We have a spy themed party this Friday at the Spy Museum. It’s going to be very cool. It will feature a mechanical shark, the actor that played Jaws in the Bond films The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker and all the other things that make you love BYT parties (photobooth, dance music that gets people to dance, absurdity, etc.). To get you in the spy mood, we asked some spies about their favorite James Bond moments. What we got back was not just a list of spies favorite James Bond moments.
We’ll start with the spies that answered the questions with reasonable answers and end with real life stories that are much more scary and possibly more entertaining than any James Bond book or film.
Bio: Ms. Mahle is a former US intelligence officer and expert on the Middle East and counterterrorism.
As a field operative for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), she worked against many of the key challenges to US national security, including running operations against al-Qaeda terrorists and illicit networks selling weapons of mass destruction. She received a Presidential Letter of Appreciation for her work on the Middle East Peace Process and numerous exceptional performance awards from the CIA for her recruitment of agents and collection of intelligence. Ms. Mahle is the author of the book Denial and Deception: An Insider’s View of the CIA.
Favorite Bond Moments: When Bond uses real spy skills. In Quantum of Solace, he turned the tradecraft of the bad guys against them, by exploiting their communication system to listen in. Hello NSA!
Least Favorite Bond Moments: My least favorite Bond moments are many…when Bond gets what he wants by seducing Mr. Evil’s (the character changes each movie) female accomplice. Come on, give me a break. Not only is this bad writing, but bad espionage. You seduce them and then you have a high maintenance problem. And we all know that Bond is a love ‘um and leave ‘um type.
What She Loves About Bond: The villains have goals that are larger than life. This is true about real villains. I once worked against a terrorist bomber. He was caught. In the interrogation, he really believed that through killing a few hundred people (mostly civilians in his own society) he could change the world and remake it into his own utopian vision. Not.
Bond Gadget She Wishes She Has: I want the watch that does everything. And still works and looks sharp.
Bio: S. Eugene (Gene) Poteat is a retired senior CIA Scientific Intelligence Officer. He is President of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO). He was educated as an electrical engineer and physicist, he holds a Masters in Statecraft and National Security Affairs from IWP. His career in intelligence included work with U-2 and SR-71 class of aircraft and various space and naval reconnaissance systems. He also managed the CIA’s worldwide network of monitoring sites. He holds patents on covert communications techniques. His CIA assignments included the Directorate of Science and Technology, the National Reconnaissance Office, Technical Director of the Navy’s Special Programs Office and Executive Director of the Intelligence Research and Development Council. He served abroad in London, Scandinavia, the Middle East and Asia. He received the CIA’s Medal of Merit and the National Reconnaissance Office’s Meritorious Civilian Award for his technological innovations.
Favorite Bond Moments: The classic ending in the movie Thunderball had James Bond and his trusty girl rescued by being snatched from and inflatable dingy by an aircraft using a Skyhook. The skyhook was not a 007 fantasy, but was actually used by the CIA to retrieve secret agents in real-life. I well knew about the Skyhook from my early days in the CIA.
Least Favorite Bond Moment: The instant that Jaws opened his mouth, smiled, and showed his steel teeth.
Real Life Villain He’s Encountered: I was in Iran in the 1970s when Americans were being targeted for assassination. It seemed that every man that stared at me might be an assassin. Many Americans were killed, but I survived. Americans need to appreciate that CIA people overseas risk their lives daily to protect them.
Bio: In 2001, Eric O’Neill helped capture the most notorious spy in United States history: Robert Hanssen, a 25-year veteran of the FBI. The remarkable true events of his life are the inspiration behind the critically acclaimed dramatic thriller Breach, starring Ryan Philippe as O’Neill. Preceding Hanssen’s arrest, O’Neill worked with the spy within the information assurance division that protected all classified FBI intelligence.
O’Neill began his career in the FBI as a graduate of the FBI’s Intelligence Program. He spent the first five years of his career as a special surveillance group field operative tasked to surveil and monitor foreign, national, and domestic terrorists and spies.
Currently, O’Neill runs The Georgetown Group, a premier investigative and security consultancy, where he specializes in counterintelligence and counterterrorism operations, investigations into economic espionage, cyber security penetrations, internal investigations and security risk assessment consulting out of Washington, DC. O’Neill also founded the Schiltron Group, a company engaged in critical infrastructure protection, transportation security and competitive intelligence consulting.
Favorite Bond Moment: There’s a scene in the Living Daylights where Bond sleds down a ski slope with Kara Milovy (a boyhood crush of mine) using a cello case as a sled and the cello both to steer and to absorb bullets fired from the henchmen chasing him. They reach the bottom of the hill and duck under the border crossing guard rail as Milovy waves a passport at the surprised border guard. Classic Bond.
Least Favorite Bond Moment: A View to a Kill, yes the whole movie. Who was smoking what when they made this one? Robot Dogs? Christopher Walken and Grace Jones flying around in a blimp? Poor Roger Moore trying not to laugh as he read the script (or cry).
