About the Author

See the interview of Chris Lynch at EspionageMagazine.com


 or extracts of it at the bottom of this section!  

 (The interview is no longer available, but extracts appear below.)


Watch Chris Lynch on Facebook, in a short feature created in 2014 for the TV series "The Americans" on FX TV:


Chris's show biz credentials on IMDb, the Internet Movie Database.  

It looks impressive when you click on Filmography>The Americans>See All 52 Episodes, and every episode for which he was credited as a consultant appears.


 Listen to Chris Lynch's interview on Rachel Marsden's Unredacted.com, conducted on January 6, 2015, from 14:45 to 37:00 on this link:

 http://blogtalk.vo.llnwd.net/o23/show/7/197/show_7197873.mp3  Too late! The interview is no longer available.  

Listen to Chris's interview with “The Frame,” a program on public radio station KPCC, “member supported news for Southern California,” on the subject of “How the FBI has been depicted in film and on television.” It was first aired on September 12 and 13, 2018.  

Part One (the segment begins at 20:40): https://www.scpr.org/programs/the-frame/2018/09/12/18913/.  For Part Two (the segment begins at 20:10), Chris gets the last word (at 26:10) — but that’s the only word he gets. https://www.scpr.org/programs/the-frame/2018/09/13/18918/



Chris Lynch was born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the younger brother of Tom and Jean. He graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School and Michigan State University, and joined the FBI in 1976, where his principal qualification was that he’d never been arrested.  He worked in the Intelligence Division at FBI Headquarters in Washington, and was granted a Master of Science degree in International Relations from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (Washington Program Center) in 1982.  In 1985, he moved to the CIA, where most of his career was spent in the Directorate of Operations.  In retirement, Chris lives in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, and has visited all fifty states and six continents. (Even so, he doesn't travel very often, but talks about it a lot.)  He helps his high school class with internet searches for classmates, and enjoys rediscovering old friends. Chris was recently diagnosed with Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, which finally explains his constant struggle with functioning during "normal" hours that run counter to his circadian rhythms, and leave him drained of energy.  He does much better now that he usually doesn’t have to wake up in the morning.


What Chris Lynch (the author of The CI Desk) has read recently:

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink;

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth;

Sunset and Sawdust by Joe R. Lansdale; 

Gun Guys: A Road Trip by Dan Baum;

The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout;

The Harlot by the Side of the Road: Forbidden Tales of the Bible by Jonathan Kirsch;

Me, The Mob, and the Music by Tommy James with Martin Fitzpatrick;

Five Boys Sliding Into Men by John Gerts;

and American Fuji and the poetry chapbooks Bicycle Lotus and Scavenger Hunt by Sara Backer. 

Favorite living authors:  Sara Backer, T. C. Boyle, Salman Rushdie, Martin Cruz Smith, Lindsey Davis, and many others whose talent he admires.  

Join in the celebration of an important cultural turning point, the What-Should-Be-The-Baby-Boomers' Holiday, February 9, commemorating the first appearance of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show!       

Celebrate National Aardvark Week!  National Aardvark Week is the week containing April 16th each year, and has been marked every year since 1964.  April 14-20, 2013 was the 50th Annual National Aardvark Week!  

Bloomsday, June 16 - commemorating Leopold Bloom's walk through Dublin on this day in 1904 in James Joyce's novel Ulysses.  

Note from the Author:  

When I was preparing this book, I felt that no one had written a definitive account of the work of the less-glamorous Headquarters-based desk officers in counterintelligence.  This isn't it -- it's more my personal journey through two large bureaucracies and their cultures -- so I'll keep looking.  Even so, the book contains numerous unique details on high profile counterintelligence and counterespionage cases, agents, and officers, including Bob Hanssen, the FBI agent convicted of espionage, who was my direct supervisor for two years, and one KGB officer he exposed in particular.  I hope it leads the reader to an appreciation of the human side of, and of my coworkers' contributions to, counterintelligence work at the FBI and CIA.  

