the CIA Abuses Its Code of Silence
By Victoria Toensing
What ever happened to the
"code of silence?" It returned last week as the
Senate Intelligence Committee began confirmation hearings on John Deutch,
nominated for director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
One question in particular, which will need to be answered, should go
something like this: "Will you continue to use fabricated national
security labels to try to gag a former CIA station chief from talking
about covered-up wife beating, sexual harassment and gender discrimination
at the CIA?"
The station chief is Jane
Doe Thompson, obviously not her real name, who has been written about
frequently over the last year. An alleged real name was printed in at least
one newspaper, but it cannot be confirmed or denied due to an agency-forced
security agreement covering Jane Doe and her counsel.
As Jane Doe's counsel, I
have no desire to risk our nation's secrets; we both believe in a strong
CIA, now more than ever.
In its present state,
however, the CIA does not possess, nor can it develop, the strength and
competence needed to provide our security requirements. It is too busy
wasting energy protecting the "good old boys" by muzzling
employees, mostly women, who have witnessed or been victims of misconduct or
In Jane Doe Thompson's
case, she retired voluntarily last December when the CIA agreed to pay her a
$410,000 settlement but then the CIA has tried to muzzle her by forcing an
undercover status on her retirement.
Why? Because she has a
story to tell.
For 23 years, Jane Doe
Thompson had a stellar career with the CIA, advancing to become the first
chief of station in a Latin American country, where she was assigned a
problem-plagued station. In 1990, she reported her male deputy for his
repeated and admitted wife beating. She also reported or disciplined
four other subordinates for misconduct ranging from public drunkenness to
threatening to kill security guards.
Jane Doe Thompson thought
she was doing her duty by reporting the wrongdoings. The CIA's
response to her reports and reprimands was to promote her male deputy and
never investigate him for the admitted wife beating, while Jane Doe Thompson
became the subject of an internal CIA inspector general's probe initiated on
allegations made by the deputy and the four disciplined subordinates.
The CIA also revoked her previously promised promotion, denied her two other
promotions for which she was well qualified, filling all three positions
with less qualified and experienced males. The CIA then assigned her
to a windowless cubicle. She had broken the code by exposing a male
operative as a wife beater. The CIA told her wife beating was not a
crime and should be a matter between the two people.
After two years of trying
to clear her name, Jane Doe Thompson filed suit against the CIA and seven
individuals for employment discrimination and violation of her
constitutional rights. In October 1994, the court upheld her basis for
the suit. Last December, the Department of Justice agreed to settle
the case for $410,000 plus attorneys' fees, five hours after Jane Doe
Thompson's counsel presented evidence showing the key government witness
denied under oath making statements attributed to him in the inspector
Sadly, Jane Doe Thompson's
story is not unique. There are women in the CIA, including a group of
women who have filed a class-action lawsuit against the agency, who have
their own stories about false charges of alcohol abuse and promiscuity made
against them. These women not only reached the CIA's recognized glass
ceiling of not getting deserved promotions, but, very often, have also
become the targets of fabricated investigations after reporting
wrongdoing or merely outshining a male colleague's performance. As CIA
employees, they are prohibited from talking to the press about these abuses,
even though such disclosure has nothing to do with exposing national
security secrets. The code of silence as well as the glass ceiling
For example, the abused
wife of Jane Doe Thompson's deputy is muzzled from speaking publicly
about her husband's beatings following an ex parte CIA-obtained gag
order so broad it even denies her private counseling. Her lawyer is
Under the guise of silence
for national security purposes, the CIA has permitted, even nurtured, this
cesspool of abuse. Jane Doe Thompson requested to be freed from her
undercover status. In the 1990s, the CIA has not refused to terminate
undercover status for any retiring employee who so requested. But the
agency did refuse Jane Doe Thompson and thus continues to attempt to control
her via the code of silence. .
Unlike any other federal
agency, the CIA has the power to prohibit current and former employees from
talking to the press about any subject whatsoever. Will the gag
continue, Deutch, or do you consider it time to resolve these abuses so the
CIA can turn its attention to our national security interests? As
taxpayers, we all deserve to know. But most importantly, as those who
care about our national security, we need to know.