Black Man in the CIA

Title:                      Black Man in the CIA

Author:                 Leutrell M. Osborne

Osborne, Leutrell M. (2012). Black Man in the CIA. Temple, TX?: Jongleur Music Book Publishing

OCLC:    794241276

E 540


Date Updated:      February 22, 2017

Reviewed by Hayden Peake.[1]

Leutrell Osborne began his CIA career as a still photographer, paygrade G-3, in October 1957. (pp. 19, 23) He left the Agency in 1984 as a GS-12 operations officer. (p. 140) Black Man in the CIA tells the story of his upbringing and his adventures in the Agency.

Osborne describes himself as “a light-skinned black man” (p. 31) and the illegitimate son of a mother who worked for the CIA at the National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC). He writes that he had wanted to be a “spy manager” since he was 12. (p. 1) Osborne got married and joined the Agency right out of high school. By 1963 he was working in the European Branch mail room and had decided he wanted to become a case officer. With the support of several supervisors, he completed operations training in 1969, (p. 72) before he graduated from college. After refusing a tour in Vietnam (p. 91) and declining to have anything to do with covert action {pp. 85-8), Osborne was assigned overseas, where he describes recruiting agents. He also had various assignments at Headquarters, including counterintelligence, counterterrorism, the Office of Equal Opportunity, and Communications Security (COMSEC). He returned to the Directorate of Operations for his final tour working on Libyan matters.

In Black Man in the CIA, Osborne views the Agency through an African-American’s eyes and is candid in describing what his race meant to his career. For example, during his first assignment as a case officer, he·”encountered some serious discrimination from …the Chief of Station … [who] had a profound impact on [his) career … making [him] stay in grade for eleven years.” (pp. 99-102) But in spite of this atmosphere, he says he “achieved significant accomplishments as a Case Officer in Latin America.” (p. 110) Yet these problems persisted, as he notes, when he was assigned to COMSEC duties and his “superior, Red Neck, was determined to cast aspersions on [his] work.” With regard to his final assignment, he writes that “there were some serious mistakes made by the Division. It seemed clear I was being set up to take the fall….” (p. 134)

Despite all of these difficulties, Osborne concludes that in 26 years with the CIA, “I achieved my dream as a CIA spy manager.” (p. 142)

During the 25 years since he left the Agency, Osborne writes, “I have increased my core competency talents, knowing I can lead both the Central Intelligence and the National Security Agencies … toward better solutions.” (p. 144) Black Man in the CIA might serve as an inspiration to others with childhood dreams of intelligence service.

[1] Hayden Peake is a frequent reviewer of books on intelligence and this review appeared in The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies (19, 1, Winter/Spring, 2013, p. 123). Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Di recto rate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence. These and many other reviews and articles may be found on line at This review at

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