I'd like to thank -- 

Paladin Strategy (paladinstrategy.net); 

Bob Stephan, author of Stalin's Secret War: Soviet Counterintelligence Against the Nazis, 1941-1945 (available on Amazon); 


Faye Walson

the CIA's Invisible Ink writers' club;

Joe Weisberg, creator and executive producer of "The Americans" TV series on the FX network, and several writers and members of his staff;

Allison Bishop of the International Spy Museum, and several other museum employees; 

Kim Chamberlain of EspionageMagazine.com,

Rachel Marsden of "Unredacted," 

Dog Ear Publishing, especially Adrienne Miller and Amber Ortner; 

and especially the dear friend who prefers to remain unnamed who helped immeasurably by carefully proofreading the first edition of the book.  Her efforts resulted in a much better version being available now, even though I opted to keep some of the less obvious mistakes due to the cost of making the changes. 

I'd also like to thank Joy Whitney, Esther and Ken Thoroughman, Barb Kane, Sandi Chaney, Terry Campo, Suzanne Neumann, Nancy Rowen, Mike VerHage, and Martha Coash for their support. 

I'll also belatedly thank my college roommate, Bill Moderi, for his assistance with my film "Sweet Rosetta Van."  I inadvertently left his name off the film's credits, and have long forgotten how the credit was supposed to read.  I do remember, though, that Bill was "lead monotone" for our imaginary band, The Runs. 

The interview with EspionageMagazine.com  -- 

 Espionage Magazine.com, An Interview with Chris Lynch, February 2013

Christopher Lynch’s work at the FBI focused especially on a KGB officer handled in the field as an “in place” penetration of Soviet intelligence . . . and he was frequently tapped as a knowledgeable resource on KGB operations, practices, and personnel . . . Eventually, Lynch came to be supervised by Robert P. Hanssen, wholse spying exposed the KGB officer’s cooperation with the United States, leading to the latter’s imprisonment in the Soviet gulag.  When Lynch made his move to the CIA, his specialties eventually included analysis of CIA operational tradecraft and detecting hostile control for cases that spanned the globe . . .  operations involving defectors, double agents, and traitors . . . 

Good afternoon, Chris, thanks for stopping by.  

My pleasure, thank you for having me.  

If I may take a moment to put things in perspective for our audience.  I found your book, The CI Desk: FBI and CIA Counterintelligence As Seen From My Cubicle, on Amazon while looking for authoritative research sources for a novel I was writing.  After reading the blurb and looking through a couple of pages, it became clear that your book was going to provide an insight into the daily workings of a countertintelligence officer in detail well beyond that of any book I’d seen.  But as I read through your book, I also found that not only was I reading a richly detailed, non-fiction account of your work in these agencies, but storytelling by an author, who is for me, entertaining along the lines of David Wise, one of my favorites.

But every story has a beginning, and ours starts here, as the author of The CI Desk, Christopher Lynch, was one of the longterm unemployed in Kalamazoo, Michigan, when he saw a small want ad for a job with the FBI.  


Several years out of school with a degree in Television and Radio, unemployed for years, and then seven months after your original application, the FBI hires you at about three dollars per hour and gives you five days to move from Kalamazoo to DC: Did you consider turning down the job offer? 

After over 800 letters and very few interviews in desperately looking for a job for nearly four years, there was no way I was going to turn down the only offer I’d gotten.  I was terribly stressed that I’d never find a job, and I’d been filling out applications for salesclerk and parking lot attendant jobs, leaving out my college degree since I was frustrated at being told I was “overqualified” for those minimum wage jobs that paid a lot more than the zero I had been making for so long.  I was so desperate that I seriously considered holding out when I was on a jury, since we got paid by the half-day.  


I figured the FBI had spent so long checking me out that they wouldn’t throw it away by denying me a reasonable amount of extra time to actually move to Washington.  I’m really not sure if I could have made it otherwise.  


During our orientation classes, the instructor told us stories about several people who had dropped everything and rushed to D.C. without telling anyone when they got the notice.  He thought that was hilarious.  Since several of us had done the same thing in order to follow their instructions, we didn’t think it was all that funny.    

Your first words in the author’s note in The CI Desk: say, “This isn’t really what I had in mind when I started writing.” What happened in the course of writing the book to change your original thinking? 


