's a young CIA agent to date, anyway? A few reviewers thought that Moran shirked some larger issues, like her espionage posting in Macedonia, but this may be a matter of editing. In the end, Moran makes a persuasive case to revamp American intelligence.

This is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine.

Profile Image for Renee.
97 reviews4 followers
July 27, 2007
Blowing My Cover – My Life As A CIA Spy, by Lindsay Moran, was a quick, cheap ($6.50) read that we discussed at Book Club (B/C). It details Ms. Moran’s initial attraction to, training for, and ultimate disillusionment with The Company. The author comes across, I’m sorry to say, as a naïve, Peace Corps-flaky lefty, who for some reason feels compelled to join the CIA. Well, she believes herself drawn to lying and travel, so she must be perfect for intelligence work! All that said, her observations of the dysfunctional and in various ways outdated (Cold War, anyone?) agency do ring true to someone acquainted with such bureaucracies.
Profile Image for Leslie.
306 reviews7 followers
June 25, 2019
If you were to write a book about the most money-wasting governmental agency what kind of tone would you write with? Lindsay Moran made the right choice: heavy-duty sarcasm.
Profile Image for Lauren.
497 reviews6 followers
August 28, 2015
This non-fiction book details the experiences of Lindsay Moran, a former CIA agent who spent her childhood dreaming of being a spy and finally got to see her dreams fulfilled when she was hired shortly after graduating college. However, after a grueling training and the crippling toll the Agency put on her personal life, Moran learns that sometimes achieving your childhood dreams isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, and the sexed-up portrayal of spies in popular culture is a far cry from reality.

While this book was pretty interesting, Moran herself was really aggravating. From her openness about her recreational drug use and her intimate relationships with several Bulgarian men during the aftermath of the Cold War, it’s hard to see why the CIA would have thought she’d make a good candidate to begin with. As someone who has been applying for jobs in the public sector myself (not for jobs at the Agency, mind you), it was really annoying reading that the Agency went very far out of their way to get her to join them. In this economy, after two years of applying – along with tens and thousands of others – for just a couple of low-level openings in the US government that were quickly filled by transitioning military members, to read that at one point in time, these recruiters were bending over backward for fresh young blood in their organizations is really disheartening.

Moran, despite her years of idolizing spies as a child, had a definite change of heart when she got older. She applied – and was invited to join – the Agency a few times before she finally did, deciding at one point to cancel her application altogether to climb mountains in Bulgaria for a year. When she finally did join, Moran had serious misgivings about the Agency culture and mission. Her book is basically one giant bitch-fest complaining about how awful the Agency is. And honestly, I get it. The experiences she shares are definitely enough to make anyone hate their job, but it made me wonder, “Why stick around?” Especially for a job of this nature, it would personally make me, as an American, feel much safer not having someone of Moran’s questionable ethics tasked with gathering and keeping our intelligence reports.

Overall, though, this book was kind of depressing. We Americans like to think our government knows just about everything, and we like to think that’s what’s going to protect us from unknown threats. Moran insists that the American government is spending millions of dollars on wining and dining useless “contacts” who are simply taking advantage of our desperation for information, our American intelligence had no idea that 9/11 was going to happen, top officials are more interested in carrying own extramarital affairs than the daily operations of the Agency, and basically the whole CIA is a useless waste of government resources. After the terrorist attacks of September 11th, Moran felt “useless and desperate,” which is kind of what I fear most people will feel after reading this book.

It might be a useful read for those interested in pursuing a career in the Agency, as it gives a lot of details about recruitment, hiring, and training, but for me, it left a lot to be desired. The next time I’m looking for a book on espionage, I’ll be picking up Argo
Profile Image for Ashley.
1,011 reviews
June 25, 2011
A quick, interesting read that was also slightly alarming. The CIA wastes a LOT of money so that case officers, such as Moran, can wine and dine those they want to ply secrets from. These informants get paid salaries plus "signing bonuses". While I don't argue that their job is not important, I find it hard to believe all the informants on the CIA's payroll are totally necessary to national security. Moran was instantly put off by the fact that her job was to find the informant's vulnerabilities and exploit them. Informant has a sick kid s/he can't afford treatment for? Dangle care in a top-notch US hospital in front of him/her to get the info you need. It would be a difficult job to perform and you'd have to believe that good things were coming from it. Ultimately after 9/11, Moran realized she didn't think it was worth it and resigned.

