I Spy

Spies don’t talk—it’s the cardinal rule of the business. But here at Foreign Policy, we get them to open up. On I Spy, we hear from the operations people: the spies who steal secrets, who kill adversaries, who turn agents into double agents. Each episode features one spy telling the story of one operation. Want swag? Check out I Spy's merch by clicking here.

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Hosted by Margo Martindale, the three-time Emmy-award winner famous for her work on The Americans, Justified, August: Osage County, and The Good Wife, among many other television, film, and theatrical roles.

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Season 3 - Episode 1

The Narc

Welcome to Season 3 of I Spy. On this episode, Steve Murphy, a special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, is sent to Bogotá to hunt for the head of the Medellín Cartel, Pablo Escobar.
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Season 3 - Episode 2

The Narc, Part 2

This is part 2 of the story with DEA special agent Steve Murphy, who goes to Bogota, Colombia, to hunt for the head of the Medellin Cartel, Pablo Escobar.
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Season 3 - Episode 3

The Interrogator

FBI special agent George Piro spent seven months interrogating the deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, establishing a rapport, and then getting him to reveal the truth about the country’s supposed weapons of mass destruction.
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Season 3 - Episode 4

The Infiltrator

The British spy agency MI5 recruited Willie Carlin in the 1970s to infiltrate Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland. He spied on the group for 11 years until his cover was blown.  
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Season 3 - Episode 5

The Hell-Raiser

Jay Dobyns was a special agent for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. In 2002, he infiltrated the Hells Angels biker gang and spent two years undercover—a period in which he says he worried every single day about being exposed and killed by the group.
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Season 3 - Episode 6

The Special Agent

The FBI’s Ali Soufan specialized in al Qaeda investigations both before and after the 9/11 attacks. In 2002 he was sent to question Abu Zubaydah, a high-level jihadi captured in Pakistan. But after several rounds of interrogation at a secret site, Soufan was sidelined by a CIA contractor who had helped develop a new torture program for the agency.
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Season 3 - Episode 7

The Cassandra, Part 1

Frank Snepp was a CIA analyst based in Saigon during the Vietnam War. In April 1975, he discovered that Communist forces were preparing a large-scale attack on Saigon—but the higher-ups refused to believe it. When the attack began later that month, the Americans conducted a frenzied evacuation, leaving behind many Vietnamese allies and marking an ignominious end to the war.

Season 3 - Episode 8

The Cassandra, Part 2

In part two of Frank Snepp’s story, he describes the frenzied American evacuation from Vietnam in the last days of April 1975. Snepp was a CIA analyst based in Saigon during the Vietnam War.

Season 2 - Episode 1

The Survivor

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Welcome to Season 2 of I Spy. On this episode, CIA officer Richard Holm is sent to Congo in 1965 to organize local agents against an anti-government rebellion. But a fiery plane crash leaves him in hostile territory, fighting for his life.

Bonus Content

The Survivor, Bonus Episode

Foreign Policy’s Amy Mackinnon and Dan Ephron discuss the episode with Stephen R. Weissman, the author of the book American Foreign Policy in the Congo, 1960-1964 and a former staff director of the U.S. House of Representatives’ foreign affairs subcommittee on Africa.

 

The Art of I Spy, Episode 1

Foreign Policy commissioned the illustrator Guy Shield to help visualize the seldom-seen world described in Season 2 of I Spy. Below are some outtakes from the sketch phase of the art process for Episode 1, focusing on the crash of the T-28 plane carrying CIA agent Richard Holm and his Cuban pilot on a flight over Congo and Holm’s fight for survival in the jungle after the crash.

The crash in progress.

The crash in progress.

The crash landing from above as pilot Juan Peron pulls Holm from the wreckage.

The crash landing from above as pilot Juan Peron pulls Holm from the wreckage.

A ground-level view of the crash site.

A ground-level view of the crash site.

Locals carrying an injured Holm into the jungle.

Locals carrying an injured Holm into the jungle.

Another view of the same scene.

Another view of the same scene.

