Spycraft: A Behind the Curtain Look into the Intelligence Community
Perry Carpenter: Hi, I'm Perry Carpenter, and you're listening to "8th Layer Insights." There is something about a good spy story that seems to really resonate with people in the cybersecurity world. I think we read or listen to or watch these stories, and we see how so many of the things that we study and focus on come together. Even phrases like cat and mouse or spy versus spy and cloak and dagger - they seem to speak to us on some primal level, something deep within us. We love watching the moves and the countermoves and the sneaking around and the social engineering and hacking and all of the gadgets and toys and car chases and fights, all the double-crosses and triple-crosses and quadruple-crosses and so many crosses that you can't even tell what's going on anymore and - OK, yeah, you get the point. But how much of that is real, and how much can be chalked up to an author's creative license? What's life and work like for real people in the intelligence industry? Those are just a few of the questions that I've wanted to explore for a while. And so today, I've invited two guests. We'll hear from ex-CIA agent Peter Warmka, and we'll also hear from Andrew Hammond, historian and curator at the International Spy Museum.
Perry Carpenter: Welcome to "8th Layer Insights." This podcast is a multi-disciplinary exploration into the complexities of human nature and how those complexities impact everything, from why we think the things that we think to why we do the things that we do, and how we can all make better decisions every day. This is "8th Layer Insights," Season 3, Episode 7. I'm Perry Carpenter. We'll be right back after this message.
Perry Carpenter: Welcome back. Today's episode is all about spy stuff, and I've got two great guests. First up will be Peter Warmka. He is an ex-CIA agent and now travels around doing consulting about the human side of things, the way that we - our minds get hacked and hijacked and all the fun things that we like to talk about from a social engineering perspective. So Peter brings that real-life CIA agent perspective about intelligence gathering - the life, the work and all the complications that come with that. And then after that, we'll hear from Andrew Hammond. Andrew is a historian, an archivist and the curator at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. Andrew does a fantastic job of putting all of this in context, both historically and practically. And I hope you enjoy hearing and picking out the interesting comparisons and contrasts between their two perspectives. So with that, let's get to Peter Warmka.
Peter Warmka: I'm Peter Warmka, former CIA spy and human hacker. And today, I'm founder of Counterintelligence Institute.
Perry Carpenter: So what's the quick version of your path into the agency?
Peter Warmka: I never envisioned working for the federal government, let alone the CIA. I - after I got my master's degree, I was focusing on international banking, and I wanted to work in Latin America. I ended up responding to a blind ad in The Wall Street Journal that was looking for individuals to serve as consultants on economics and business in Latin America. So I applied, and little did I know, it was actually an advertisement that was put out by recruiters from the CIA. So that began that process.
Perry Carpenter: Nice. So during that process, something was identified about you specifically that made you a good candidate. So what makes a good spy, and what made you a good spy candidate?
Peter Warmka: I'm not sure exactly what they were looking for, but I know a few - with hindsight now - a few of the good qualities, necessary qualities - individuals who are highly-motivated, self-starters that can deal with ambiguity, that don't have to be necessarily extroverts but have to be able to deal with people and have people skills. That's very, very important to size people up, to be able to engage them, to gain their trust and to be able to get them to do things for us that normally maybe they wouldn't do if we weren't inserted into the mix.
Perry Carpenter: If there's anything that you can tell us about your specific specialty, what can you describe there?
Peter Warmka: Well, my area of specialization - I was over - 20 years, I was overseas as a HUMINT collector. I would receive requirements from Langley for intelligence, and I would have to find where specifically was that information being held - what organization, what level, who had access to it? And then I would target insiders. I would target individuals who had access to that information to a point of being able to understand them, understand what motivates them, what are their vulnerabilities, and eventually - I mean, it sounds a bit graphic, but being able to manipulate them - right? - to actually facilitate access to that information or provide that information to me. It's a process, spotting necessity and developing and recruiting sources. That was my forte.
Perry Carpenter: Is there a story that you can tell about your time in the agency that stands out that is shareable?
