How 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 illegal behavior.

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 general's report.

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 controls them.

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 also gagged.

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.





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