CIA Humor

Title:                      CIA Humor

Author:                  Thomas Sileo

Sileo, Thomas (2004). CIA Humor: A Few True Stories From A 31-Year Career. Alexandria, VA: Washington House


JK468.I6 S55 2004

Table of Contents: . Introduction . The Director of Central Intelligence 3. Working in the United States for the CIA 4. Operations don’t always go smoothly 5. The CIA and the U.S. military 6. Funny odds and ends 7. Conclusion 8. List of abbreviations and terms.

Date Posted:      May 11, 2017

Customer Review by clark_aon[1]

The first of Sileo’s five chapters of anecdotes relate humorous stories about four Directors of Central Intelligence—William Casey, Robert Gates, James Woolsey, and George Tenet—though others are mentioned elsewhere. The other chapters cover working for the CIA in America, operations gone awry, the CIA and the military, and, finally, some odds and ends. In the latter category, Sileo tells a tale of advice to an analyst in the Directorate of Intelligence on how to pass the polygraph . . . from Rick Ames![3] (p. 89) Not all of the stories are funny, but they are all instructive—the attention-getting behavior of the KGB surveillance teams in Moscow, for example. In a different vein is the story of the security officer and Queen Noor of Jordan. The CIA wives are not forgotten, although Mrs. Sileo may wish her husband had omitted her encounter with the “six star general” (p. 70).

This little book will bring pleasure to many and probably invoke similar memories in other officers. So Sileo hints at the end he is considering another edition—a good idea!

[1] See clark_aon (December 24, 2007) at, (4.0 out of 5 stars), “A lighter look at the CIA

Loose Threads

Title:                      Loose Threads

Author:                 Elizabeth Ticknor

Ticknor, Elizabeth (2016). Loose Threads, a Mystery. Bookstand Publishing (self published)

ISBN:     978-1634983815

Unknown catalog classification

Date Posted:      May 5, 2017

Reviewed in The Intelligencer[1]

Lil and David, retired CIA operatives living in the quiet coastal town of Lewes, Delaware, use their operational skills to help their friend and neighbor, Ruth, track and apprehend two murderers. They pursue their instincts to trap the killers, following their trail to Ecuador, Alaska, Arizona and Nevada.

[1] The Intelligencer (22, 2, Fall 2016,  p.  141).  This book is one of selected fiction recommended by AFIO members.

The Flat Bureaucrat

Title:                      The Flat Bureaucrat

Author:                 Susan Hasler

Hasler, Susan (2015). The Flat Bureaucrat: A CIA Satire. Asheville, NC: Bear Page Press

ISBN:     978-0996577908


Date Posted:      April 26, 2017

For Shelby Wexler, being crushed by falling concrete is only the beginning of a bad afterlife. As a senior official of the CIA, he considered Congressional oversight committees the highest form of retribution. He never entertained the possibility of post-mortem accountability. Enter Virgil, an obnoxious and expired polygraph examiner, who sends Shelby on a backward journey through the events leading up to the terrorist attack that killed him. Who was responsible? Who dropped the ball? The answers are not the sort likely to surface in a Senate hearing room. The Flat Bureaucrat is the stand-alone sequel to Susan Hasler’s hilarious and terrifying debut novel, Intelligence. Informed by Hasler’s two decades in the Agency, these books will make you laugh and make you think about the CIA and national security in a whole new way.

If Susan Hasler’s Intelligence[1] was “24” meets “The Office”, it’s sequel, The Flat Bureaucrat, is “It’s a Wonderful Life” meets the 9/11 report. In case it isn’t readily apparent, that’s a good thing.

Hasler’s years as an analyst in the CIA have served her well in her latest novel. She is able to pinpoint the absurdities, the screw-ups and the personalities, not just in the world of modern intelligence, but in modern office life. As with the best novels, by focusing on the specificity of working at the CIA, the author opens the story up to the universality of working in an office anywhere. It draws you into the story whether you are a spy fan or not.

John le Carré, the granddaddy of spy novelists, is known for creating a whole new vernacular when talking about “The Circus”, his version of MI6; Hasler has managed to take this concept to even greater heights for the CIA. Her co-opting of mining terminology to define the various areas of the CIA is not only a perfect way to give context to the various players, but also allows for some great moments of humor with various acronyms used to great comic effect.

