A highly entertaining account of a young woman who went straight from her college sorority to the CIA, where she hunted terrorists and WMDs.
When Tracy Walder enrolled at the University of Southern California, she never thought that one day she would offer her pink beanbag chair in the Delta Gamma house to a CIA recruiter, or that she’d fly to the Middle East under an alias identity.
The Unexpected Spy is the riveting story of Walder’s tenure in the CIA and, later, the FBI. In high-security, steel-walled rooms in Virginia, Walder watched al-Qaeda members with drones as President Bush looked over her shoulder and CIA Director George Tenet brought her donuts. She tracked chemical terrorists and searched the world for Weapons of Mass Destruction. She created a chemical terror chart that someone in the White House altered to convey information she did not have or believe, leading to the Iraq invasion. Driven to stop terrorism, Walder debriefed terrorists—men who swore they’d never speak to a woman—until they gave her leads. She followed trails through North Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, shutting down multiple chemical attacks.
Then Walder moved to the FBI, where she worked in counterintelligence. In a single year, she helped take down one of the most notorious foreign spies ever caught on American soil. Catching the bad guys wasn’t a problem in the FBI, but rampant sexism was. Walder left the FBI to teach young women, encouraging them to find a place in the FBI, CIA, State Department or the Senate—and thus change the world.
This is the story of how a sorority girl who was bullied at school found her calling working for the CIA. At a job fair at college, the author filled out a job application on a whim…and the rest is history. She started her job immediately after she graduated.
Shortly after starting work, Walder was promoted to The Vault, under kindly Director Tenet, who made her feel like a part of the team. She was respected by the other team members and everyone worked together well, thanks to Tenet. He was always doing thoughtful things, such as bringing Thanksgiving dinner to the Vault’s hardworking members.
A few months later, she was moved to Counterterrorism to work under Graham Andersson. This continued to bolster her confidence and erase the “loser” mindset she had, because she constantly received compliments and encouragement from her superiors. Some of the missions she worked on dealt with poison and other weapons of mass destruction. Despite being an introvert, she gave apresentation on a poisoning plot she and two other coworkers discovered. Due to their hard work, the people of interest were captured, and the poisoning plot was exposed and neutralized. The book continues with more stories like this, including some that highlight intelligence operatives that don’t work on Sunday, despite the terrorists that lurk nearby.
Walder remains positive, despite being minimalized by the men in other cultures. About 60% of the way through she meets some male counterparts after a bombing in Africa, and they are less than thrilled to be working with her. She remains professional and focused on the task at hand. This strength is one of her main characteristics – it shines through on almost every page. Her writing is full of her eagerness to fight the terrorists before they get a chance to perform their insidious tasks. She also writes about her feelings of personal failure regarding the March 11, 2004 bombing in Madrid. She wondered what scrap of information she had missed and felt personally responsible for all those dead and wounded. It was this final straw that cause her to fill out an application for the FBI and send it in. They accepted her immediately, and so Walder embarked on a new career. However, for the first time in her professional career she felt bullied during her training at Quantico. She kept moving forward and never let the constant criticism get her down – another display of her incredible mental strength.
Unfortunately, the FBI’s mentality was to pair her up with a more experienced partner and marginalize her, never making her the lead when they picked up criminals. She learned that she wasn’t the only female being discriminated against, but she kept going, hoping things would change. It didn’t, and she quit the FBI after working there only 15 months. Currently she is a history teacher at an all-girls school, her mission empowering and educating girls against the bullies and terrorists of the world. Walder puts as much determination into her teaching as she did in her career, and that is refreshing. She is a role model who still cares about eliminating hatred, embracing all walks of life, and giving girls their voice. I am glad that she chose to write her story to illuminate these causes! Her voice is clear and strong, the writing style will pull you in and make you laugh at times, while other times you will be incredulous, such as when you read about the mistreatment the FBI puts forth. It is also very interesting to be “behind the scenes” at the CIA, as much as they would allow. This unforgettable book would be great for any college age girl to read, for it may spark interest in a career such as Walder’s. Her experiences are powerful and empowering. You can get your own copy here.