I just read and reviewed Amaryllis Fox’s book, Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA (Alfred A. Knopf, 2019). It is the story of a young woman recruited by the CIA who spent eight years operating undercover as a spy. The review will be published by the Internet Review of Books on 14 January 2020. Once it’s available online, I’ll post the URL here.
What moved me most about Fox’s book was the sacrifice involved in living undercover, as I did for many years before I retired from the government. Cover required both Fox and me to withhold the truth from and even lie to our families about where our assignments took us and what we did. It destroyed her two marriages; it rendered my children fatherless for long periods while I was away on duty.
We also risked our lives. As I wrote in the review, “Those in the military put country ahead of life. What most of us don’t understand is that spies do the same. They are patriots even to the point of giving up their lives.”
Life Undercover caused me to rethink my career in intelligence and re-examine the values that that led me into that way of life. I, like Fox, put my life on the line for the good of the country. Along the way, my family was left to manage on its own for long periods. Was it worth it?
Yes. The country is better off for what I did, and I’m a better man thanks to the experience. But my children? They all grew into strong, admirable adults. I’ll never know if they’d have been better off if I’d been there to nurture them.