When the term undercover agent comes up in conversation the image that comes to mind is some debonair gentleman, with a British accent who utilizes all sorts of high tech objects to catch the bad guy. But there’s another type of undercover agent seldom considered, and that would be the growing number of female undercover agents.
Even though women agents perform many of the same activities as their male counterparts, often times a female agent is able to obtain much more information from the enemy using their feminine wiles. Many times women work undercover with the soul motivation of gaining information from a powerful male enemy.
Women have been known as spies even as early as the 1900’s when perhaps a woman who was not a secret agent by trade but a belly dancer, performed to duties of a spy. The notorious Mata Hari during a lull in her career as a belly dancer determined she could make a small fortune using her connections with high military officials and relaying confidential information between the French and German governments during World War I.
Her real name was Margaretha Gertrude MacLeod and although she claimed she was born in India, on August 7, 1876, she was born in Holland, the daughter of a hat maker named Adam Zelle. She was married to John Rudolf MacLeod from 1898 to 1904 and bore two children, one of which died mysteriously of poison in it’s infancy.
Although her secret undercover work was rather ineffective, she was arrested by the French on treason charges and placed in front of a firing squad on October 15, 1917.
Mata Hari’s fabrications concerning her childhood, the French Secret Service believing she was the “spy of the century” and several years of rumors have made her life seem more mysterious than it actually may have been. Many people believe that she was just an innocent girl who was duped into a world of sex and espionage.
Women daily put their lives on the line as espionage is considered illegal and if caught they are some times involved in a trial and even sentenced to death. Whenever an agent is stationed overseas, they are operating illegally and subject to the penalties of the laws in the country they are located in.
Women continually place their lives in danger as they often times are able to lure top political leaders into compromising situations, then use bribery to get secrets they can pass on. Of course, not all assignments are related to seduction but many cases have been settled by using the wiles of a female agent.
Alicia Hilton is a former FBI agent who is currently a writer. She stated that discrimination was never a factor during her career. She went on to explain that for the most part the FBI was a very “egalitarian” organization. Basically, positive feedback and challenging assignments are the rewards for good hard work. Even though most FBI agents are men, the agency has been actively recruiting more women.
There are actually thirteen separate Intelligence agencies, however the best known of this group would be the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the National Security Agency (NSA). Also female agents can be found to be instrumental in the Drug Enforcement Administration, (DEA).
FBI statistics show during the year of 2003 out of the group of 11,633, women accounted for approximately 2,109 of those agents. The FBI hires its employees through recruitment efforts by the field offices and a centralized hiring system at Headquarters. Due to the FBI’s responsibilities in criminal law enforcement and in the Intelligence Community, all FBI employees, whether they are Special Agents or Professional Support, must qualify for a top-secret security clearance, undergo a limited background check every five years, and submit to random drug tests throughout their careers. The FBI doesn’t make a final hiring decision on an employee until all the information has been gathered during the background investigation and has been assessed.
In addition, at times an employee may be required to sign an agreement stating they are willing to be sent anywhere in the world and many positions within the FBI requires a medical examination.
One assignment filled by agents would be the portrayal of teenage girls on the Internet. One survey determined that over 50% of the participants on line appeared to be FBI agents. According to the survey, which tracked online usage from January through July, 50.4 percent of U.S. users-or nearly 38 million-were FBI agents posing as girls. The report also stated that FBI agents posing as teenage girls represent the fastest growing segment of Web users. This was approximately a 185 percent increase in the past twelve months.
The CIA was created in 1947, in association with the National Security Act signed by President Harry S. Truman.
According to the information supplied on the CIA’s web site “the function of the CIA is to engage in research, development and deployment of high-level technology for intelligence purposes”.
In an effort to adapt to the changing global climate the CIA had to adapt to meet these challenges. By emphasizing the ability to continually change it’s approach to intelligence collection, the CIA tailors its support to help key intelligence consumers meet their needs as they face current issues.
One highly acclaimed female CIA agent would be Janine Okun Brookner; who was the first woman station chief in Latin America. Her experience with the CIA brought some controversy, as she had to fight a bitter legal battle with the agency, and won. Her new career choice leads her to continual confrontations with formidable opponents such as U.S. intelligence and other government agencies as a lawyer, and she wins.
Her career with the CIA lead to the opportunity for her to “single-handedly” raise the glass ceiling battling the “old boys” club and she continues to chip away at it every day.
Brookner wrote a book entitled, “Piercing the Veil of Secrecy” (Carolina Academic Press, 2004). It is a book detailing the obstacles facing CIA employees who seek legal action against the agency. Brookner’s book began as a vehicle to reveal the agency’s discrimination against women. She wanted to inform people of 13 specific cases brought against the CIA, mostly by women.
