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Your Freedom of Speech…

Be very thankful for your freedom of speech, don’t ever take it for granted.
Below is a book review that I wrote for Barry Meier’s book, Missing Man: The American Spy Who Vanished in Iran. As you can see, it has been heavily redacted by the CIA. While I realize I signed a secrecy agreement when I went to work for the Agency, at the time, at just twenty-nine years old, I never imagined that one day I would be writing books about my experience. It is obviously not ideal to have to send everything I write through the Publications Review Board at the CIA. It adds an extra hurdle to the writing and publishing process and stifles some of my creativity, not to mention it can be frustrating and time consuming. For the most part, I feel they have been pretty fair with me, though sometimes it seems like the criteria for what is considered “classified” changes depending on what day it is. There do not seem to be strict standards that apply to everyone, regardless of whether you are Hillary Clinton or Valerie Plame. I have not seen a lot of consistency in the process. Sometimes I struggle with the question of whether to make a fuss and try to appeal their decisions, but then possibly incurring the wrath of the people who work there, thereby affecting the publication of my future books. I have to believe that they have good reasons for redacting certain words. Even though a sentence itself may not be classified, I hope that the redaction of those words was done with the intention of protecting a life – in this case Bob Levinson, who disappeared from his wife and seven children in 2007.

Please note that the length of the black lines does not accurately reflect the amount of text that was removed from my original book review.

This is an excellent book about the disappearance of Bob Levinson, a retired FBI agent            . This story hits close to home for me, as I was working at the CIA when Mr. Levinson vanished. A lot of the details in the book bring back old memories,            . At the time, I was new to the office I was working in,            . Years later, while posted on a field assignment, I attended a meeting with Senator Bill Nelson. I watched as Senator Nelson asked the very puzzled group about Mr. Levinson. All of the officers in the group were completely bewildered by the inquiry,            . The meeting left me with a very bad taste in my mouth.
Reading this book left me saddened by the disgraceful way that Mr. Levinson’s case was handled by all of the agencies involved.            
The book reads like a spy thriller, including intricately woven webs of deceit and a cast of characters seemingly straight out of a Hollywood film.            
I also truly wish that the story had a happy ending.

Ever Have a Nightmare Roommate?

…Rebecca was a Logistics Officer at the Agency, and she was never home; she was always traveling TDY somewhere. She had recently arrived back from one of her trips, and walked in on Annie and Daveed. Annie had been performing an act that Rebecca was pretty sure was not a traditional massage technique. Rebecca had witnessed one too many of these lapses in judgment on Annie’s part and could not wait for their lease to end. She did not intend on having Annie as a roommate next year…

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EXCERPT FROM MY INTERVIEW WITH FRANK BOCCIA, AUTHOR OF THE CROUCHING BEAST: A UNITED STATE’S ARMY LIEUTENANT’S ACCOUNT OF THE BATTLE FOR HAMBURGER HILL, MAY 1969.

In honor of author Frank Boccia, who passed away last week, I am re-posting an interview I did with him last year. He was a great man, and I appreciated his honesty and that he took the time to speak with me about my first book, Single in the CIA. Frank’s book, The Crouching Beast: A United States Army Lieutenant’s Account of the Battle for Hamburger Hill, May 1969, is available on Amazon, and other places books are sold. He will be missed.

Frank: You write well, economically, clearly. As a professional author, I appreciate that kind of writing.

I can see why the book might have made the CIA squirm a bit, but considering the bad press they get I suppose they’re used to it. And, yeah, the waste of money is disturbing, but then the entire government does the same. I know. I had two separate and brief periods of employment with Uncle Sam and spent most of the time shaking my head.

But I’m left with a question that I hesitate to ask, but must. First, let me make clear that I am not making a moral judgment here; I would be the world’s most egregious hypocrite if I did, because I was an executive in a major corporation and there was a period when I was the Barry or Archie — well, no; not Archie. I could never reach his level of weird hypocrisy — or Jarod. I’m ashamed of it now, but back then — well, there were a lot of attractive women in our company. So, if anything what I did was much less ethical. A young clerk and a middle-aged exec is not a fair match.

So… the question is, how did you come to bare all that you did? I don’t mean for its affect on the Agency, or even your partners — no matter that you changed their names (I know you did because I was forced to change a lot of names in my account, or the lawyers would have hissy fits and massive heart attacks) many of your former colleagues will know who the men were — but so what? They probably did anyway. No, I’m thinking only on how it affects YOU. Did you hesitate at all, for that reason? I understand that this is probably an embarrassing topic, but, you must have known your father and his colleagues and friends would read it. I sat and thought about that after I read the last paragraph.

Regarding his book, The Crouching Beast: Many have remarked on how intimate and revealing some of my passages are, showing things that weren’t necessarily attractive in my character. I wrestled with that, but in the end decided that if was going to be honest, and write about my comrades as I did, then I had to write about myself, warts and all. Again — no moral stance here. Call it vulgar curiosity, or, as I think of it, a professional writer’s research. I will thoroughly understand if you don’t wish to answer, or if you send me a blazing dart filled with names — all of which I’ve been called before, probably deservedly — and suggestions for my future address.

I will say it took courage to do what you did. Sort of like charging a machine gun nest. After the first step it’s too late to back out.

