10 Thrilling Tales of Real-life Case Officers Running Spies & Dodging Bombs

Case officers are the high-flying adrenaline junkies of the Secret Services. They’re trained to dazzle you with wit, console you with empathy, and share your quirky hobbies. There’s even a term for their fine art of manipulation: ‘You Me, Same Same.’ So don’t be surprised if your new BFF sidles up and politely asks you to break the law.

1. James Lawler

Central Intelligence Agency 

James Lawler, CIA

James 'Jim' Lawler is a specialist in human intelligence (HUMINT) - in fact, he was one of the CIA's most successful recruiters of foreign spies. Jim would stop at nothing to manipulate, subvert, and seduce his target - and don’t expect him to apologize: “The same way I consider a Marine Corps sniper who takes an al-Qaeda bomb maker into his sights at 1,000 yards a moral person, I consider what I did to be moral as well.” But even the brightest stars have to start somewhere. When we caught up with Jim on his first foreign posting, his mission was to enlist a crucial intelligence asset. He had three days to figure out how to persuade a woman to become a US spy in a country where they execute people for espionage.

The Sociopathic Spy
Listen to James Lawler: The Sociopathic Spy


2. Shawnee Delaney

Defense Intelligence Agency

“I served four war zone tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and on each tour I had one, or two - or even three - near-death experiences. And I decided: ‘You know what? I don’t get paid enough for this,” DIA case officer Shawnee Delaney told SPYSCAPE. But back in 2011, the hunt for Osama bin Laden was intensifying and Shawnee was determined to be the one to bring him in: “Who doesn't want that gold star?” Her source on the ground - an Islamic scholar with ties to al-Qaeda - proved to be a difficult man to recruit. To succeed, Shawnee would need to figure out what motivated the Mullah - and fast. “That first meeting, I think a lot of it was my lack of self-confidence and hearing the voices in my head over and over again, like… ‘He's never going to give you intelligence. And he's probably sitting there thinking: Who is this white chick?’"

Me and the Mullah podcast
Listen to Shawnee Delaney: Me and the Mullah


3. Douglas Laux

Central Intelligence Agency

Douglas Laux, CIA

Douglas Laux was studying to be an eye doctor in 2001 when 9/11 changed his life. Instead, Laux joined the CIA and spent a year learning Pashto, the language of Taliban fighters so he could be a war zone case officer. His first office was in an old Russian prison in Afghanistan. ‘I was terrified. And then we landed at my location and I was standing in a desert all by myself, going: ‘What have I just got myself into?’” It was 2010. The US was spearheading the latest surge of military action in Afghanistan and Doug was at the tip of the spear - going further, even, than where SEAL Team Six goes. Doug’s take on it? “This s***'s crazy.”

Douglas Laux, True Spies podcast: Hunting the Wolverine
Listen to Douglas Laux: Hunting the Wolverine

4. H.K. Roy

Central Intelligence Officer

H.K. Roy, former CIA officer

H.K. Roy was a CIA case officer living on the edge. One of his field trips took him to Mostar, a historic city at the time besieged by Serb forces. "When I was in Mostar, it was a live-fire zone and there were mortars landing all over the place. And what struck me about my Croatian colleagues was that they just shrugged everything off. And it was, 'Hey, if it's 500 meters away, it's somebody else's problem.'" In this two-part story, we follow Roy onto one of history’s unsung battlefields. Sandwiched between the Cold War, and the war on terror’s shock-and-awe bombast, the Balkan Wars take up precious little real estate in our collective imagination today yet this is a conflict that claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Balkans Betrayals Podcast
                   Click to hear H.K. Roy's True Spies podcast: Balkan Betrayals Part 1 & Part 2

5. Barry Broman

Central Intelligence Agency

Barry Broman, CIA

Barry Broman first worked in Cambodia in 1963 as a photographer for The Associated Press. Ten years later, he served in the American Embassy in Phnom Penh. Broman was a CIA clandestine officer who recruited foreign spies for the US. Back home, he was tasked with an unusual mission: Barry would be working alongside a suave MI6 officer from Britain to bring a high-ranking Communist over to the West. To succeed, they had to make the target an offer he couldn't refuse - but could they get inside his head? Barry and Alex began a four-week road trip, tracking their man across the states. It was a valuable life lesson - and a huge risk.

Dreams-Come-Tre Business podcast
Listen to Barry Broman: The Dreams-Come-True Business


6. Valerie Plame

Central Intelligence Agency

Valerie Plame, CIA

Valerie Plame was happy when the attention was on her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, particularly in Washington, D.C.  “All I had to say was: ‘Oh, yeah. I'm a consultant. I travel.’ And then people just glaze over, right? Because whether it's in Washington or so many places in the world, many, many people, frankly, discount women. What could they possibly be up to other than, say, shopping?” Plame's under-the-radar life came to a crashing halt in 2003, however, when Plame’s job as an undercover CIA officer was leaked during President George W. Bush’s administration. She was identified as an "Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction". Overnight, the operations she worked on were at risk.

