Candidate Profile

Espionage & Intelligence
History - Military
World Affairs
Professor Jon A. Wiant is a highly decorated Senior Intelligence Officer and also an award-winning professor of intelligence studies with a background combining advanced academic studies with a distinguished 36 year government career. Wiant served in senior assignments at the Department of State, the White House, the Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency. In 2004, the Director of Central Intelligence decorated Wiant with the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal. He has more than a dozen medals and awards for exceptional work in sensitive intelligence operations. He was awarded the Bronze Star for conducting clandestine intelligence activities in Vietnam 1966 and 1967.

Professor Wiant, a Danforth Graduate Doctoral Fellow at Cornell University, majored in Southeast Asian studies and wrote his dissertation on modern Burmese politics. In retirement, he was Professor of Intelligence History at the National Defense Intelligence College and Adjunct Professor at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs. An articulate and compelling communicator, he has authored more than 50 articles and book chapters and is in frequent demand as a speaker on intelligence and foreign policy subjects.

Not only a highly decorated intelligence warrior and widely published scholar, he is also kind of funny. Described in one Congressional inquiry as “a mix of Alec Guinness and Peter Sellars,” his blend of history and humor has made him one of the highest rated Road Scholar speakers in Washington, DC. Since 2012, the professor has been a guest cruise lecturer. He has been critically described as a gifted storyteller who brings history alive both by his mastery of the subject and his humorous antidotes about his own spy life. He is also a widely recognized authority on spy fiction and has enthralled spy novel enthusiasts on every cruise with his exploration of the relationship of spy fiction to spy reality.

Professor Wiant is a widower with two adult children.

These lectures give the guest an overview of the Secret World of Intelligence, the ways in which we recruit and run spies, and how we engage in covert action to influence our broader national security without revealing the government had behind these activities.

1. “The Not So Secret World of Intelligence” During the Cold War, our national intelligence programs evolve into a multi-dimensional program where we collected information from space systems, aircraft, interception of communications, global espionage, and increasingly sophisticated collection technologies. Professor Wiant explains these various “Ints”, as they are known, and the different kinds of information they can provide to the President, our military, and every other government activity that needs foreign intelligence information.

2. "The Craft of Espionage". Professor Wiant takes you into the world of espionage discussing such basic things as 'what is espionage' to how spies are recruited and the importance of tradecraft in running spies. He discusses how much the spy business has changed since the Cold War and the breaking down of barriers between foreign intelligence and domestic security. Along the way he illustrates with fascinating spy stories, all true -- but not necessarily factual for the 'real secret of our success is the secret of our success'.

3. "Plausible Denial: The Role of Covert Action". Covert action is the contemporary term for all of those things we do to influence diplomatic, political, economic, and military outcomes without acknowledging publicly the role of the US Government. Wiant takes the audience on a tour through the history of covert action from early psychological warfare and propaganda activities to the broad range of paramilitary capabilities that have supported resistance movements to contemporary efforts to counter terrorism on a global scale.

4. “The New World (Dis) Order: The Intelligence War Against Terrorism”. Professor Wiant examines how the growth of terrorism from the 1983 Beirut Embassy bombing and attack on the Marine barracks has evolved into a “War of Terrorism”. He views the 9/11 as a devastating chapter in a story that continues to ISIS terror attacks. 9/11 brought the war to our homeland fundamentally challenging our lives and our sense of security. This bloody conflict has demanded new intelligence resources but it has also threatened long-embraced distinctions between foreign intelligence and domestic security. New collection activities and counterterrorist operations have helped frustrate terrorist but they have often been done at the expenses of the very Constitutional values they seek to protect.

5. Spy Fiction, Spy Reality – Rethinking your Cruise Ship Thriller. Spy novels and ocean cruising seem inseparable. In a lively and opinionated lecture, Professor Wiant awakens the audience to what makes a really good spy story and displays his prejudices against many of the “thrillers” that populate the best seller ranks. at the same time it explores how spy fiction, especially spy films, have created a new intelligence reality. Lots of recommendations for good spy books; I have an annotated bibliography of spy books and spy films. (NB: This could be done in conjunction with the Bond lecture or in lieu of it.)

6. Global Piracy. Whether sailing off the coast of Somalia or Nigeria, or steaming through the Straits of Malacca, maritime commerce and tourism has been significantly threatened by 21st Century pirates. Annual estimates of terrorism costs to the global economy run to the tens of billions of dollars. Professor Wiant focuses on the evolution of piracy from the 17th Century to its modern forms along critical sea lanes around the globe. The lecture also looks at how governments have responded to the threat through expanded intelligence, diplomacy, alliances, and direct action.


