I'm Scott Johnson, a journalist who covered the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and other conflicts. I am also the son of a CIA spy. I recently wrote a memoir about my experiences as a son and war reporter titled "The Wolf and the Watchman." I now work as a freelance journalist -- my BuzzFeed story on Army medic Nicholas Walker, "How a War Hero Became a Serial Bank Robber" is my latest longform work. Feel free to ask me anything about my wartime experiences, my interactions with my father, my work as a journalist and author, the BuzzFeed piece, PTSD, surfing -- you get the idea. Twitter proof. Link: I'm going live @reddit_AMA Join the discussion. Here's the link: http://bit.ly/12bg1EU

UPDATE: It's been an absolute pleasure talking to you these last two hours, I've had a lot of fun. Thanks for stopping by. I've got to run now but I'll try to come back in a few hours to answer more. You can always reach me on Twitter @scott_c_johnson. Thanks!

Comments: 484 • Responses: 73  • Date: 

Bamm8396 karma

What is your thoughts on Snowden and his actions?

Is your father still alive? If so, his reactions as well?

ImScottJohnson103 karma

Re Snowden, I think it's hard to pass judgment right now on the long-term questions his actions raise. I do think that there are serious risks of government overreach when it comes to eavesdropping and data mining, and that the info Snowden leaked could, over time, develop into a much bigger problem. Re my father, he's alive, yes. And he's been very supportive. I think parts of my book were difficult for him to read, but writing it brought us closer and allowed us to have discussions we might not otherwise have had.

SpongeBobMadeMeGay10 karma

How could the classified info develop into a bigger problem than the data-mining itself?

ImScottJohnson30 karma

If the gov't starts looking at the content of all the calls and emails, and not just the fact that they took place, for instance.

DeathToPennies20 karma

A lot of the people I've spoken to about the issue were unaware that this is actually what's happening. They thought the content of their calls was being listened to.

ImScottJohnson25 karma

yep, i think that's part of the problem. it's a big and important difference.

Besrod13 karma

I see it turning into a larger problem, because it may "inspire" other government workers to blow the whistle on other secret programs, that aren't actually illegal but damaging to our intelligence gathering process. Don't get me wrong I don't think the NSA should be recording any American data whatsoever without a proper warrant. Snowden exposed that and I am supportive of that. However he went to China... He also disclosed other government programs, that even the news agency did not publish because they recognized the sensitivity of it. There is a right way, and then there is a really wrong way with going to far. If I am wrong then please call me out

ImScottJohnson20 karma

Yep, I think those are all very good points. The real issue here, as many people have pointed out, is not what Snowden revealed thus far so much as what his revelations reveal about the direction gov't programs are headed in. I think that's what scares most people, and I think it's a legit fear. But how to deal with that problem is the unresolved issue.

boostman75 karma

How did you find out your father was a spy?

ImScottJohnson140 karma

I found out when I was 14. My dad took me to his office, in a suburban minimall outside Detroit, Michigan, and as we were sitting in the car, he came out with it, and told me he was a spy. The whole story is in the book. It was a pretty thrilling moment, and definitely marked a before and after in my life with him.

iBeyy46 karma

did your mother know before this moment? Also what did you think he did beforehand?

ImScottJohnson94 karma

My mother knew, yes. She had to be trained up as well (both she and my step mother, later) and so she was definitely in on the whole secret. There came a time when it was hard for her to keep up the lie and the deception. Before he told me, I thought he was just a "diplomat" or, later, a "teacher," when we lived on a secret CIA training facility in southern Virginia.

burnmatoaka32 karma

Camp Peary?

Nuttin_But_A_Peanut92 karma

Well there goes the secret.

ImScottJohnson35 karma

it's not a secret. you can read about it on the internets...

ImScottJohnson9 karma

yep

boostman25 karma

Why do you think he told you? Was it allowed by his employers?

ImScottJohnson63 karma

My dad and I had always been close. However his work meant that there was this big secret he couldn't share with me. So he told me because he didn't want there to be such a big area of his life that was off-limits to me. He wanted to share as much of himself as possible with me. Also, I think it was partly practical. I was old enough to be figuring out the truth on my own. So keeping the secret would have been more of a headache than anything at a certain point. There are no hard and fast rules about how CIA officers tell their families. Each case is different. Some never reveal anything to their children. Others, like my dad, do so when it seems right.

yuckypants31 karma

My grandfather (died 6 months before I was born in 1978) was a spy. My mom and grandma told me that they apparently knew very little about him until after he died. He kept so much of his life a secret. They told me he would often get a call in teh middle of the night and then leave without saying anything for a month at a time. Turns out, he was running training missions in Indonesia or something.

