The Company We Keep                                  Robert Baer and Dayna Baer


There are several topics to cover in this book:

  1. The areas of unrest
  2. The personal toll on marriage and relationships
  3. The balance of a public and private life
  4. Living the constant lie
  5. Reporting Intelligence: Sanitized writing about CIA work for personal profit vs, say, actual correspondence that Wikileaks published for public knowledge.  Mention Valerie Plame Wilson who has signed on to write a series of spy novels. 
  6. Foreign adoptions

At the start of the discussion, hand out map cutouts of the area.  Have everyone try to place on a board where each country goes….see how little we know of that geographical area.  Mihaela, from Romania, will give a short political synopsis of each country as we plug our countries into the map.


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What did we learn from this novel?

What did you think of the alternating chapter style?  Bob is an experienced agent in remote European and Russian locals.  Dayna is a newer recruit who is about to get her first assignment to join a deep-cover team that travels the globe.

Bob’s Career  Wikipedia

During his twenty one - years CIA career, Baer has publicly acknowledged field assignments in Madras and New DelhiIndia; in Beirut, Lebanon; in Dushanbe, Tajikistan; inMorocco, and in Salah al-Din in Iraqi Kurdistan. During the mid-1990s Baer was sent to Iraq with the mission of organizing opposition to Iraqi president Saddam Hussein but was recalled, and investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for allegedly conspiring to assassinate the Iraqi leader.[3][4] While in Salah al-Din, Baer unsuccessfully urged the Clinton administration to back an internal Iraqi attempt to overthrow Hussein (organized by a group of Sunni military officers, the Iraqi National CongressAhmad Chalabi, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's Jalal Talabani) in March 1995 with covert CIA assistance. Baer quit the Agency in 1997 and received the CIA's Career Intelligence Medal on March 11, 1998. Baer wrote the book See No Evil documenting his experiences while working for the Agency. The C.I. Desk: FBI and CIA Counterintelligence As Seen From My Cubicle, by Christopher Lynch, Dog Ear Publishing, ISBN 9781608447398, describes parts of the contentious CIA pre-publication review process for Baer's first book.
In a blurb for See No Evil Seymour Hersh said Baer "was considered perhaps the best on-the-ground field officer in the Middle East."
Baer offers an analysis of the Middle East through the lens of his experiences as a CIA operative. His political outlook does not hew exclusively to either conservative or liberalviewpoints. Through his years as a clandestine officer, he gained a very thorough knowledge of the Middle East, Arab world and former Republics of the Soviet Union. Over the years, Baer has become a strong advocate of the Agency's need to increase Human Intelligence (HUMINT, ie HUMan INTelligence) through the recruitment of agents. Baer, long a supporter of the theory that the PFLP GC brought down the Maid of the Seas, has recently begun to promote the theory that Iran was behind the bombing.[clarification needed]
In 2004, he told a reporter of the British political weekly New Statesman, regarding the way the CIA deals with terrorism suspects, "If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear—never to see them again—you send them to Egypt."[1]

Bob (CIA spy) says his job is chasing Hizballah/Hezbollah –Arabic for Party of God - while Dayna’s job (a CIA-trained shooter and surveillance operative) is to surveil Arab Mujahidin.

    1.  Wikipedia -- Hezbollah receives financial and political support from Iran and Syria, and its paramilitary wing is regarded as a resistance movement throughout much of the Arab and Muslim worlds.[2] Multiple countries, including predominantly-Sunni Arab countries such as Saudi ArabiaEgypt and Jordan,[5] have condemned Hezbollah's actions. The United States, the Netherlands[6]United Kingdom, Egypt,[7] Israel, Australia, and Canada classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, in whole or in part.[8]  

“Yallah” is Arabic for “Let’s go!”

General Aoun – a Maronite Christian and former Commander of the Lebanese army.  He took refuge in the French Embassy after being flushed out of his bunker by the Lebonese Government.
Wikipedia -- Michel Naim Aoun (Arabic: ميشال نعيم عون‎) (born February 18, 1935[1]) is a Lebanese politician and former military commander. From 22 September 1988 to 13 October 1990, he served as Prime Minister of the legal one of two rival governments that contended for power. He heroically declared "The Liberation War" against the Syrian Occupation on the 14th of March 1989, where he was defeated on the 13th of October due to internal conspiracies, and exiled to France. He returned to Lebanon on May 7, 2005, eleven days after the withdrawal of Syrian troops. He kept his promise of building the best of relations with Syria after Lebanon was liberated from the Occupation, and made a historical visit to Syria in 2009 where he was welcomed as "the honorable past enemy and the present friend". [2] [3] Known as "General,"[2] Aoun is currently a Member of Parliament. He leads the "Free Patriotic Movement" party which has 27 representatives and is the second biggest bloc in the parliament.