Shelly: To answer your question – I really don’t find anything that I exposed in the book embarrassing… In today’s world, what I wrote is practically a child’s cartoon. I think at the end of the book I clarified that I was never a victim in the situations I was in, I was merely along for the ride. I was actually just as bad as the men I talk about in the book (and I’ll add that Barry and I are still friends). They don’t have a name for the female equivalent of a womanizer… But that’s what I was! I think the book actually delivers a good message in the end – it shows that no matter how much BS you deal with and how dreadful your life can seem (as it did in the Fall of 2011), things can completely change in a very short span of time. Because of the risk I took leaving the Agency my life became 100% better. I am now living happily with a young son, happily married, and doing things I never could – with the help of my book sales! I think the book is more of a triumph than something to be embarrassed about. And as you know, as a writer, you cannot hesitate or censor yourself if you want to write well. I struggled with censoring myself quite a bit while writing it – I left out A LOT of really bad behavior – both on my part and others. That’s the stuff that might actually embarrass me. But, I also know that I wouldn’t be afraid to write a sequel to Single in the CIA, which could include some of the worst behavior that I left out this time around.

And don’t worry, I am not offended by your question at all!!! Hey, I am a 40 year old woman now, whose book is doing well considering the obstacles I have (friends who don’t know how to use the internet, friends who are afraid their CIA cover will be blown if they purchase the book, etc). I’m not easily offended – I kept reading your question over and over trying to figure out what you think might actually offend me!! I can’t find anything. Trust me, the book could have been WAY more intimate – I went light on the sex stuff. I’ve had so many people tell me that I needed to put MORE of the sex in the book – they said it wasn’t sexy enough.

Regarding the changing of names – yes, I did that – but that is more because when you work for the Agency we all get pseudonyms. So half the time we didn’t even know each others’ real names!

In closing, all of the “douche bags” in the book have contacted me since its publication, and none of them are mad about what I wrote – except Archie. But, like I’ve said before, if you don’t want someone to write about your bad behavior one day, don’t act like a douche bag!

The good news – I’ve apparently got a huge following of certain officers in the CIA. Some of them have thanked me for “bringing it all together” for them. They are coming to grips with the idea that they may not be able to get another job when they leave the Agency – their professional life is a big black hole, more so than mine, and they are squirming now trying to figure out what to do if and when they jump ship. Most will stay there until they can retire, living very unhappy lives, because they are, in a sense, prisoners to the Agency.

Thank you for saying it took courage to write it! I always have been a risk-taker, and also a pretty blunt person. Not everybody recognizes that, but I am also a very misunderstood person. That’s ok with me.

Roaming the Halls and the Seventh Floor…

…Annie perked up, pushing the memory of his wedding band out of her mind. She eagerly wrote him back, setting a date for the upcoming weekend. Hearing Allison’s meeting coming to an end, she quickly logged off and headed out to roam the halls for a bit. She liked to go up to the Seventh Floor, the place where the Director of the CIA and all of the real higher-ups of the Agency sat. It made her feel important, and the DCIA’s bodyguards were really cute…

It’s Nap Time… At the CIA!

…Annie looked over to where Beatrice, her elderly co-worker, usually sat. Beatrice was just waiting to retire, though she seemed much older than the usual retirement age. She wasn’t currently at her desk – she often snuck down to the Agency library where she could be found taking a nap on the sofa in the far back corner…

With friends like these…

…He wasn’t actually concerned about it, and he recognized Annie was a petty backstabber. But, he was the lead Security Officer for the division, and he did have to at least pretend to take it seriously and conduct a minor investigation. At this point though, he really just wanted Annie to leave his crowded office. He was beginning to choke on her overwhelming perfume that only moderately masked her body odor…

Only the Best Minds to Protect Your National Security…

…Annie held back her disappointment while she listened to Carina’s news of how she would be going TDY to Guantanamo Bay to assist with interviews of suspected terrorists. Carina practically trembled with excitement at the prospect of meeting cute military guys in GTMO. She had already gone out and bought a dozen outfits, all incorporating camouflage…

Cake!

“Vicky wanted me to let everyone know that there is a cake for Susan’s birthday over in East Group,” Sean announced, popping his head into the conference room. He shot a sheepish look at Marisa, who continued to frown.
Cake!
Annie felt her day improving already.
After about ten minutes of chatter about what kind of cake Bob preferred, he began the meeting with a quick description of what he hoped they could accomplish at the mediation…

The Scent of Patchouli…

“Can I use your shower?”
He wanted to wash the pungent scent of patchouli off of him. His wife surely wouldn’t appreciate what had just happened, and she had a nose like a bloodhound. Annie showed him to the bathroom and felt slightly offended when Julian slid the door closed in her face as she tried to join him in the steaming shower…

A Dancing Guy in a Doughnut Suit?

As a kid, I always loved writing. I wrote stories, I lived in my own little fantasy world. As a teenager, I excelled at writing papers where my imagination and strong opinions could shine through. All through my youth I loved reading books that allowed my brain to experience a different world.

Then, as an adult, I chose a career where creativity was used only in crafting whichever lie you would tell next. I went to work for the CIA, where I learned to write in “cable-ese”. I didn’t read many books for fun. I had to censor most of what I wrote or said to anyone.

After nearly a decade of having my creativity squashed, my writing stifled by the robotic tone necessary for cable writing, my creative writing ability is slowly emerging from a deep slumber.

The awakening of my creativity begins with my newest book, Mingling in the CIA: Annie, just released this week. As I enter into writing fiction, influenced by my experiences and people that I met in the Central Intelligence Agency, I truly am having fun seeing life through Annie’s eyes!

I think you will too.

Annie is not only available on Amazon. It is also available on Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iTunes, and more!