Real Life Villain He’s Encountered: Robert Hansson. Real life spy for the Soviets and then Russians for over 20 years and one of the most damaging spies in US history. I was assigned to work undercover (as myself!) and catch him. For more, watch Universal Picture’s Breach.
Bond Gadget He Wishes He Had: This one is easy: The classic Bond car – the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger and Casino Royale. This was the most fully loaded car: bullet proof glass, machine guns, hydraulic bumper that could be used for a battering ram, etc. You can see the model at the Spy Museum. While a bit showy for surveillance, I could have followed targets in high style. If I could have only gotten Q to add the car invisibility cloak from Die Another Day, I would have been unstoppable.
Bio: Dr. Schroeder specializes in Cold War and intelligence issues. His dissertation at Chicago was on the Hitler Youth as a paramilitary organization. Trained as an infantry platoon leader, he served as a US Army intelligence officer on the Army Staff in Washington, DC, and the US Military Command in Vietnam. He is the author of classified US Army political studies. During his thirty-one year career as an officer of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Clandestine Service, he held senior management positions both in Washington and Europe in the CIA Directorates of Operations and Science and Technology, and spent three years in CIA’s Office of Congressional Affairs responsible for Directorate of Operations liaison with Congressional Intelligence Oversight Committees. He also served as Deputy Director of the CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence. His final assignment before retirement in 2003 was as CIA Chair and Professor of Political Science at National Defense University’s Industrial College of the Armed Forces. He is a founding member of the Board of Advisors of the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC. He currently consults on national security issues and since 1999 has been an adjunct professor in the graduate Security Studies Program of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown.
Favorite Bond Moment: “You expect me to talk?” “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die,” as Goldfinger activates the laser and departs.
Least Favorite Bond Moment: Anything involving Roger Moore and the redneck Louisiana sheriff.
Real Life Villain He’s Encountered: Any number of senior CIA officials who made up in vile temper for what they lacked in leadership.
Bond Gadget He Wishes He Had: Never used or needed any.
Here’s where it gets less Bond-y and more scary… -ed.
Bio: Malcolm Nance is a combat veteran & US Intelligence officer, scholar, author and news media analyst with over 32 years specializing in in counterterrorism Intelligence, code-breaking, torture survival and evading or escaping from enemy captivity. He has authored several books on terrorism including the Terrorist Recognition Handbook and An End to al-Qaeda: Destroying Bin Laden’s Jihad and Restoring America’s Honor. He appears regularly on MSNBC, CNN, and the BBC.
Favorite Bond Moment: One of my favorites where I really felt like James Bond would be sooo jealous occurred just after Al Qaeda escaped from Tora Bora. In January 2002 I was in Jalalabad (aka “J-Bad”) trying to gain an idea of the escape routes of Al Qaeda leadership was using to enter an Afghan-adjacent country. I had a reasonably good cover because my local security team invited a crazy German nurse who had over 10 years working in Afghanistan during the Russian-Afghan war. She was serverely beauty-challenged and clearly in need of intense PTSD counseling. Because of her my safe house was both the most conspicuous and most forbidden place in the city for the Taliban – an OB/GYN clinic. When I arrived the staff of women Doctors and nurses assumed I was a medical doctor so they called me Doctor. They also assumed I had mad medical skills because I carried a massive backpack-sized medical kit full of actual medicines and my very own ugly German nurse. Fortunately, I was a trained Emergency Medical Technician at the time and that was equal to a neurosurgeon in post-Taliban Afghanistan.
While there I was introduced to the chief doctor. An absolutely stunning Russian-trained Afghan woman. She who wore no Burka or Abaya in my presence because she was told I was a visiting peer from America! She said the hospital needed antibiotics and painkillers so I decided the best idea for a REAL doctor was to bebop into J-bad medical market for an hour unarmed and without my protection team. It was a risk that Sean Connery would definitely have taken because a beautiful woman was involved.
The Jalalabad medical market was stuffed full of the best donated western medicines that the locals resold by the ton to anyone who wanted it. I bought a SUV full of fresh injectable antibiotics and painkillers from Germany and Switzerland for a nice new, unfolded $100 bill. Unfortunately, the transaction created attention.