About one sixth of the book, 16 or 17 percent, was deleted by one agency or the other as part of the prepublication review.  Most of it was the one chapter the FBI deleted in its entirety.  In some cases, I outsmarted myself; I left out locations, figuring that I could put in more operational detail if I didn’t pin down where it happened.  As it turned out, the detail was still deleted, and it would have slowed down the already painful review process even more if I tried to change my draft and include the locations I had left out before.  For many of the books that go through the review process, the authors have lawyers and publishers backing them up, and they’re able to be more persistent in their appeals.  I was on my own, and just got tired of arguing after two and a half years.  


I’m sure the reviewers’ stats show less than 16 or 17 percent was deleted, but if a sentence was now missing its subject, or a paragraph its conclusion, I had to delete the entire thing, since it was no longer readable.  I had been a “declassifying certifier” in one of my CIA jobs, reviewing old material to decide what could be released to the public, so I felt I had a pretty good sense of what I could say in the book.  I was shocked at many of the things that had to be left out.  I saw that a lot of what I considered to be well known and fairly innocuous information about operations and how we ran them, or how the KGB ran them, had to be left out, even though I noticed other books seemed to include the same kind of detail.  As a result, I more or less reemphasized the personal aspects of my narrative, instead, making it something closer to  “counterintelligence for dummies.”  


You refer to David C. Martin’s book, Wilderness of Mirrors to describe counterintelligence (CI), but in a general sense could you distinguish for the readers the difference between intelligence and counterintelligence as job descriptions?

I’m not sure Martin’s book is still in print, although it’s easily available.  A newer book to read might be the recently released Circle of Treason, by Sandy Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille, which uses the Ames investigation as a backdrop for describing a newer generation of CI cases, including several I had worked on, sometimes with one or both of them.        

Officers looking for foreign secrets like the Iranian nuclear program, or Chinese economic plans, or military operations are looking for intelligence, also called foreign intelligence or positive intelligence.  Counterintelligence officers are trying to make sure the operations and the agents providing that information aren’t controlled by hostile services, or vulnerable to them, and that the information the agents are passing is accurate and valuable.  And part of that is targeting the hostile services themselves in order to find out what they’re trying to do to us, and protecting our own people and information.  


Back when I was there, the FBI was strictly CI; any intelligence obtained was only a byproduct.  The main purpose of the CIA was intelligence collection, and most CI was just part of the oversight of intelligence operations.  My job as chief of a Directorate of Operations branch was principally to support intelligence collection; my other DO jobs were counterintelligence, either in running CI operations themselves, which I obviously liked a lot more, or in monitoring positive intelligence operations.       


Since many in our audience read and write fiction about espionage and spying, and since you mention in your book that you prefer le Carré to Forsyth, are there fiction writers you feel most faithfully represent the work and environment of a counterintelligence officer?


That’s really just a personal preference.  Le Carré is better at reflecting reality, and moral ambiguity, and complexity.  I haven’t read all that much from Forsyth, but what I have read is just too hokey, and I don’t think the quality of his writing is up to le Carré’s standard.  That said, Forsyth was writing adventures, and that can be more interesting to read than moral ambiguity.  Honestly, I don’t read that much spy fiction -- I liked Eric Ambler and other authors from an earlier generation, but it’s been years since I’ve read them -- and when I do, I’m not really looking for verisimilitude; I got enough of that at work.     


Would your experiences at the FBI and CIA be a good film?


Oh, sure!  Not necessarily what I did, but what I described.  After seeing the movie “Breach,” which was more or less the story of one person who briefly worked with the spy Robert Hanssen, resulting in a couple of anecdotes which the screenwriter fleshed out with some movie clichés, including gunfire and an “I have to know if I can trust you” confrontation, I realized that nearly anything can be made into a quality movie by a talented screenwriter, especially one who can convey a type of mood and attitude.  In the case of my book, I think the story of Boris Yuzhin, the KGB officer who spied for the FBI and ended up in the Soviet gulag for years before being released, begs to be told.  I think the story of Vitaliy Yurchenko, who defected to the U.S. and redefected a few months later, also deserves dramatic treatment.  Neither story would need to be told from my perspective.  Otherwise, my book is loaded with anecdotes that could be assembled into a coherent, and entertaining, whole.        