Did you notice?    In Ch 1 pg 11 – End of chapter Bob writes: “It’s odd.  In this business, we lie all the time, live with false identities.  We suck the lifeblood out of our sources, pillage our contacts.  Every arrangement has a twist: every favor comes with an IOU.   But in the end, it all comes down to what Ali was talking about in a slightly different context: relationships, loyalty, trust.  You have to tend to the human element.  Without that, there’s nothing.
            The book actually concludes with this same sentiment in the epilogue when Dayna repeats Bob’s words.

What do you know of Tajikistan?   Bob says on Pg 35 - Tajikistan – American baseline knowledge is zero.  Opening an embassy in Dushanbe, Tajikistan “is an act of pure defiance.”
Wikipedia -- Almost immediately after independence, Tajikistan was plunged into a civil war that saw various factions, allegedly backed by Russia andIran[citation needed], fighting one another. All but 25,000 of the more than 400,000 ethnic Russians, who were mostly employed in industry, fled toRussia. By 1997, the war had cooled down, and a central government began to take form, with peaceful elections in 1999.
"Longtime observers of Tajikistan often characterize the country as profoundly averse to risk and skeptical of promises of reform, a political passivity they trace to the country’s ruinous civil war," Ilan Greenberg wrote in a news article in The New York Times just before the country's November 2006 presidential election.[27]
Tajikistan is officially a republic, and holds elections for the Presidency and Parliament. It is, however, a one party dominant system, where thePeople's Democratic Party of Tajikistan routinely has a vast majority in Parliament. The parliamentary elections in 2005 aroused many accusations from opposition parties and international observers that President Emomali Rahmon corruptly manipulates the election process. The most recent elections, in February 2010, saw the ruling PDPT lose 4 seats in Parliament, yet still maintain a comfortable majority. OSCEelection observers said the 2010 polling "failed to meet many key OSCE commitments" and that "these elections failed on many basic democratic standards."[28][29] The government insisted that only minor violations had occurred, which would not affect the will of the Tajik people.[28][29]
Freedom of the press is officially guaranteed by the government, although independent press outlets remain restricted, as does a substantial amount of web content. According to the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, access is blocked to local and foreign websites including,, and and journalists are often obstructed from reporting on controversial events. In practice, no public criticism of the regime is tolerated and all direct protest is severely suppressed and does not get reported in the local media.[30]
The presidential election held on November 6, 2006 was boycotted by "mainline" opposition parties, including the 23,000-member Islamic Renaissance Party. Four remaining opponents "all but endorsed the incumbent", Rahmon.[27]
Tajikistan has given Iran its support in Iran's membership bid to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, after a meeting between the Tajik President and the Iranian foreign minister.[31]

Greece and Russia have been long entwinded since Ancient Times, so was Dayna’s
reference to “some odd Trotskyite ideology” come as a surprise to you?
Dayna in Greece 1992 to surveil a murderous group called 17N, so named for
Nov. 17, 1973, the day the Greek military junta violently put down a demonstration at Athens’s polytechnic school.  Subsequent communiqués led to the belief that 17N
held some odd Trotskyite ideology, and, needless to say, the United States was its
main enemy.
Defining characteristic of Trotskyism, aka Permanent Revolution:
Wikipedia -- The theory of Permanent Revolution considers that in many countries, which are thought under Trotskyism to have not yet completed a bourgeois-democratic revolution, the capitalist class oppose the creation of any revolutionary situation. They fear stirring the working class into fighting for its own revolutionary aspirations against their exploitation by capitalism. In Russia, the working class, although a small minority in a predominantly peasant based society, were organised in vast factories owned by the capitalist class, and into large working class districts. During the Russian Revolution of 1905, the capitalist class found it necessary to ally with reactionary elements such as the essentially feudal landlords and ultimately the existing Czarist Russian state forces. This was to protect their ownership of their property—factories, banks, etc.-- from expropriation by the revolutionary working class.
Therefore, according to the theory of Permanent Revolution, the capitalist classes of economically backward countries are weak and incapable of carrying through revolutionary change. As a result, they are linked to and rely on the feudal landowners in many ways. Thus, Trotsky argues, because a majority of the branches of industry in Russia were originated under the direct influence of government measures—sometimes with the help of Government subsidies—the capitalist class was again tied to the ruling elite. The capitalist class were subservient to European capital.[11]

Ch 9 – Tajikistan – Bob arranges to send Yuri to the US but Yuri looses his KGB status because Ames (a double agent) turned him in.

Geneva, Switzerland – Dayna – following a different Russian.  By now are you wondering where or how is her husband back home?  She calls him and he doesn’t tell her his dad had died just 2 days earlier. 

Cyprus – Dayna – following a murderer.

PG 112 - Washington – Bob – Bob tells his friend Marwan that he is resigning from the CIA.  Bob fears prosecution.