My grandma said that they had a "Lucy and Ricky" type of relationship. The man orders the woman around and that was it. SHe never asked any questions, and any she did ask were not answered.

ImScottJohnson18 karma

Interesting. thanks for that. sounds like he was almost in the mold of the old OSS or something. was he an officer during WWII?

iBeyy11 karma

surely then, there was no immediate danger to your family if he was exposed as a CIA officer at this point in his life then. I feel like telling your family things like this couldn't be a positive if he was an active CIA spy at the time.

ImScottJohnson18 karma

Well, the point is he felt he could trust me, and he was right. Remember that if he hadn't told me, I might have figured it out on my own anyway, so it was going to come up sooner or later. It could have become a negative in certain circumstances, yes. But it didn't. And all CIA families have to deal with this issue at some point. It's unavoidable. Ask any other children, and many will tell you a story similar to mine. Ask Carl Colby, for instance.

iBeyy6 karma

okay thanks and congratulations for keeping the secret. Did you ever tell any friend though?

ImScottJohnson12 karma

nope, not until he had retired and it was okay to do so. he also ran a political campaign where he was out in public, so that helped.

The_Music43 karma

What's the most stereotypical "spy movie" thing your father did? What part of being a spy would surprise us?

Also, what is the craziest thing you saw wile reporting?'

ImScottJohnson94 karma

Well, let's see. When he was based in India, he did a lot of running agents and things like that, which involved doing "dead drops" and meeting his agents in the middle of the night. Once, the KGB tried to recruit him, too, and that was a pretty dramatic moment, one I recount in the book. Re the second question, being a spy has its dramatic moments, of course, but they are also ordinary people, with ordinary challenges, and I think that goes against the stereotypical idea that all of them are, literally, like James Bond. Re reporting, there were so many crazy things it's hard to think of them all. Once I interviewed a 15-year old boy who had been a child soldier and had cannibalized people while running around in the jungle with Joseph Kony. That was pretty crazy.

The_Music10 karma

Thanks for the answers! Your book sounds very interesting, I'll look into reading it!

ImScottJohnson9 karma

Thanks, I hope you enjoy it.

mherick31 karma

I appreciate the work you're doing Scott.

I'm a combat vet with PTSD. It took me a while to go seek help. I didnt know what was happening to me - and I'm a psychologist to boot.

I strongly recommend all vets to go get evaluated. If a highly educated and trained individual like myself could miss it then surely people without that training may need professional help.

ImScottJohnson11 karma

Thank you very much! Here's to hoping it gets better.

ballinlb28 karma

How does someone become a CIA spy? Do you find the CIA or does the CIA find you?

ImScottJohnson45 karma

There are lots of different ways. You can actually apply! Most of the time, people apply or get recruited through the military. Sometimes the CIA will look for you and recruit you. My father had a kind of unique story -- he sort of recruited himself. It's a story I tell in the book. But basically he was in Mexico City, working as a professor. And he found out that the CIA was interested in the school where he was teaching because the KGB was trying to recruit students there. So he inserted himself into the mix, and thus put himself in a position where they recruited him.

theworldbystorm12 karma

That's so cool. What was your father's opinion of the USSR? Does he have that vitriolic distaste for communism or was he just doing job? And what exactly does the CIA look into re your political affiliations when you apply?

ImScottJohnson13 karma

he had a severe distaste for communism, yes. and i'm not sure what their take is now on political affiliations. it's probably much different from my father's era.

ImScottJohnson25 karma

Hi, everyone, thanks for being here. I'll get to your questions right now...

alext1234522 karma

What would you say the government (or society, for that matter) can do to mitigate the life-shattering effects of severe PTSD? I have a friend who served in Iraq and he's not the same person at all anymore--he gets into violent outbursts and often attacks people...His wife left him and I really don't know what else I can do to help. From my research, there is quite a lot of governmental funding to treat severe cases, but I was wondering if you have any thoughts as to what can be improved upon to help our veterans. Thanks!

