BAYARD & HOLMES
~ Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes
Since 2010, Bayard & Holmes have honored either an individual or a group of people from the Intelligence Community (“IC”) on October 31, our Love-A-Spook Day. This year, retired CIA Counterterrorist Chief of Operations Ric Prado joins the Love-A-Spook Day pantheon next to Billy Waugh, Virginia Hall, Josephine Baker, Fernando X, and many others. Usually, we write a biography of our award recipient, but this year, Ric, one of the highest-ranking covert warriors to ever go overtly public, has made it easy for us. He wrote his autobiography, New York Times bestseller Black Ops: The Life of a CIA Shadow Warrior.
Black Ops begins with Ric’s childhood in Cuba and his escape from the Castro regime to the United States. It goes on to trace his journey from a street gang in Miami to becoming a US Air Force Pararescue Jumper. After serving almost a decade in the military, Ric then became a CIA Operations Officer. Black Ops provides some of the details of Ric’s time in Central and South America and the Philippines, as well as his service with the Counterterrorism Center in that most politically-challenging of locations—CIA Headquarters.
We have a few individual observations at this point.
“The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.”
Both Bruce Lee and St. Augustine are attributed with this quote, though there is no actual source showing that either of them said that. Nevertheless, Ric Prado has lived a life worth remembering, and he does a great job recounting his memorable life in Black Ops.
Black Ops is interesting, informative, cohesive, and digestible. In short, it’s a great read that provides important insights into the Intelligence Community and the challenges those who serve must face, from the mission to protect the country to the political pressures of the organization and the personal difficulties of work/life balance, made more difficult by absences and secrecy.
One highlight for me is the way that Ric Prado humanizes life in the CIA.
Big Media, both fiction and nonfiction, so often portrays those in the IC as caricatures of either villains or heroes, rather than revealing them for who they really are—dedicated Americans committed to the mission of protecting our nation, who also love, grieve, pay mortgages, do laundry, and alter their lives to cope with sick family members. Most Americans never know a CIA Officer (that they know of) and only think of them in the two-dimensional terms they are fed by Big Media. I’m hoping everyone will read Ric’s book and hear a real, three-dimensional voice from the IC. (As I say that, I realize Black Ops is published by a major media company, but this time, they got it right.)
Another thing I particularly appreciate about Ric’s autobiography is his acknowledgement of his wife’s contributions to his career and the impact his career had on his family.
Everyone who loves someone in the IC must adjust their world and expectations to some degree, whether it is to develop more caution in what they say and who they befriend, or it is to say goodbye to a spouse, sibling, or child, not knowing when or if their loved one will even come home. In the best of circumstances, spouses can help develop assets and provide operational support. Ric Prado not only tells his own story, but he includes some details about how his wife supported him in his career with roles of her own.
Exceptional, as well, are Ric Prado’s chapters about his work in Central America.
The CIA has been much maligned by “journalists” who did not get any closer to the action than the bars in Tegucigalpa. I’m glad a voice of someone who was actually there, doing the heavy lifting, is getting proper air time.
A couple places in the book reveal that the CIA piggybacked some recruiting advertisements onto Ric’s fantastic story at some point in the review process.
I can forgive the Agency for that. Some of the finest people I’ve ever known work or have worked for the CIA, and the Agency deserves to throw in a plug for itself here and there. It’s not enough to detract from the book, and, hopefully, it will attract new recruits who have the right stuff.
Black Ops would make good mandatory reading for all elected officials and their many obsequious and wildly-ambitious staff members.
Ric produced a clear, readable, fair, and accurate book about special operations from the CIA point of view.
Ric’s career as a CIA officer spanned multiple CIA directors and presidents, and it took him to numerous regions and a variety of types of operations. This variety of operations, coupled with his mental clarity and his ability to sensibly process his many different experiences at the CIA allowed him to draw reasonable and very important conclusions about the work of the CIA and the Agency’s relationship to the elected members of government.
While reading the events explained in Black Ops is entertaining, more important are Ric’s observations and conclusions.
As someone who is well-read and experienced in special operations and other aspects of intelligence work, I have made a point of reading books produced by retired members of the community. Black Ops is a rare gem and an important book. It is a great relief to me to see a legitimate and distinguished member of the IC produce an honest and balanced work covering so many important aspects of the CIA.
It’s difficult for me to find anything to criticize in Ric Prado’s book; however, if I am to be as critical as possible, I will say that Ric is too kind in his assessment of Senator Feinstein and her infamously unprofessional staff.
That said, Ric is clearly a more forgiving soul than I am.
Bayard & Holmes:
We unreservedly give Black Ops our highest recommendation for readers interested in history, intelligence work, current events, and/or the real lives of the very real people who serve in our clandestine services. Ric Prado accurately and objectively describes important past events and leaves us with critical lessons for our future. If freedom, democracy, and the way the real world works matter to you, you will find Black Ops: The Life of a CIA Shadow Warrior to be a treasure.
Thank you, Ric Prado, for your outstanding
service to the United States
and to the Intelligence Community.
Black Ops: The Life of a CIA Shadow Warrior by Ric Prado
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$1.99 eBook/$11.99 Print
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