Does the CIA have a double standard when its spies cozy up to foreigners? Veteran female officers speak out.
It was in Europe that Griffith's trouble began. In the anxious days after 9/11, she was teamed with an intelligence officer from a close U.S. ally. Their job was liaisonexchanging information and making sure their respective agencies had the latest intel on terrorism. "We became good friends," Griffith says. "He came to our house, he knew our kids, we socialized. We were very close."
Too close, according to the CIA. After returning to headquarters in 2003, Griffith found herself under investigation by the Security Centereven though the relationship had been short term and ended months earlier. Griffith tells of how, during a particularly grueling interrogation session, the polygraph operator boasted that he had nailed the FBI's Robert Hanssen, the infamous KGB mole, and then accused her of revealing secrets. It seemed absurd to Griffith, as sharing intelligence was part of her job. After hours of questioning, Griffith recalls, her interrogator shut off the polygraph and asked if she had ever shared information about embassy staffers. Of course she had, she saysher contact was interacting with them all the time. "Is that what's bothering you?" he asked. "Well, yes," Griffith responded, not sure what he meant. "Well," he declared, "that's the end of the interview."
Griffith claims the man misinterpreted her remarks as an admission of guilt. The next day she got a call from the Security Office asking her to stop by. There, a large woman at a round table pushed a box of tissues toward her and asked for her badge. After a 19-year career, Griffith was out of a job. Today, Griffith is a homemaker in Florida, where she looks after her two kids. She still can't believe what happened. "I know a half-dozen cases of guys who became close to foreign nationals," she says. "All these men have been far less candid than I was, but they're still at work over there."
To bolster their case, Griffith and the other women have assembled an intriguing list of male officers who they say have led rather colorful lives, with few repercussions. Topping the list is "Rusty" (another alias). According to a plaintiffs' filing to the EEOC, Rusty was a case officer with a background in paramilitary operations. He got involved with a foreign airline stewardess and, while based in "a dangerous Middle East country, went awol." Eventually, he turned up somewhere in the Middle Eaststewardess in towafter allegedly having broken his cover and revealing his alias. Rusty's overseas tour was cut short, but he soon received approval to marry the woman. His position now, according to the EEOC brief: chief of station at one of the CIA's largest posts overseas.
There are many Rustys out there, CIA veterans say. The problem, they explain, is that Rusty and his brethren come out of a long-standing tradition. Historically, the prestige jobs of station chief have gone mostly to men, some of whom engaged in escapades that many a retired old spook will launch into after a cocktail or two. More than one former case officer told U.S. News how staffers used agency safe houses for affairscomplete with condoms stashed in dresser drawers. "Guys could go out and get laid, and who's going to talk about that?" says veteran officer Milt Bearden, who started in 1964. "Guys couldn't get pregnant, and there were fewer marriages then with foreigners."