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Moran: 'It's a dirty business'


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Lindsay Moran began her career as a CIA agent in 1998.
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(CNN) -- Lindsay Moran read "Harriet the Spy" as a girl and dreamed of growing up to join the CIA. After graduating from Harvard, she did just that.

In her new book, "Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy," Moran shows readers the real world of espionage is quite different from the Hollywood version. CNN national security correspondent David Ensor spoke with Moran about her career as a spy.

ENSOR: What made you decide to apply to the CIA?

MORAN: It had been a lifelong dream of mine. I grew up reading this series of books called "Harriet the Spy," and I just thought they were the neatest things and Harriet was the neatest little girl, and she had a spy kit and would spy on everybody. And I sort of modeled my early life after Harriet the Spy, and my fascination with espionage never really went away as I was a teenager and went to college -- it kind of always remained there in the back of my head.

ENSOR: Tell us a little about the training.

MORAN: We jumped out of planes and drove cars real fast. ... A lot of it essentially was training people to have social skills. We went down and lived at the CIA's facility, "the Farm" for several months, and we lived on this alternative reality with a fake country, a number of fake countries and fake heads of state, and we were expected to sort of embrace this alternative reality and live and breathe it as if it was true.

ENSOR: Was the training useful for what you subsequently did as an officer?

MORAN: Some aspects of the training were useful, and some aspects of the training that probably weren't useful to me were useful to other people.

A lot of the training about detecting surveillance, being able to tell if you're being followed. ... And while it's not difficult, it does take a lot of practice to sort of become uber-aware of everything going on around you, and being able to take notes while you're driving, at the same time looking around. And also at the same time trying to appear natural, so that if you are being followed the person following you doesn't perceive that you know you're being followed.

ENSOR: Hollywood presents the career you had as an enormously glamorous and dangerous profession. Is it?

MORAN: It's not nearly as glamorous as it's portrayed in Hollywood -- the career of being a spy -- and that was kind of eye opening to realize. You know, certainly I didn't expect it to be James Bond to a T, but at the end of the day the CIA is a lot of people in sensible shoes sitting in cubicles, and that's kind of a reality that's probably a shock to a lot of people like me who come into the agency expecting something more glamorous.

... I've heard my book compared to the real-life "Alias" and I tend to think of it as the "anti-Alias."

ENSOR: What's dirty about the business?

MORAN: It's a dirty business because you're lying to people and you're using them, and that's what your job is. That's the reality of being a spy. You're not befriending people because you like them, or because you want to be friends with them, you think that they have some information that will be of value to the U.S. government.

ENSOR: Do you think it's an organization that is broken?

MORAN: I guess I do. I don't have the answers as to how the agency can adequately infiltrate terrorist networks or combat terrorism. I think that's an incredibly difficult question, but they certainly seem to be dragging their feet on addressing what is the most pressing issue for them as an organization and for us as a country, which is how do we get into these, how do we get information, how do we gather human intelligence on these terrorist networks. I feel that the agency has been incredibly slow to respond or change either its management style or its training or even the type of people that it recruits in order to combat that threat.

ENSOR: Do you think Porter Goss might change it in a good way?

MORAN: No. I would have been the first one to advocate changes at the agency on the heels of George Tenet's resignation. It doesn't seem to me -- and now I'm speaking obviously from an outsider's perspective -- that Porter Goss is taking the agency in a good direction. And from what I understand, he's sort of hunkering down, blaming a lot of leaks from within the agency to the press on problems the agency is having. I think what's going to occur is it will again become an organization that rather than trying to excise its warts will try to cover them up.

ENSOR: What kind of an impact did having a secret career like this have on your personal life?

MORAN: It's hard to lie to pretty much everybody who's important to you. My immediate family knew that I worked at the CIA but that was all they knew. They certainly had no idea what I was actually doing and probably would have been horrified if they did. So I ended up cutting off a lot of relationships with both friends and, to a certain extent, family members too as I became an increasingly insular person.

ENSOR: Do you believe in espionage?

MORAN: I still believe in the organization, I believe that it's necessary. Every country is going to have a spy service and ours should be the best. You know we're the last remaining superpower, we should have one of the best spy services there is and we don't.


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