To Catch a Spy

The Art of Counterintelligence

James M. Olson, Former Chief of CIA Counterintelligence

"A five-cloak, five-dagger read for anyone interested in intelligence."
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How the US is losing the counterintelligence war and what the country should do to better protect our national security and trade secrets

The United States is losing the counterintelligence war. Foreign intelligence services, particularly those of China, Russia, and Cuba, are recruiting spies in our midst and stealing our secrets and cutting-edge technologies. In To Catch a Spy: The Art of Counterintelligence, James M. Olson, former chief of CIA counterintelligence, offers a wake-up call for the American public and also a guide for how our country can do a better job of protecting its national security and trade secrets. Olson takes the reader into the arcane world of counterintelligence as he lived it during his thirty-year career in the CIA. After an overview of what the Chinese, Russian, and Cuban spy services are doing to the United States, Olson explains the nitty-gritty of the principles and methods of counterintelligence. Readers will learn about specific aspects of counterintelligence such as running double-agent operations and surveillance. The book also analyzes twelve real-world case studies to illustrate why people spy against their country, the tradecraft of counterintelligence, and where counterintelligence breaks down or succeeds. A “lessons learned” section follows each case study.

Table of Contents

Preface to the Paperback Edition



Chapter One: China

Chapter Two: Russia

Chapter Three: Cuba

Chapter Four: The Ten Commandments of Counterintelligence

Chapter Five: Workplace Counterintelligence

Chapter Six: Double-Agent Operations

Chapter Seven: Managing Double-Agent Operations

Chapter Eight: Counterintelligence Case Studies

Clayton Lonetree

Sharon Scranage

Clyde Lee Conrad

Earl Edwin Pitts

Chi Mak

Ana Montes

Richard Miller

Harold James Nicholson

Glenn Michael Souther

Jonathan Pollard

Edward Lee Howard

Larry Wu-Tai Chin


Appendix: The Counterintelligence Officer’s Bookshelf


About the Author


"A five-cloak, five-dagger read for anyone interested in intelligence."—The Washington Times

"A must-read for professionals in security and/or governmental affairs; it may also appeal to readers interested in foreign counterintelligence efforts and US tactics."—Library Journal

"Fascinating, authoritative, full of juicy new disclosures. To Catch a Spy is destined to become the bible of the counterintelligence community and the real-life spy world."—Ronald Kessler, author of The CIA at War and The Secrets of the FBI

"[A] highly entertaining and captivating body of work exploring what Olson believes to be the major counterintelligence challenges and threats facing the US today."—Intelligence & National Security

"Impressively informed and informative, To Catch a Spy: The Art of Counterintelligence is an expertly written, organized and presented study that should be a part of every community, governmental, college, and university library National & International Security, Political Intelligence, and Espionage collection and supplemental curriculum studies lists."—Midwest Book Review

"Olson has written a primer on the world of espionage that is so thoughtful and carefully laid out it makes you wonder how we got along without a book like this before. The lay reader will learn how spying really works. The intelligence professional will discover how to make it work better. What you read in the papers about espionage isn’t necessarily wrong, it’s just missing half the story. Here’s the other half."—Joe Weisberg, creator and executive producer, The Americans

"Olson has written an extraordinary book. It is impossible to put down–To Catch a Spy stands with the best of John le Carré. But it isn't fiction. Worried about Russian hacking and election interference? It's worse than you think. As a career Foreign Service officer, I have had the privilege of working with the men and women of our intelligence community. There are no finer people or greater patriots. I know what risks they take and the price they sometimes pay. Olson stands in that proud tradition."—Ryan Crocker, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait, and Lebanon

"The author, America’s counterintelligence guru, has crafted a remarkable, indispensable book rich in heartbreaking detail and sharp analysis–serving as a clarion call for a stronger response to the unrelenting, sophisticated, and successful foreign espionage assault on our nation."—Henry A. Crumpton, a twenty-four-year veteran of the CIA’s Clandestine Service, author of The Art of Intelligence, and CEO of Crumpton Group LLC.

"America is losing its secrets and technology to foreign intelligence services at an alarming rate. Our country's need for good counterintelligence has never been greater. Jim Olson is the real deal, a veteran CIA spy who describes the challenges and provides a clear path for how to do a better job of protecting America. To Catch a Spy is a rare insider's look into the world of spying. It will fascinate not only counterintelligence professionals, but also anyone interested in the murky world of espionage. Olson’s book is destined to become the standard reference on US counterintelligence."—Andrew H. Card, Jr. , Chief of Staff for President George W. Bush

"Olson has shared with us his accumulated wisdom, lessons learned, and roadmap for the future. To Catch a Spy is the new US counterintelligence standard. It is a must-read for serious professionals and anyone interested in the spy world. Olson has done a tremendous service, not only to our generation, but also to those of the next who choose to answer the call to join the counterintelligence battle."—Alex J. Vega IV, Joint Counterintelligence Training Activity, Defense Intelligence Agency, and former US Army Attaché, US Embassy, Moscow, Russia

"Olson is concise, clear, and helpful in his presentation. After concluding this book, you’ll know what a rich field of reading awaits you in the now understandable world of counterintelligence."—Decatur Daily

"This inspiring volume is rooted in the author’s vast experience in intelligence and counterintelligence at the Central Intelligence Agency."—International Journal of Intelligence & Counterintelligence, 01/16/20


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

James M. Olson served for over thirty 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. Currently, he is a professor of the practice at the Bush School of Government and Public Service of Texas A&M University. He is the author of Fair Play: The Moral Dilemmas of Spying.

256 pp., 6 x 9
1 bo
May 2019

256 pp., 6 x 9
1 bo
ISBN: 978-1-64712-148-8
May 2019

256 pp.
1 bo
ISBN: 978-1-64712-167-9
May 2019

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