A highly entertaining account of a young woman who went straight from her college sorority to the CIA, where she hunted terrorists and WMDs
"Reads like the show bible for Homeland only her story is real." —Alison Stewart, WNYC
"A thrilling tale...Walder’s fast-paced and intense narrative opens a window into life in two of America’s major intelligence agencies" —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
When Tracy Walder enrolled at the University of Southern California, she never thought that one day she would offer her pink beanbag chair in the Delta Gamma house to a CIA recruiter, or that she’d fly to the Middle East under an alias identity.
The Unexpected Spy is the riveting story of Walder's tenure in the CIA and, later, the FBI. In high-security, steel-walled rooms in Virginia, Walder watched al-Qaeda members with drones as President Bush looked over her shoulder and CIA Director George Tenet brought her donuts. She tracked chemical terrorists and searched the world for Weapons of Mass Destruction. She created a chemical terror chart that someone in the White House altered to convey information she did not have or believe, leading to the Iraq invasion. Driven to stop terrorism, Walder debriefed terrorists—men who swore they’d never speak to a woman—until they gave her leads. She followed trails through North Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, shutting down multiple chemical attacks.
Then Walder moved to the FBI, where she worked in counterintelligence. In a single year, she helped take down one of the most notorious foreign spies ever caught on American soil. Catching the bad guys wasn’t a problem in the FBI, but rampant sexism was. Walder left the FBI to teach young women, encouraging them to find a place in the FBI, CIA, State Department or the Senate—and thus change the world.
Walder spins a thrilling tale in her debut memoir of her life in the CIA and FBI. As a sorority student at the University of Southern California in 2000, Walder visited a job fair and was surprised to find herself interested in a career with the CIA, where she soon found work. Shortly after 9/11, Walder became staff operations officer in the Weapons of Mass Destruction office of the CIA's al-Qaeda detail and later worked on unraveling a terrorist network reaching from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Russia to France and the U.S. Walder tells her story in rapid prose and, adding to the tension, she includes blacked out blocks of text that had been redacted by the CIA during its vetting of her book. Wanting more life stability, Walder joined the FBI in 2004, which didn't require as much travel but where she did encounter sexism. While there, she worked on a massive counterintelligence case involving Chi Mak, a Chinese spy who is still imprisoned for passing U.S. military secrets to China. She left a year and half after joining, and became a teacher at an all-girls high school in Dallas. Walder's fast-paced and intense narrative opens a window into life in two of America's major intelligence agencies.