The end result, however, was her desire to obtain justice. She started exploring other avenues for women to use in suing the government. She details constitutional violations, civil rights conspiracy, or whistleblowing. The result was a book that can be used by anyone considering or involved in suing government agencies that deal with secrecy and exploit their ability to hide behind that veil.
Brookner’s career with the CIA was extraordinary. When she first joined the agency in 1968 and was sent to the infamous “Farm”, the training school for spies in Virginia, she was a divorced, single mom with one son.
Her first tour in the Philippines proved her to be a “terrific spy”. Brookner later became a case officer, recruiting and “running” agents in the field. This basically means that she would give and receive reports secretly.
In Venezuela, she successfully recruited a Soviet-bloc agent, and afterward was named acting deputy station chief. It was said about her that she “changed minds about the potential of women as espionage officers”.
She was then based in New York City for several years during the 80’s and spied for the U.S. government. During this time she completed several foreign missions that took her to such countries as Russia, Cuba, Libya and other eastern European countries.
It was during this time that she warned the agency that Aldrich Ames, another CIA operative, could not be trusted. It was later determined that Ames was a mole for the Soviet Union and was sentenced to life in prison for treason.
In 1989, Brookner was named station chief of the Kingston, Jamaica post, which was the most important station in the Carribean. She was one of the first female agents to fill a position of this type, and the first in Latin America.
Brookner was described as a definite rising star, but soon trouble began. In 1991, an offer for her to become the chief of Eastern Europe was withdrawn when a senior CIA officer refused to work for a female. To add to the difficulties during her time with the Jamaica station she cited many officers for performing misdeeds. In addition, she reported her deputy station chief for beating his wife. The officers retaliated and began making accusations pertaining to her finances as well as personal issues.
An investigation was performed and she soon found herself occupying a cubicle at headquarters with a withdrawal of the offer to be Prague station chief. She filed a federal sex-discrimination lawsuit against the CIA and eventually won a $410,000 settlement in addition to $300,000 for her legal fees. Through all of this the agency never admitted to being at fault.
Brookner resigned from the agency and proceeded to focus on her law school education.
The impact of her case was far-reaching as senior government officials spoke out against the “miscarriage of justice”. No one had dared to stand up against the agency in court but she set an example that encouraged many other female agents to file a class action suit covering more than 400 women in the CIA, charging “rampant sex discrimination in the agency”. The women won a settlement of $940,000 in back pay and promotions.
According to the web site for the DEA, it details their mission as enforcing the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States. Their duties include the investigation and preparation for the prosecution of major violators, and drug gangs who perpetrate violence in our communities. They also seize and forfeit assets derived from, traceable to or intended to be used for illicit drug trafficking.
Becky L. Dwojeski was a female DEA agent who was described as being “self-reliant, determined, and hard working”. After graduating from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor of Arts degree in law enforcement, Special Agent Becky Dwojeski joined the FBI and filled an administrative position for a brief time until she fulfilled her life long dream of becoming a DEA agent in March 1981.
Her first assignment was with the Newark Field Division. This was a tough challenge for any DEA agent and she was only a recent college grad. In spite of her viewed drawbacks, Dwojeski soon proved to be a first rate agent that was recognized for her contributions on several major investigations. Newark’s cases often involved the biggest and most dangerous criminal organizations run by traditional mob families from New York and Newark. In addition, these cases often involved new groups from South America.
While she was in Newark, she was praised for her performance involving the Southern Comfort and Vanegas investigations.
Because Special Agent Dwojeski possessed stellar qualities sought in new DEA agents, she also served as a Special Agent recruiter.
In February 1991, Dwojeski was transferred to the Office of Training before later joining International Training. She was responsible for coordinating one of the first training teams to teach in China. In addition, she taught in Mexico, Argentina, Guatemala, and Ecuador.
Tragically, Becky lost her life on October 21, 1993 in an automobile accident on the Quantico Marine Corps Base when a logging truck ran her off the road and lost its load of timber on top of her vehicle. She was only 34 at the time of her death.
Women are expected to fill the duties of an undercover agent similar to a male agent, with one exception at times. Some women are sent in as decoys to obtain information by using their feminine wiles however there are certain boundaries that should not be crossed when performing on assignments such as these.
The question is often raised when, if ever, is it appropriate to use friendship and the lure of sex as part of an investigation? There are different types of intimacy in undercover enforcement.
There is the Type 2 situation, where there is no psychological intimacy but there is the implied or actual sexual intimacy. The use of undercover means is less troublesome for three reasons. The violation itself involves sexual behavior, such acts are coercive or by definition involving prostitution, or the resulting arrests usually don’t involve consummation.
The ethical objections in using decoys as potential victims in response to a pattern of sexual assault and harassment are minimal. For example, if there has been a series of rapes in a park, a female agent will often be assigned to walk alone in the area with a team of backup agents nearby to assist if needed. In these cases tracking sexual predators in response to a pattern of victimization is appropriate.
