View Full Version : Love On The Job, CIA Style

07-12-2007, 12:30 PM
Love on the Job, CIA Style
Female CIA Officers Say They Faced Retaliation for Love Affairs Abroad


July 11, 2007

They work in the shadows, trade in secrets and travel the world's capitals. They are the women of the CIA.

The exact number of America's women spies and analysts is classified information, though estimates top 1,000. Now a handful of them are accusing the CIA of gender discrimination, saying the agency unfairly faulted them for falling in love with foreign men.

Popular figures like James Bond often intertwine their spy life with love life, but in real life, CIA officers are barred from having any unauthorized contact with foreign nationals. The woman involved in the case against the CIA, filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, says the agency applied a double standard by imposing tougher consequences on women than on men.

Lora Griffith, an operative for roughly 20 years, filed the EEOC complaint. She cannot say exactly what she did for the CIA — her work was classified — but she hinted that her job included cloak-and-dagger tactics in dangerous places and at the height of the Cold War.

"The Soviet Union was leaving Afghanistan, so that was a big issue in the world at the time," Griffith told ABC News.

But in the midst of her work, Griffith crossed a line: Her professional relationship with a foreign counterpart turned personal.

"We had a close relationship. … When I felt that I had feelings for the person, I suggested that the case be turned over to another officer," said Griffith.

It was that romance, she says, that cost her her job. The CIA, on the other hand, says that Griffith was not truthful and that she disclosed classified information without authority, claims she has denied.

Tip of the Iceberg?
Griffith is the only woman to file a formal complaint so far, but other women formerly with the CIA tell similar stories of a double standard. They have hired lawyers and hope to join the complaint.

All of the women say they lost their security clearance because of their romantic relationships, making it impossible for them to continue doing their jobs. In some cases they were simply terminated.

Sheila, a CIA officer who spoke to ABC News on the condition that an alias be used, fell in love on the job but says she followed all the agency's rules. She reported every aspect of her relationship with a foreigner from one of America's close ally countries, from her first date to her first overnight stay.

When she asked the CIA for permission to marry her foreign paramour, however, Sheila says the agency said no.

"They told me that I had to make a choice between marrying my husband and working there, so I chose my husband," Sheila said. She is now looking to join Griffith's discrimination complaint against the CIA.

The women are not arguing agency policy, but claim it is unequally enforced. They say that when gender roles were reversed — when male CIA agents were dating or marrying foreign women without authorization — there were few, if any consequences.

The EEOC complaint lists several different examples of men having unauthorized relationships, including one male officer who was allegedly promoted despite having a foreign girlfriend while working in a dangerous Middle Eastern county.

"There's a definite cultural bias. … Men pretty much have carte blanche," Griffith said.

For that alleged gender discrimination, the complaint seeks damages that include compensation for lost salary and $300,000 for pain, suffering, stress, anxiety and humiliation. It also requests the CIA strike all derogatory, inaccurate and falsely prejudicial material from the women's personnel files and agency records.

In its statement to ABC News, the agency said that "the CIA's code of conduct applies equally to all our officers, regardless of gender."

"For obvious reasons, we expect all employees to report relationships with foreign nationals, and to do so promptly, fully and honestly. If you're disingenuous about it, if you're in a relationship that has counterintelligence implications or you continue a relationship after being told to end it, you're apt to have trouble," the CIA's statement said.

"The agency has an established, professional process, which includes women and men, to review and evaluate these kinds of issues."

The women involved in the complaint could have a tough time winning their case, says one former CIA lawyer. The agency argues in legal documents that revoking security clearances is a matter of national security and lies beyond any court's jurisdiction.

"At the CIA, the balance always tilts toward the national security [and] away from the personal preferences of applicants and employees," according to John Radsan, a law professor and one-time assistant general counsel for the CIA.

"That makes it difficult for employees to get redress for even legitimate grievances," Radsan said.

The women who spoke to ABC News all said they had served in the CIA out of a profound dedication to their country.

"9/11 was a real personal thing, and I had a background in Middle East languages. … I really went to work for the agency to serve my nation," Sheila said.

Amy, a career CIA analyst who lost her security clearance because of a relationship, hopes to join the discrimination complaint. Speaking to ABC News under an alias, she described her passion for the profession.

"I never for a moment felt that what I was doing was not important," Amy said.

That personal commitment made leaving the CIA all the more painful.

"I lost my career. I lost my job satisfaction. I lost the value that I could contribute to our nation."