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A State of Mind: Faith and the CIA

| May 28, 2020

A State of Mind: Faith and the CIA book cover


The search to resolve the tensions between the values of faith and society, of religion and secularity, can be a lonely quest. In course of our daily interaction with people, it is natural to shy away from discussing such sensitive subjects. We tend to hold such matters close to our hearts, and therefore hidden. That is the forbidden conversation I hope to have with you, my reader. It is intended for all those who seek a reconciliation between truth and expediency, who are trying to choose between idealism and cynicism, who are conflicted about doing right versus wrong, or doing nothing.


A State of Mind: Faith and the CIA" is a memoir. It is also a journey of faith. The meaning of the West Point honor code - "duty, honor, country" is tested by real world experiences in intelligence. During the Cold War, the unforgiving craft of handling and recruiting spies would challenge anyone's moral fiber. Manipulation and betrayal are part and parcel of catching men's souls. It didn't seem possible that the moral stakes could be raised any higher, but the 9/11/2001 terrorist attack forced a fundamental reassessment of CIA's purpose and mission - what we had to do and how far we had to go to safeguard a nation. I discovered that my faith was an even more critical element of responding to this challenge than the wisdom gained through experience. A reluctant witness to history was compelled to answer the call from a higher authority. In so doing, the duties and responsibilities of a CIA officer were reconciled with the faith and obligations between an individual and God. It is a hopeful, optimistic story of the unity of what is secular and what is sacred in life.

About the author

Rolf Mowatt-Larssen is a Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Before coming to Harvard in 2009, he served for three years as the Director of Intelligence and Counterintelligence at the U.S. Department of Energy. Prior to this, he served for 23 years as a CIA intelligence officer in various domestic and international posts, including Chief of the Europe Division in the Directorate of Operations, Chief of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Department, Counterterrorist Center, and Deputy Associate Director of Central Intelligence for Military Support. Prior to his career in intelligence, Rolf served as an officer in the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York. He is married to Rosie. Born a Lutheran to Norwegian parents, Rolf culminated his journey of faith by converting to Catholicism in Amman, Jordan, in 2013. After many assignments in Europe and the Middle East, spanning five decades of service to country, Rolf and Rosie returned to the U.S. for good in 2016.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Mowatt-Larssen, Rolf. A State of Mind: Faith and the CIA. BookBaby, 2020.

The Author