ImScottJohnson22 karma

Thanks for the question! I think early diagnosis is key, while soldiers are still serving and definitely diagnosis and early treatment should be integrated more effectively and thoughtfully into the immediate post-deployment period, per the VA. Also, education within the military leadership levels should stress the de-stigmitization of PTSD, so that soldiers feel more comfortable talking about it. More money and resources should be made available to treatment programs, and outside psychiatrists and doctors should be consulted about how to better help vets integrate back into civilian life. There's much more, but those are some initial thoughts.

bnh1617 karma

Was it difficult knowing you had a parent that was a CIA spy and never being able to tell anyone? Also, did that life lead you to become a war reporter?

ImScottJohnson28 karma

There were definitely times when it was hard, yes. For instance, having to lie to friends and family over long periods of time was hard. Sometimes I wanted to, but I never did, even though there were people who suspected. As to the second question, yes, I think it may have contributed. There are real similarities between the two professions, spy and journalist (esp foreign correspondent) that became clearer to me over time -- going out into the world, cultivating sources, getting restricted information, being in risky environments and so forth.

chooter16 karma

What type of surfing do you do?

ImScottJohnson32 karma

Oh, pretty much any wave I can catch. I like pretty mellow lefts, maybe 4-6 feet or so. I'm goofy. I love long, smooth rides with some good push. Mostly I love just being out there with my friends, enjoying the beauty and the ocean.

chooter7 karma

Longboarding or shortboarding?

ImScottJohnson19 karma

Both. I've got a 6'8" for some days, and some days here in the Bay Area I'll rent a longboard to surf the small waves at a place like Bolinas :)

Bat_turd16 karma

Hey!

As part of the training does a spy learn martial arts/hand to hand combat?

ImScottJohnson23 karma

Some surely do. My father didn't. He did learn weapons training, both in rifles and hand guns. He also learned things like surveillance detection, writing in invisible ink and resisting interrogation. Paramilitary types learn a whole lot of other stuff, too!

wmjbyatt15 karma

Are you aware of the research that MAPS and other organizations are doing regarding the use of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in the treatment of PTSD? If so, what are your opinions on the research?

ImScottJohnson15 karma

I'm aware of it, yes, and very intrigued by it. I think it could lead to some exciting discoveries down the line. Generally, I think there's a lot of fascinating research being done in the world of psychedelics, like ayahuasca and so forth, but the extent to which it's all applicable to PTSD is, for me anyway, still unknown. But I'd like to learn more.

andrewvanbo14 karma

What do you feel is your most lasting memory from your time in Iraq and Afghanistan?

ImScottJohnson31 karma

Too many to recount here, I think. I have very strong memories of some of the close calls I had, being bombed while riding in a humvee, for instance, or being ambushed and almost getting killed while driving north during the invasion. But those are pretty negative memories. I also remember certain interviews, talking with people about their lives, before and during the war, seeing them as human beings. I remember many wonderful evenings spent with Iraqis just talking. I remember being rocketed in our house. And I remember friends who died, both Iraqi and American.

ImScottJohnson13 karma

Re Snowden, I think it's hard to pass judgment right now on the long-term questions his actions raise. I do think that there are serious risks of government overreach when it comes to eavesdropping and data mining, and that the info Snowden leaked could, over time, develop into a much bigger problem.
Re my father, he's alive, yes. And he's been very supportive. I think parts of my book were difficult for him to read, but writing it brought us closer and allowed us to have discussions we might not otherwise have had.

Adi_San9 karma

What is your father's take on wikileaks?

ImScottJohnson15 karma

I think he's not a fan...too much of a scattershot approach for him, not selective or intelligent enough, not discerning enough. He was a big supporter of the Pentagon Papers though, because it was targeted and because he supported the anti-war movement.

HughJundys9 karma

Have you ever met anyone who you suspected was an undercover spy while covering a story? Did your familiarity with the CIA affect what sources you interacted with?

ImScottJohnson9 karma

I have met people I've suspected of being spies, yes, many times. In Afghanistan, Iraq, Africa and elsewhere. In some cases, I've met people who I knew were spies, working either for the U.S or other agencies. In Afghanistan, we used to come across "journalists" who purported to be working for fictional news outlets, and we became convinced they were actually spies. Re the 2nd question -- I don't think it did, really. I just worked the way I worked, but maybe I was a little bit more sensitive to the fact that I knew a bit more about how certain relationships worked.

barryzitohero9 karma

Why do you refer to your father as "spy", rather than officer?