 

Season 2 - Episode 2

The Targeter

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On this episode, CIA targeting officer Nada Bakos leads a two-year hunt for one of the most dangerous militants in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Bakos started her career at the agency as an analyst but moved to the operations side while targeting Zarqawi.

Bonus Content

The Targeter, Bonus Episode

Foreign Policy’s Dan Ephron and Amy Mackinnon discuss the episode “The Targeter” with Washington Post journalist Joby Warrick, who wrote about Zarqawi in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS.

The Art of I Spy, Episode 2

Foreign Policy commissioned the illustrator Guy Shield to help visualize the seldom-seen world described in Season 2 of I Spy. Below are some outtakes from the sketch phase of the art process for Episode 2, imagining the CIA’s Nada Bakos on her journey to Baghdad and during the hunt for Abu Musab al Zarqawi.

Bakos in front of a research board forming Zarqawi’s face.

Bakos in front of a research board forming Zarqawi’s face.

In the cargo plane during her approach to Baghdad.

In the cargo plane during her approach to Baghdad.

Special operations forces targeting Zarqawi’s white truck.

Special operations forces targeting Zarqawi’s white truck.

 

 

Season 2 - Episode 3

The Chaperone

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On this episode, CIA officer Milt Bearden helps a KGB defector make a new life in the United States. But the Russian, Vitaly Yurchenko, discovers America can be a strange and lonely place.

Bonus Content

The Chaperone, Bonus Episode

Foreign Policy’s Dan Ephron and Amy Mackinnon discuss the episode “The Chaperone” with Joseph Augustyn, a CIA veteran who headed the agency’s defector resettlement center.

The Art of I Spy, Episode 3

Foreign Policy commissioned the illustrator Guy Shield to help visualize the seldom-seen world described in Season 2 of I Spy. Below are some outtakes from the sketch phase of the art process for Episode 3, set inside the suburban townhouse where the CIA’s Milton Bearden is questioning the KGB defector Vitaly Yurchenko.

 

Yurchenko stares out the window of the northern Virginia safehouse, a waving American flag reflected in the glass. Bearden is behind him.

Yurchenko stares out the window of the northern Virginia safehouse, a waving American flag reflected in the glass. Bearden is behind him.

An alternative angle shows the many Chevrolets parked in front of the circular street.

An alternative angle shows the many Chevrolets parked in front of the circular street.

Another view shows the townhouse development.

Another view shows the townhouse development.

Yurchenko sits at the kitchen table of the safehouse as he is questioned by Bearden.

Yurchenko sits at the kitchen table of the safehouse as he is questioned by Bearden.

Yurchenko and Bearden in an open field, as described later in the episode, where Yurchenko is relocated farther out of town onto some acreage.

Yurchenko and Bearden in an open field, as described later in the episode, where Yurchenko is relocated farther out of town onto some acreage.

Season 2 - Episode 4

The Whistleblower

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Thomas Drake joined the NSA in 2001 to help deal with the glut of data created by the huge rise of internet use around the world. But he grew increasingly troubled by something else: the way the U.S. government was targeting its own citizens for surveillance after the 9/11 attacks.

Bonus Content

The Whistleblower, Bonus Episode

Amy Mackinnon and Dan Ephron discuss the episode “The Whistleblower” with Irvin McCullough, the deputy director of legislation at the Government Accountability Project.

The Art of I Spy, Episode 4

Foreign Policy commissioned the illustrator Guy Shield to help visualize the seldom-seen world described in Season 2 of I Spy. Below are some outtakes from the sketch phase of the art process for Episode 4. All versions show the pivotal moment when federal agents raid the home of the NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake as he straightens his tie preparing to go to work like any other day.

 

Season 2 - Episode 5

The Widow Spy

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Martha Peterson handled one of the most valuable Soviet spies of the Cold War, code-named TRIGON—until the KGB got wind of the operation. Peterson was a young undercover officer working at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in the mid-1970s. She was the first female operations officer to be assigned the Soviet Union for the CIA.

Bonus Content

The Widow Spy, Bonus Episode

Amy Mackinnon and Dan Ephron discuss the episode “The Widow Spy,” and Mackinnon tours some of the most iconic spy sites of Washington, D.C.

