The regular counterintelligence chat with William Tucker is a day late but full of new Chinese espionage activity in the NYPD, the EU, and beyond. We also touch on intelligence history and why literature from the Middle Ages or beyond is not only fascinating but still relevant.
Author Howard Kaplan returns to Covert Contact to discuss Bullets of Palestine (the second novel in his Jerusalem Spy Series), chronic tensions in the Middle East, the prospect for reconciliation, Abu Nidal, and his approach to writing.
Longtime listeners will recognize Howard from episode 21 where we discussed the first novel in the series.
Former CIA Reports Officer Alex Finley joins me in episode 50 to discuss her first novel and the business of intelligence. Victor in the Rubble is a satirical look at the CIA and the War on Terror. The book is insanely funny, and worth reading for the entertainment value alone, but Alex’s insight and ability to highlight the absurdity of bureaucratic organizations and human failures should make this required reading at the agency and other large organizations.
In episode 25 I’m talking to Naveed Jamali, former double agent, and co-author of How to Catch a Russian Spy: The True Story of an American Civilian Turned Double Agent.
Naveed seemed like an unlikely candidate for this sort of intrigue but Russian intelligence used his parent’s company to order U.S. government publications. The FBI, of course, wanted to know what the Russians were reading. He could have remained a low-level informant, notifying the FBI of the Russian’s reading habits and interests as his parents had, but Naveed wanted to take it further. He had access, some natural talent, and a lot interest in playing the game.
Our conversation focuses on Naveed’s unusual position and what it’s like to navigate this very confusing territory as a complete amateur.
Howard Kaplan wrote his debut espionage novel, The Damascus Cover, nearly forty years ago. He joins me to discuss the book, the recently completed the film adaptation staring Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Sir John Hurt, his own experience serving as a courier for Israeli intelligence in the Soviet Union (where he was eventually detained for a short time), and the psychology of human intelligence.
Spies make for dramatic characters in books and in film but real intelligence professionals have to pay a price for that drama. It is a life that can take a toll on even the most committed practitioners. Kaplan leverages his limited (but no less dramatic) brush with the profession to explore that tension in his work. We look at these aspects of the business, not only in his own work, but also through examples such as the classic le Carré character Alec Leamus and the life of the Israeli hero Eli Cohen.
You can follow @kaplanhow on Twitter.