One of those stories concerns Boris Yuzhin, a KGB officer, whom the FBI had provided with a camera concealed in a lighter. Can you tell us a little about your fears when Boris Yuzhin lost the cigarette lighter?


The San Francisco FBI field office found out about it quickly, and was forced into action well before I found out about it (I seem to remember it happened on a weekend).  We were scared to death.  We knew that the lighter could incriminate him and lead to his arrest.  In fact, it did, although it took the KGB years to conclude he was the one who lost the lighter, and arrest him after it had happened.  We were worried he would be hauled out of San Francisco on the next plane, and made sure he had filled out a request for asylum so we could legally stop that from happening.  I’m surprised we spent so little time pointing fingers; I was always concerned that the camera the CIA gave us was so obviously not just a lighter.  Eventually, it looked like we had dodged the bullet, literally (that’s how spies are executed in the Soviet Union), and we settled back into almost routine meetings again.  We even wondered at times if Yuzhin had been directed against us by the KGB the entire time, and his saying he lost the lighter was a ruse to let them keep it in the KGB’s possession.    


Even though I was handling Yuzhin’s reporting almost exclusively by that time, this crisis brought in all the pertinent managers, and by the time I arrived that morning, Headquarters’ responses were already well underway.  As a result, I didn’t really have an important role in handling the crisis at Headquarters.  I came up with a series of contingency plans mainly to just be doing something.  They may have helped focus our plans just a little, but I don’t think it would have been a great loss if I hadn’t prepared them.  In truth, we simply didn’t witness anything happening at the Soviet consulate that we could have reacted to.    


In fiction and film, an agent, operative or case officer will be portrayed as getting a case, resolving some conflict in the face of great peril, and then resolving and often times closing the case. Is this accurate? 


I don’t think I’ve ever heard the term “operative” used internally more than once or twice, and never referring to our own people.  It seems to be a term favored mainly by reporters and fiction writers.  A case officer is a member of the agency’s staff who runs cases; an agent is the person recruited by the case officer to provide secrets or support.  An FBI Special Agent is actually a case officer, not an “agent,” in CI terminology.     


No, that description applies mainly to fiction, especially TV shows and movies in which a resolution has to be reached in a story lasting only an hour or two.  Although the current emphasis on counterterrorism and paramilitary operations means things are quite different now, the principal point of an operation is collecting information.  When the case officer gets a case, his goal is to develop it so that it produces intelligence once way or another.  Even among CI cases, mole hunts and other cases that lead to a definitive conclusion are the exception.


Again, setting aside counterterrorism and paramilitary operations, the physical threats to the case officer operating abroad are usually arrest, brief detention, exposure, and expulsion -- not torture and death -- and everyone involved in the case does their best to minimize his or her risks.  The odds that a case officer will have ever experienced those gunfights, ten-against-one Kung-fu fights, car chases with multiple cars destroyed, or having been held captive by some “Mister Big” (“You expect me to talk, Goldfinger?”  “No, Mister Bond, I expect you to die.”) are close to zero.  I haven’t been through case officer training, but I’m willing to bet if those things come up, it’s to teach them how to avoid those situations.  The people who are more likely to put themselves in risky situations seem to me to be the technical people, the ones who install phone taps or bugs or something in hostile environments.  An agent is in more jeopardy, especially since he’s usually working against his own country’s defined interests.   


There is often no “resolution” in the sense that some crisis is averted; the best result is usually having a continuing source of secret information.  Recruiting an important agent is, or should be, more of a beginning of a case than its conclusion.  A case that comes to a dramatic conclusion will be comparatively rare.  When the FBI and CIA lost a series of Soviet sources in the 1980s, the arrests of Rick Ames and Bob Hanssen were dramatic conclusions to the operations, but even then, the arrests triggered intensive processes of getting the details of their spying from both of them, which in turn triggered other investigations.  If the result of an operation is a recruitment, getting details and opening new investigations will be a continuing process.     


