by Victoria McClendon-Leggett
The day after returning from New York, we were back in the car and headed to….College Station. It’s not a long trip, but it came at a busy time; it was, however, a highly worthwhile endeavor.
We found our seats and waited to hear from our expert, Robert Booth, who worked for the State Department as a counterintelligence officer for 28 years, and he had plenty of stories to share with the crowd about how other governments attempt to gain access to classified American information. Following introductions by Andrew Natsios…
…and Jim Olson…
Booth began his talk by informing us that attempts to spy on the U.S. have been made since our country’s very conception.
He then taught us about how there are two types of Americans who ended up spying for foreign countries: (1) diplomatic or intelligence officers who have made careers out of espionage and (2) U.S. citizens that have access to sensitive information and are willing to share it with another government. The latter is considered more threatening to the United States, since citizens can deal with highly classified information that would be harmful if put into the wrong hands.
Booth then went on to discuss the 4 different reasons for betrayal by these nefarious characters: money, ideology, leaks, and ego.
Money is the most common reason that people betray their country, but they also do so because of ideologies that align with other governments.
They think that certain secrets should be shared with the public and typically enjoy knowing and sharing certain information that the people around them are clueless about. Booth stated that the biggest threat to national security is economic espionage, and he shared a couple of stories about times when he had to help protect American trade secrets.
The crowd asked questions about the Mueller report and whether or not he thought it should be published, to which he replied that to do so would compromise methods and sources.
When asked what his advice would be to anyone looking to have any sort of career like his, his response was to first become fluent in another language.
The time ran out before all the questions could be answered, but before we left, we were able to meet with Booth and with Bush School Professor James Olson, who also knows a bit about this topic–having served as chief of counterintelligence for the CIA.
For dinner we stopped at Tanaka Ramen, a College Station favorite among LEAP Ambassadors.
It was Samantha’s first time to try the Japanese delicacy, but she gave her spicy chicken Ramen great reviews!
We thanked our waitress and then headed back home to Huntsville.