ImScottJohnson26 karma

answered this below. technically, officer is the right term, thanks! but spy is the more pop culture meme that makes it more accessible for people to understand. but it's an important distinction. thanks!

homies87609 karma

What are the common symptoms of ptsd. I met a iraq vetran and it deffinatly effected him. Every conversation had an agressive tone. Before iraq he was as friendly as can be.

ImScottJohnson13 karma

Lack of sleep, anxiety, depression, recurring nightmares, irritability, sensitivity to sounds, avoidance of large crowds...those are some.

lifehacked9 karma

[deleted]

ImScottJohnson12 karma

it can, absolutely, yes. I had some issues with it, and so did a lot of my friends. we don't talk about it all that much in journalism, but we're starting to more, and it has affected a lot of journalists over the years.

Indisputable_Fact8 karma

Explain in Layman's terms what the advantages are for Snowden to choose Hong Kong as his safebed.

ImScottJohnson15 karma

Well, he's no longer in Hong Kong. He's off to Moscow now, and then, as I understand it, to Cuba and finally Ecuador, where I think he'll be looking for asylum. So Hong Kong is out of the picture, much to the chagrin of the U.S I think.

Dmason02048 karma

How much information is your father allowed to give you about his missions/operations?

ImScottJohnson18 karma

Well, there are certain things he could never tell me. And he couldn't ever reveal what's called "sources and methods" which are the rules for how spying actually works. But he could tell me "war stories" if you will, the broad outlines of what happened, and how he was involved, without compromising national security or anything. Also, when you're a child of a CIA officer, you pick up a lot just by osmosis over the years, so some of it came to me that way. And finally, I've known a lot of CIA people as friends and acquaintances over the years, so you pick stuff up that way as well.

namesandfaces3 karma

[deleted]

ImScottJohnson26 karma

Hmmm. Well, I think I learned some things just by watching my father, like how to deflect if a question cut too close to home. That's the first thing that comes to mind. I'll add if I can think of anything else.

Xcon210 karma

How exactly do you deflect a question like a spy?

ImScottJohnson13 karma

Q: so what does your dad do? A: oh, he's in the gov't. boring bureaucrat stuff. hey, what's your girlfriend's name? she's great!

Wickedtwin19995 karma

What's the most badass thing you think your father did as a spy?

ImScottJohnson7 karma

Ha. Not sure, maybe there's something he did that he never told me about. He did some pretty badass things that I do know about -- recruiting a Chinese spy in one instance, or running around Afghanistan with Special Forces implementing various "psy ops" programs with Afghan tribal leaders.

MedicPigBabySaver5 karma

What do you think America should do about the suicide rate of our current veterans?

ImScottJohnson2 karma

well, i don't know the answer, but they need to do something, don't they? it's unacceptable, really, that it's so high.

parser1015 karma

What do you think about the upcoming withdrawal of US troops in Afghanistan? The vice piece "This Is What Winning Looks Like"(http://www.vice.com/vice-news/this-is-what-winning-looks-like-full-length) certainly makes me concerned about the afghan police and militarys ability to keep any sort of stability. What, if anything, do you think could be done to stabilize Afghanistan?

ImScottJohnson10 karma

Alas, not a lot, in my view. Developing stability there has to come from the Afghan side of things, and that, I think, is something that will only develop slowly, with a lot of good will and effort from Afghans themselves. It can't be imposed by us, and we should have learned that by now, but leave it to American policy makers to keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

lifehacked5 karma

[deleted]

ImScottJohnson11 karma

Well, yes and no. I was in Baghdad before "Shock and Awe" started, yes, when Saddam Hussein was still in power. I left just days before the actual bombing began -- my "human shield" visa had expired and the government was going to kick me out or throw me in jail. Then I went to Kuwait and covered the war as a "unilateral" journalist heading north behind the troops.

flying_dutchmaster5 karma

How did your father become a spy? What kind of qualifications do you need for that type of job?

