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.

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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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Guy Shield illustrations for Foreign Policy

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Episode 1

The Master of Disguise

On today’s episode, 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.  

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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.

 

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Episode 2

The Sleeper Agent

On today’s episode, 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.

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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.

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Episode 3

The Man With the Antidote

On this episode, 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.

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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.

 

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Episode 4

The Counterspy

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.  

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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.

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Episode 5

The Art Dealer

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 of I Spy, 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.

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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.