SpyCast 2.14.23
Ep 574 | 2.14.23

“The Counterintelligence Chief” – with FBI Assistant Director Alan Kohler

Show Notes


Alan Kohler (LinkedIn, Website) joins Andrew (TwitterLinkedIn) to discuss the FBI’s counterintelligence division. He is a recipient of the FBI Director’s Award for Outstanding Counterintelligence Investigation. 

What You’ll Learn


  • Counterintelligence vs. Counterespionage
  • How the FBI recruit’s foreign agents 
  • Ideological motivations behind spying
  • Effect of technology on counterintelligence


  • Staying grounded under pressure 
  • The value of creativity

And much, much more …

Episode Notes

Beginning as a special agent in 1996, Alan Kohler’s extraordinary 28 year long career in the FBI has included serving on the 9/11 Evidence Response Team, supervising counterintelligence and cyber squads at the bustling New York Field Office, overseeing counterintelligence at the Washington Field Office, and time as an assistant legal attaché in London. Alan was named Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division in April of 2020. 

This week on SpyCast, Alan joins Andrew for a conversation on all things counterintelligence. From learning how the FBI recruits foreign agents to breaking down what makes a successful counterintelligence operative, you won’t want to miss this fascinating conversation. 


In case you find ever find yourself picking up a suspiciously light coin, don’t hesitate to contact your local FBI Field Office. As Alan notes, conscientious citizens are the first line of defense for corporate espionage. 

Quote of the Week

“Nothing I do is going to make China go away, or their intent to do what they do is not going to go away. Russia is still going to have an intelligence service on Monday, no matter what I do on Friday. Our goal is to just continually slow them down while we continually protect the things that are letting us and our society move forward. We're pushing them back while we're also helping ourselves push forward.” – Alan Kohler.


  • Counterintelligence: Information gathered, and activities conducted to identify, deceive, exploit, disrupt, or protect against espionage or other intelligence activities
  • FBI Attaché: a special agent assigned to a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas to liaise with local law enforcement and intelligence agencies. They pursue terrorist, intelligence, and criminal threats with international dimensions. 
  • Occam’s Razor: a rule of thumb theory that states when you are faced with competing explanations for the same phenomenon, the simplest one is probably the correct one. Attributed to William of Ockham, a 14th century English theologian. 




Beginner Resources



  • The FBI Way, F. Figliuzzi (Custom House, 2021)
  • To Catch a Spy: The Art of Counterintelligence, J. Olson (Georgetown, 2019)
  • Vaults, Mirrors, and Masks: Rediscovering U.S. Counterintelligence, J. Sims & B. Gerber (Georgetown, 2008)
  • The Origins of FBI Counterintelligence, R. Batvinis (Kansas, 2007)
  • The FBI: A History, R. Jefferys-Jones (Yale, 2007)
  • Traitors Among Us: Inside the Spy Catcher’s World, S. Herrington (Mariner, 2000)




Primary Sources 

*Wildcard Resource*

  • The Old Man 
  • A new television series on FX that centers around a fugitive ex-CIA agent as he is hunted down by no other than the FBI’s Assistant Director for Counterintelligence. Unfortunately, Alan Kohler does NOT star in the show!