Peter Warmka: One particular time in the agency, I was targeting an organization where I was told, don't get too close to the people on top because you're never going to be able to recruit them, and it's higher risk when you get to people at the top of that particular organization 'cause we were dealing with an organization that was involved in organized crime. I mean, we target the gamut, and that includes organized crime. I would always keep my distance. I developed my pretext for approaching people mid-level who maybe could facilitate access to what I was looking for.
Peter Warmka: But then I walked into a situation where someone said, hey, here is the owner of the company. Would you like to meet him? What am I going to say - no? I mean, if you're dealing in, like, a real business, you're going to be - of course. You look for those opportunities. You're playing that role. And so I had to walk up to this individual with my elevator speech well-rehearsed. And I was very - I mean, I had high anxiety at that moment, but I delivered my elevator speech. It was very convincing. And then he began to tell me a lot about himself and his own background. So it was basically being able to convey to this individual who I wanted to portray - not who I really was, but who I wanted to try being - right? - kind of good actor skills, perhaps.
Perry Carpenter: So that's a good segue into the rest of what I wanted to talk about. So as you were going through your training and even just leveling up your skills throughout your career at the agency, what are a few skills that you wish - as you were learning these things that you said, man, I wish everybody knew these things?
Peter Warmka: Oh, boy. I mean, there's skills that we can use for offensive and defensive purposes, right? The offensive skills I learned for, like, approaching people began to - I really had to know what was important to these people, empathize with them, understand what made them tick - motivations, vulnerabilities. And I think these are things that professional salespeople - they might not realize what they're doing, but they're pretty much sizing people up, knowing how can they get this person to actually say yes, to say yes. And so we developed those skills from an offensive standpoint of learning what were some of the key drivers to get these people and motivate them to make the sale - the same thing that would be utilized by good managers - right? - knowing what's really important to your people. And it's going to be different. Everybody's situation is very different. What's going to be the most important thing for them and being able to address those wants, those needs - when you're managing them to accomplish the mission of your company, let's say. So that's from an offensive standpoint.
Peter Warmka: From a defensive standpoint, it's always being ready, you know? So I don't know if you want to call it the threat, but the threat - that could be from you physically or the threat that could be from you as, you know, the persona that you are portraying when you're out there, always going through what we call the what-if scenario. It's sort of like a contingency plan because you're going down this path and I'm going to deliver my elevator speech. I'm going - I got my whole plan for this meeting that I'm going to have with somebody. But what if out of the blue, this person asks this question or something happens? How am I going to respond to that specific incident at that moment? And if you don't think through these things in advance, that's when you can be - you know, you're caught, and you're caught in a sense of not being ready. And maybe you get through it, but you're probably not going to be as polished. People are going to say, well, that was kind of strange. You know, you're going to lose some credibility versus being able to respond in a heartbeat without a hesitation because you've gone through that what if - always being ready, always thinking through whatever can happen.
Perry Carpenter: I love the what-if piece, and I think all of us can relate to that - right? - because as soon as you build a playbook or some kind of response plan, you're pre-thinking things through earlier on so that maybe as that thing unfolds, you don't have the highest emotional reaction that you would. You say, all right, I've thought through this. There's, you know, kind of three things that I could do. I can try one of these - you know, may or may not work, but at least I've thought about this contingency.
Peter Warmka: Absolutely.
Perry Carpenter: How much of that comes into play, just being able to grab hold of your own emotions and make sure that you don't melt down or freeze up in the moment?
Peter Warmka: It really is so important. Some of this, after we've done it for a number of years, it becomes automatic. But when you're young and when you first start in this career, there's a lot of things, since you lack the experience and some - you know, I've never had that happen to me before, right?
Perry Carpenter: Yeah.
Peter Warmka: You see? But it could happen, and so these are things whether you go through life learning these on your own or you have a mentor - you know, when we start out, we will have managers. We'll have mentors that will help coach us on these things, people that are much more experienced. And, you know, after you've done this for 10, 15, 20-plus years, so much of this becomes automatic where you're not really thinking about it. It's just in - you know, it's already part of you. But it's crucial. It's crucial for everybody, because the worst day - worst moment is when you're not ready for that question. And, you know, the - you can say the worst case is, well, that - I lost that opportunity. I'm not going to be successful in my particular mission, or it can be very detrimental where you can - in that world, you can end up in jail or something worse.
