For some CIA retirees: ‘No women need apply’

As I am sure all recall, seven CIA officers were killed in a suicide attack near the Afghan town of Khowst in late December 2009. As always when such incidents occur, there are numbers of retired CIA officers who are eager to criticize the Agency and its officers for mistakes the critics claim they surely would not have made had they been in charge. There has been quite a bit of that in the Khowst case, but among the subtle themes in the criticism has been one by “old boy” CIA officers whose basic claim — when you strip away their patronizing and clearly faux grief over the loss of “under-trained female officers” at Khowst — is that there is little place for females in CIA’s Directorate of Operations and no place for them in overseas operations.

A good example of the kind of chauvinism is an article entitled “CIA, Stabbed in the heart?” and available at the website: With wet eyes and malignant intent the comment posted there on an article in GQ by Robert Baer — and the Baer article itself — sound as if they are saluting the fallen officers, but they are both really part of these retired officers’ ongoing war against the CIA, and especially on the idea of sending “girl officers” to do a man’s job. I sent a comment to the site this morning and have appended it below.


As always among you “old boys” this supposedly “accurate” piece by Baer, and Johnson’s comment on it, are nothing more than patronizing, anti-female-in-the-Agency claptrap. Those who died at Khowst were well trained and dedicated officers who did their best for the United States. Unlike most retired CIA officers, the serving officers at Khowst were not sitting on the sidelines and attacking their former employer and sniping at those — women and men — who risk their lives in America’s defense. The dead at Khowst did not have time to sit safely in North America and dwell on the glories of the good old days when “real men” could tell Americans — as Johnson memorably did — that they have less to fear from Islamists than they do from spiders or lawnmowers or whatever threat the old boys felt qualified to tackle while they were working.

All Americans should know that all of the chances to kill bin Laden under Clinton and Bush — 14 in all — were based on the work of women as much as or more than men. Indeed, the senior officer killed at Khowst and her colleagues are dead not because of the old boys’ claim that they were under-trained — which is a lie — but because the men who ran the U.S. government they served were cowards and failed to take the opportunities to protect America that were provided almost equally by the CIA’s female and male officers.

M. F. Scheuer
Falls Church, VA

Author: Michael F. Scheuer

Michael F. Scheuer worked at the CIA as an intelligence officer for 22 years. He was the first chief of its Osama bin Laden unit, and helped create its rendition program, which he ran for 40 months. He is an American blogger, historian, foreign policy critic, and political analyst.