The James Bond model of sending in one person, with minimal support, to save the world from nuclear holocaust or whatever is one lousy way of doing things.  You would hope that the patient smaller, earlier operations would keep the evil plot from developing that far in the first place, but if they didn’t, can you see reporting to Congress that, with world peace at stake, the CIA sent out one guy to take care of the whole thing?  In fact, the government has a lot of other resources, including diplomacy, economic sanctions, the military, et cetera; it wouldn’t be depending on one agency, much less one person, alone, to deal with a critical issue.  


Can you tell us a little about your work on the Aldrich Ames case?

To be accurate, I never worked on the Ames case.  I worked on the Moscow Task Force, which was an early attempt to explain the Soviet losses that eventually were attributed to Ames.  At that time, we suspected that marine security guards at our Moscow Embassy had given the KGB access to the CIA station; our efforts to establish that didn’t pan out.  It wasn’t until much later that Ames became the subject of the investigation that was being handled by Sandy Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille.  I was interviewed twice by the FBI while the leads were being pursued, and again after Ames was arrested, but those interviews didn’t result in anything important.  


You worked with Robert P. Hanssen. What was he like before being found out?


I saw the movie “Breach,” and “Master Spy,” a TV movie on Hanssen, both of which had him as a snarling, angry, and arrogant person.  I’ve read interviews in which other FBI agents referred to him as “Doctor Death” and “the mortician” for his gloomy demeanor and dress, and I have to say that just didn’t jibe with the Hanssen I knew.  He was a quiet, low-key guy, with a gentle sense of humor.  He was painfully shy; in my book, I point out that he was so uncomfortable giving people assignments that he would wait until they left their desks so he could leave Post-It notes with instructions rather than talk to them.  People who were interviewed about Hanssen expressed surprise that he had been committing espionage since he appeared to be such a “straight arrow.”  Well, we realized that he was skimming money from our office parties, so he wasn’t that much of a “straight arrow” to us.  After I left the FBI, Hanssen returned to New York, and later came back again to the same Headquarters unit, by which time he was immersed in his espionage.  One friend who stayed in the unit all that time told me that he had changed once he returned to Headquarters.  Maybe the title of “Doctor Death” only came about then.    

Can you describe how the FBI and CIA counterintelligence groups work together, or perhaps a better way to ask, is there a constant back-and-forth sharing, or is there some competition or animosity? 

When I left the FBI for the CIA, one FBI agent angrily muttered that I was a traitor.  He wasn’t joking, either. In fact, the first time I visited the CIA, I had been selected for the job because the FBI Intelligence Division felt it got the short end of the stick in negotiations over access to two cases, and sending someone as junior as I was to the CIA was a sign of how little regard in which the Intelligence Division held the CIA’s case.  Things have changed quite a bit over the years.  One big obstruction used to be J. Edgar Hoover, who was before my time, and there are still some clashing personalities, but the leaders of both agencies over the years have brokered much closer relations, especially since their roles have converged somewhat in working counterterrorism.


There was one blowup in relations that played out at my level when I was in counterespionage at the CIA.  After Ames was arrested, the FBI had written a long document to one of our oversight committees slamming the CIA for a lack of cooperation in pursuing a long, detailed list of leads.  It was a blatant power play when a shake-up in the agencies’ future roles in CI was beginning.  Our office was tied up for weeks in rebutting their charges, but the committee just told us to calm down and forget about it before we got our responses on the record, to our great frustration.      


There were cultural differences.  When I was there, FBI agents were often upwardly mobile working class people, many of them the children of policemen, who came to the Bureau to fight crime.  Few of the ones I knew had ever traveled outside the country, unless they had been in the military.  In fact, I had been in the FBI for eight years before I ever left the U.S. or Canada, and, as far as I know, I was the first CI analyst to travel abroad for our work.   Although the cliché of CIA officers all being Ivy Leaguers was no longer true, they tended to have had more experience abroad, often having parents who worked or lived abroad, and they didn’t fight crime.  In fact, much of what they did broke local laws.  Often, they were attracted to the CIA by the prospect of even more foreign travel.