Netflix’s The Business of Drugs tracks the economics of the international narcotics trade.
The series is hosted by former CIA operative Amaryllis Fox.
Fox worked for the agency for almost a decade undercover as an art dealer.
Longer than the nearly two-decades long War on Terror, notes Amaryllis Fox—host of Netflix’s newest documentary series, The Business of Drugs—is the War on Drugs (declared by Richard Nixon in 1971).
And what’s been profitable for syndicates and cartels is also profitable for television and Netflix, which has an almost-unending queue of narcotics-based documentaries: Dope, Drug Lords, Inside the Real Narcos, the practically celebratory Have a Good Trip, the list goes on.
Helping us navigate this series of drug investigations is Fox, who introduces herself and her career:
“I grew up all over the world, because my dad was an economist who focussed on developing economies. And then I wound up doing my undergrad at Oxford University focused on international law. It was my last year there that 9/11 happened, and it completely shattered my universe. I wanted to understand what caused it and how it could have happened. So I set about writing an algorithm that took historical data and processed it to predict the next attack. And it got the attention of the CIA. And I worked with them for almost a decade as a field operative, keeping WMDs out of the hands of non-state actors, terror groups like Al-Qaeda and their affiliates around the world.”
Fox worked primarily on weapons. That algorithm she described used a variety of metrics to identify hotbeds for terrorist activity—a “ratio of hookah bars to madrases and portage beneath livable wage a border guard gets paid,” Fox told the New York Times in an interview for her novel, Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA. She was recruited by the agency at 22.
For eight years, Fox posed as an art dealer abroad, recruiting assets for the CIA and helping prevent terror groups from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. (For a separate operation in Shanghai, Fox writes, she and her husband allowed themselves to be surveilled by the Chinese government while the CIA also watched; the CIA was spying on the spies.)
Fox left the agency in 2010. She now lives in Los Angeles with her daughter from a previous marriage; her now-husband is Robert F. Kennedy III, son of Robert Kennedy Jr. (the two met at Burning Man).
Fox’s book is currently being adopted into a an Apple TV series starring Brie Larson. There is no release date yet.
The book met some criticism, however, when former intelligence officers questioned some of Fox’s accounts (of course, Fox had to change details to protect sensitive information, an editorial decision she says accounts for any discrepancies.)
Since leaving the agency, Fox has covered current events, appearing on news outlets like CNN, Al Jazeera, and the BBC. She also co-hosted American Ripper on the History Channel.
Fox said she shot most of the Netflix series while in her third trimester of pregnancy; she gave birth in January 2019.
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