CIA Agents Sleep Around All The Time, Says Ex-Spook

James Bond

Photo: The Internet Movie Database

Your boss is caught in the act of “going at it” with a junior colleague, and it’s perfectly acceptable.That’s the espionage division of the CIA, according to former clandestine operations officer Reuel Marc Gerecht, who wrote a piece for The New Republic. For Gerecht, espionage is a loose culture, populated by “bottom feeders,” and is better left alone if America wants good intelligence.

From the piece:

When I was in the agency, my colleagues were amused, occasionally disappointed, but never shocked when married officers were discovered cavorting with their secretaries or other co-workers at the office, in parking lots, hotels, and safe-houses—which, of course, are not supposed to be used for trysts. Case officers could get into trouble if their passions led them to keep foreign mistresses no one knew about. The agency maintained an important rule requiring employees to report continuing, meaningful romantic contact.

Historically speaking, Gerecht says, extramarital affairs aren’t used as “leverage” against agents. If so, the Russians would have “riddled the Agency” with holes and exploitations.

Generally, Gerecht says, as long as agents are forthcoming with their colleagues, infidelity is not frowned upon — except, of course, in the case of lasting relationships with foreigners.

“Leave punishment for wayward officers to their husbands and wives,” Gerecht writes indicating the Agency’s generally acceptable stance toward the behaviour.

David Patraeus looks over his shoulder

Photo: AP Photo/Chris O’Meara

But then there’s David Petraeus:The drama surrounding David Petraeus’s extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell could change all that. Ever since the agency director’s resignation, a small army of pundits has taken to the airwaves, warning that infidelity could be exploited by foreign intelligence services and used against American officials.

We here at BI Military and defence were part of that army:

The moment General Petraeus put himself into a position where his private behaviour became something he needed to hide from the public — as stated in his resignation letter — he essentially put national security at risk. It’s exactly the type of compromise which would put any government worker at immediate risk of losing a Top Secret clearance.

Granted our understanding of security clearances and punishment stems from the military, where adultery is a punishable offence (along the lines of a misdemeanour). Furthermore, Pateaus was a spook in that he worked for the CIA, but he wasn’t really a spook.

He was a career military man with a background in military special operations.

From Gerecht: 

Unlike the U.S. military post-Vietnam, where senior officers are supposed to be moral role models, the CIA—that is, the Clandestine Service, the engine room of espionage and covert action that has always defined the agency’s ethos—has been much more relaxed about these things.

JFK and Marilyn Monroe.

Photo: via Wikimedia

It’s easy to believe that romance, and short meaningless flings, are as much a part of espionage as tiny cameras. This isn’t espionage though. This is a head of state. Not just post-Vietnam, but post-Lewinsky.Following Petraeus’ resignation, New York Times reporter Stephen Kinzler wrote an outstanding piece on former CIA head Allen Dulles, who had at least “a hundred” affairs between 1953 to 1961. Consequently, the narrative of Mad Men begins just after Dulles’ retirement — relatively speaking, we can’t possibly compare acceptable behaviour in the workplace between these two periods (if so, I’d be smoking while I write this).

Washington Post writer Olga Khazan notes that very few security clearances have been revoked due to sexual behaviour, mostly for criminal sexual misconduct and criminal records. Sexual trysts rarely justified suspending security clearance, she reports, as long as the trists are “fully mitigated by ‘passage of time without recurrence’ and the absence of any susceptibility to blackmail or coercion.” 

david petraeus paula broadwell plane

Photo: CSM Marvin L. Hill

CNN talked to an unnamed official who said the FBI investigated Petraeus initially “to see if this relationship posed a potential security risk” — adding that there was no criminal wrongdoing, they just feared he might be “in a vulnerable spot.”And recently, the folks at SOFREP, a website run by and for the special operations community, reported in their e-book that people within the Agency wanted Petraeus out, and that they threatened to ruin him politically if he didn’t step down.

Gerecht at least gives some indication of this risk:

The agency maintained an important rule requiring employees to report continuing, meaningful romantic contact. But there was a fair amount of flexibility built in—since operatives, not a sentimental lot, could keep a bed partner for some time and truthfully say that their lovers really didn’t mean all that much to them.


The CIA’s espionage division is one thing, being a spy with a cover or a case officer in a foreign land, sure that’s understandable — it’s not just human, it’s secretive information gathering. But infidelity in the workplace, especially if that workplace is in the military or in intelligence, handling Top Secret materials, or if you’re a head of a clandestine agency, very much in the public eye, may be another.

Which would explain the Agency’s rule of always disclosing an intramural relationship.

Gerecht cites numerous examples of why Americans betray their country — greed, ideology, etc. — and says it’s unlikely to happen over a lover. Furthermore, he asks the nation not to set the FBI on more agents. After all, according to Gerecht, having espionage agents with loose morals makes for a stronger America.

From the piece:

Unlike soldiers, who have each other’s backs in battle, case officers build on both trust and deceit. And they work in a promotion system that often rewards intellectually dishonest operatives for making a mediocre new recruit seem like solid gold. This sort of thing tends to make officers jaded pretty quickly. Historically, prudes have rarely done well in the institution.

Gerecht’s piece in The New Republic is truly awesome, please go read it for yourself. It’s a window into a world most don’t get to see.

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