This isn’t something many people think about. Analysts are overt, which means they openly work for CIA, but they work closely with many people, including “spies” who were undercover. When you work closely with people, you can often get to know each other well and become friends.

But what happens when you, an overt analyst, go to your favorite bar or restaurant and see your friend, who is undercover?

Only in the world of The Real Jack Ryan!

Normally, if you see a friend when you’re out, you are excited to say hello to them. But nothing about CIA life is normal!

Because I was overt, many people knew I worked at CIA. If someone overt, like me, talks to someone who undercover in public, that could blow their cover.

Maybe this undercover person says they “work for another part of the government” or that they do something completely different. But still, if I ran up and say hello to my undercover friend in public, it would raise the question, “Why is this person talking to a CIA officer?”

The general protocol, believe it or not, is that when an overt analyst like me sees an undercover friend in public, I am supposed to ignore him or her, to preserve their cover. If the person undercover talks to me, then it’s fine. It’s up to them, if they want to risk their cover. But that’s their decision, not mine.

Can you imagine seeing a work friend when you’re out, being excited to say hello, and having to act like you don’t know them?