Perry Carpenter: So going through that experience, having that career for decades, how does that affect your life after you've left the agency? How do you view the world? How do you view people? And then what does your skill set enable you to do past that career point where you're saying, I've left the doors of the agency, now I'm going to do something else.
Peter Warmka: That's an excellent question. I think many times, we're not prepared for what - you know, what happens afterwards. And everybody's situation is different. I think a lot of people - in general, we talk about transitioning from federal government to private sector. It's very challenging for most people. And I had a conversation with somebody about this other day. One of the things that is not taught to us, what we don't learn, is marketing. And all of a sudden, we go into the private world, and the marketing - wow, I never had to do it. I hate it, right? But the skill sets I learned are still very applicable for myself in regard to - you know, I understand there's a challenge. There's an objective. How do I get to that objective? I got to look at who are the individuals - the key individuals - that are going to help me get there, right? Who are the people I'm going to have to leverage, in some capacity, to be able to help me to get to that objective? And then looking at them and - what are they trying to accomplish? What's going to motivate them into helping me, you know, get to where I want to be?
Peter Warmka: So I think it's still, at the end of the day, sizing up people that are going to help me accomplish what I need to. You know, working from the standpoint of what's going to be - conducting a business that's going to be profitable, and - when we're in the world of CIA, we don't worry about making money, right? We're only working about accomplishing what we need to, trying to be as cost effective as we can, but it's not profit-driven. So private sector is profit-driven, and that is a whole different mindset for us when we go into the private sector.
Peter Warmka: Our vision of the world differ. I find - I'm very frustrated at times because I see that people's optic is very narrow. What they happen to read in the press or hear in the news, they tend to believe automatically when we were trained to be very, very cautious, be very questioning because we've seen so much misinformation and disinformation in our careers. And now when we're on the outside, I question everything. I really do. Doesn't mean I'm paranoid, but I just feel that so often - that we can be led astray and just believe something just because we automatically trust - we just can't automatically trust. We have to be skeptics and be cautiously skeptical, I guess you could say.
Perry Carpenter: When somebody is in this field of work, what are the biggest mistakes that you've seen people make?
Peter Warmka: I think the biggest mistake, which has a tremendous toll on the family of the individual - because we get so caught up in this world. I mean, certain mindset of individuals that will make it, you know, beyond training and maybe the first few years, the ones that do, you know, it's not - this is not the only career where people just get so caught up - right? - to the detriment of their family or their career becomes very important. But for intelligence officers, I think it's even more so. And so we end up neglecting relationships, our spouses and our children, thinking that we're, you know, we're serving our country, right?
Perry Carpenter: Yeah.
Peter Warmka: We put our - in some regards, we put our career and our country as being the most important. And later on in life, when we're getting closer to retirement and retire, we realize that our - you know, our children are grown. They're gone. And - you know, and hopefully, we still have our spouse, but I know a lot of cases where individuals have also experienced divorce. And so I think for so much of their life, they're - what they identify with has been their job as an intelligence officer. And they're retired now and they're kind of, like, lost.
Perry Carpenter: Yeah.
Peter Warmka: They're kind of, like, lost. And maybe they'll end up going back and working as a contractor in some capability to sort of still be tied in with what's going on. But it's really that loss, loss of identity, I think, for a lot of individuals who had a full career in intelligence work.
Perry Carpenter: Yeah, I can imagine that 'cause it's such a mission-driven kind of way of viewing the world. There's a big reason why you're doing that. You definitely have a lot of, you know, perspective good that is coming of that. It's not just I'm, you know, helping a company make more money, it's I'm serving this global mission. You know, with that, what kind of - I mean, as I'm thinking about the way that those of us that have never been intelligence officers view the life of a spy, you know, basically through the lens of movies and things like that, what are some common myths that you wish would just go away?
Peter Warmka: First of all, almost all of these movies are shows that are so fast-paced. I mean, if you've ever seen "The Americans," which is a very interesting series - right? - but it's just like, they conduct more operations in one episode than most career intelligence officers would do in maybe their entire career, to be honest with you. I mean...
Perry Carpenter: Yeah.