1. Birth of a Very Special Relationship: Canada and the United States in World War II. Professor Wiant looks at how the onset of World War II placed Canada’s maritime provinces on the front line of the Battle of the Atlantic. Regional ports became the indispensible link to a Great Britain under Nazi siege. He discusses how the US tip-toed through neutrality restrictions to build intelligence programs to defend against U-Boat attacks. While the FBI worked with the Mounties to root out Nazi spies, the new Office of Strategic Services (OSS) collaborated with the British and Canadians in constructing bases to support special operations, including the little known Chinese-Canadian covert war against the Japanese.

2. Oh, What a Lovely Pond: Pirates, Nazis, Commies, and Drugs and Thugs.Ó We will be sailing through seas that have witnessed smuggling, piracy, two World Wars, the Cold War, narcotics trafficking, alien transport and nearly every other form of criminal activity for the last 500 years. From a national security perspective the Caribbean was a war on the home front. In the Cold War we confronted Communist influence from Cuba to Grenada and shored up some shaky government while plotting to subvert others. Professor Wiant, himself a veteran of counternarcotics operations, looks at the Caribbean as the battleground against smuggling from the days of Prohibition to the latest attempts to bring illegal drugs into the US. Join us for a study of conflict that used to pit rum runners against Coast Guard cutters to contemporary high tech drug wars that involve sophisticated radars, complex smuggling schemes, widespread government corruption and fishing for marijuana groupers.

3. 60 Years of Secret War: The US, Cuba and the Caribbean.” President Obama’s 2014 decision to normalize relations with Cuba ends not only a decades long estrangement but may also end a most intense secret war. From the Eisenhower Administration to the present day, there has been a sub rosa struggle that percolates with espionage and counterespionage, psychological warfare, propaganda campaigns, paramilitary struggles, covert invasions, sabotage, and assassination attempts. Join us for this historical review of a secret war intensely fought by both sides for so long nobody remembers quite why it started and why it involved almost every kind of spook activity imaginable.

4. ŇThe Birth of Bond: Ian Flemming, the Caribbean and 007". James Bond remains the perfect symbol of Cold War intelligence. Everybody has seen Bond movies, many have read James Bond novels. Bond is also very much a product of the Caribbean. Ian Flemming wrote the Bond novels at his Jamaican island home, ŇGoldeneyeÓ and several of BondŐs adventures are set in the Caribbean. This lecture will range widely over the Bond stories, the Bond relationship to Ian FlemmingŐs life, as we sail through BondŐs Caribbean. Along the way we will look at BondŐs place in spy literature and we will ask some questions about BondŐs effect on marketing and branding in the real world of intelligence.


5. OPERATION JUST CAUSE and the Overthrow of Panama’s General Noriega. Professor Wiant explores how our one time ally became a fugitive from US justice and provoked a major US military operation to capture him. This is a fascinating story of how shifting political objectives within the Western Hemisphere ended up in an unexpected conflict threatening even our access to the Panama Canal. Wiant, who was a director of the White House Panama Coordination group at the time, leads you through the thickets of internal US Government policy uncertainty. These and other complications eventually led to a force of more than 28,000 soldiers coming to arrest an accused drug trafficker when the original plan envisioned a quiet exile for the Panamanian strongman.


1. The Cold War: How We Learned to Spy on the Soviets: World War II gave us the computer; the Cold War gave us the satellite…and a lot of other things. Early in the post-War period, our reconnaissance balloons and high-altitude aircraft gave us a perspective on the Soviet geography that no Russian had ever experienced. That changed with the advent of spy satellites, which was just the beginning of a scientific and information revolution that had its genesis in Cold War intelligence. In turn, technology redefined our notions of intelligence and transformed our intelligence agencies into agents of exploration and, at the same time, resulted in the great bureaucratization that is the hallmark of America’s Intelligence Community.

2. Resistance and Collaboration: Scandinavia in World War II: The four Scandinavian countries had significantly different experiences in World War II. The policies of each had consequences not only for the war but also considerable impact on post-War/Cold War relations. Norway opted for a close alliance with Germany, a government in exile, and a fighting resistance. Denmark collaborated in the early years of the war but used the relaxation of German controls to smuggle thousands of Jews to safety. In the last 18 months of the war, Denmark had an active resistance but limited attacks to sabotage. Sweden maintained its neutralism but factions collaborated both with the Allies and with Nazi Germany. Sweden was a major source of raw materials. Finland is the most complicated. It was attacked by the Russians in 1939 (the “Winter War”) and was defeated, only to be “rescued” by the Nazi’s, with whom it allied itself until early 1945 when it engaged in active resistance. At the end of the war, Finland maintained an uneasy independence under a Soviet system of suzerainty.


1. Cousins, There Were Never Such Cousins: The US/UK Special Relationship: Professor Wiant examines the historical and operational complexity of the United State’s intelligence relationships with the United Kingdom going back to World War I. Wiant explains how the World War II alliance rapidly developed all sorts of intelligence capabilities from press monitoring to intercepting Axis communications. This provided a semi-solid foundation for collaboration throughout the Cold War and into the contemporary war on terrorism. Some spectators question whether these intelligence services have closer relations with each other than with their own governments. Professor Wiant teases out problematic areas and concludes with his speculation how BREXIT and the Trump election might affect this so special relationship.

