a Real, Honest Liar

James Olsen
James Olsen
James Olsen
James Olsen served for over 25 years in the Directorate of Operations of the Central Intelligence Agency, mostly overseas in clandestine operations. In addition to several foreign assignments, he was Chief of Counterintelligence at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Professor Olson has been awarded the Intelligence Medal of Merit, the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal, the Donovan Award, and several Distinguished Service Citations. | James Olsen, Cia, Spy, Bush, Hero, Podium, Speech, Professor,

For 31 years, James Olson lied

But, he had a very good reason. See, Olson was a spy. A real, honest Central Intelligence Agency officer who held day jobs in France, Switzerland and even Russia, and lied about what he was truly doing there to everyone he knew, including his family.

Olson, a professor at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service, was the guest speaker at Saturday’s Grimes County Crime Stoppers awards banquet. The espionage artist kept the crowd on the edge of its seat with his stories, and also coaxed a great deal of laughter with well-timed jokes.

Olson, and his wife, were Clandestine Service Officers for the CIA where they worked to gain intelligence to keep the United States safe from terrorists, organized crime and even nuclear threats.

He attended the University of Iowa after high school and then served in the United States Navy. After he got out of the Navy, he returned to the University of Iowa to attend law school.

However, on Friday afternoon as he neared graduation and was beginning his job search, he received a phone call from someone who couldn’t identify themselves but wanted to meet with him.

At first, Olson thought it was someone from the Navy as he was serving in the Navy Reserves. When asked to meet the person on the phone he asked how would he know them. They told him not to worry, as they knew who he was.

After the meeting, Olson’s interest was piqued.

“I began a series of interviews, secret trips to Washington, D.C., met in safe houses and underwent health, fitness and polygraph tests,” Olson said.

He began serving as a Clandestine Service Officer – a spy.

“I was accepted (into the CIA) and finished law school and took the bar exam,” Olson said. “I figured I would serve a couple years and pursue my original dream of practicing law in a small town.”

Olson talked of how he met his wife at the CIA – the greatest place to meet the opposite sex, Olson said.

“The CIA is the greatest place to meet the opposite sex. They have already had a background check and taken a polygraph,” he said as laughter engulfed the audience.

He said he and his wife have no regrets about serving. They both underwent training at “The Farm” in Virginia.

The couple was trained in weapons, including spy weapons, which were specially manufactured, learned hand-to-hand combat, sabotage and jumping out of airplanes. They also learned four foreign languages in their time with the organization.

Olson explained working under a cover, which is an identity assigned by the CIA that includes all the normal paperwork such as birth certificates, drivers’ licenses, passports and more.

“They match your cover to your skill set,” Olson said.

He worked in Paris in deep cover, posing as an international banker.

“No one at the bank knew the truth,” Olson said. “I worked two jobs. I was a spy at night and on the weekends.”

He also spent time alone on assignments, and his wife did the same.

“I would not know where she was,” Olson said. “We had dozens of identities, including passports, phone numbers and it was all concealed in concealment furniture.”

Olson spoke of how espionage is a crime in every country, and, “If you were caught, you were on your own.”

“My wife and I have friends who are in prison, and we don’t know if or when they will ever get out,” Olson said.

Olson then informed the law enforcement officials in the room that they were guests at an event where an indicted felon was the guest speaker.

“I’m on indictment in Russia, so I guess I am not traveling there anytime soon,” Olson said as the crowd erupted in laughter.

Olson also discussed how he and his wife told their children.

“Some never tell their kids,” Olson said. “We told our son when he was 16 and he was proud.”

Olson also spoke of how his cover was found out while serving in Vienna, Switzerland working against a group of Iranian terrorists. He spoke of how he received a letter that was a death threat, but that didn’t stop him or his wife.

Olson said of how his wife said “no” when the CIA asked if they wanted out of the operation, which ended with successful capture of the terrorists.

In his 31-year career, Olson worked espionage on Soviet KGB, the Chinese, North Korea, and organized crime and against nuclear threats.

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Updated Jan 2, 2019 12:27 PM EST | More details


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