Peter Warmka: ...Just so - things. It's almost like they're invincible, you know, that they're not human. But we are very human. I mean, we go through the same struggles. We go - you know, that a lot of other people would go through. I mean, one of the most difficult things, I think initially, is learning how to lie. You know, we're bringing in people who are very trustworthy, who are pretty much - are spotless, haven't had any issues with, you know, legal problems or criminal problems or anything like that. And then all of a sudden, we go from being very honest, upright citizens, always truthful, to now we have to lie. And we learn to lie to our family, our friends and other people because we have to lie to protect our identity, OK? We can't be known CIA officers out in the field. Then we have to lie when we're meeting with other people who we may want to eventually develop as targets or sources, right? So...
Perry Carpenter: Yeah.
Peter Warmka: ...We kind of, like, enter this world of deception. And we have to - in part, we have to, ourselves, be very deceptive when in the world, we think of deception as being something that's inherently bad, right?
Perry Carpenter: Yeah.
Peter Warmka: But it's a big part of our role. And I think a lot of the things that Hollywood don't really show that human aspect of how we run sources, which is one of the biggest components of what we do in the field is the spotting, assessing, developing, recruiting and running of sources versus all these other things that Hollywood seems to glamorize more with being out there and toting guns. And, you know, there's an aspect of that with what part of the CIA does, but it's not the core of our mission, really.
Perry Carpenter: Right. I mean, you make a really good point in that TV shows and movies kind of consolidate the action of a lifetime down into 2 hours and then, you know, multiply that by five, probably. I would assume that even in a high-pressure, mission-driven type of role like that, there's still a fair amount of boredom. Can you describe times when maybe you're just waiting for things to happen, and you're kind of frustrated because the process isn't going as fast as you would like it to be?
Peter Warmka: Yeah, usually, those - the moments of boredom is when you're proposing a project, let's say, and you got to get so many people to sign off on it. It's not just one manager. You got maybe one manager that's in the field, and then you got management back at headquarters, and then you have attorneys getting involved. And so for a decision to be made when you're asking for authorization or funding, that can just take forever. And you might be sitting back - if that's the only thing you have going on, you might be just sitting there waiting a long time. And if the decision is adverse, all of a sudden, you - the rug is pulled from underneath your feet, and you're, like, starting all over again. I mean, that's what happened to me in the sense of 9/11. I was working on a particular project, which was grassroots and after a year and a half, going very, very well. But it took a while to get it going. And then all of a sudden, 9/11 happened, and our focus began to change. Our mission began to change in the sense of now everything else was secondary. Counterterrorism was primary.
Peter Warmka: And so it created, like, a time where we just had to just step back and start everything over again, which was kind of frustrating. But I had - and fortunately, in my career, I had so many different things going on, different projects that if I had to wait for something to materialize or get approval, I could still go on and continue to do so many other things. Well, you're right. I mean, I have come across so many individuals that were just waiting, especially, like, for their assignments to go overseas. You might be sitting back at Langley and literally waiting months or sometimes even more than a year for everything to come together for them to be deployed. So in the interim, they're just there. You know, maybe they're taking some training. But yeah, they're very frustrated. And some people have just - I mean, I saw people who just left entirely. They came in so excited into the agency but just were so frustrated because they were just waiting. And they decided no, this is not for me. And they went back into the private sector. Lost some really good people, but that's what happened.
Perry Carpenter: I'm wondering this. So after a few decades and knowing the way that process works, some of the frustrations in approvals and all that that you just talked about, how does that affect the way that you see intelligence, what we - what the rest of society might call intelligence failures? You know, you look back, and you say, why couldn't an agency have put this together with, you know, 9/11 or, you know, if we go back to some famous FBI stuff like, you know, Waco or even with standard police procedure like Uvalde recently? And everybody keeps asking, you know, how did it get to be like this? Does it give you a different perspective on those things that we would call failures as outsiders?
Peter Warmka: Well, first, I would say - I would caveat - I mean, there are failures. And the failures are the things that get into the press, into the media, things that are hot topics that people talk about. The failures are minimal compared to the great successes. I'm being very sincere when I say that - successes at all levels that are not talked about and cannot be talked about. So I think that's one thing that the perception of failures needs to be put in proper perspective. A lot of times, it probably is due to a failure of properly coordinating actions, information between respective agencies. I mean, we've heard that all the way back to 9/11, right? And I think it's improved a lot since then, where there is greater cooperation between the various agencies.
