Thursday, April 18, 2013


A Spy’s Journey by CIA veteran Floyd Paseman is a pleasurable read for active and retired case officers, 
journalists and for spy buffs. It's one of the best CIA memoirs published in a long while, akin to the written memoirs of David Atlee Phillips' 1977 classic "The Night Watch". It includes all the minute experiences of Paseman, including nibbling on moose lips and sipping vodka in Mongolia.

He reveals his fascinating career in Cold War covert operations in Asia and Europe from the 1960s to the present. Dedicated and determined, Paseman mastered espionage methods and difficult foreign languages in order to defend American policies and values from Soviet, Chinese Communist, and terrorist threats. His courage and tradecraft skills make the book a good read.
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Floyd L. Paseman retired from the Central Intelligence Agency in January 2001 following a thirty-five year career in operations. Now deceased, following his retirement he lived in Williamsburg, Virginia, where he worked as an international security consultant.

It is a very useful and highly readable account of his 34 years in The Company, from trainee to senior executive. The book describes his progressing career as a top spy recruiter for the Directorate of Operations and other published works about particular eras and controversies over the years, from 1967 to the present.

It is both a primer on espionage craft and a syllabus for an orderly study of the CIA's history, with each Central Intelligence Director, from Richard Helms to George Tenet, profiled for their strengths and weaknesses. He also describes the relations between each president and the agency in historical sequence. Importantly, Paseman reveals exactly what's right and wrong with the CIA and tells who is to blame (the Clinton Administration, most recently) and who is to be praised, notably George Tenet for his efforts to revive the craft of intelligence gathering.

He describes the 9/11 attack an intelligence failure. When asked, he replies, "Of course," then points to our continuing vulnerabilities. I read Paseman's book in conjunction with Michael Scheuer's Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror, and got a sense for just how complex our response to the challenge of Islamist terrorism must be. And that war is a challenge that cannot be met merely with CIA/military/homeland security operations. Other allies and agencies have to help infiltrate and "roll up" terrorist cells and networks. We also must take economic and educational initiatives that lead towards better career opportunities to remove "fuel from the fire" and afford angry young Islam youth hope. It is my belief that fighting terrorism is like changing the tire on your car...while it's still moving!"

Paseman was recognized by the CIA to be one of the best recruiters of foreign spies during his years in Taiwan, Japan, Burma, Greece, Thailand, Singapore and Germany. He 
found that one good tool was his ability to form bluegrass bands during his overseas postings.

Ironic and sometimes humorous, he offers tips on how to know what's going on inside the CIA on the home front. His version of "the water cooler" is to keep one's ears open in The Company restrooms and to patrol aggressively for coffee around other staff groups. Paseman's genius goes far beyond the restroom and coffee pot...I believe his book will enrich your understanding of how the Intelligence Community(IC) works...whether you are a professional case officer or analyst, journalist or writer of spy genre, or an armchair spy buff.

Robert Morton, M.Ed., Ed.S. is a member of the Association Of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) and writes the online spy series "Corey Pearson- CIA Spymaster in the Caribbean." Have a different perspective, thought or comment? Contact him on the Secure Contact Mail Form.

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