For Gerecht, espionage is a loose culture, populated by "bottom feeders," and is better left alone if America wants good intelligence. When I was in the agency, my colleagues were amused, occasionally disappointed, but never shocked when married officers were discovered cavorting with their secretaries or other co-workers at the office, in parking lots, hotels, and safe-houses—which, of course, are not supposed to be used for trysts.
Case officers could get into trouble if their passions led them to keep foreign mistresses no one knew about. The agency maintained an important rule requiring employees to report continuing, meaningful romantic contact. Historically speaking, Gerecht says, extramarital affairs aren't used as "leverage" against agents. If so, the Russians would have "riddled the Agency" with holes and exploitations.
Generally, Gerecht says, as long as agents are forthcoming with their colleagues, infidelity is not frowned upon — except, of course, in the case of lasting relationships with foreigners. The drama surrounding David Petraeus's extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell could change all that. Ever since the agency director's resignation , a small army of pundits has taken to the airwaves, warning that infidelity could be exploited by foreign intelligence services and used against American officials.
We here at BI Military and Defense were part of that army: The moment General Petraeus put himself into a position where his private behavior became something he needed to hide from the public — as stated in his resignation letter — he essentially put national security at risk. It's exactly the type of compromise which would put any government worker at immediate risk of losing a Top Secret clearance. Granted our understanding of security clearances and punishment stems from the military, where adultery is a punishable offense along the lines of a misdemeanor.
Furthermore, Pateaus was a spook in that he worked for the CIA, but he wasn't really a spook. He was a career military man with a background in military special operations. Advertisement Unlike the U. JFK and Marilyn Monroe.
This isn't espionage though. This is a head of state. Not just post-Vietnam, but post-Lewinsky. Consequently, the narrative of Mad Men begins just after Dulles' retirement — relatively speaking, we can't possibly compare acceptable behavior in the workplace between these two periods if so, I'd be smoking while I write this. Washington Post writer Olga Khazan notes that very few security clearances have been revoked due to sexual behavior, mostly for criminal sexual misconduct and criminal records.
Sexual trysts rarely justified suspending security clearance, she reports, as long as the trists are "fully mitigated by 'passage of time without recurrence' and the absence of any susceptibility to blackmail or coercion. Hill CNN talked to an unnamed official who said the FBI investigated Petraeus initially "to see if this relationship posed a potential security risk" — adding that there was no criminal wrongdoing, they just feared he might be "in a vulnerable spot.
Gerecht at least gives some indication of this risk: But there was a fair amount of flexibility built in—since operatives, not a sentimental lot, could keep a bed partner for some time and truthfully say that their lovers really didn't mean all that much to them.
The CIA's espionage division is one thing, being a spy with a cover or a case officer in a foreign land, sure that's understandable — it's not just human, it's secretive information gathering.
But infidelity in the workplace, especially if that workplace is in the military or in intelligence, handling Top Secret materials, or if you're a head of a clandestine agency, very much in the public eye, may be another.
Which would explain the Agency's rule of always disclosing an intramural relationship. Gerecht cites numerous examples of why Americans betray their country — greed, ideology, etc.
Furthermore, he asks the nation not to set the FBI on more agents. After all, according to Gerecht, having espionage agents with loose morals makes for a stronger America. Unlike soldiers, who have each other's backs in battle, case officers build on both trust and deceit.
And they work in a promotion system that often rewards intellectually dishonest operatives for making a mediocre new recruit seem like solid gold. This sort of thing tends to make officers jaded pretty quickly. Historically, prudes have rarely done well in the institution. Advertisement Gerecht's piece in The New Republic is truly awesome, please go read it for yourself.
It's a window into a world most don't get to see.