Peter Warmka: And there's - for example, since 9/11, there's even been officers who have gone into liaison capacities. You have people from the FBI that have gone in to work in liaison positions within the CIA and vice versa. I think you see also between various state, municipality law enforcement agencies a greater cooperation or sharing of information. And so I think that's gone a long ways. It's improved, but I think there's still a lot more to come. And I think even, you know, with the recent incidents in Texas where there was, like, even a lack of coordination and cooperation and information sharing, that was probably at the heart of that. And so I think really a lack of communication across the board is at the heart of many of these failures.
Perry Carpenter: It seems like every year, every couple of years, one of the big security vendors says you won't ever have to worry about the human factor again because we're going to deal with that on a - at a technology layer. Do you think that that is ever a feasible reality?
Peter Warmka: No, it's not. One of the areas I really focus on now since I retired is working with organizations to help them better understand the threats from human hacking. There's a lot of threat actors out there that are looking to breach the security of organizations or looking to take advantage of individuals, and - you know, whether they be actors like we used to deal with in my former career, but there's also a lot of criminal groups. There's industrial competitors. There's activist groups, and at the end of the day, they target individuals. They use human hacking skills to target individuals to make them become the insider threat within an organization, you know, because insider threats - people think, well, maybe they make an error. It's a negligence. But sometimes it's looking for that specific individual who's not malicious. Human hacking will always find a way to manipulate people to circumvent policies, procedures and technology, always. It's always going to be the case. And for people that thinks that just incorporating more sophisticated technology - it's very, very, in my opinion, naive because we can't go in with that mindset. A lot of people in the security world have that mindset, but I think we definitely have to always consider the human factor because it's very crucial. It's important.
Perry Carpenter: We'll be right back after this word from our sponsor.
Perry Carpenter: Welcome back. Next up on the show is Andrew Hammond. Andrew is a historian, an archivist, and is the curator at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. Andrew is also the host of "SpyCast," which is the International Spy Museum's podcast. So Andrew is very trained in storytelling and history and is very interested in the intersection of information, spycraft and society. Here's Andrew.
Andrew Hammond: So my name is Dr. Andrew Hammond, and I'm the historian curator here at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. I also host our podcast "SpyCast," which has been around for 16 years, which, in podcasting terms, makes it practically go back to the Jurassic Period.
Perry Carpenter: For folks that aren't familiar with it, can you describe the function of the International Spy Museum?
Andrew Hammond: So the function of the International Spy Museum - like many museums, we're grounded in our collection. So we have the world's largest collection of intelligence and espionage-related artifacts. And you don't have to trust me. If you go to the Guinness Records book, you'll also see that in there. So we have just under 10,000 artifacts. Many of them are unique or one of a kind or just very - have very powerful stories attached to them. We take care of them. We interpret them. We educate the public on them. And that ties into our larger mission, which is to educate the public about the vitally important world of intelligence and espionage.
Andrew Hammond: So it's one of the most misunderstood topics. It's one of the areas where most people's knowledge of it comes from popular culture. So we try to meet people where they are and say, sure, you know, the popular culture is interesting and, you know, like, James Bond - Ian Fleming is a former intelligence officer. "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" - John le Carre is a former intelligence officer. So there's a lot of linkages between fiction and fact, but we try to make people understand the world of intelligence just in a more thorough and critical way and all of its components. So that includes spy satellites. That includes signals intelligence. That includes open-source intelligence, all different types of things.
Perry Carpenter: When you think about the collection that's there, what are some of the artifacts that some people may recognize from popular culture? And then also, what's your favorite?
Andrew Hammond: That's a good question. So from popular culture, we've got an Enigma machine. I think that's probably one of the main ones that stands out. Many people will have recognized it if they've read about the history of the Second World War. Or if anybody's seen "The Imitation Game," with Benedict Cumberbatch on Alan Turing, the Enigma machine's part of that story. So we've got a couple of Enigma machines, and they're just absolutely fascinating, just as a piece of technology, as a piece of history, as something that's also part of the backstory of modern cryptography and the world of cyber. So I think that that's one of the main ones. Some of the other ones that we have - we've got the teeth, for example, to go with affection (ph). We've got the teeth that Jaws wore in the "Bond" movies.
