"CIA Reports Officer, Russian Yacht Watcher, Satirist” – with Alex Finley

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Summary

Alex Finley (Twitter; Website) joins Andrew (Twitter; LinkedIn) to discuss life as a CIA Reports Officer turned author. She lives in Barcelona.

What You’ll Learn

Intelligence

  • Her take on CIA analysts vs. case officers
  • Information and disinformation in fact and fiction
  • Ukraine, the 2016 election and the Russian historical playbook
  • The regularity even mundanity of much of daily intelligence life

Reflections

  • Being an American in Barcelona
  • Viewing your own country from outside the goldfish bowl

And much, much more…

Episode Notes

Alex Finley spent 6 years in the CIA as a Reports Officer - whom she describes as a bridge between the case officers and analysts. She is author of a trilogy of novels on the exploits of fictional CIA officer Victor Caro. Her most recent book, Victor in Trouble, completes the series (…or does it?) by looking at Russian influence operations and the contemporary intelligence landscape through a satirical lens.

She now lives in Barcelona, Spain - and yes, apparently it’s as awesome as it sounds! – and she is the voice behind #YachtWatch, which tracks and exposes the activities of Russian oligarchs and their superyachts.

And…

Satire is often described as fitting into three categories: Horatian, which offers light comedy and social commentary (e.g., Pride & Prejudice, Parks & Rec, The Colbert Report); Juvenalian, a darker and more abrasive take that can often take the form of speaking truth to power (e.g., Animal Farm, American Psycho, South Park) and Menippean, which casts moral judgement on beliefs or generic character flaws (e.g., Alice in Wonderland, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Saturday Night Live). Which one does Alex use?

Quote of the Week

"There, there were points where I found myself in the middle of nowhere, West Africa. And there are these moments where…how did I end up here? This makes zero sense. And then there were the bureaucratic Catch-22s." – Alex Finley.

Resources

*Andrew’s Recommendation*

*SpyCasts*

*Beginner Resources*

Books

  • Victor in Trouble, A. Finley (Smiling Hippo, 2022)
  • The Revenge of Power, M. Naim (St. Martin’s, 2022)
  • Active Measures, T. Rid (Picador, 2021)
  • The Misinformation Age, C. O’Connor & J. Weatherall (YUP, 2020)
  • Victor in The Jungle, A. Finley (Smiling Hippo, 2019)
  • Victor in The Rubble, A. Finley (Smiling Hippo, 2016)
  • Great Spy Stories from Fiction, A. Dulles (Harper, 1969)

Articles

Videos

Reports

Primary Sources

Primary Source Collections

  • Rumor Control Project Documents, Library of Congress

*Wildcard Resource*

  • A Clockwork Orange (1962) [novel]
  • A short, sharp satire that ruminates on the nature of society and free will – it will stay with you for a long time to come

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