The Art of I Spy, Episode 5

Foreign Policy commissioned the illustrator Guy Shield to help visualize the seldom-seen world described in Season 2 of I Spy. Below are some outtakes from the sketch phase of the art process for Episode 5, f­­ollowing CIA operations officer Martha Peterson as she works undercover in Moscow.

Peterson hides in the bushes to observe TRIGON at the dead drop in the park (this anecdote was cut from the final episode).

Peterson hides in the bushes to observe TRIGON at the dead drop in the park. (This anecdote was cut from the final episode.)

Another view of Peterson watching TRIGON from the bushes.

Another view of Peterson watching TRIGON from the bushes.

Peterson realizes that the log she left for TRIGON hasn’t been collected and suspects that something is wrong.

Peterson realizes that the log she left for TRIGON hasn’t been collected and suspects that something is wrong.

A different angle on Peterson’s realization as she stands in the rainy park.

A different angle on Peterson’s realization as she stands in the rainy park.

Season 2 - Episode 6

The Bookseller

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Naveed Jamali worked at his parents’ specialty book business, a little company that counted among its regular customers one very unusual client: a Russian spy. Jamali hatched a plan to expose the spy—requiring him to work as an FBI informant and pose as a Russian asset.

Bonus Content

The Bookseller, Bonus Episode

Amy Mackinnon discusses open-source intelligence-gathering with Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins.

The Art of I Spy, Episode 6

Foreign Policy commissioned the illustrator Guy Shield to help visualize the seldom-seen world described in Season 2 of I Spy. Below are some outtakes from the sketch phase of the art process for Episode 6, imagining the bookstore employee-turned-FBI informant Naveed Jamali.

Jamali removes his hat, drawing in a swarm of FBI agents during a sting in the car park.

Jamali removes his hat, drawing in a swarm of FBI agents during a sting in the car park.

Another view of the car park sting.

Another view of the car park sting.

The initial meeting between Jamali and FBI agents at a neighborhood Dunkin’ Donuts.

The initial meeting between Jamali and FBI agents at a neighborhood Dunkin’ Donuts.

An imagined portrayal of the meeting with a Russian customer in the Jamalis’ bookstore.

An imagined portrayal of the meeting with a Russian customer in the Jamalis’ bookstore.

Another bookstore view.

Another bookstore view.

Season 2 - Episode 7

The Operative

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Mubin Shaikh posed as a Muslim extremist to nab Canadians who planned to stage large-scale attacks on government targets. The group he infiltrated would come to be known as the Toronto 18.

Bonus Content

The Art of I Spy, Episode 7

Foreign Policy commissioned the illustrator Guy Shield to help visualize the seldom-seen world described in Season 2 of I Spy. Below are some outtakes from the sketch phase of the art process for Episode 7, where counterterrorism operative Mubin Shaikh works undercover in Canada.

In winter, Shaikh leads recruits in a training camp in the Ontario wilderness.

In winter, Shaikh leads recruits in a training camp in the Ontario wilderness.

Another view of Shaikh overseeing the training camp.

Another view of Shaikh overseeing the training camp.

Shaikh remains calm as Zakaria Amara pulls out a loaded gun at the dinner table.

Shaikh remains calm as Zakaria Amara pulls out a loaded gun at the dinner table.

In a nighttime meetup, Amara shows Shaikh a primitive cellphone detonator he built, as well as maps of one target: a nuclear power plant.

In a nighttime meetup, Amara shows Shaikh a primitive cellphone detonator he built, as well as maps of one target: a nuclear power plant.

Another view of the detonator unveiling in the dark of night.

Another view of the detonator unveiling in the dark of night.

The Operative, Bonus Episode

Amy Mackinnon and Dan Ephron discuss the episode with Ann Speckhard, an adjunct associate professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University who specializes in understanding the motivations of terrorists.

Season 2 - Episode 8

The Analyst

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CIA analyst Sarah Carlson spent a year at the U.S. Mission in Libya after the attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi. When battles between rival Libyan militias edged closer and closer to the U.S. compound, she and the other personnel there were forced to flee the country in a harrowing overland journey. Carlson’s story wraps up Season 2 of I Spy. We’ll be back soon with more episodes.    

