Jim Lawler on the Art of Espionage and the Perfect Intelligence Operation
In this OODAcast, we talk with Jim Lawler who is a Senior Partner at MDO Group, which provides HUMINT training to the Intelligence Community and the commercial sector focused on WMD, CI, technical and cyber issues. Mr. Lawler is a noted speaker on the Insider Threat in government and industry. Prior to this, Mr. Lawler served for 25 years as a CIA operations officer in various international posts and as Chief of the Counterproliferation Division’s Special Activities Unit. We talk with Jim about his career in intelligence and national security, his views on the current threats including some of his fictionalized accounts in his novels, and his most notable intelligence operation; the A.Q. Khan nuclear takedown.
Mr. Lawler was a member of CIA’s Senior Intelligence Service (SIS-3) from 1998 until his retirement in 2005. He was a specialist in the recruitment of foreign spies, and he spent well over half of his CIA career battling the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. As Chief of the A.Q. Khan Nuclear Takedown Team, which resulted in the disruption of the most dangerous nuclear weapons network in history, Mr. Lawler was the recipient of one of the CIA’s Trailblazer Awards in 2007, marking the 60th anniversary of CIA. In 2004, former DCI George Tenet sent Mr. Lawler a note which stated, “Jim, what you and your team have achieved will rank up there as one of the most spectacular intelligence accomplishments in the history of the CIA. It occurred because of your exemplary leadership. Not only are we in the process of taking down a network, we are also in the process of disarming a country as a result of your fine work. With respect, George J. Tenet” And former DDCI John McLaughlin noted that the effort was “the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a perfect intelligence operation.”
Mr. Lawler also received the Director’s Award from DCI George Tenet, the U.S. Intelligence Community’s HUMINT Collector of the Year Award, and the Donovan Award from the CIA’s Deputy Director of Operations.
He is a graduate of Rice University, Houston, Texas; and the University of Texas School of Law. He is married to Ellen and has three children and seven grandsons. He has completed two novels: “Living Lies,” an espionage story of the Iranian nuclear weapons program, and “In the Twinkling of an Eye,” about recruiting a spy at the heart of a devastating covert Russian-North Korean genetic bioweapons program. Both have been cleared by the CIA’s Publication Review Board and are to be published in 2021. He is currently writing his third espionage novel, “The Traitor’s Tale,” which is about treachery and treason deep within the CIA.
Jim’s book Living Lies