If you're not already aware of the bull-headed CIA agent whose persistent pressure to track Al Qaeda couriers helped lead the way to Osama bin Laden's compound, you're about to be. The main character of Zero Dark Thirty, the controversial soon-to-be released Oscar bait that portrays the story of the bin Laden raid "is based on a real person" whose identity remains classified as she's still working for the CIA. But things at Langley haven't been going so well for said secret, soon-to-be-an-anonymous-celebrity spy. In fact, according to a new Washington Post report, things sound like they're going pretty poorly. She's been passed over for a promotion, pissed off all her coworkers, and sounds generally unpopular.
The scenario sounds like a plot line from Homeland. (Actually, it sounds like the plot line from Homeland, but that's a whole other controversy.) The anonymous agent, a woman in her mid-30s, got her start as a "targeter," someone who recruits spies or identifies targets for drone strikes. She's known for being uniquely dedicated to her work, the type that stands up for an idea before anyone else is even giving it consideration. Such was the idea to hawk Bin Laden's couriers, and one of her follow officers told The Post that she "was one of the people from very early on pushing this." If you watch the trailer for Zero Dark Thirty, you'll catch a mention of this point. A Navy SEAL asks his teammate why he believes the story behind their next mission, a mission to kill Osama bin Laden, and the teammate answers, "Her confidence," pointing to the character based on this CIA agent.
It shouldn't be too much of a surprise that this agent's stubbornness and imminent fame is a sensitive issue with her colleagues. After the successful raid, this agent and a few others were awarded the CIA's highest honor for non-combat officers, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal. Instead of congratulating her coworkers, she hit reply-all on an email to the recipients and said that only she deserved the award, since everybody else tried to get in her way when she knew she was right. (Homeland fans, just imagine every scene with Carrie and her bosses, ever.) Around the same time and for unknown reasons, the agent was passed over for a promotion that could've brought her an extra $16,000 a year in income, though she did receive a cash reward of an undisclosed amount for her work on the bin Laden case.
In a way, this sort of internal drama is just how things work at Langley, says one former CIA officer. "Do you know how many CIA officers are jerks?" the former officer told The Post. "If that was a disqualifier, the whole National Clandestine Service would be gone." He added, "The agency is a funny place, very insular. It's like middle schoolers with clearances."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.