I Was Never Here
My True Canadian Spy Story of Coffees, Code Names and Covert Operations in the Age of Terrorism
An ex-spy lifts the lid on life in the secret service
Andrew Kirsch didn’t grow up watching spy movies, or dreaming about being a real-life James Bond. He was hardly aware that Canada even had its own intelligence service—let alone knew what its officers did. But when a terrorist attack occurred near the office of his financial services job, all of a sudden fighting terrorism meant a lot more to him than the markets. Within 18 months he had landed a job with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)—where he spent the next decade of his life.
In I Was Never Here, Kirsch (now an in-demand security consultant) spills the secrets of what life as an intelligence officer is really like, and dispels a few myths along the way. With humour, honesty, and candour, Kirsch shares his on-the-ground experience (or as much of it as he’s allowed to) of becoming a member of CSIS: from his vetting and training, to his initial desk job as a policy analyst, to his rise up the ranks to leading covert special operations missions. If you’ve ever wondered whether spies can have real dating lives, how they handle family responsibilities, or how they come up with cover stories or aliases, you’re in luck.
From the time he tried to get the code names “Burgundy” and “Anchorman” assigned to human sources (with no luck), to the night a covert operation was almost thwarted by a flyer delivery man, Kirsch takes you behind the scenes with an authentic view of Canada’s spy agency, and the intricate intelligence-sharing apparatus that works day and night to keep us safe. I Was Never Here is also a testament to one man’s drive to serve his country, and the sacrifices, big and small, that he made along the way.
“An honest account of the challenge of keeping a country safe from terrorism, while trying to live a normal life. Andrew Kirsch delivers the harsh truth about being a spy in Canada, a country where there are many cloaks, but very few daggers.”
“They call them ‘secret services’ for a reason. We know almost nothing about them. But in I Was Never Here, former spy Andrew Kirsch peels back some of the mystery of CSIS, with first-hand knowledge, from the bumbles and stumbles of training to the intrigue of tracking Al Qaeda.”
“Canadians know very little about CSIS and what they think they know is most probably wrong. Thanks to Andrew Kirsch they no longer have any excuses. In this memoir of his years at CSIS, Andrew shows us how the organization works as well as the highs (and lows) of a position in national security in Canada. The chapters on special ops are particularly riveting as Andrew gives us a rarely seen insider view of how these actions really happen (hint: they are nothing like what we see in James Bond films!). Readers will not be able to put this book down as they finally learn what our protectors do for us and why it is so important. I highly recommend Andrew’s book to anyone with an interest in Canadian national security.”
“A must-read for anyone interested in looking behind the Canadian spy agency’s curtain of boring, procedural tasks. Andrew [REDACTED] engages with patriotic members of the public and undertakes high-risk projects—all while trying to balance life and love. Andrew does a superb job of peeling back the layers of national security considerations, while chasing terrorist targets from the warm confines of an office bullpen to the cold comfort of the back of a covert operations van.”
$30.00 CAD • $26.00 USD
Published March 1, 2022