Much of this inventiveness and satire was present in Intelligence. What gives this novel a greater weight is a sense of mortality, of seconds slipping away, that pervades the story. We have a limited time on Earth; how would we look back on it and would we say we took advantage of every second we had? It’s hard not to let those questions pass through your mind as you read. But don’t get me wrong, this is not a dirge. Hasler is light on her feet and knows when to defuse the tension with humor and when to get more contemplative.

Although it provides a complete story, it does leave room for a sequel. Here’s hoping we see it.
Highly Recommended.

[1] Hasler, Susan (2010). Intelligence. New York: Thomas Dunne Books-St. Martin’s Press

Palace of Treason

Title:                      Palace of Treason

Author:                 Jason Matthews

Matthews, Jason (2015). Palace of Treason. New York: Scribner

LCCN:    2015017172

PS3613.A8484 P35 2015


  • “From the bestselling, Edgar Award-winning author of the “terrifically good” (The New York Times) Red Sparrow, a compulsively readable new novel about star-crossed Russian agent Dominika Egorova and CIA’s Nate Nash in a desperate race to the finish. Captain Dominika Egorova of the Russian Intelligence Service (SVR) has returned from the West to Moscow. She despises the men she serves, the oligarchs, and crooks, and thugs of Putin’s Russia. What no one knows is that Dominika is working for the CIA as Washington’s most sensitive penetration of SVR and the Kremlin. As she expertly dodges exposure, Dominika deals with a murderously psychotic boss; survives an Iranian assassination attempt; escapes a counterintelligence ambush; rescues an arrested agent and exfiltrates him out of Russia; and has a chilling midnight conversation in her nightgown with President Putin. Complicating these risks is the fact that Dominika is in love with her CIA handler, Nate Nash, and their lust is as dangerous as committing espionage in Moscow. And when a mole in the SVR finds Dominika’s name on a restricted list of sources, it is a virtual death sentence… Just as fast-paced, heart-pounding, and action-packed as Red Sparrow, Jason Matthews’s second novel confirms he is “an insider’s insider…and a masterful storyteller” (Vince Flynn, #1 New York Times bestselling author)”– Provided by publisher.


Date Posted:      April 17, 2017

Reviewed by Adam LeBormay[1]

Red Sparrow[2],” Jason Matthews’s debut thriller, is a challenging act to follow. Lavished with deserved praise, it introduced Dominika Egorova, of the Russian Intelligence Service, one of the most complex and compelling heroines to grace the espionage genre. Brave, beautiful and deadly, Egorova is a synesthete, who sees a halo of color above the heads of those around her, and a graduate of the Sparrow School, where female agents are taught advanced sexual techniques as an aid to seduction and recruitment.

Palace of Treason, the sequel to Red Sparrow, does not disappoint. The book is enthralling. Matthews deftly weaves in enough back story to hook both new readers and those returning. Enraged by the plundering of her country, Egorova is now one of the C.I.A.’s highest placed moles in the Kremlin. There she eventually catches the eye of President Vladimir V. Putin himself (blue halo pulsing), with eyebrow-raising results. But Egorova is in love with her C.I.A. handler, Nathaniel Nash, with whom she makes love “against the rules, against good sense, flaunting every tenet of security.”

That Matthews, who served in the C.I.A. for 33 years, knows the world of espionage and its darkest corners is never in doubt. Palace of Treason shimmers with authenticity. When Hannah Archer, a trainee C.I.A. officer, is trying to lose teams of watchers, she describes the “tingling on her arms and the backs of her hands, how the air felt cool on her neck when the hairs stood on end, when she felt the coverage before she saw it and began to count the cars, filing away the faces.”

The villains too are richly drawn, none more than Alexei Zyuganov, a psychopathic ­torturer-bureaucrat, and his protégée, Eva Buchina. Both are experts in chernaya rabota, black work. The scenes of them on the job are beyond chilling. When Zyuganov and Buchina barge in on a meeting between Madeleine Didier, the Moscow station chief of the French foreign intelligence service, and a Russian source, the two French security guards are killed within 10 seconds, the Russian soon after. The mission is completed within four minutes. Madame Didier is hanged from a door frame, “to complete the horror, to violate the gentleman’s agreement among spies and to send an unambiguous message back to the French.”