Also, in response to concern of sex crimes involving minors located through the Internet where agents pretend to be underage females is also acceptable. Crimes involving intent rather than actual behavior, however, are more difficult to prove.
A key issue is whether the individual was targeted because of some prior reason for suspicion or perhaps simply caught in a “trawling net”.
The type 4 situation, meaning fake psychological intimacy and sexual intimacy are often times argued to be unjustified. Many times these types of situations involve “blackmail, stigmatization and/or disruption, general intelligence collection, evidence collection for an offense that is suspected but not yet committed and evidence collection for a prior offense”.
When using blackmail many times an operative will lure the suspect into a compromising position then in turn uses the information for blackmail purposes. This method seems more common in international spying than domestically.
The goal is to create difficulties for a group without resort to legal sanctions when using the method pertaining to stigmatization and/or disruption. This tactic is normally utilized against politically suspect groups. In these cases an operative is sent into a group to gain access to confidential information through rather destructive means.
When reviewing the possibility of intelligence collection, the official goal is preparedness and prevention. Often times this involves the infiltration of dissident political or criminal groups for monitoring purposes.
Lastly, an undercover operation is directed against a particular group or individual where there is reason to suspect criminal activity. Many times the agent is sent in to gain vital information where sexual relationships may enhance the possibility.
Undercover activity concerning covert promise of sexual or actual delivery of sexual favors has been argued upon the basis of the ethics of the behavior. Though the majority of operatives used in these sting type operations are female, there have been fewer instances concerning male undercover agents.
Even though the number of female operatives pale in comparison to their male counterparts, the agencies seem to attempt to offer various programs to deal with the issues that their women agents may face.
Training programs may be found such as one that offers “Undercover Techniques and Survival for Women”. This is a four-day training program “designed for female law enforcement officers and supervisors of female officers who intend to or routinely participate in covert undercover operations”.
This program recognizes when female undercover officers work in covert type operations, they may face situations and experience problems that are unique to their gender. Many times a female agent’s knowledge on techniques and survival tactics that are specific to women’s issues can make the difference between success or failure and safety or injury. These differences may have significant psychological and physical dangers attached.
This program offers vital information that may teach the female undercover agent survival techniques. In addition, it provides background on covert operations, planning undercover operations and relays valuable information on street level narcotics purchases.
In addition to the obvious job related information offered, this course will also teach the operatives how to deal with a hostile work environment that many females have to endure. Many men are not accustomed to women in their workplace and often times are hostile as a result. Female agents sometimes endure sex discrimination and harassment while suffering silently to hold their own in a workforce that is dominated by men. In addition, because many times a woman’s role in an operation may be emotionally straining, it is important to recognize the psychological affects an undercover operation may cause.
Another issue that female operatives have to address that their male counterparts would never have to deal with is the possibility of pregnancy. Once an agent discovers she is pregnant, she has to fill out necessary paperwork to go on limited duty. If an undercover agent discovers she is pregnant, she also would have to change to limited duty. Depending on the nature of her undercover work, she would most likely have to cut off the contact with subjects and would have to avoid doing any type of work that would be considered hazardous.
For the duration of her pregnancy she would be most likely an assigned to a more conventional type of investigative work. She definitely would not participate in raids/arrests or other hazardous work. She would still, however, carry a weapon while she is pregnant, but she would not participate in firearm qualifications until after her baby is born. If she went out on a firing range while weapons were being fired, her fetus would be exposed to lead. After the baby is born, she could request to resume undercover work.
All things considered, a career as a female undercover agent would prove to be exciting and extremely satisfying to an individual who is adventurous and dedicated to assuring the safety of the nation. In spite of the obvious obstacles a female operative may face, it appears that the overall experience is a positive and rewarding one.
Admiral Twin. Mata Hari http://www.admiraltwin.com/matahari.html
Received on December 9, 2006
Central Intelligence Agency. (2006). http://www.cia.gov
Received on December 10, 2006
Drug Enforcement Administration. (2006) http://dea.gov
Received on December 10, 2006
Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2003). Facts and Figures
Received on December 9, 2006
International Association of Undercover Officers (2006) Undercover Techniques and
Survival for Women
Received on December 10, 2006
Klann, Susan. (2003). Womenof.com. “Women of the Month: C. Suzanne Menor”
Kurtz, Howard (2003). The Washington Post. CIA Agent Valerie Plane Goes Undercover
in Vanity Fair. (12/3/2003)
Manley, Claudia. (2001). Life as a Professional Spy, Rosen Publishing Group
Marx, Gary. (1992). “Undercover Investigations: Some Reflections on the State’s Use
of Deception and Law”. Criminal Justice Ethics, Vol. 11 no. 1 pages 13-24
Hilton, Alicia. (2003). The Writer Magazine. Undercover Agents: True Lives Revealed