Bonus Content

The Art of I Spy, Episode 8

Foreign Policy commissioned the illustrator Guy Shield to help visualize the seldom-seen world described in Season 2 of I Spy. Below are some outtakes from the sketch phase of the art process for Episode 8, which follows CIA targeting analyst Sarah Carlson’s evacuation of the U.S. mission from Tripoli, Libya.

As they ride past a war zone of explosions, Carlson sits in the passenger seat of a Toyota Hilux with a scarf concealing her M4 carbine rifle.

Riding past a war zone of explosions, Carlson sits in the passenger seat of a Toyota Hilux with a scarf concealing her M4 carbine rifle.

Another view of Carlson leaving in the Toyota.

Another view of Carlson leaving in the Toyota.

While packing her “go bag,” which included her Glock and passport, Carlson oversees the destruction of documents, laptops, and her bow and arrows in a fire.

While packing her “go bag,” which included her Glock and passport, Carlson oversees the destruction of documents, laptops, and her bow and arrows in a fire.

Another view of Carlson’s go-bag packing and the fire.

Another view of Carlson’s go bag-packing and the fire.

The Analyst, Bonus Episode

Amy Mackinnon discusses the episode with Anna Borshchevskaya, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Borshchevskaya is an expert on Russia’s role in the Middle East.

Season 1 - Episode 1

The Master of Disguise

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CIA agent Jonna Mendez is sent to a capital city in Asia to help steal a top-secret encryption machine from a Soviet Embassy. Mendez’s job in the operation is to fashion disguises for the team. She would go on to become the chief of disguise at the CIA’s Office of Technical Service.  

Bonus Content

Jonna Mendez, Bonus Cuts

Exclusive for Foreign Policy subscribers: Listen to additional excerpts and interviews from I Spy. On today’s bonus episode, Jonna Mendez talks about how she joined the CIA and recounts the most frightening moments of her career.

The Art of I Spy, Episode 1

Foreign Policy commissioned the illustrator Guy Shield to help visualize the seldom-seen world described in I Spy, starting with the Soviet Embassy heist that Jonna Mendez details in Episode 1. Below are some outtakes from the sketch phase of the art process, incorporating different aspects of the story—the scene at the embassy and the disguise master employing the tricks of her trade to transform a local CIA asset code-named Tugboat.

A security guard, his hand on his pistol, stands at the embassy boom gate as Tugboat hands over a case of money. The CIA van is behind him with a Soviet flag flying overhead.

A security guard, his hand on his pistol, stands at the embassy boom gate as Tugboat hands over a case of money. The CIA van is behind him with a Soviet flag flying overhead.

A disguised Tugboat talks to security at the embassy as a CIA agent, reflected in the side mirror, watches. In the puddle reflection, Tugboat’s undisguised identity is revealed.

A disguised Tugboat talks to security at the embassy as a CIA agent, reflected in the side mirror, watches. In the puddle reflection, Tugboat’s undisguised identity is revealed.

A low-angle office view focuses on the Dr. Scholl’s foot powder that Mendez is using to disguise Tugboat as a colleague—mustachioed for a vintage look—watches. A fan spins above to hint at the hot environment.

A low-angle office view focuses on the Dr. Scholl’s foot powder that Mendez is using to disguise Tugboat as a colleague—mustachioed for a vintage look—watches. A fan spins above to hint at the hot environment.

In a dimly lit office, Mendez applies makeup to Tugboat as he tries on a mask.

In a dimly lit office, Mendez applies makeup to Tugboat as he tries on a mask.

Mendez disguises Tugboat in a van outside the embassy entrance.

Mendez disguises Tugboat in a van outside the embassy entrance.

Agents prepare their disguises while Mendez works on Tugboat’s makeup. Details about the operation are evident on the desk to the left.

Agents prepare their disguises while Mendez works on Tugboat’s makeup. Details about the operation are evident on the desk to the left.

Tugboat exits the van outside the embassy. A split screen or animation shows a glimpse of his real identity beneath his disguise.

