Wednesday, July 10, 2019

My Washington Times Review Of 'Gray Day: My Undercover Mission To Expose America's First Cyber Spy'

The Washington Times published my review of Eric O’Neill’s Gray Day: My Undercover Mission to Expose America’s First Cyber Spy.

I saw the film “Breach” in 2007, which was based on a true story and starred Chris Cooper as the notorious FBI special agent-turned Soviet/Russian spy Robert Hanssen, and Ryan Phillippe as Eric O’Neill, the young FBI investigative specialist assigned as Hanssen’s assistant, but who was in fact spying on Hanssen.

“Breach” was a good film and I enjoyed it. Now Eric O’Neill has written a book about his experiences with Robert Hanssen called “Gray Day: My Undercover Mission to Expose America’s First Cyber Spy.”

In 2000, Eric O’Neill was a young man working for the FBI as an investigative specialist. Investigative specialists were called “Ghosts,” as they performed undercover surveillance of suspected spies and terrorists, much like the British MI5. 

Although the investigative specialists were unarmed, and they were not law enforcement officers like the FBI’s special agents, they performed a vital national security function by keeping tabs on our nation’s potential enemies.

“Ghosts are trained to live in the shadows, to not get familiar with our targets. A ghost lives a covert professional life, relying on telephoto lenses, disguises, quick-change outfits, and the ability to disappear into a crowd,” Mr. O’Neill explains. “We think fast on our feet, are always ready with multiple excuses and explanations, and only show our golden FBI shield when all other options have been extinguished. Breaking cover equals failure.”

Eric O’Neill opens “Gray Day” by recounting a Sunday morning in December 2000, when his supervisor called him at home and said he would drive to the investigative specialist’s apartment and wait outside in his car.

In the car, his supervisor told him about his new assignment. He would become the assistant to Robert Hanssen, a veteran special agent and a computer expert who was tasked with heading the Information Assurance Security Team, a two-man division that would modernize the FBI’s woefully inadequate cybersecurity system.

The need for such a team was certainly called for, as the FBI had serious computer issues, but the job and the team were a ruse, as the FBI suspected Hanssen of being a Russian spy.

You can read the rest of the review via the below link:

Note: The below two photos are of Robert Hanssen and the bottom photo is of Eric O’Neill.  

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