Boys Club No More: Now Women Make Up Nearly Half of the CIA


Earlier this month, Mother Jones described the early days of the CIA as “Mad Men with security clearances.” Men were the spies; women were the secretaries. But over the years, things have changed, and now, women make up nearly half of the CIA, and at least 40% of undercover operatives (spies) are female.

In fact, as Ann Curry reports for NBC news, women hold 5 of the top 8 positions in the organization. Avril Haines is the deputy director, Meroe Park is the executive director, and the Director of Intelligence is Fran Moore. All women.

Just like in Zero Dark Thirty — the lead character of which was played by Jessica Chastain and based on a true unnamed female agent — there are plenty of women in the field, as well. According to NBC (emphasis mine):

Osama Bin Laden, like other al Qaeda leaders like Abu Musab al Zarqawi of Iraq, was caught by a so-called “Sisterhood” of al Qaeda specialists.
Nada Bakos, who led the Zarqawi “targeting team” and is now writing a book on the role of women in the war on al Qaeda, recalls that three quarters of the officers who worked for her were female. They not only tracked his whereabouts, but his finances, his followers, and his international ambitions, including where he wanted to strike. Ultimately, said Bakos, after false leads, near-misses and “lots of frustration,” Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. air strike in June 2006.

Ann Curry spoke with two women, who are now in their 90s : Doris Bohrer and Elizabeth “Betty” McIntosh, who worked as spies during World War II. “We were always referred to as ‘the girls,'” Doris says. “We didn’t like it very much.” She analyzed arial photographs and found Nazi concentration camps; that’s her in this awesome old photo, complete with pistol!

Meanwhile, Betty still refuses to speak about certain missions, so she has secrets that will die with her.

Since there are some recently-declassified CIA documents floating around, there’s more to read here, here and here; and don’t miss this this anecdote from a woman who was a spy in the 1960s:

I never actually had to pitch the guy. I [played] sort of the “Dumb Dora” personality, and “Golly” “Gee!” and “Wow!” He would tell me, “I just love talking to you because you’re not very bright.” And I would just sit like this [makes an innocent expression]. The recruitment ended because he told me about a plot to go bomb the embassy in [redacted] and we arrested him and his gang of merry men as they crossed the border. He just told me everything and I got tons of intel out of him because I was just a woman who wasn’t very bright.

[Mother Jones, NBC News]

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