The Rise Of Women At The CIA

Sep 19 2012 @ 4:08pm

Among the many new details revealed in the recent SEAL book about the Bin Laden raid was that one of the key CIA analysts involved in the operation was a woman, referred to in the book as "Jen". Inspired by this, Eli Lake takes a look at the history – and newfound prominence – of women at the agency:

Jen is a new kind of CIA officer: smart, self-assured—and female. It wasn’t always like this. In its early years, the agency kept women away from the challenging work of espionage. Often employees with two X chromosomes were relegated to the steno pool, or midlevel analysis work at best.

Not anymore. Jen is a "targeter," an analyst who pores over grainy drone footage and sorts through phone intercepts and other fragments of intelligence to find the exact location of terrorists, drug traffickers, or arms dealers. Since Sept. 11, the CIA has come under heavy, and often negative, political scrutiny. But during this same period, the agency has quietly perfected the art and science of the modern manhunt by training a generation of targeters like Jen. As opposed to the area specialists who analyze a country’s government or economy, the targeters (sometimes called "targeteers") almost always focus on one person or one group. They work in the same units as the case officers and special forces teams that act on their analysis. And in recent years, according to Jose Rodriguez, a former deputy director of operations at the CIA, the majority of targeters have been women.