Whether in Vienna, Moscow or Washington, Matthews’s scene-setting is superb, and he has a fine eye for telling details. The Russian cooks in the American embassy cafeteria “managed to mangle most of the American items on the menu with the addition of inexplicable ingredients—pickle relish in the lasagna or blanched walnuts in the mac and cheese,” but they make a delicious pastrami sandwich “rich with cheese and scallions and vinegary coleslaw.” Matthews also has the courage to kill off one of the book’s most sympathetic characters, thus drawing the reader further into the lives of those who remain.

Yet Palace of Treason suffers from its author’s all too obvious prejudices. Almost every character working for the C.I.A. (apart from a traitor) is a wry, smart-mouthed, tough but tender, reliable stand-up kind of guy or girl. Almost every Russian (apart from Dominika and another C.I.A. asset) is venal, corrupt, untrustworthy and brutal. Matthews has sympathy for Russia’s culture but little for its people. Sometimes the tone is almost sneering, as when he describes Russian women with “clotted foundation on their collars and salt rings under the arms of their blouses.”

A more nuanced portrayal of Langley’s spymasters and their Russian opponents would only have added to the book’s verisimilitude. As the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the C.I.A., released in December 2014, showed quite clearly, the cellars of the Lubyanka have no monopoly on brutality.

[1] Adam LeBormay, “Palace of Treason, by Jason Matthews,” New York Times Sunday Book Review (May 26, 2015,

[2] Matthews, Jason (2013). Red Sparrow: A Novel. New York: Scribner. Adam LeBor’s latest thriller is The Washington Stratagem. A version of this review appears in print on May 31, 2015, on Page BR35 of the Sunday Book Review with the headline: “Double Agenda.”

The Care of Devils

Title:                      The Care of Devils

Author:                  Sylvia Press

Press, Sylvia (1958). The Care of Devils. Boston: Beacon Press

LCCN:    58006248

PZ4.P935 Car

Date Posted:      March 10, 2017

Popular lore says the CIA bought up all copies of this book. Well, there is at least one copy in the Library of Congress. lists many, many libraries holding it. The toothpaste I guess. Hayden Peake has described it thusly: “[A second challenge was a] 1958 memoir by Sylvia Press, a former OSS officer who had joined the CIA. Summarily dismissed for security reasons, she wrote The Care of Devils, a thinly disguised autobiographic novel. The agency allegedly bought all copies and Press, too, was denied a pension.”


. . . . riding on the fear which is whipped up by a government investigation and exercised only at the expense of the innocent- in illustrated through the story of Ellen Simon who for twelve years has been an effective agent in Washington, engaged in “”sensitive work””. She is summarily subjected to an interrogation by Ross Jamison of Security, and during the six to seven weeks which follow, her initial disbelief gives way to hopelessness as everything she says is discounted, parried, perverted. An old love affair is revived; a casual trip to Mexico and contacts there become sinister and suspect; her signature on a petition- years ago- is damaging; and her own breaking nerves, and spirit, affect the polygraph ( detection) session which closes the case against her. An appeal is useless- but her faith in herself and in her rights intact-she decides to fight back. . . . The clear and everpresent danger of this kind of panic and persecution provides a highly readable story- tense and partisan.

[1] Kirkus, downloaded March 10, 2017

The Spy Who Spoke Porpoise

Title:                      The Spy Who Spoke Porpoise

Author:                 Philip Wylie

Wylie, Philip (1969).The Spy Who Spoke Porpoise. Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday

LCCN:    74079970

PZ3.W9768 Sp

Date Posted:      January 24, 2017


As inflated as waterwings, this improbably complicated business about Project Neptune, a dead body which is washed up in Hawaii, porpoises trained to signal human intervention on an aquagraph, and one retired Mr. Grove. He’s a former OSS man, acrobat, magician, manufacturer of games now playing a combination of Chinese Checkers and Russian Roulette as he undertakes a mission for the Chief Executive. Along with a corpulent Russian opponent of an earlier era and the C.I.A., there’s a pretty (almost too) young girl who may be with him in his next adventure. Mr. Grove is quite genial but you will find it hard to keep up with him—perhaps even porpoiseless.

