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Indeed, Opus Dei is a good measuring stick, as some CIA officers, in their more lucid moments, saw themselves as holy warriors defending the United States against evildoers.
I too had noted in my last years in Langley, around about the time of 9/11, that an increasing number of MBAs and folks with law degrees were joining the ranks and there were fewer case officers who could translate The Dream of the Rood or read Sanskrit.In other words, his philandering was the constant that defined him, not how he made a living.But Gerecht’s account got me thinking about the CIA clandestine services culture, which has certainly changed dramatically since 9/11 but which used to be as difficult for an outsider to penetrate and comprehend as a group like Opus Dei.Gerecht might well have also considered looking at alcohol consumption, which has traditionally been even more prevalent as a defining characteristic of CIA officers than libidinous behavior has been.When the CIA set up its Station in Kabul at the Ariana Hotel shortly after the fall of the Taliban, one of its first moves was to reestablish the hotel bar.In Rome, the most active womanizer was the admin officer, who had nothing to do with the operations side.
He used to boast that when he met a new woman who was too unattractive to contemplate as a conquest he would immediately lower his standards.
I contacted some alte kameraden from places I served in, and we all agreed that most stations and larger bases generally had one spectacular philanderer and a few wannabes, but that there was little actual playing around.
And for those who would argue that the transgressions were secret, enabled by CIA tradecraft, I would note that the lack of any opprobrium meant that those who philandered were fairly open about it.
During my time in Hamburg, the philanderer was the chief of base, a woman, admittedly single at the time, who reportedly had worked her way through the married senior officers of European Division at headquarters to obtain her assignment.
In Turkey it was a secretary who was assiduously trying out every Turk in the consulate motor pool, and a first-tour female officer who once invited the Chinese Consul General to a party at her house and met him at the door in a bikini. As Gerecht would no doubt attest, the two most senior officers in Istanbul during our tenure in that city were respectively a dim bulb who would have had trouble unzipping his trousers, let alone having an affair, and a burned-out WASP who was so laid back that he had trouble finding his coffee cup in the morning.
Gerecht concludes somewhat lamely that CIA’s leaders should not “equate fidelity to a spouse with fidelity to a nation.” That is the point precisely.