Does the CIA have a double standard when its spies cozy up to foreigners? Veteran female officers speak out.
That, indeed, is the biggest problem with the women's EEOC case today, argue those close to the agency. "If a CIA officer has a romantic relationship with a foreigner and is honest and forthright about it, that's one thing," explains a knowledgeable source. "If an agency officer continues the relationship after being told to end it, is disingenuous, or conceals it altogether, that's another thing. It's a different matter altogether if an agency officer is having a romantic relationship with his or her recruited agent or with someone recruited from a foreign intelligence service. The counterintelligence and ethical concerns raised by either of these are obvious and serious."
Security concerns aside, the women's case falls short of the standards required for it to be certified a class action, the CIA has argued before the EEOC. The agency has scoured its records going back to 1995, officials say, and found only four women forced to leave, at least in part, because of unauthorized contact with foreigners. But that's not how it works, say the women U.S. News interviewed. Most are pushed out, they claim, on other charges. Words like unsuitability, lack of candor, insubordination, and security violations fill their personnel filesall because, they say, of their having flings and friendships that male officers routinely enjoyed. The impact is far-reaching: not only is one's career over at the CIA, but within all of U.S. intelligence. Security clearances are revoked, and the person is in effect blacklisted from work at the Pentagon, the FBI, or other agencies that do classified work. That's why key among the lawsuit's demands is expunging of their files. "It means more than money to the women," says Brookner.
By summer this year, an administrative judge at the EEOC's Washington field office will decide whether Norris, Griffith, and the others will get their day in court. If their class action suit goes forwardand if the CIA's personnel records indeed show a pattern of biasthe agency may well move to settle out of court. And if the case fails, the women say they at least will have shone some needed light on one of the darker corners of the CIA.
With Monica M. Ekman