Perry Carpenter: Oh, wow.
Andrew Hammond: So we've also got a pigeon camera, which is quite interesting where during WWI, they would basically strap a camera to a pigeon and send it over the front lines. We've got pieces of spy satellites and drones. We've got a lot of things that people would recognize from movies but also from things that have became more common in everyday life.
Perry Carpenter: Yeah. And then of the things that are there as you walk through the museum, what are the things that you like to stop at the most and either admire the craftsmanship and the ingenuity that went into that or just, you know, as you think about the historical significance, what are the, you know, one or two things that you really are fascinated by?
Andrew Hammond: Yeah, that's a great question. And honestly, it depends on the week for me. Sometimes I'm really - I'm on a particular kick for a particular type of food then - and then that will change. But I can definitely tell you about some of my favorite artifacts and some of the things that it gets me thinking about. So we have a box - a cigar box that was a gift from a gentleman called Sidney Reilly, aka the Ace of Spies. And it was given to a British diplomat called Bruce Lockhart. And both of these gentlemen were involved in a plot to overthrow the Bolshevik Revolution. And there's very few pieces of material culture or artifacts that demonstrate that this plot took place or that connects these two gentlemen.
Andrew Hammond: But this is one of them where Sidney Reilly gives him this box, and it says in memory of the events of 1917 in Moscow. And it's when the two of them were involved in a British plot to try to overthrow the Bolshevik Revolution. It wasn't successful. It wasn't even close to being successful. But it's one of those ones where if it had have succeeded, the history of the 20th century could been - could have been very difficult. And it's also interesting because quite often in history, you know, the winners write history and so forth. Sometimes it's only the winner artifacts or the winner stories that we get to hear about. We never get to - we don't often - as often get to hear about the things that don't work out or that fail, which I think are quite fascinating. But this artifact is beautiful. It's the only one of its kind in the world. And it's got just this huge, important story connected to it about really the ideological conflict that humanity was in in the 20th century between liberalism, fascism, communism and a whole variety of other isms. And this is, you know, to me, you could almost use this as a starting point to talk about the history of the 20th century.
Perry Carpenter: Oh, wow.
Andrew Hammond: I can give you another one just to round it out a little bit more. Sometimes it's an artifact, sometimes it's an exhibit. One of the exhibits I'm really interested in at the moment is our one on the Cuban Missile Crisis. We're coming up on the 75th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis this year. And in that exhibit - it's just so fascinating to me because for most of human history, leaders, commanders, have had a - relatively speaking, they've had, like, a decent amount of time to digest intelligence, to think about their actions. So if Washington gets a piece of intelligence during the Revolutionary War, he's often got hours, days, weeks or potentially months to react. But during the Cuban Missile Crisis, because of the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles, because of the communication revolution, potentially, the time period to make critical decisions not just about the future of your administration or your country, but of humanity, these decisions have to be made in such a compressed period of time. And let's be honest, who can make a good decision in...
Perry Carpenter: Right.
Andrew Hammond: ...Twenty minutes or an hour? I mean, like, we're talking decisions that affect an entire structure of your life. I mean, I guess the cognitive load that has been placed on consumers of intelligence is just incredible - potentially incredible in the modern era, which means that intelligence, to me, is even more important because in a fluid, dynamic, dangerous situation, the more information you have to make the best possible decision is even more important than it was previously.
Perry Carpenter: So as a scholar, a historian and a curator within the International Spy Museum, when somebody who is not part of that community thinks of intelligence, of spies, what are the biggest misconceptions about intelligence that you think the common person on the street has?
Andrew Hammond: One would be that it's all glamor, it's all martinis, it's all designer clothes...
Perry Carpenter: It's not?
Andrew Hammond: ...It's all being really knowledgeable about French cuisine and dressing well and so forth. A lot of it is mundane. It's filling out forms, it's waiting, it's doing all kinds of things that are not remotely romantic. I actually wrote an article on this recently about the social history of American intelligence, just looking at the everyday, the mundane, the things that are not, you know, from "Mission Impossible." So I think that's one part of it. I think the second part would be there's an assumption that everybody that's involved in intelligence is like James Bond or like George Smiley. And by that I mean they're the person out there trying to recruit sources. They're the person in the other country that's doing all of the stuff that people see on the movies. You know, the majority of people involved in the world of intelligence more generally are not doing that. So if you think of the Air Force, an overwhelming majority of people in the Air Force are not pilots.
Perry Carpenter: Right.
Andrew Hammond: You know, but everybody thinks that, oh, you were in the Air Force - oh, did you fly planes? It's something similar to that. They're part of it. They're an important part of it. But there's a whole world that goes on underneath that. And then I think the final one - so that's a couple there. I think the final one would be that when you're an intelligence officer, you're the person that's out there that's stealing the information all the time. But quite often that's not the case. More common is that you're recruiting people that are going to get that information for you. So you're a case officer. You're a handler. You're someone that hires and recruits and runs agents. You're not the agent yourself. So I think that's another one.
Andrew Hammond: And it can be confusing, right? Central Intelligence Agency - well, surely they have agents, but they're not - that's not what they call themselves. And then the Federal Bureau of Investigation - well, they're probably not agents, but that is what they call themselves. So there's - you get this with so many things - right? - when you get a little bit more involved or immersed in the world, and you learn some of the nuances. But those are some of the main misconceptions, I think. It's all romantic, it's all glitzy, it's - you're the person that's stealing the information and everybody that's involved in intelligence is a case officer that's out there in a foreign country trying to recruit sources.
Perry Carpenter: Yeah. So two more general questions, then I want to kind of get into the history of information and how that works from an intelligence perspective. So as you look at the TV shows and movies and everything else that has intelligence baked in as part of a major plot point, what are one or two that seem to get it a little bit better than most?
Andrew Hammond: I think one that gets it better than most - and I'm not the only person that thinks this - is the TV version of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy." So you can actually watch this on YouTube if any of your listeners are interested. So it features Alec Guinness. It's from the late '70s, early '80s, I think, and it's multiple parts. And if you watch that - you know, it's Alec Guinness, who's obviously an incredible actor - very restrained. It catches a lot of the grayness, really, and the kind of monotony of Britain during that period. It's a bit more about restraint, it's a bit more about caution rather than just, you know, throwing on a rocket backpack and, you know, heading into the action kind of thing.
Andrew Hammond: So I think that many people see that as being one of the high watermarks of fiction in terms of the written word. But I think it's also one of the high watermarks of the visual representation of intelligence. And part of this is because, you know, le Carre, through "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold," which is a counterpoint to Bond, "The Looking Glass War" and then "Tinker, Tailor," he's trying to inject some sobriety into the conversation about intelligence. I believe that that's been called the warm beer school of intelligence rather than the martini school of intelligence - so less sexy, but a bit more realistic.
Perry Carpenter: As somebody who understands intelligence and has really made it your job to not only surround yourself with the artifacts of the history of that, but to talk to people who are - you know, some still doing the job, and a lot of people who have come out and have rich histories in it, how does your understanding of intelligence affect the way that you view the world around you? And by that I mean your perception of world events.
Andrew Hammond: That's a really great question, Perry. And I think that if we just look at the historical record, if we look at the Revolutionary War and the Culper Ring, if we look at World War I and the Zimmermann Telegram - so a telegram that Germany sent to Mexico saying that they would get some parts of what were then parts of the United States if they were their allies during the war, which helped to bring the United States into World War I - and if we go to World War II and the attack on Pearl Harbor or the Battle of Midway, which allows a less experienced and smaller U.S. Navy to defeat the Japanese, and many historians, of course, think that this turned the tide of the war in the Pacific, if we go up to 9/11, the war in Iraq, what's happening in Ukraine now, intelligence is, like, baked into every single one of those seminal events in world politics.
Andrew Hammond: So what is quite interesting to me is that it's this - it's not that it's always hidden, it's just that it's one of those things that there that you might not necessarily notice is there, but it's always there in the background of our lives. It's always there silently helping shape the future of the world really. So I think it's really, really important for history. I think that for me, it also affects how I understand the world. Just to get slightly philosophical...
Perry Carpenter: Yeah.
