Alta man recalls life as a CIA ‘observer’ |

Alta man recalls life as a CIA ‘observer’

Editor’s note: Alta resident James Waste captures three decades of adventures working as a covert observer for the CIA in his recently released book, “Don’t Shoot the Ice Cream Man.”

The book is available at the Book Seller at 105 Mill St., Grass Valley. Waste will sign copies of his book on Sunday, Sept. 26, at Borders Books on Douglas Boulevard, Roseville.

Waste worked first behind the Iron Curtain and later along the ancient Silk Road of Central Asia.

At the height of the Cold War, two men in dark suits and sunglasses walked into the San Francisco antique store I h ad opened after a successful international career with Bechtel Inc. They asked me to serve as an observer for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

I accepted on the spot. Over the course of the next three decades, I reported to the agency both as a case officer and as an independent contractor.

From the mangled hulk of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, to the violent ungoverned reaches of Tajikistan, to the Tbilisi office of former Soviet foreign minister and Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze, my memoir of that time, “Don’t Shoot the Ice Cream Man,” combines first-hand experiences with a compelling behind-the-scenes portrait of a changing world.

I was born in Berkeley, Calif., a third-generation Californian. I played football and rugby at UC Berkeley, graduating with a degree in business administration.

During my 20-year career with Bechtel, I worked as a field construction engineer and project manager on major power plants, refineries, and pipelines in the United States and abroad.

My wife, Marilyn, and I raised five children and live in Alta, Calif.

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