ImScottJohnson9 karma

I answered this above, where I talked about his work in Mexico City. Re qualifications -- I think you need to be clever, enjoy mind games, be hungry for information, maybe patriotic or at least believe in what you're doing, skillful with people, psychologically astute, discrete...

doxob3 karma

What was is like staying abroad, in so many different countries and continents? And which country was your favorite & least favorite?

ImScottJohnson10 karma

I, for one, loved living overseas, both as a dependent when I was young, and as a foreign correspondent. For me it broadened my perspective, I learned languages, saw things I would have never otherwise seen, it was just terrific. Of course, moving was challenging, but I took to it with relish. Not everyone does, and that's fine, people are different. But I loved it. My most favorite country? I think South Africa. It's beautiful, diverse, interesting, people are friendly, there's incredible history...it's one of the most amazing places I've ever been.

DearHormel3 karma

What do you think of 'centrism' in the news media?

ImScottJohnson4 karma

I think it depends on the story. Sometimes journalists need to be very centrist and objective and so forth. And sometimes, there has to be more pushback because the tables are skewed too far in one direction already. See the reporting of Michael Hastings to get a better sense of what I mean by that.

ARatherOddOne3 karma

How do spies typically find relevant information when they're in other countries?

ImScottJohnson5 karma

Well, they develop sources, much like journalists do, only they try to find people in sensitive jobs, like at the local Defense Ministry or Foreign Affairs Dept, and get them to betray the laws of their own countries to provide information to the U.S. But it's all about people, finding people who share you ideas, your goals, your ideology, and working with them and against your common enemies, whether it's the totalitarian regime in which you find yourself, or the company in which you work.

What_Chris3 karma

Sorry to nitpick about something like vocabulary, but...

Your dad was not a CIA spy. He was a CIA officer who recruited foreigners to spy for him. THEY are spies, assets, or agents. Unless your father sold American secrets to foreign countries, he was a CIA officer. The media likes to refer to CIA officers as spies, but, although they may spy (verb), they are not technically spies (noun).

Doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, it's just a little pet peeve of mine lately. Kind of a rookie mistake for not only the son of a CIA officer, but a journalist, no less.

ImScottJohnson15 karma

you're absolutely right. he'd appreciate the distinction. i think it's just easier in common parlance to speak of officers as spies when we're speaking generally. but yes, he was an officer, not an "agent" or an "operative" two tags he especially despises. thanks!!

FourCounters3 karma

Journalist question: I have been working on improving my writing, can you share any tips that can help me improve?

Thank you for your time,

ImScottJohnson10 karma

Sure. 1. Write what's difficult. If it's hard to write, or painful, it needs to be written. 2. Write every single day 3. Read writers you like 4. Try different styles on and in the process try to develop your own 5. Be fearless

ShockedUser3 karma

[deleted]

ImScottJohnson4 karma

it's not like the movies, bourne identity or spy kids, that's for sure. my wife and i had a joke that the next movie should be called "Double Oh Dad"

Vorbiss3 karma

Did they have to train him to be a sociopath, or was he born that way?

ImScottJohnson4 karma

People do ask that question. He's not a sociopath, nor was he trained to be one. Believe it or not, the CIA has a lot of very decent people.

bigballshadow3 karma

What are your thoughts/experiences on people treating their PTSD with marijuana?

ImScottJohnson7 karma

I don't know, really. I know that people have tried using ecstasy in some cases, but I'm not sure about marijuana. There are a lot of other treatments as well -- including art, surfing, dogs, music and many other things.

red321red3212 karma

What are your thoughts on the recent passing of American journalist Michael Hastings? Both of you have covered and written about similar issues and his death has deprived Americans of one of their most hard-hitting and fearless journalists.

ImScottJohnson7 karma

Well, I was Mike's boss in Baghdad, and we were very good friends. I was devastated by his death. I think the world of journalism has suffered a huge loss by his passing, and other journalists need to step up and keep doing the kind of terrific journalism he was doing right up until the end.

FAGGOTARMY2 karma

Would it not be a better idea to remain completely anonymous when releassing stuff like this?

When Manning did what he did, he bragged about it all over the internet.

This snowden guy is doing the same thing.

