Bankers attending United Bankers’ Bank’s conference last Friday were introduced to Jim Olson who was a spy with the Central Intelligence Agency for 31 years with his wife. Olson was the conference’s opening speaker, sharing a glimpse into the world of espionage. Look for coverage of UBB’s “Standard Bearer” event in the November 15 edition of NorthWestern Financial Review magazine.
Referring to the terrorist attacks of 9-11, Olson said the United States “will be hit again, the attack will be from within our own borders and it will be horrific.”
The extent to which the country survives and recovers, he said, “will be based on the quality of our intelligence.”
He said intelligence is essential to security. Good intelligence, he said, necessitates espionage.
Olson explained how he grew up in Iowa, joined the Navy, attended law school at the University of Iowa, and then was recruited to the CIA. He received extensive training, learning about everything from foreign languages, to explosives, to weapons, to how to parachute out of an airplane.
Olson said he served in several countries, carrying out numerous assignments. He described one mission in Moscow which involved disguise, evasion of surveillance, a secret late-night meeting and ultimately the recruitment of a valuable contact within the KGB.
Olson retired from the CIA in 2000 and now teaches courses on intelligence and national security for the Master’s Program in International Affairs at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service of Texas A&M University. He wrote a book called: “Fair Play: The Moral Dilemmas of Spying.” Each attendee at the UBB conference received a copy of the book.
After opening with information on his CIA career, the book offers 50 hypothetical situations typical of CIA dealings. Each situation poses some kind of moral dilemma. He offers opinions from various experts following the presentation of each situation. Then he offers his own observations. I am about 90 pages into the 226-page book and am finding it fascinating.
Here is an example of the kinds of dilemmas he describes:
The CIA has recruited thirty-two-year-old Brian Gunter for the Clandestine Service Training Program. Gunter is a graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism and worked for seven years as a journalist for the Associate Press before joining the CIA. He speaks fluent French and Swahili. Gunter is motivated by patriotism and feels privileged to have the opportunity to serve his country in the CIA.
Gunter excels in his operational training. Shortly before he graduates, he is approached by the CIA’s Africa Division with a proposal that he serve in Africa under cover as a journalist. The CIA has a close relationship with the publisher of World News Weekly, a respected international affairs magazine based in Tampa, Florida. The publisher offers to hire Gunter as the magazine’s African correspondent and to allow him to use this cover for his intelligence activities overseas. No one else on the magazine’s staff will be aware that Gunter is actually a CIA officer.
On the basis of his education and experience, Gunter is well qualified for this cover. He will roam the continent of Africa from his base in Nairobi and will send in regular factual reporting to World News Weekly on events in Africa. The CIA will not influence the content of his reporting in any way.
In addition to doing his full-time cover job as a journalist, Gunter will spot, assess, develop, and handle intelligence assets for the CIA. He will also use his journalistic credentials to gain access to places and targets that would not normally be accessible to U.S. government officials.
Would it be morally acceptable for the CIA to send Gunter to Africa under cover as a journalist for World News Weekly?
Olson offers the perspective of eight experts on this situation; four say it is morally acceptable, four say it is not. You’ll have to read their answers and decide for yourself where you land on this question. If you get the book, you will find this information presented on pages 72 and 73.