A Conversation About Russia, the Cold War, and Espionage With a Once Aspiring Spy

Oct 7, 2015

Justin Lifflander wanted nothing more than to become a spy for the CIA. Growing up during the Cold War, he practiced spying on friends, family, and schoolmates in preparation for what he thought would be a career full of high-tech gadgetry and secret rendezvous. When Lifflander was finally assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in 1987, he thought his dream was coming true.

What followed was something Lifflander could never have predicted. He was a mechanic at the embassy, then an inspector of Soviet missile sights, and then a suspected American agent followed at every turn by the KGB. Lifflander found himself living in a world which very much resembled his childhood dream -- but he was never a spy.

In his new memoir, How Not to Become a Spy, Lifflander recounts his adventures in the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War, complete with a love affair with a Soviet woman who may have been spying on him

We also speak with Atlas Obscura writer Sarah Laskow and former CIA operations officer turned International Spy Museum director Peter Earnest about how the government pays for top-secret spy missions. It turns out vodka martinis (shaken, not stirred) can really add up.


Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. 

Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show.