It really takes the honor out of it when you make such a big deal of yourself and trying to be a hero or whatever. These people could get out so much more to the public if the didnt go and brag to the world expecting a heros welcome when they have violated laws that they know exist and could have easily gotten around had they not made such a sideshow of themselves

ImScottJohnson1 karma

it's definitely worth considering, yes. you have to wonder what the motives are, whether they're self promotion or really in the best interests of the country...thanks for the necessary insight!

edu_gon952 karma

When you were a kid, and found out your dad was a spy, how tempting was it to tell everyone your dad was so cool because he was a spy!? I know I would've wanted to.

ImScottJohnson3 karma

Well, I suppose it could have been tempting, but it was made very clear to me that that was not an option. And in my household, in those circumstances, at that time, I took that admonition very seriously. The context was very different.

ImScottJohnson2 karma

Twitter proof. Link: I'm going live @reddit_AMA Join the discussion. Here's the link: http://bit.ly/12bg1EU @wwnorton @spinningkates @BuzzReads @BuzzFeedBen

edu_gon952 karma

How do you think your life would of been, if your father had never told you? Would you be the person you are today?

ImScottJohnson2 karma

Most probably not. I think I would never have had occasion to really think about what he did, and maybe not being let in on the secret would have engendered a more naive or trusting approach toward things? Just a thought...then again, maybe I'd be just the same, and by now I would have known anyway, so it would have just come a little later. It's hard to say, difficult to rethink what has already happened. But interesting to ponder...

BroccoliSteamer2 karma

What truly happened the night of July 7, 1947 in Roswell

ImScottJohnson5 karma

Aliens came. Didn't you know?

MasterExploderizer2 karma

Did your father ever question why he did the things he did? I don't necessarily mean asking questions that he knew he would never get an answer to, but more questioning his loyalty, if what he did was worth it, anything in that area?

ImScottJohnson3 karma

He did, yes, and still does. There's a long process of reckoning, I think, in a world like his, where the moral outlines are kind of hazy and there's a lot of murkiness to be waded through. I think he did think it was worth it, on some days, and on others maybe less so. He was not always in line with the U.S foreign policy of the time, especially lately, and so it was hard to be a servant in its message at times. But he loves his country, the best parts of it, and I think he felt that America was worth defending against, say, the threat of Stalinist mayhem. Obviously, it's more complicated than just that, but that's a snapshot.

BottleWaddle2 karma

Are you familiar with the work on PTSD of Peter Levine or David Berceli? Their stuff has been hugely helpful to some folks i know, despite being a bit "woo". I've seen some pretty incredible results, particularly from Berceli's "TRE" method.

ImScottJohnson2 karma

Yes, it's fascinating stuff. Levine's work, in particular, is very interesting.

fauxpunk1 karma

Did you ever want to follow in your fathers footsteps and be a spy as well?

ImScottJohnson1 karma

See above.

extra_231 karma

This is a little off topic, but how does your dad see the whole Snowden thing, because my dad (also former CIA) is pissed at him, which is understandable.

ImScottJohnson2 karma

I think he's not okay with the rather scattershot approach of Snowden's tack. At the same time, I think he's worried about the overall trend, if you'd like, of greater and more intrusive government surveillance and so forth, like so many people are.

Fragus1 karma

[deleted]

ImScottJohnson2 karma

I gave up on becoming a spy when I was pretty young. I thought, and he encouraged me in the belief, that other lines of work would ultimately be more rewarding. That said, I am attracted by the idea of having a sort of impunity to exist in a morally ambiguous world with the backing of a government, it's powerful, hard to resist. I didn't, of course, but it's interesting to fantasize about, isn't it?

ROwartooth1 karma

Hello! With your work with PTSD in the military, how would you assess the ability of army doctors (psychiatrists) to identify and prevent PTSD? Do you feel we need more? Better trained?

ImScottJohnson2 karma

yes, we definitely need better, better trained, more, the whole shabang. there are some very good ones in the military, but not enough. the whole issue just needs more exposure, more attention.

Jazza_23191 karma

Thanks for doing this, i hope i'm not too late.

  1. How accurate is the hollywood depiction of CIA spy's in regards to your father?

  2. It seems as if the gov't has gone way too far with its surveillance, even Superman in Man of Steel takes a shot at them. Is it even possible that they moderate at this point or is it more likely to be denied and kept a tighter secret?

  3. What would your reaction be to people disputing "we give up our privacy for safety/security"? Both Obama and Bush have said that, but shouldn't this mass surveillance have stopped things like the Boston Marathon Bombing? Or do you think it has and that these tragedies were simply unavoidable?