Fair Game? Pocast
Click to listen to Valerie Plame’s True Spies podcast: Fair Game?


7. Doug Patteson

Central Intelligence Agency

Doug Patteson, former CIA officer

Doug Patteson liked the occasional jolt of adrenaline so he was happy his first assignment was in an East Asian capital known to have significant terrorist threats. In fact, the station had an opening because the previous CIA case officer ended up on a terrorist target list. Doug didn’t speak the language and wasn’t sure what it took to be a good case officer but he was game. He arrived in the dead of night to find the city wildly alive. “I remember the burning smells of trash and coconut husks and these things - honking of horns like you've never heard of in your life - and it just hit you in the face, sensory overload, arriving here and going: “How am I going to do this?”

Asset Terminated Podcast
Listen to Doug Patteson: Asset Terminated

8. Christopher Turner

Central Intelligence Agency

Christopher Turner, former CIA officer

Long before Christopher Turner taught advanced spy tradecraft to undercover CIA operatives and dodged bombs in South Asia, he was an archeologist digging up secrets. He still is, only now Turner gathers cloak-and-dagger intel as the author of spy novels and books. Turner retired a few years back and was surprised to face an entirely different type of evil. Turner uncovered the CASSIA Spy Ring, a civilian resistance operation based out of a church in occupied Vienna that operated during WWII. Their goal? Recruit like-minded individuals to strike back at the Nazi regime.

Cassia Spy Ring podcast
Listen to Christopher Turner: CASSIA Spy Ring Part 1 and Part 2

10 Thrilling Tales of Real-Life Case Officers Running Spies & Dodging Bombs

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Case officers are the high-flying adrenaline junkies of the Secret Services. They’re trained to dazzle you with wit, console you with empathy, and share your quirky hobbies. There’s even a term for their fine art of manipulation: ‘You Me, Same Same.’ So don’t be surprised if your new BFF sidles up and politely asks you to break the law.

1. James Lawler

Central Intelligence Agency 

James Lawler, CIA

James 'Jim' Lawler is a specialist in human intelligence (HUMINT) - in fact, he was one of the CIA's most successful recruiters of foreign spies. Jim would stop at nothing to manipulate, subvert, and seduce his target - and don’t expect him to apologize: “The same way I consider a Marine Corps sniper who takes an al-Qaeda bomb maker into his sights at 1,000 yards a moral person, I consider what I did to be moral as well.” But even the brightest stars have to start somewhere. When we caught up with Jim on his first foreign posting, his mission was to enlist a crucial intelligence asset. He had three days to figure out how to persuade a woman to become a US spy in a country where they execute people for espionage.

The Sociopathic Spy
Listen to James Lawler: The Sociopathic Spy


2. Shawnee Delaney

Defense Intelligence Agency

“I served four war zone tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and on each tour I had one, or two - or even three - near-death experiences. And I decided: ‘You know what? I don’t get paid enough for this,” DIA case officer Shawnee Delaney told SPYSCAPE. But back in 2011, the hunt for Osama bin Laden was intensifying and Shawnee was determined to be the one to bring him in: “Who doesn't want that gold star?” Her source on the ground - an Islamic scholar with ties to al-Qaeda - proved to be a difficult man to recruit. To succeed, Shawnee would need to figure out what motivated the Mullah - and fast. “That first meeting, I think a lot of it was my lack of self-confidence and hearing the voices in my head over and over again, like… ‘He's never going to give you intelligence. And he's probably sitting there thinking: Who is this white chick?’"

Me and the Mullah podcast
Listen to Shawnee Delaney: Me and the Mullah


3. Douglas Laux

Central Intelligence Agency

Douglas Laux, CIA

Douglas Laux was studying to be an eye doctor in 2001 when 9/11 changed his life. Instead, Laux joined the CIA and spent a year learning Pashto, the language of Taliban fighters so he could be a war zone case officer. His first office was in an old Russian prison in Afghanistan. ‘I was terrified. And then we landed at my location and I was standing in a desert all by myself, going: ‘What have I just got myself into?’” It was 2010. The US was spearheading the latest surge of military action in Afghanistan and Doug was at the tip of the spear - going further, even, than where SEAL Team Six goes. Doug’s take on it? “This s***'s crazy.”

