A Husband-and-Wife True-Life Spy Story

Spy Story

"Working for the CIA is a great, exciting job" agree Robert and Dayna Baer, co-authors of the new book 'The Company We Keep: A Husband-and-Wife True-Life Spy Story.' But it does come with a large price tag: not having a normal family life.

"You do this 18 hours a day," Bob notes. "You live in your own CIA bubble, making it almost impossible to separate where your professional life ends and your home life begins."

Thrills, chills -- and yawns

The book is a sleek, modern tale of what it is like to be a spy in the 21st century. You want spies, guns, travel, coups, secret meetings and strange late night visitors? You got it. But, be forewarned that this story is gritty, raw and honest. It is not a polished, Hollywood version of spy life, and it does not wrap up the details of the spook business in a neat, tuxedo-wearing, martini-drinking package like you might expect.

"It's not all glamorous," admits Dayna, who recounts a time she was in Cyprus on assignment when she was so bored she would have even read food labels, if it would pass the time. Bob says they purposely "wanted those rough edges in there" so that they exposed the real pros and cons of the business.

Bob worked for the CIA for 20-plus years, while Dayna's time there was "less than that." Both former spies agree that the greatest lesson they learned from their years of service to this country was that being employed by the CIA makes it "hard to keep those close family relationships."

Pros and cons

Dayna was married once before finding Bob and was always very close to her parents. She says that "working overseas was exciting and interesting" and something she loved. However, she neglected those home ties of family and friendship, so when she returned to the states, she found that people had moved on.

Until he met Dayna, Bob also felt the effects of being caught between two worlds. "I had three children from a previous marriage," he says, "and I couldn't relate to them at all. I began to worry that I was emotionally crippled in some way or narcissistic. The job was a wonderful crutch that allowed me to escape overseas and deny that my marriage was falling apart."

Like any other job, working for the CIA has its ups and downs. They both cite the profession's solitary lifestyle as a major drawback. For Dayna, "being alienated from family was the worst," whereas Bob felt "very limited" by the pool of relations you are allowed to make while on the job. Also, readjusting to "regular" life was difficult: "We were both so intellectually limited and naive when we left the CIA. We didn't know how business worked, we didn't understand pop culture references, and we basically missed the '80s."

On the flip side, Dayna felt a real sense of camaraderie living and working with a small unit abroad, and Bob became addicted to that feeling of being important and needed. "There was an intellectual satisfaction that I got from knowing something that others did not, even if it was something most people would not care about" he says. "Knowing a truth gave me personal satisfaction."

Advice for others

Would they do it again? You bet! Dayna says "there are huge interesting moments working for the CIA," and Bob is quick to reply that he would "absolutely" go back to work for the agency: "What a great place to grow up and learn things."

For anyone considering a career with the CIA, Dayna recommends staying "squeaky-clean," and Bobs says that the training is good and worth getting. "Learn a language, go overseas and do what they [CIA] say for five years; and then if you want to have a family and be home in the United States, get a desk job" -- because the longer you wait to get out, the harder it is.

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I knew someone like him in Iran some time back. Not that well but we did meet and speak over some issue. All the Persians in government who saw this guy thought him a CIA spy then if it was him. It became an in house joke. The Indians in Iran also referred to him as a Sepoy, the Indian name for specially trained policeman (the origin of the word spy) although their reasons were never disclosed or apparent.

The Indians through some mechanism of their own have been able to identify foreign intelligence agents for ages but not keep their own under control. Eli Cohen the famed Israeli spy was traced by an Indian radio intercept in Syria.

If the man I met all those years ago in Iran was indeed him it would be great to read his view of the world and his world particularly at the time in his book.

Danger is that anyone he came into contact with could be compromised especially in Iran at a time like that we are now witness to.

March 28 2011 at 12:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jeff & nina

They forced people to take LSD??? Where do i sign up???

March 27 2011 at 11:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chris & Craig

They will find someone who will help them sue the CIA and the US govt before its all over

March 27 2011 at 10:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

highly paid bunch of thugs

March 27 2011 at 9:13 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

I am an avid reader of all kinds of spy novels. Their book is interesting in that it is a relatively factual accounting of cia overseas assignments. Human contact and electronic spying are essentials of a modern world. All intelligence agencies have conducted obscene agendas and for that the usa, should for one appologize, but that will never happen.

March 27 2011 at 8:19 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Tom E. Walter

Don't be fooled by the CIA lifestyle. I was a victum of the Illegal MKUltra prodject which involved a lot of innocent people being given LSD without the victums knowledge. They even did this to our military men. The project existed from the 1950's thru the 1980's until exposed by the government and driven underground under another name. Who are they trying to kid? I have been there and know what the CIA is capable of. They must be hard up trying to find recurits.

March 27 2011 at 7:50 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

I obviously don't know how the CIA operates, but I suspect there are various levels of assignments ranging from as mundane as reading daily newspapers to the intrigue of interfacing with high level political operatives. I imagine this couple were more in the lower range and didn't pose any risk to the the James Bond image. They are obviously seeking to cash in on their employment history rather than enlightening the public. I personally believe that the CIA should make employees sign non disclosure agreements that put their post employment benefits at risk if they divulge sensitive information regarding CIA operations.

March 27 2011 at 5:29 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Good and thank you for working for the CIA. Now keep it to yourselves.

March 27 2011 at 5:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There was a time when people of the CIA remained anonymous and didn't parade themselves publicly for personal gain. Unfortunately, all too often in recent years we have seen a cultural, and less appealing, aspect of personal gain at the expense of a necessary element of our national intelligence structure. It was better when we knew little and imagined a lot. With all the people coming out publicly we see the truth...they have the same faults and failures as any other organization built with people. No more and no less. But, in the eyes of our adversaries we are diminished and weakened. And that is unfortunate. Sometimes, less is more.

March 27 2011 at 4:39 PM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply

doesn't the janitor who mops the floor work for the CIA, so what?

March 27 2011 at 3:51 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

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