Tracy Walder
Former CIA Officer and FBI Agent

When Tracy Walder enrolled at the University of Southern California, she never thought that one day she would offer her pink beanbag chair in the Delta Gamma house to a CIA recruiter, or that she’d fly to the Middle East under an alias identity. Her debut memoir, The Unexpected Spy (February 2020 release),  is the riveting story of her tenure in the CIA and the FBI that has already received a Starred Review from Publishers Weekly. A compelling and well-written memoir, Tracy Walder and The Unexpected Spy will inspire generations of young women to come.


Tracy worked as Staff Operations Officer (SOO) at the Central Intelligence Agency’s Counterterrorism Center Weapons of Mass Destruction Group. During her time at the CIA, Tracy traveled to war zones, black sites, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. During her time in Afghanistan, Tracy received many awards for her service from both the CIA and foreign intelligence offices. Among her awards were four Exceptional Performance Awards from the Director of the CIA, two Special Activity Awards, a Meritorious Unit Citation Award, a DCI Counterterrorism Center Medal, and two Operation Enduring Freedom Targeting Awards.


After the CIA, Tracy became a Special Agent at the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, specializing in Chinese counterintelligence operations. During her time at the FBI, Tracy conducted arrests and worked with various squads in her field office, such as cyber crime, fraud, and the Mexican mafia. Tracy is one of very few women to have worked on the operational sides of both the CIA and the FBI.


Following her time at the CIA and FBI, Tracy enrolled in both a master’s and a teaching credential program, receiving the award for student of the year. Tracy began teaching high school history in 2007. Currently she teaches AP US History, AP Comparative Government, and a self-created course on espionage and foreign affairs at an all-girls school in Dallas, Texas, where she recently received the honor of teacher of the year.


Tracy has done a TED talk and is a sought-after public speaker throughout Dallas and the Dallas World Affairs Council. She has given many talks throughout Texas, ranging from national security, foreign policy, the role of women in law enforcement and special operations communities, and education. Tracy earned her degree in history from the University of Southern California and her Master’s in Education from Chapman University.

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The Unexpected SpyFrom the CIA to the FBI, My Secret Life Taking Down Some of the World’s Most Notorious Terrorists
St. Martin's Press

When Tracy Walder enrolled at the University of Southern California, she never thought that one day she would offer her pink beanbag chair in the Delta Gamma house to a CIA recruiter, or that she’d fly to the Middle East under an alias identity. The Unexpected Spy is the riveting story of Walder's tenure in the CIA and, later, the FBI.

Understanding the Role That Failed States Play in the Perpetuation of Terrorism Tracy takes the audience through a “walk” of failed states (Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, etc.) and shows them the new terrorist groups that emerged from each.
No One Cares What You Have to Say: Understanding the True Role of Electronic Surveillance in the 21st Century Tracy provides the audience with information as to how signals intelligence is really used and why the government cannot possibly listen to every conversation. She also discusses Chinese espionage (from her time at the FBI) and how they are particularly engaging in the theft of intellectual property rather than spying in the classical sense.
Armed, Pink, and Blonde: Why Society Has a Difficult Time Accepting the Dichotomy of Femininity and Special Ops Tracy discusses why, during her time both at the FBI academy and then as an agent, she was constantly told to act more masculine despite passing all her tests and being the only woman in her class not to fail out.
Why a Former FBI Agent and CIA Officer Does Not Think Teachers Should Be Armed Tracy helps the audience understand that arming teachers is far more than training them how to shoot a gun. That is the easy part. Situational awareness is the driving factor as to whether someone will use a gun in a violent situation. This training takes years, and most people cannot complete it.
The Real Roots of Al Qaida
Why Not? How a One-Word Question Can Hold Us Back From Achieving Our Full Potential

The Unexpected Spy receives a STARRED REVIEW from Publishers Weekly.

Check out this review from Kirkus Reviews on The Unexpected Spy.

NPR’s interview with Tracy on her forthcoming 2020 memoir The Unexpected Spy.

Deadline wrote about Tracy Walder’s story being turned into a television show.

VoyageDallas interviewed Tracy Walder about her life.

Follow Tracy Walder on Twitter and check out her personal website.

"Some of the standout speakers included Tracy Walder, a former CIA/FBI counter-terrorism agent turned high school history teacher. She used her unusual career path to illustrate the importance of living an authentic life and not being held back by 'why.'"
-KERA, PBS, NPR of North Texas from TEDx2012

"Girl Up is a global movement of empowered young women leaders who defend gender equality. Through leadership development training, Girl Up gives girls the resources and platform to start a movement for social change wherever they are. Tracy is an inspiration to girls across the globe. She is the living example of what girls and women can do when they don’t take no for an answer."
–Katherine K., staff leader at North Texas Girl Up Summit 2019

Praise for North Texas High School International Career Day "I loved listening to the session led by Mrs. Tracy Walder! She was so informative and fun to listen to. It was very interesting to see the impact all the speakers have made in our DFW community."

"Mrs. Tracy Walder was my favorite speaker. Her topic intrigued me and her personality made her so much fun to listen to!"

"Tracy Walder was my favorite. I identified with her experiences as a woman in a male dominated field, and I appreciated her use of ‘Day in the Life’ descriptions to expand upon what her job entailed."

"I liked the CIA and FBI lady; her story was just very interesting and her personality is infectious."

"Before today, I didn't think that as a female, this was something that I could pursue as a career, and if you told me I could change someone's life I would not have believed you— but now, I can see how much I can actually do in the world with my passion of humanitarianism, as well as my creativity!"

Praise for the Unexpected Spy "Walder spins a thrilling tale in her debut memoir of her life in the CIA and FBI. [Her] fast-paced and intense narrative opens a window into life in two of America’s major intelligence agencies."
-Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

"In this debut memoir, Walder brings a you-are-there intimacy to her accounts."
-Kirkus Reviews

"With coauthor [Jessica Anya] Blau, [Tracy] Walder has created a well-written, engaging memoir, a serious and candid inside view of two enigmatic and significant institutions from a woman's perspective, and a powerful tool for Walder’s hoped-for 'revolution.'"

"Tracy Walder's The Unxpected Spy is an engaging and thoughtful story of service that will inspire generations of young women to come. Tracy's story is particularly moving because it provides a candid but often untold account of the challenges of serving one's nation amid tumultuous times. As a woman in national security, Tracy offers a glimpse into the rewards and risks of actualizing a dream in a male-dominated space."
—Lauren Bean Buitta, Founder, Girl Security

"Wow! I thoroughly enjoyed Tracy Walder's unique perspective; it will be inspiring to so many, especially young women with an interest in national security. I couldn't help but compare it to some of my own experiences in the CIA, particularly her exhaustion working counterterrorism, her sense of betrayal in war time, and her feelings of responsibility after a large-scale attack. I admire Walder's ability to channel those challenges into a positive force. A force for change."
—Sarah M. Carlson, Former CIA officer and author of In The Dark Of War

"The Unexpected Spy will get wide attention, and deserves it. It will give readers a different, more vivid, and more human idea of the actual work of spying, counter-intelligence, and dealing with terrorism. It will be especially important to young women who are considering this kind of career."
—James Fallows at The Atlantic, author of Blind Into Baghdad

"Tracy Walder has a unique combination of immense courage along with compassion and humanity... This book will be an inspiration to anyone who picks it up."
—Ellen Pompeo, actress, director, producer

"A compelling and well-written memoir that takes the reader on a journey from the CIA's 'Farm' and its 'black sites' to the FBI's training academy."
—Peter Bergen, author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad