SPY SCHOOL: Or Things You Can Learn From the Ex-CIA Guy

by | Feb 17, 2019 | Chris Goff | 6 comments

by Chris Goff

Gadgets and info every spy needs to have.

I have a confession to make—my husband Wes, a wonderful guy who is my biggest supporter, has begun amassing “spy tools” and “spy tips.” Ever since I started writing the Raisa Jordan thrillers, he started following the exploits of a former CIA officer turned survival tactics guru. Then he started ordering things. First it was publications, then it was “toys.” We now subscribe to the “Spy Briefing,” which offers daily safety tips, as well as facts about spies and spy craft. I’ll bet our names are on some alphabet agencies’ watchlist.

A little background on Jason Hanson. His bio will tell you he’s “born to serve.” He graduated from Radford University, joined the Arlington County Police Force, then set his sites on the CIA. He spent nearly a decade in the field before resigning to start a family. But unlike others who quit the spy game, Hanson had a plan. He knew exactly what he was meant to do. His mission: to help good, honest Americans learn critical survival tactics that can literally mean the difference between life and death. In 2010, he founded Spy Escape & Evasion, and began teaching two-day courses on insider secrets and techniques average citizens can use to stay safe. He has appeared on The NBC Today Show, Dateline, Rachael Ray, and been interviewed by Forbes, NPR and The Huffington Post. Jason Hanson is the real deal.

The first “gadget” Wes ordered was a Tactical Bag, sometimes known as a “Bug Out” Bag. It’s a must have for a survivalist, or anyone fearing a zombie apocalypse. Filled correctly, it holds everything needed to survive for a minimum of 72 hours in case of forced evacuation. It has seven compartments and comes with a guide that lists all the items necessary to survive a crisis: a water bladder, water filtration system, food, first aid kit, gun…. Our bag even came with a book called “Survive a Crisis.”

As for me, I carried it around for months, in the back of my car, in a box marked photos (the advice given to ensure no one sees and covets your bag). After that, I gave it away. Frankly I can’t see myself hiding out in the woods drinking my own urine out of a water filter.

Next came the publications. The first was a little book, Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life. This book actually made my fight scene in RED SKY. In Spy Secrets, Hanson details how to use your Tactical Pen (see below), which Raisa Jordan did with precision. Thanks to Mr. Hanson, Raisa kicked ass, and so did I. Enough to garner high praise from my editor at Crooked Lane, who said, “You’re incredible at writing action and Jordan really dominates in that last fight.” 

Additional publications included: Survive Like a Spy: Real CIA Operatives Reveal How They Stay Safe in a Dangerous World and How You Can Too, the Covert Guide to Concealed Carry, and Alone and Unafraid: Patriot Defense and Survival Guide. We are ready at the Goff house— and definitely on a watchlist, somewhere.

It didn’t take long for the “weapons” to appear. First there was the Tactical Pen. This is legal protection you can carry anywhere, including onto a plane. I carry mine everywhere, and I’ve used it—to write with. I can’t help but think it would take lots and lots of training to use it for defense.

We also have a lock pick set, a Survival Knife with Built-In Fire Starter, a plastic knife with serrated edges , 2 micro spy tools and a set of throwing knives that came with a DVD to show you how to use them. The Micro Spy Tools are made of plex and “allows you to strike, slash, gouge, and puncture an attacker.” As a trainee at one of Hanson’s training courses said, “I have come to prefer this versus my folding thumb flip knife. I like the size of the grip, the leverage I have when wielding it, and the shear amount of tissue damage I can cause versus my smaller locking blade.” Watchlist, need I say more?

For those of you who may be concerned, I am not the least bit lethal. Still, I can’t help but think it might be fun to take a course at “Spy Ranch.”  Who’s with me?

How far would you go in the name of research?

Don’t Miss a Thing!



  1. Gayle Lynds

    I loved this deep dive into School for Spies, Chris. Wes is a spy in the making, but you're already made. I remember a man I knew always carried his Bug Out backpack everywhere. Soon after meeting, we were having lunch when he excused himself to use the bathroom. For some reason, he didn't take the bag. It still sat on the bench seat near me. I was shocked he'd so such a thing. I looked around, checked the restaurant, saw no reason for concern. So I settled back, kept watch, and waited for him to return. And waited some more. After nearly 30 minutes he strode across the dining room toward me, a big smile on his face. I asked him what had happened. He said he'd been standing out of sight watching me, to see whether I'd go through the bag, walk off with it, or let someone take it. I passed his test, but I ended our budding friendship soon after. Being undercover is stressful, and he was showing too many signs. Then there are the friends to whom I stayed close even when they were going through flashbacks from the field….

  2. Robin Burcell

    Ha! I'd love to go to spy school. Clearly I've been haunting the wrong internet sites! Good news is that when the CIA comes calling, wanting to know what's going on with you, I'll know what to say… 🙂

  3. Chris Goff

    Reminds me of my friend,Janet, whose husband worked on top secret stuff for Martin Marietta. The FBI was doing a random background update and stopping at the neighbors asking questions. Their neighbor engaged the agents at the front door while the wife jumped the back fence and asked, “What don’t you want us to tell them?”

  4. S. Lee Manning

    I'd love to go to take a course at Spy Ranch. I always loved spy stuff – since I was 13 years old. On my list of things to do when I have time and money.

  5. Sonja Stone

    Chris, what a fantastic post! I’ll totally go to spy school with you! And I’m on board with all of Wes’s prep!

  6. Lisa Black

    The Spy Ranch sounds fun, but I can't help feeling absolutely certain that I would make the worst spy like, ever.