2. Operation Mincemeat – The Man Who Never Was. The lecture will explore this classic World War II deception operation staged off Portugal with the objective of convincing the German High Command that we were not going to attack Sicily. (NB: We could tie in with an evening showing of “The Man Who Never Was”, a classic 1956 film on the operation.

3. Lisbon and Madrid – Spy Centers of Europe. Spanish and Portugal neutrality provided a sub-rosa stage where allied and German intelligence services played against each other with the Spanish and Portuguese sort of refereeing how much heavy play was allowed. There are a couple of really good spy novel tie-ins.


1. Learning to Play in the Pond: This lecture explores the evolution of the United States’ national security policy in the Med from the November 1942 Operation Torch in North Africa, support for resistance movements in Italy, Greece and the Balkans, to eventually replacing Great Britain as the key Western player in the Pond. Discusses contemporary security chaqllenges including terrorism, refugee flows, and alliances.

2. Lisbon and Madrid: Spy Centers of Europe. Spanish and Portugal neutrality provided a sub-rosa stage where allied and German intelligence services played against each other with the Spanish and Portuguese sort of refereeing how much heavy play was allowed. Explores the lasting influences of World War II 's "Wolfram War". Examines the authoritarian politics of Franco and Salazar and speculates on the depths of authoritarian and nationalist sentiments in the current democracies.

3. Revisiting the Guns of Navarone. Alistair MacLean's World War II novel (and the box office breaking movie that followed) is built on British efforts to occupy Italy’s islands in the Eastern Med following Italy’s 1943 surrender to the Allies. While US questioned strategic interests in the region, Churchill pressed to take the war to the Germans. It was a costly campaign waged boldly by the Royal Navy and British special forces. The lecture highlights the Special Boat Squadrons bloody battle with far superior forces.

4. Spy Center Morocco. Casablanca and Rabat were key clandestine nodes in preparation for the November 43 Allied Operation torch, the invasion of North Africa. In some places we were welcomed but generally Vichy French aggressively resisted the Allied, especially the Brits. Along the way Vichy

5. The Bloody Adriatic. Historically, the Adriatic Sea has been a strategic route into the heart of southern Europe. It is a geography of conflict. Our lecture looks at the importance of various places we will visit in the context of World War II -- support for Yugoslavia’s Tito and his partisan campaign – and as an early Cold War battleground where British and US intelligence services supported a disastrous covert attack against Albania.

6. Balkan Civil Wars – Yesterday’s Enemies: From the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian empire in the late 19th Century to the fragmentation of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, power has broken along ethnic and religious divides with a seemingly endless series of bloody conflicts each centered around efforts to restore old kingdoms into modern states. Intelligence services of all stripes have worked covertly to strengthen clients and weaken enemies. Shifting coalitions, however, have made for the strangest of bed partners.
2017 Viking Sea South America and the Caribbean
2017 Viking Star Viking Homelands
2016 Queen Victoria - Caribbean, Panama Canal, Guatemala
2015 Azamara Quest - Greece, Rhodes, Turkey, Cyprus, Oman, and Dubai

Prairie Home Companion Annual Cruise/Holland America:
2015 APHC Cruise – The Caribbean
2014 APHC Cruise - 10 Baltic Ports
2012 APHC Cruise - Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Morocco
2012 Crystal Symphony - Argentina, Brazil, and Caribbean
The following recent Cruise History has been recorded for this candidate.
Viking Star ST220726 Viking Homelands 14 Bergen Tuesday, July 26, 2022
Viking Star ST220712 Viking Homelands 14 Stockholm Tuesday, July 12, 2022
Viking Venus VE210724 Malta & Adriatic Jewels 10 Valletta Saturday, July 24, 2021
Viking Venus VE210714 Malta & Adriatic Jewels 10 Valletta Wednesday, July 14, 2021
Viking Sky SK191204 Western Mediterranean Explorer 12 Civitavecchia (for Rome) Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Viking Star ST190829 Mediterranean Odyssey 12 Barcelona Thursday, August 29, 2019
Viking Sea SE190425 Viking Homelands 14 Bergen Thursday, April 25, 2019
Viking Sea SE190411 Trade Routes of the Middle Ages 14 Barcelona Thursday, April 11, 2019
Viking Sun SU190103 World Cruise 2019 Sector 1 22 Miami, Florida Thursday, January 3, 2019
Viking Orion OR181118 Bangkok, Bali & Beyond 12 Bangkok (from Laem Chabang) Sunday, November 18, 2018
Viking Star ST180616 Trade Routes of the Middle Ages 14 Barcelona Saturday, June 16, 2018
Viking Sea SE171116 South America and the Caribbean 10 San Juan Thursday, November 16, 2017
Viking Star ST170715 Viking Homelands 14 Stockholm Saturday, July 15, 2017