Tugboat exits the van outside the embassy. A split screen or animation shows a glimpse of his real identity beneath his disguise.

Mendez and Tugboat are silhouetted in the back of a van as she works on his disguise, a can of Dr. Scholl’s foot powder in her hand. He adjusts his tie as the van approaches the embassy security guard.

Mendez and Tugboat are silhouetted in the back of a van as she works on his disguise, a can of Dr. Scholl’s foot powder in her hand. He adjusts his tie as the van approaches the embassy security guard.

A closer-to-final version of the van scene.

A closer-to-final version of the van scene.

 

Season 1 - Episode 2

The Sleeper Agent

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We hear from Albrecht Dittrich—aka Jack Barsky—who was born in East Germany, recruited by the KGB, and sent to the United States to influence U.S. policymaking. Barsky began his mission in 1978. He was one of hundreds of sleeper agents the Soviets planted in the United States over the years.

Bonus Content

Jack Barsky, Bonus Content

Exclusive for Foreign Policy subscribers: Listen to additional excerpts and interviews from I Spy. On today’s bonus episode, Joe Reilly, the FBI agent who busted Barsky, describes the years of surveillance and the decision not to indict him.

The Art of I Spy, Episode 2

Foreign Policy commissioned the illustrator Guy Shield to help visualize the seldom-seen world described in I Spy. For Episode 2, Shield explored various scenes described by Jack Barsky—his entry to the United States, his life in New York City, and the moment when he is ordered to abort his mission.

A view over the shoulder of a U.S. customs agent as Barsky displays a Canadian passport. His bag in the foreground reveals a glimpse of his shortwave radio. The line in the background shows a variety of people in late ’70s attire, perhaps with the suggestion that they’ve just come from Mexico.

A view over the shoulder of a U.S. customs agent as Barsky displays a Canadian passport. His bag in the foreground reveals a glimpse of his shortwave radio. The line in the background shows a variety of people in late ’70s attire, perhaps with the suggestion that they’ve just come from Mexico.

Barsky listens to his shortwave radio, running his spy operation out of half of a typical modest New York apartment while his girlfriend and baby live in the other half of the space.

Barsky listens to his shortwave radio, running his spy operation out of half of a typical modest New York apartment while his girlfriend and baby live in the other half of the space.

A long-distance shot of a train underpass as Barsky spots the fist-sized red dot on the support pillar.

A long-distance shot of a train underpass as Barsky spots the fist-sized red dot on the support pillar.

An alternative take on the scene above.

An alternative take on the scene above.

Season 1 - Episode 3

The Man With the Antidote

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The Israeli Mossad operative Mishka Ben-David is sent to the Jordanian capital of Amman to help assassinate Khaled Mashal, the political leader of the Palestinian Islamic group Hamas. But the mission doesn’t go quite as planned.

Bonus Content

Miskha Ben-David, Bonus Cuts

Exclusive for Foreign Policy subscribers: Listen to additional excerpts and interviews from I Spy. On today’s bonus cut, Mishka Ben-David describes the longterm impact of the failed operation on the Mossad, assesses the overall effectiveness of assassinations, and offers his opinion on spy movies.

The Art of I Spy, Episode 3

Foreign Policy commissioned the illustrator Guy Shield to help visualize the seldom-seen world described in I Spy. For Episode 3, he explores the chaotic scene during Mossad’s attempted poisoning of Khaled Mashal.

Two Mossad agents frame their target moments after he realized what has happened and is preparing to flee. The driver and Mashal’s daughter stand shocked at the base of the stairs.

Two Mossad agents frame their target moments after he realized what has happened and is preparing to flee. The driver and Mashal’s daughter stand shocked at the base of the stairs.

The little girl is in the foreground as she exits the car. One of the Mossad agents looks back in shock, while the other holds the decoy Coke can in his hand, as Mashal sprints off in the distance.

The little girl is in the foreground as she exits the car. One of the Mossad agents looks back in shock, while the other holds the decoy Coke can in his hand, as Mashal sprints off in the distance.

A low-angle view of Mashal running away as he clutches his ear. The Mossad agents watch as the driver (with Mashal’s daughter) shouts to draw attention to the attack.

