Five Stories About Espionage

The life of a spy is supposed to be glamorous. James Bond, right? Fancy cars, hot women, top-of-the line technology, and a signature drink. I went looking for those stories this week, then remembered James Bond isn’t, you know, real. There are no standoffs on the top of moving trains, and Dame Judi Dench does not run a secret government agency, unfortunately. The reality of espionage is still exciting, but it’s more complicated. The good guys and bad guys are not so easily differentiated. Today’s spying relies on social media, surveillance, coercion and ambition.

1. “Welcome to America–Now Spy on Your Friends.” (Talal Ansari & Siraj Datoo, BuzzFeed, January 2016)

Immigrants to the United States—specifically, Muslim immigrants—may find their citizenship process stymied illegally by the FBI unless they act as informants.

2. “Spies, Cash and Fear: Inside Christian Money Guru Dave Ramsey’s Social Media Witch Hunt.” (Matthew Paul Turner, The Daily Beast, May 2014)

Dave Ramsey doles out “biblically based” financial advice in his bestselling books, radio show, and TV spots. He’s beloved by the folks who’ve used his methods to get out of debt and start saving money. But by some accounts, his company is hellish to work for, and Ramsey has done his damndest to suppress said accounts:

As the president of The Lampo Group, the only thing Dave Ramsey hates more than gossip is seemingly when the gossip is about Dave Ramsey. “As a boss, Dave Ramsey was a bully,” said one former employee, who was a member of a secret Facebook group of about 100 former Lampo employees that Ramsey managed to infiltrate without their knowledge last year. “Most of us left Lampo years ago and yet he still haunts us, lurking over our shoulders like he’s the damn Godfather. And many of us are scared of him, unsure of how far he’d go to silence us.”

3. “Suspecting the Smiths.” (Anya Groner, Oxford American, February 2014)

The author’s childhood Harriet-the-Spy-esque shenanigans are vindicated.

4. “Abe Lincoln’s Loveliest Spy.” (Christina Drill, Narratively, May 2014)

A talented actress abandons the stage with a flourish and continues her career behind enemy lines.

5. “Stealing White.” (Del Quentin Wilber, Bloomberg Business, February 2016)

It’s called “economic espionage,” and I’d never heard of it until I read this complex, fascinating essay about Chinese corporations—and one man in particular—intent on stealing a secret formula to make the brightest, cleanest color white in the world.