ImScottJohnson1 karma

Hi, thanks. 1. Not very accurate at all. Hollywood is good at art, not so good at reality 2. I'm not sure. I think that's what everyone is wanting to know. 3. Well, I have no doubt that heightened security measures have helped us on many occasions. That said, they can't prevent everything. I think it's a bit of a gamble sometimes, that there's a hope and expectation that the increased security will prevent the worst tragedies from occurring. Just a guess though.

Monofu1 karma

Why did you choose Journalism as your profession? Did you ever think of following your father's footsteps and joining the CIA?

ImScottJohnson1 karma

Journalism and the world of intelligence are eerily similar in many ways. I addressed this above. I think journalism was my way of sort of following in my father's footsteps, but doing it on my own terms. They're similar enough to be noted, but different enough to feel autonomous.

Dayanx1 karma

Have the CIA.. Human Resources people asked you any questions or done anything to your knowledge to look into your own life when you decided to write a book? I know other writers have been heavily censored. I know just being the son of an agent ( don't know which directorate he was assigned) your father isn't going to tell you anything he shouldn't be but they might be wary of more mundane things like shift schedules, deployment timings, ect.

ImScottJohnson4 karma

Not that I know...When I was in high school I was interrogated by a CIA psychiatrist at one point, before one of my father's deployments, and had to fill out all sorts of paperwork and so forth. But since I'm not employed by them I don't have to adhere to all the same rules. He was in Dir. of Ops, by the way, the Clandestine branch.

year19181 karma

What's the weirdest thing you ate in a pinch, but turned out to be pretty good?

ImScottJohnson1 karma

some weird mystery meat in afghanistan. well, i should say it was pretty good at the time i ingested it, but i got violently ill afterwards, and never found out what it was. oh, wait, i thought of another one. once i ate hummous in iraq, but it turned out to have been made with water from a river where a camel was rotting. needless to say, i got violently ill after that, too. completely stomach-rotting sick for a few days.

Bamm831 karma

What is your thoughts on television/films showing such intimate portrayals of either spies (anit-CIA) or CIA agents themselves. Obviously, "The Americans (FX)" comes to mind in particularly.

What is the most accurate film or television series depicting CIA life?

ImScottJohnson2 karma

i haven't seen the americans yet, but want to, i have a feeling it'll be the closest to the real thing? maybe? i also liked "tinker, tailor, soldier, spy" but my dad didn't. he said it was too emotional and too fraught with feelings about betrayal and stuff. i'm not so sure.

eltostito1911 karma

Concerning war reporting, what are you thoughts on balancing the need to inform the public about what is happening while also respecting those who are affected by violence?

I ask because I've read recently about families who were mad that a photographer had taken pictures of their during a firefight in which he was killed. Can't remember enough details to have a link, sorry.

ImScottJohnson2 karma

Yes, it's important to try to balance the need to be truthful and honest with the need to be sensitive. It's not easy, and there's no easy solution. I think you can't always bow to the needs of the family, for instance, if there is overwhelming evidence that the story has a greater significance. But you can't just be voyeuristic either.

NormalLies1 karma

As someone who works in the mental health field I don't think we have great ways to treat PTSD. I've recently heard promising anecdotes about alternative ways to help folks with PTSD - some are even pretty out there like sweat lodges. Have you come across any alternative or even sorta out there methods that you think might hold promise to help folks manage or heal their PTSD?

ImScottJohnson2 karma

I don't have anything more to offer than what the qualified medical professionals are already recommending. The problem isn't really innovative ideas, it's education and making them available to large numbers of people.

LMMesto1 karma

Has your father ever actually shared any of his "Top Secret" stories with you? And If so, are you able to share anything with us?

ImScottJohnson2 karma

Only what he could share without breaking the law. Read my book, there are a lot of great spy stories in there. I think you'll enjoy it.

The_Big_Bukowski0 karma

How did he become a spy?

ImScottJohnson1 karma

I answered this above.

iukenbo0 karma

What is the most interesting story your father has told you? Be it action-packed, a conspiracy or anything under the sun.

Thanks in advance!

ImScottJohnson1 karma

I think instead of answering this here, I'll urge you to read the book and get several action packed stories in one place! Thanks for your interest though...