A group of Pashtu speaking MAMs, Military-Aged-Men, in woodland camouflage jackets and camo colored Afghan Pakhool hats approached me. A little guy in the group slides over next to me and quietly speaks very good Arabic to me “Peace be Upon you, Brother!” I respond “And upon you Be Peace!” He looks me up and down and then whispers “Are you a Saudi?” Al Qaeda in Eastern Afghanistan was populated with Saudis and some Sudanese. Normally people mistake me for a Sudanese but the Saudis had all the money to fund the Taliban so it was a good question. I did not want to lie in case I was about to be captured by hostiles and as a good Muslim I said what needed to be said -“Praise be to Allah! and His Blessings to You!” The beauty of this phrase is that it means whatever you want it to mean. They took it as an affirmation that I was a Saudi and that meant I was on the righteous side with Brother Osama Bin Laden and not with the wicked fornicating pig eating Salibiyeen, aka the Crusaders. Pleased with my response the little guy looks around and then whispers in Arabic “Hal anta’ Jihadi? … Are you a Jihadi?” I was not going to lie directly so I said “Allah is Generous in both peace and in jihad!” Which in Jihadi-code means “God made me both rich and a Holy Warrior!” They laughed and congratulated me on being so slick – a black Saudi Jihadi buying medicines for al Qaeda in the middle of J-Bad. The little guy takes off my brown pakhool hat and gives me his green camouflage pakhool… which are quite cool and hard to find. Laughing, he says “Now you look like a REAL Jihadi!” Then they all give me short hugs, kiss my cheeks and lay on me lots of Islamic blessings, congratulations and good lucks and went off into the crowd.
In the end I needed that luck because if the US Special Forces team at Jalalabad airport had heard that an African-Saudi “Jihadi” in local dress was cruising the J-bad markets buying trauma meds they would have not asked me if I was a REAL Jihadi or not. They would have ignored any deconfliction or IFF signs that I was on their side. It would have been a black bag over my head or high velocity bullets through it.
Least Favorite Bond Moment: First worst moment was watching the 9/11 attacks happen live. I was so despondent at the complete utter failure of our intelligence community.
The second was being waterboarded. It doesn’t tickle and I’d rather take a knotted monkey fist in the groin to undergoing that again.
The best example of bad moment for intelligence officers was when I was operating on a mission related to the skyjacking of an Egyptian Airlines plane in Malta. During the mission the very brave and astute Egyptian pilot managed to get a message to us on how to get into the aircraft undetected. He had opened the baggage hold doors to allow for an explosive breach through the floor of the plane. We were giddy as it was the key to ending the hijacking fast and with little bloodshed. However, the Egyptian Army Commando team, Unit 777, decided that a better plan would be to ignore this information and rescue the hostages by climbing on the wings and blowing holes in the walls and roof of the plane. It was a horrifically terrible no-good plan! The Egyptians had a couple of US Navy SEAL advisors who not only rejected the plan as tactically stupid but insanity. They begged, cursed and screamed at them to NOT assault that way but to use the baggage hold to enter. Oh, no! the Egyptians were still sore from a disaster in Cyprus a few years earlier where they tried a hostage rescue and got into a gun battle with the Cypriot army while the terrorists watched eating popcorn. No! they wanted a large scale dynamic assault like the British SAS and the German GSG-9 did in the movies! So they did it their way. To make the assault special and “stun” the hijackers they decided to use “a little extra” of the breaching explosives that make holes in the plane. It literally blew the plane up! Rows of passengers were blow skyhigh or out of the other side of the aircraft. To make it worse their snipers started to shoot the fleeing passengers as they ran out of the aircraft. It resulted in 58 passengers dead at the hands of the rescue team. A wholly unmitigated disaster from A to Z that gave me the first taste of how disgusting real failure is when you have all the information in your hand to win big.
Real Life Villain He’s Encountered: Ugh! In November 2000 I was teaching Special Forces and SEAL students how to survive terrorist captivity at the Advanced Terrorist Abduction and Hostage Survival School at Coronado in San Diego. An important component of our class was identifying terrorist cells through behavior. One weekend during the class I went to a public gun range to practice my shooting. A couple of lanes from me were two men of Middle Eastern origin speaking Saudi dialect Arabic. They spoke loudly, first because they were Saudis and secondly because they were wearing hearing protection. They didn’t know you did not have to shout when no one was shooting. I was the only other person in the range. The young one was showing the older one how to shoot a .22 caliber semi automatic pistol at 15 feet. I thought this was strange so I watched and listened to them. The kid showed the other how to load, aim and bang out all 10 rounds in rapid succession. He even hit the target. Not bad. Then he would allow the older guy to shoot. They shot hundreds of round all in rapid fire succession. Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Like an automatic weapon. That took good trigger and grip control to hit the target, which they were doing with impressive proficiency. I went back to Cornado the next day and described this to my class as an example what internal terrorist cell training could look like. Soon after September 11th when the composite picture of the 9/11 hijackers was released I was shocked when I realized that the younger shooter I saw at the range was Ahmed Naimy, the terrorist hijacker from the al-Qaeda San Diego cell. I regret not having reported that information about my suspicions to the FBI at the time.
Bond Gadget He Wishes He Had: I always wanted the Rolex with the laser cutter but that’s the first thing that the guards will take from you. I can see the terrorist minions dancing around bug eyed and laughing holding a Rolex Perpetual Oyster with rope cutting laser over their heads, Rolex in one hand and Kalashnikov in the other screaming Looooook!!! Rolex!! Rolex!!