Sunday 27 November 2022

I Was Never Here: My True Canadian Spy Story of Coffees, Code Names, and Covert Operations in the Age of Terrorism by Andrew Kirsch

Today I finished I Was Never Here, by former CSIS spy, Andrew Kirsch, which possibly is his real name. Proudly this is the 30th book I have read this year, surpassing my previous reading record of 29 books, set in 2011 and 2020. 

Andrew Kirsch didn’t grow up watching spy movies, or dreaming about being a real-life James Bond. He was hardly aware that Canada even had its own intelligence service—let alone knew what its officers did. But when a terrorist attack occurred near the office of his financial services job, all of a sudden fighting terrorism meant a lot more to him than the markets. Within 18 months he had landed a job with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)—where he spent the next decade of his life.

In I Was Never Here, Kirsch (now an in-demand security consultant) spills the secrets of what life as an intelligence officer is really like, and dispels a few myths along the way. With humour, honesty, and candour, Kirsch shares his on-the-ground experience (or as much of it as he’s allowed to) of becoming a member of CSIS: from his vetting and training, to his initial desk job as a policy analyst, to his rise up the ranks to leading covert special operations missions. If you’ve ever wondered whether spies can have real dating lives, how they handle family responsibilities, or how they come up with cover stories or aliases, you’re in luck.

From the time he tried to get the code names “Burgundy” and “Anchorman” assigned to human sources (with no luck), to the night a covert operation was almost thwarted by a flyer delivery man, Kirsch takes you behind the scenes with an authentic view of Canada’s spy agency, and the intricate intelligence-sharing apparatus that works day and night to keep us safe. I Was Never Here is also a testament to one man’s drive to serve his country, and the sacrifices, big and small, that he made along the way

I always wondered what the mandate for CSIS was vs that of the RCMP. This book explains it. CSIS really has a first look at any possible threat to Canada, including foreign espionage, theft of secrets and, of course most prominently, terrorism.

Even though Kirsch could not go into great detail, it was interesting reading, hearing the day to day operations he was a part of. No dirt. No inside scandal, just he job they did. There were some funny tales of some jobs which had issues, interesting midnight jobs and how his life with CSIS affected his life outside of it.

It's a book, I quite enjoyed.

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