[1] Kirkus, downloaded January 24, 2017

True Faith And Allegiance

Title:                      True Faith And Allegiance

Author:                Mark Greaney

Greaney, Mark (2016). Tom Clancy: True Faith And Allegiance. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

LCCN:    2016040954

PS3607.R4285 T76 2016


  • “The #1 New York Times-bestselling series is back with the most shocking revelation of all. After years of facing international threats, President Jack Ryan learns that the greatest dangers always come from within… It begins with a family dinner in Princeton, New Jersey. After months at sea, U.S. Navy Commander Scott Hagan, captain of the USS James Greer, is on leave when he is attacked by an armed man in a crowded restaurant. Hagan is shot, but he manages to fight off the attacker. Though severely wounded, the gunman reveals he is a Russian whose brother was killed when his submarine was destroyed by Commander Hagan’s ship. Hagan demands to know how the would-be assassin knew his exact location, but the man dies before he says more. In the international arrivals section of Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport, a Canadian businessman puts his fingerprint on a reader while chatting pleasantly with the customs official. Seconds later he is shuffled off to interrogation. He is actually an American CIA operative who has made this trip into Iran more than a dozen times, but now the Iranians have his fingerprints and know who he is. He is now a prisoner of the Iranians. As more deadly events involving American military and intelligence personnel follow, all over the globe, it becomes clear that there has been some kind of massive information breach and that a wide array of America’s most dangerous enemies have made a weapon of the stolen data. With U.S. intelligence agencies potentially compromised, it’s up to John Clark and the rest of The Campus to track the leak to its source. Their investigation uncovers an unholy threat that has wormed its way into the heart of our nation. A danger that has set a clock ticking and can be stopped by only one man…President Jack Ryan”– Provided by publisher.


Date Posted:      January 13, 2017

Reviewed by: Jerry Lenaburg[1]

Mark Greaney has continued Tom Clancy’s iconic characters in his sixth novel featuring the Jack Ryan father and son duo, and it is a magnificent page turner.

The novel starts at 100 mph and maintains that speed throughout, weaving a compelling plot, plenty of tension and suspense, and the cast of characters that Clancy fans have followed for nearly 30 years.

The basic plot of the novel is both compelling and frighteningly realistic, and is, as the saying goes, ripped straight from today’s headlines. Needless to say, anyone who has worked in the defense or intelligence industry will shake their heads at Greaney’s twist to the story and ask themselves, “Wow, could something like this really happen?”

The mark of a good techno-thriller is that the technology and lingo compliment and not distract from the story, and this book handles this story challenge quite well. Readers expect high tech weaponry, techno heavy plots, and realistic actions scenes, and Greaney masters all of these, keeping the jargon down to the minimum while using it to augment the story.

One of the best things about sticking with this series is the books offer a continuum of characters and events, with Greaney tying them together throughout this book to provide a seamless story arc of characters and events across all of his volumes.

Certainly there no anti-heroes nor no moral complexity to these books: the good guys are good, the villains are villainous, although Greaney does grant that being a villain does not mean a character can’t be devious and cunning. A reader may certainly gnash their teeth at the ease with which the villain seems to be able to carry out the plan of mayhem and destruction.

Most importantly for a book like this, Greaney has mastered the art of weaving four or five different subplots and their associated minor characters into an artful mosaic that converges with breakneck speed toward the end of the book, bringing the story to a climax and conclusion that are ultimately very satisfying when the final page is finished.

For Tom Clancy fans, and now for those of us that have become Mark Greaney fans of Tom Clancy’s characters, this will make an excellent holiday page turner, providing just the right mix of plot, character, and pacing to keep you turning the pages by the Christmas tree lights.

[1] Jerry Lenaburg in New York Journal of Books, downloaded January 13, 2017. Jerry D. Lenaburg is a Project Manager and Senior Military Analyst with Northrop Grumman. A 1987 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he served as a Naval Flight Officer from 1987–1998 and has published in the Journal of Military History.