Interestingly, and contrary to popular knowledge, those employed by the CIA are not referred to as agents; CIA agents are actually the targets from other countries that CIA officers are trying to extract secrets from. A CIA officer's job depends on how many of these insiders they can cultivate and how important the information they glean is. However, there's always the constant threat of your insider being found out by their home country or government. Officers must constantly ensure they're not being followed. Moran shared that during a final test, she had to conduct covert business while being tailed by numerous CIA and FBI officers. She was amazed at how most of the time they were able to stay on her tail even showing up in different outfits, including wigs, and facial hair. She was trained to identify their shoes, since they aren't often changed.

The training Moran described at The Farm sounded alternately like an extreme summer camp and a sadictic outlet for other CIA/FBI agents to torture new officers. Moran did do a nice job of conveying that the job isn't nearly as exciting as most people think and the profound loneliness and isolation she felt during her tenure. I also found it funny that her cover as a diplomat was readily apparent to most DC insiders. Also amusing was the missive to new officers to not even think about listing the CIA on their resume should they leave the agency; according to Moran, her class was told that if a future employer called the CIA that they would deny all knowledge of you.

An interesting read that I think anyone interested in the CIA/FBI, espionage and/or intelligence work of the US government would find interesting.
Profile Image for ateedub.
38 reviews1 follower
March 30, 2007
I certainly picked this book up as a light read, but it was lighter than I thought it would be. The book, ostensibly a memoir, focuses on the author's isolation during her 5-year career as a CIA case operator. She seems very normal, which makes it easy to relate to her, but I didn't think the book said anything new or different about the CIA or about the people in the CIA.

I say this is ostensibly a memoir because I'm skeptical about how much was left out. I know the CIA had to approve the book before it was published, so I definitely think this is a much less exciting version of the story. Granted, the actual events are less important than the increasing feeling of isolation that the author experiences, but if I'm reading about the CIA, I want to feel like I'm getting som juicy tidbits.

Another disappointment for me was that 1/2 to 2/3 of the book focused on the application process and then the year (or so) of training the author received, both at Langley and at 'The Farm'. While this was interesting as an insight into how the CIA is stuck in the Cold War era, it simply futhered the James Bond/Tom Clancy/Bourne Identity stereotype of spies.

I wanted to hear more about her in action wherever she would be posted. Understandably, this was actually the less interesting part of the author's life. She wasn't having fun, she was pretty sure her work wasn't actually helping, and she was extremely isolated. So I think the author rightly does not spend a lot of time on this subject, but it was disappointing after the build-up in the first chapter (and on the back cover of the book).

What I did find interesting was learning about the transformation that took place in the author as she got deeper into the CIA. The isolation really affected her. It made me wonder what I would do in a similar situation, since I can just as easily see it as a perfect time to meet lots of people, knowing you won't see them again and quite simply just enjoy the moment. Also having lived overseas in the kind of 'diplomatic' environment that she was in, some of her actions seemed extremely suspicious to me. I mean, wouldn't it be less strange to go to work at the same time every day than to constantly change it up and take circuitous routes that are never the same?

If you want a very quick, and very engrossing read, this is it. But don't expect to get any depth out of it.
Profile Image for Iowa City Public Library.
703 reviews71 followers
July 16, 2010
I’d like to blame my father for my addiction to James Bond. But even more than an affinity for tall dark men with English accents, thanks to Bond I’ve always secretly wanted to be a spy. So when I came across "Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy" by Lindsay Moran I couldn’t resist.