A low-angle view of Mashal running away as he clutches his ear. The Mossad agents watch as the driver (with Mashal’s daughter) shouts to draw attention to the attack.

Another version of the scene with the Coke exploding in the foreground as a distraction.

Another version of the scene with the Coke exploding in the foreground as a distraction.

 

Season 1 - Episode 4

The Counterspy

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The CIA thought it had thoroughly penetrated Cuban intelligence, with scores of agents and informants in Havana, until one day a Cuban officer walked into the U.S. Embassy in Vienna and broke the news—the agents were actually double agents. James Olson was the CIA station chief in Vienna at the time. He tells the story on this episode of I Spy. Olson would go on to serve as the agency’s head of counterintelligence.  

Bonus Content

James Olson, Bonus Cuts

Exclusive for Foreign Policy subscribers: Listen to our bonus cut with David Charney, a psychiatrist who interviewed some high-profile spies in prison, including Robert Hanssen, the FBI agent who sold secrets to Soviet and Russian intelligence for more than two decades.

Season 1 - Episode 5

The Art Dealer

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Amaryllis Fox spent a decade working as an undercover agent at the CIA, cultivating arms merchants and preventing them from selling fissile material to terrorist groups. On this episode, she describes courting one particular dealer whose ties to terrorist groups in Indonesia and elsewhere raised alarm bells at Langley. Fox has changed some of the details of her story to avoid exposing the agency’s methods and assets.

Bonus Content

Amaryllis Fox, Bonus Cuts

Exclusive for Foreign Policy subscribers: Listen to our bonus interview with Ramya Krishnan, a staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute, discussing the CIA process of reviewing books written by former agency employees.

The Art of I Spy, Episode 5

Foreign Policy commissioned the illustrator Guy Shield to help visualize the seldom-seen world described in I Spy. For Episode 5, he explored Amaryllis Fox’s initial meeting with Jakab in  France, her identity crisis while living undercover in Shanghai, and a pivotal meeting in Thailand.

Fox describes meeting Jakab for the first time in the shadows on a street in Lyon, France, his face illuminated as he lights his cigarette. Shield depicts Jakab as a squarish brute of a man, as Fox described him, and places them under a bridge in Lyon for a European feel.

Fox describes meeting Jakab for the first time in the shadows on a street in Lyon, France, his face illuminated as he lights his cigarette. Shield depicts Jakab as a squarish brute of a man, as Fox described him, and places them under a bridge in Lyon for a European feel.

Another take in Lyon, this time with Fox tailing Jakab through the shadowy streets.

Another take in Lyon, this time with Fox tailing Jakab through the shadowy streets.

Fox faces herself in the mirror during a sleepless night in Shanghai, where she knows she’s under surveillance. This scene depicts the moment she questions: “What would I do if I were me?” as her husband sleeps in the next room with a bugged smoke detector above their bed.

Fox faces herself in the mirror during a sleepless night in Shanghai, where she knows she’s under surveillance. This scene depicts the moment she questions: “What would I do if I were me?” as her husband sleeps in the next room with a bugged smoke detector above their bed.

Jakab and Fox meet at a hotel overlooking a tropical beach in Thailand. They weigh the gravity of the moment as she reveals that she’s a CIA operative and they agree to help each other.

Jakab and Fox meet at a hotel overlooking a tropical beach in Thailand. They weigh the gravity of the moment as she reveals that she’s a CIA operative and they agree to help each other.

Season 1 - Episode 6

The Jumper

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Eugene Hasenfus was part of a secret U.S. government operation to supply guns and other equipment to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua in the 1980s. When a missile took down his plane, he was caught and interrogated by the Sandinistas, blowing the lid off the Iran-Contra affair.

Bonus Content

Eugene Hasenfus, Bonus Content

Exclusive for Foreign Policy subscribers: Listen to our bonus interview with Malcolm Byrne, the deputy director and director of research at the National Security Archive in Washington, D.C. Byrne is the author of Iran-Contra: Reagan’s Scandal and the Unchecked Abuse of Presidential Power.