Over the next few days, Id grab an armful of files in the morning, read them, take them back to the file cabinets, and get another batch for the afternoon. I really could have just scanned them to get the information I needed, but as I said, I liked reading them, and nobody particularly cared, or even noticed, how much time I was taking with the assignment.
Like all CIA employees in the Directorate of Operations (DO), I had a Top Secret clearance, which meant that I was cleared to see almost anything. Certain types of information required a special clearance . But if you were working on something where that clearance was required, your boss signed a slip, you handed it in to Security, and a day later you had the clearance. It wasnt really a big deal.
There was the idea of "need to know," which meant that you shouldnt see, hear, or read about anything you didnt need to know about in order to do your job. But this was largely ignored. If you were sitting with a friend from a different division at lunch, youd tell each other about the cases you were working on. You might not do it at a table of five people, but if your boss knew you were talking to other officers about your cases, he almost certainly wouldnt care. He did it, too. The environment was surprisingly open within the Directorate. And in a sense, learning about a wide variety of cases would help you understand your job better, so you could even make an argument that you "sort of needed to know."
In any case, I had no real need to know about the details of these cases I was reading. But I was cleared for them, and they were within my division, and even my office, so I didnt hide the fact that I was reading them much more carefully than I needed to.
Each of the files contained the cable traffic . In a lot of the cases, it was determined after a few encounters that the target wasnt susceptible to recruitment, or didnt have access to useful, classified information. These were the thin files. In other cases, there were multiple meetings, and a relationship developed that often produced some intelligence, but the case never turned into a full- blown recruitment. These files were a little bit thicker. Finally, in some cases, an agent was recruited and either run for a period of time or was still being run. These files could be anywhere from to pages, depending, presumably, on the Chief of Station (COS) and his attitude about Headquarters. Some COSs saw Headquarters as troublesome, bureaucratic, and meddlesome, and felt that only the broad outlines of a case should be reported. Others obviously encouraged their case officers (C/Os) to write in great detail about every aspect of a case, either because it forced the C/Os to be clear and rigorous in their thinking, or as a cover-your-ass maneuver in case something went wrong.
Reprinted by permission of Bloomsbury USA.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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