I was expecting some kind of Valerie Plame memoir about a CIA cover gone bad, but I was wonderfully surprised. This is more of a "CIA approved" version of Lindsay Moran’s daily journal about what its REALLY like to work for the Central Intelligence Agency than some tell all book. I was hooked from page one.

As the daughter of a Defense Department employee and a childhood fan of Harriet the Spy, Lindsay had dreams of some day working as a covert operative for the CIA. She graduated from Harvard and then graduate school, and spent a year teaching English in Bulgaria before applying to the CIA.

After jumping through all their many application hoops, which include a variety of tests ranging from a federal background check to polygraph and psych tests - Lindsay ends up being offered not only a job with the CIA – but only after she has already accepted a Fulbright in Bulgaria! Never one to do things the easy way, Lindsay asks to defer her start date with the CIA for a year so she may do research abroad, and amazingly the CIA agrees – with the caveat that she not mention to anyone what she’ll be doing when she returns to the US, and that she retake all the entrance tests upon her return.

How does a woman in her mid 20′s who is naturally outgoing and social succeed in a career that requires her to lie to everyone around her, be secretive about what she does, where she lives and even she knows? And even more important, how will she make it through all the training required to get the job she thinks she wants?

It’s a secret. But if you read the book you’ll find out.

And for fun, read the small print at the bottom of the back of the title page that begins with "The material in this book has been reviewed and approved by the CIA". Makes you wonder what didn’t make it into the final draft. Check out the CIA Publication Review Board if you’re curious. --Beth

From ICPL Staff Picks Blog
Profile Image for LJ.
349 reviews1 follower
October 28, 2014
Lindsay Moran begins her memoir explaining her motivations for wanting to work for the CIA in the first few pages of the book, but her motivations, at first passionate, begin to dwindle as she starts training for her career as a CIA case officer.

Lindsay continues to document how she feels working for the CIA throughout this memoir, which covers her five-year term from beginning training, to working in the field, and her feelings are the focus. The reader does learn interesting facts, such as that the "secret agents" are typically not CIA, rather, they are people in key positions in countries around the world. The CIA employee working in the covert area is called a case officer and serves as the spy's handler. Their other assignment is to recruit more potential foreign spies. The author covers her application processes, which include absurd lie-detector tests and a strange first interview in a hotel room with the Teletubbies playing on the TV in the background, with delightfully black humor.

The parts that aren't covered so well are when she actually starts to work in the field and the part when she decides to resign. I would have enjoyed a more detailed description of the of the resignation process, which are glossed over, maybe due to legalities? The parts where she describes her field work tend to dwell on her loneliness and desultory relationships with her foreign boyfriends.

Moran loses much of her remaining enthusiasm and commitment for the job post 911, when she feels that her employer failed the American people. There doesn't seem to be much of a climax, although this is a memoir, so maybe there wasn't one. The author doesn't make a huge deal about describing 911, just that it drove home certain misgivings. The tone of the memoir is humorous, focuses on the absurdity of her experience, and although that was enjoyable, Moran did face dangerous situations that she makes light of. I would have enjoyed a break into seriousness at key points in the narrative. That would have made the absurd situations all the more poignant.

Overall, the book does a good job of providing a realistic picture of what it was like for Moran to work as a CIA covert operative. It is lonely, it is boring, and it does reek havoc with your personal relationships. If that is the type of story you are looking for of the life of an American spy, then read this book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Lance Charnes.
Author 7 books91 followers
June 6, 2012
Lindsay Moran grew up wanting to be Harriet the Spy; unlike most former little girls, she made it, becoming a CIA case officer in 1998 and spending several years with the Agency until she just couldn't take it anymore. Blowing My Cover is the story of that journey.

Moran's voice is breezy and informal, and the recounting of her misadventures sounds much like "Stephanie Plum Goes to Quantico". She takes us through her induction, testing and training (which comes off as the adventure camp from hell) into her overseas postings in the Balkans, giving us a full dose of the bureaucracy and absurdity as well as a few moments of genuine suspense. She paints quick but vivid portraits of both fellow CIA members and some of the oddballs she either suborned or worked with overseas.