Andrew Hammond: Just as a knowing person, as a human being - right? - one of the main questions that we ask as human beings is, what can we know? And I think that a knowledge of intelligence and espionage makes you ask that question in quite an interesting way just because of the nature of the discipline of intelligence and espionage.
Perry Carpenter: You have a presentation that you give on the history of information. As we trace the history of information from how we had information dissemination that was, let's say, enabled by the Gutenberg press, which gave rise to the common printing press, moving through the Industrial Revolution and the technological revolution, and all the way to where we are now with the internet and that giving rise to the passing out of information based on algorithm, what do we need to be on the lookout for over the next five to 10 years? And what are you maybe concerned about?
Andrew Hammond: I mean, that's a really great question. Where does it go for the next five or 10 years? I mean, I think one of the places I would like to see all of this go in is - I really think that we need some kind of society-wide toolkit for interrogating the world around us. I just think that the tools that we've been given up to now just don't cut it for the world that we're in. I just think that people need to understand how we make sense of all of this. And, you know, that sounds easy. But even just things like educating them that there are epistemic bubbles out there that - you know, almost like a disclaimer. Like...
Perry Carpenter: Right.
Andrew Hammond: ...You can watch this movie, but you're going to come across this. So you can use Google. But just be aware that, you know, you won't just be typing in a term and getting some kind of neutral account of what's the most pertinent things relating to that term, that you're walking into something. I just think that in the modern world, we're in so much of this stuff, and we don't even know it. I just think that people need to be educated on what they're doing, when they're doing it and what the trade-offs are. And then, if they decide to do it knowing that, you know, that's obviously a decision for them.
Andrew Hammond: But I don't think it's good for people to just sleepwalk from one area where the world is not being presented to them in a completely impartial way to another. And I don't mean to beat up on tech necessarily. Like, we're all living through this period of flux. We're all trying to make sense of it. It's like a completely new thing. And we will look back on history when something new comes in. And it's like a society that's never had alcohol before. And then they just struggle with it because they don't have the cultural operating system that has allowed them to get acclimatized to it and to deal with it. So it's just overwhelming.
Andrew Hammond: So at the minute, you know, it seems to me that the technology companies got free rein. And they run wild. And then government is trying to regulate and push back. But they don't necessarily have the expertise in this area compared to the private sector. And, you know - and the consumers are - to some extent, they're kind of the bewildered herd in the middle...
Perry Carpenter: Right.
Andrew Hammond: ...That are just - I don't know what's going on. So I just think that - you know, maybe this is overly romantic or something. I just think that - give people the knowledge. Give them the education. Give them the critical thinking. I just think that we need to get to a better place. I guess what I'm trying to say - sum it all up - is that we're unwitting in terms of the power that this technology has over us. And I want us to be witting...
Perry Carpenter: Yeah.
Andrew Hammond: ...And not unwitting.
Perry Carpenter: As I think about both Andrew and Peter's interviews, it really seems like both of them said that intelligence work is simultaneously completely different from how it is presented in the media, while also containing many of the facets that we think about whenever someone mentions spycraft. It was also interesting to hear both of them talk about the importance of the work, that it impacts history and society in profound ways and that our current information age raises lots of interesting questions related to how information needs to be protected, what can be trusted and what that means for all of us.
Perry Carpenter: And with that, thanks so much for listening and thank you to my guests, Peter Warmka and Andrew Hammond. I've loaded up the show notes with links and references to tons of information about our guests and the topic of spycraft. So be sure to go check those out. If you've been with me for a while and you haven't yet, please, consider rating and leaving a review in Apple Podcasts, Spotify or any other platform that allows you to do so. Ratings, reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations really do help people trust that this show is worth their most valuable resource, their time.
Perry Carpenter: If you haven't yet, please, go ahead and subscribe or follow wherever you like to get your podcasts. And if you want to connect with me, feel free to do so. You can find my contact information at the very bottom of the show notes for this episode. This show was written, recorded, sound designed and edited by me, Perry Carpenter. Artwork for "8th Layer Insights" is designed by Chris Machowski at ransomwear.net - that's W-E-A-R - and Mia Rune at miarune.com. The "8th Layer Insights" theme song was composed and performed by Marcos Moscat. Until next time, I'm Perry Carpenter signing off.