Ch 15 - “Day of Youth” – Kapija, Yugoslavia – a grenade is fired by Bosnian Serbs…10-20 people killed, a seriously underestimate… Dayna in Virginia about to go to Split, Bosnia.  Name = “Driver’s” + “License”

Is there a Garden of Eden reference/belief here:  Pg 121 Kazakhstan – Bob – Legend has it that the first apple tree grew here, in Neolithic times.

ch 19 - Sarajevo – Dayna & Bob on same assignment in Sarajevo… chapter’s beginning quote:  I cannot forget the picture of the girl with no hands.

Ch 22 – quote: Sometimes paranoia is just having all the facts. William S. Burroughs
Ch 23 - Dayan spots someone taking photos of their apartment…paranoia sets in.

Ch 29, Nov. 4, 1997 – gasline between Turkmenistan and Pakistan, passing through Afghanistan.  Doable?  Gas = Cash!
            Then Bob meets Ahmed Badeeb – known in his circle as a bagman for the Mujahidin.  Bob is with Carlos, of Argentinean Bridas, who is trying to negotiate gas pipeline.
            Deal ends when Osama bin Ladin bombs the American Embassy in Kenya and Tanzania and an embargo on Afganistan follows.

Ch 31 – Why does Bob even want to see the telephone transcripts?

Ch 32, pg 212 – Were you surprised at the BBQ grill scene?

Ch 36 – How closely does this part regarding Sadam Hussein relate to what we read/heard in the news?

Ch 38, pg 244 – Malik is killed by 6 US cruise missles along with 16 family members.

Ch 43 – Danny Pearl references
Wkipedia -- Daniel Pearl (October 10, 1964 – February 1, 2002) was an American journalist who was kidnapped and killed by Al-Qaeda.
At the time of his kidnapping, Pearl served as the South Asia Bureau Chief of the Wall Street Journal, and was based in Mumbai,India. He went to Pakistan as part of an investigation into the alleged links between Richard Reid (the "shoe bomber") and Al-Qaeda. He was subsequently beheaded by his captors.[1][2]
In July 2002, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, a British national of Pakistani origin, was sentenced to death by hanging for Pearl's abduction and murder.[3][4]
In March 2007, at a closed military hearing in Guantánamo Bay, CubaKhalid Sheikh Mohammed said that he had personallybeheaded Pearl.[5][6]

Ch 45, pg 270 – Movie “Syriana” with George Clooney loosely based on book by Robert Baer titled “See no Evil”.

Ch 48 – Bob and Dayna given guardianship of Reela/Khyber.  Have you ever heard of the Edhi Foundation?
            Edhi Foundation web site:

Edhi Foundation's activities include a 24 hours emergency service across the country through 250 Edhi centers which provide free shrouding and burial of unclaimed dead bodies, shelter for the destitutes, orphans and handicapped persons, free hospitals and dispensaries, rehabilitation of drug addicts, free wheel chairs, crutches and other services for the handicapped, family planning counseling and maternity services, national and international relief efforts for the victims.

Currently the Foundation is a home for over 6,000 destitutes, runaways and mentally ill, and it provides transportaion to over 1,000,000 persons annually to the hospitals, in addition to other wide ranging services.


Ch 49- How differently does Dayna see her world than we do ours?  Dayna measures “haves” and “have nots” and hope they can love Reela/Khyber as much and as well as her first family, Azyah, does.

Epilogue, pg 303 – Dayna writes: I lied to myself for a long time that I didn’t have to be nearby to keep family bonds.  I convinced myself that things would be the way they always had been when I finally came back home.  Oh boy, did I get that one wrong.  In the end, family all comes down to what Bob says about spying: you either tend the human element or watch what’s really of value slip away.


See LA Times Review 3/16/11 “Spying and Flying”

            Book review: 'The Company We Keep' by Robert and Dayna Baer

Former CIA agents Robert and Dayna Baer deliver a real-life spy memoir that's heavy on prosaic details and curiously lacking thrills.

March 16, 2011|By Richard Schickel | Special to the Los Angeles Times
Spying and flying — who knew these occupations were so closely allied? The saying about pilots holds that their lives consist of thousands of hours of boredom, punctuated by a few moments of sheer, often fatal, terror. Judging from "The Company We Keep," the almost fatally chipper joint memoir by two former CIA spooks, that's pretty much the way it goes when you're snooping around the world's back channels, setting up observation posts and meeting with characters who may or may not have useful information.
Robert Baer is the boisterous character who inspired the figure played by George Clooney in the 2005 movie "Syriana"; Dayna Baer is the woman he met in the 1990s when he gave her a lift into Sarajevo, where she was supposed to set up a listening post to penetrate any secrets the Bosnians may have been keeping from their Croatian enemies.

Research:         in from the cold -- come in from the cold
if someone comes in from the cold, they become part of a group or an activity which they were not allowed to join before Turkey is now keen to come in from the cold and join the European community. After four years away from the fashion scene, Jasper has come in from the cold with his new 1997 designer collection.

Other spy books
Bob encourages Hussein’s cousin to go against father
Dayna’s work has less focus after marriage to Bob – is she still working?  Retired?