Like others who have written my-life-as-a-spy books, Moran finally left the Agency not because of the danger or often primitive living conditions in her near-Third-World assignments, but because of mundane office politics, the crazy rules and contradictions, and especially the difficulty of being an agent and conducting a normal human relationship. Her colleagues' lives -- as those of other CIA agents in other books of this sort -- are littered with broken marriages, abandoned children, alcoholism and wrecked health. She got out before the work ruined her, and you'll be glad she did. It's a side of spying we never see in movies or read about in the more breathless thrillers. This ultimately is the greatest strength of Blowing My Cover; it's an enjoyable, engaging look into the rough reality of one of the world's oldest and most misunderstood professions.
Profile Image for Michael Burnam-Fink.
1,507 reviews230 followers
January 27, 2018
John le Carre had a baby with one of those earnestly confessional 'smart young modern lady' memoirs, and it's a fun and interesting read.

Lindsay Moran was a 'Real Spy', a CIA case officer running around the Balkans in the late 90s doling out hundred dollar bills to the human wreckage thrown off by collapse of Yugoslavia. But as it turns out, being a real spy is far from romantic or fun. Moran chronicles how the Agency's obsessive secrecy destroyed her social life and moral center of balance, making her paranoid and cagy, trapped in destructive relationships with local losers, and ultimately spinning her wheels doing nothing in the lead up to 9/11.

The best parts of the this book are the descriptions of training at The Farm. The CIA training course seems like a lot of fun. Actually being a spy involves meeting assholes in smoky low-end diners and convincing them to lie to you for money. Moran quit the agency in 2003, disgusted by its inability to meaningfully do anything about Al Qaeda or the coming invasion of Iraq (fun fact: Case Officers were prohibited from meeting with people with terrorist ties in the 90s.) The picture of HUMINT that she paints is broken boys playing a pointless game with their foreign counterpoints. For a book published in 2004, there is some foresight about the CIA's transformation into a secret army (see The Way of the Knife), but overall, the biggest sense is that the whole CIA is crazy, and only does its job by accident.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
154 reviews6 followers
January 4, 2012
While this book was an interesting and entertaining read, the writing was only average. The book interested me because I have personally seen someone go through the process of applying to the CIA. I can appreciate Moran's disillusionment and the shattering of it, but she had some interesting stories that I think she could have told in an even more riveting manner. I also found myself questioning how much of her stories were true or were omitted. It seems to me that a agency known for its secrecy might have some censorship claims with agents (including past) regarding the details they can share.
Profile Image for Jen.
358 reviews37 followers
January 26, 2018
I liked this book, mainly for the insider's glimpse into what it's like to be a CIA agent--and a female one at that--in more current times. I wasn't so crazy about the author herself ("Gee, should I take the CIA's job offer or that Fullbright scholarship?" Decisions, decisions). But I did feel for her plight, especially when she was overseas. I now have a better sense of what's at stake with an agent's cover, and, apropos to recent news, also have more insight into how *really bad* it was for Valerie Plame's cover to have been blown in the New York Times.
26 reviews
November 27, 2013
Lindsay Moran has a funny, dry sense of humor and a very accessible writing style. Recounting her days as a CIA spy and as a spy-in-training, her story is alternatively hilarious, outrageous and revealing. This inside look at the CIA will absolutely make you shake your head in disbelief at the tremendous waste of resources that go into being the nation’s first line of defense.
92 reviews3 followers
May 7, 2016
It kinda surprises me how much Lindsay was able to reveal about the CIA. Very good read, makes me greatful I never wanted o be a spy or any other job that would separate me from my family so much.
Profile Image for Cynda .
1,304 reviews146 followers
February 9, 2019
We get to know:

How much Lindsay Moran wanted to be an agent, how some of her family were connected to US government.

How CIA agents are trained.

What happened when she actually became an agent.

Ultimately Moran found the costs too high, so she had to quit. Indon't blame her. But drars I would have liked to have had more stories about actually being in the field.

Readable. Sometimes Entertaining.
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