Douglas Laux, True Spies podcast: Hunting the Wolverine
Listen to Douglas Laux: Hunting the Wolverine

4. H.K. Roy

Central Intelligence Officer

H.K. Roy, former CIA officer

H.K. Roy was a CIA case officer living on the edge. One of his field trips took him to Mostar, a historic city at the time besieged by Serb forces. "When I was in Mostar, it was a live-fire zone and there were mortars landing all over the place. And what struck me about my Croatian colleagues was that they just shrugged everything off. And it was, 'Hey, if it's 500 meters away, it's somebody else's problem.'" In this two-part story, we follow Roy onto one of history’s unsung battlefields. Sandwiched between the Cold War, and the war on terror’s shock-and-awe bombast, the Balkan Wars take up precious little real estate in our collective imagination today yet this is a conflict that claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Balkans Betrayals Podcast
                   Click to hear H.K. Roy's True Spies podcast: Balkan Betrayals Part 1 & Part 2

5. Barry Broman

Central Intelligence Agency

Barry Broman, CIA

Barry Broman first worked in Cambodia in 1963 as a photographer for The Associated Press. Ten years later, he served in the American Embassy in Phnom Penh. Broman was a CIA clandestine officer who recruited foreign spies for the US. Back home, he was tasked with an unusual mission: Barry would be working alongside a suave MI6 officer from Britain to bring a high-ranking Communist over to the West. To succeed, they had to make the target an offer he couldn't refuse - but could they get inside his head? Barry and Alex began a four-week road trip, tracking their man across the states. It was a valuable life lesson - and a huge risk.

Dreams-Come-Tre Business podcast
Listen to Barry Broman: The Dreams-Come-True Business


6. Valerie Plame

Central Intelligence Agency

Valerie Plame, CIA

Valerie Plame was happy when the attention was on her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, particularly in Washington, D.C.  “All I had to say was: ‘Oh, yeah. I'm a consultant. I travel.’ And then people just glaze over, right? Because whether it's in Washington or so many places in the world, many, many people, frankly, discount women. What could they possibly be up to other than, say, shopping?” Plame's under-the-radar life came to a crashing halt in 2003, however, when Plame’s job as an undercover CIA officer was leaked during President George W. Bush’s administration. She was identified as an "Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction". Overnight, the operations she worked on were at risk.

Fair Game? Pocast
Click to listen to Valerie Plame’s True Spies podcast: Fair Game?


7. Doug Patteson

Central Intelligence Agency

Doug Patteson, former CIA officer

Doug Patteson liked the occasional jolt of adrenaline so he was happy his first assignment was in an East Asian capital known to have significant terrorist threats. In fact, the station had an opening because the previous CIA case officer ended up on a terrorist target list. Doug didn’t speak the language and wasn’t sure what it took to be a good case officer but he was game. He arrived in the dead of night to find the city wildly alive. “I remember the burning smells of trash and coconut husks and these things - honking of horns like you've never heard of in your life - and it just hit you in the face, sensory overload, arriving here and going: “How am I going to do this?”

Asset Terminated Podcast
Listen to Doug Patteson: Asset Terminated

8. Christopher Turner

Central Intelligence Agency

Christopher Turner, former CIA officer

Long before Christopher Turner taught advanced spy tradecraft to undercover CIA operatives and dodged bombs in South Asia, he was an archeologist digging up secrets. He still is, only now Turner gathers cloak-and-dagger intel as the author of spy novels and books. Turner retired a few years back and was surprised to face an entirely different type of evil. Turner uncovered the CASSIA Spy Ring, a civilian resistance operation based out of a church in occupied Vienna that operated during WWII. Their goal? Recruit like-minded individuals to strike back at the Nazi regime.

Cassia Spy Ring podcast
Listen to Christopher Turner: CASSIA Spy Ring Part 1 and Part 2

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9. Bob Dougherty

Central Intelligence Agency, FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force

CIA veteran Bob Dougherty developed a rapport with an Iraqi informant who’d produced invaluable intelligence. America’s Gulf War ‘Deck of Cards’ was looking flush but the informant still had an ace up his sleeve. He casually dropped the name ‘Abu Abbas’, a name Bob knew well. For almost 20 years, Bob lived with that name on his lips: ”And I said: ‘Wait a second, Abu Abbas from the Palestinian Liberation Front back in the mid-1980s?’” Yes, that one. Bob began listening intently. The CIA officer wanted justice for the kidnapping and killing of an American war veteran aboard a cruise ship in the Mediterranean. Now, 20 years later, Bob finally his chance to capture Abu Abbas.

Bob Dougherty's True Spies podcast
Listen to Bob Dougherty: Justice for Leon Klinghoffer

10. J.T. Mendoza

Defense Intelligence Agency

J.T. Mendoza

J.T. Mendoza rooted out insider threats and chased down double agents in an intelligence career as varied as it was dangerous. He knows how to get inside the heads of people who betray their government, which is why a difficult case landed on his desk while J.T. was working at the Defense Intelligence Agency. His job involved catching foreign agents before they could wreak serious damage on the US government and on this particular day J.T. was focused on Kevin Patrick Mallory, a US Army intelligence officer who’d worked for the CIA and State Department. Mallory was also a suspected of being a Chinese spy. But how could J.T. flush him out? 

Network Request podcast
Listen to J.T. Mendoza: Network Request
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