Does the CIA have a double standard when its spies cozy up to foreigners? Veteran female officers speak out.
Heartbroken, she returned to New York for home leave. "I said to myself, if he contacts me, I'll respond," she recalls. It took only a day. On her return was an E-mail from himwanting to come visit. "We were really in love," she says.
It was the summer of 2002. As Norris tells it, days after her lover's arrival, they traveled to Washington, and she reported everything to the chief of counterintelligence in her division. "This stuff happens all the time," the man reassured her. With an otherwise spotless record, Norris figured she'd probably just get a letter of reprimandthat's what happened to the men she'd heard about. But in October, the agency's Counterintelligence Center called and said the matter had been reviewed; Norris would need to end the relationship after all. The officials were adamant. "There's no working with you on this," one told her. Forced to choose between love and the CIA, Norris reluctantly picked her career. She even had to run her excuse for breaking up by the counterintelligence people. But her lover kept calling and writing, prompting Norris to change her phone number and block his E-mail.
Secret panel. Still, it wasn't enough for the CIA's Security Office, which launched a formal investigation. Officials there grilled Norris for hours on a polygraph machine, asking if she'd disclosed classified information. Then they told her that she had failed the test and referred the matter to the FBI. She let investigators into her house and allowed them to download everything on her home computer.
Norris's case dragged on for another year. By then she had become one of a precious few at the CIA fluent in Arabic and was hoping for a promised next assignment to the Middle East. Her relationship had been over for two years, and the FBI, she says, had cleared her. But then came word that a Personnel Evaluation Boarda secret panel dominated by counterintelligence and security officerswas examining her case. The board found her "insubordinate"for seeing her lover againand voted to fire her. Norris was never allowed to meet with the board. "I was shocked," she says. "Shocked wasn't even the word. I did everything right, and I still got screwed." Security officials took away her badge and escorted her off the grounds. "I was told not to talk to anyone or I'd go to jail," she recalls. Higher-ups even suggested she leave Washington.
Norris, now 34, has stayed in the nation's capital, where she works with a prominent think tank. She remains bitter about her experience. "Why did I break up with this guy when none of it mattered?" she asks. "There's no happy ending. I lost him, and I lost my job."
The CIA has been down this road before. In 1995, the agency paid out nearly $1 million to over 400 women in an earlier class action case involving sex discrimination. The complaints back then: lack of promotion, harassment on the job, dead-end assignments. Months before that settlement, the agency handed $410,000 more to one of its most senior female officers, Janine Brookneralso for sex discrimination. A 24-year CIA veteran, Brookner was a rising star at the agency until she became its first female chief of station in Latin America. Agency investigations, relying on staffers she had disciplined for wife-beating and drunkenness, smeared her as a lush and sexual provocateur.