Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Small World: Super Secret Spy Edition

Unearthed an odd bit of buried past the other day.

It started with one of those gawdawful Facebook "memes". Even ran into one of them? Blogging tends to get them, though I haven't run across one for ages.

This one was about "how you met me", and it was mildly entertaining hear from old friends and see who remembered how who met whom all those years ago.

But in the process a name came up; a person I knew many years ago and was slightly friendly with in a very passant sort of way.

Her name is Susan Leslie Ireland, and she was just appointed the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis. As such she is "...responsible for the receipt, analysis, and dissemination of intelligence related to the Department's mission to safeguard the international financial system from abuse and to combat threats to U.S. national security."

And I knew her when. Howboutthat?

Anyway, the interesting thing is that when we were in college together I remember her as a painfully serious, intelligent, darkly pretty young woman. She roomed in a group with a clutch of other very bright and clever women, many of whom acted in our college Green Room and, as you might expect, caprioled joyfully with the sort of creative lunacy that has characterized thespians since Aristophanes' time.

Sue - as she was known in those days - was not quite of the same metal as her sisters; "forlorn" is how one of my contemporaries remembers her. She never seemed as...vivid...as her hallmates. And she seems to have had a very fraught relation with them; another former classmate of mine recalls her saying, within earshot of those long-time rooming hall associates and companions "Those people are not my friends..."; a remark almost as sad as it was tactless.I will admit to crushing on her a bit, back in those times; even callow and stupid I had a bit of a thing for seriously smart Dark Ladies. And she was - and is, it seems - very smart. And, as her picture testifies, still Dark and serious.

But I was too immature, and she too otherwise-engaged, and so we drifted away.

But after her name suddenly returning to my attention what I recalled vividly was that several years after graduation we met for a lunch.

She was already working in D.C. in a covert position - I believe probably with the National Security Agency - and I was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, a line medic for the 1/505th Infantry. I was headed north on a brief leave, called her up, and we made the time to meet at some indifferent lunch place somewhere in Georgetown.

She was still dark, still handsome, and very excited about her work. I was less hairy - still callow, but leaner, and harder - and gaining in both worldly and emotional maturity. So there we were; the young spy and the young paratrooper, sitting chatting on a bright sunny spring morning while a Reagan morning broke across America.We talked of ourselves, and the world's wagging. We discussed parachuting, which it seems that she had to learn as part of her own "basic training" in intelligence - it seems that even in the Eighties U.S. spies still hung on to bit of their OSS heritage. We talked about old friends, and future plans.

There was absolutely not a flint's worth of spark between us.

We enjoyed a pleasant spring day and parted with the usual promises to keep in touch and, as usual, failed to keep them. I went on to become a paratroop sergeant, and then, in succession, a graduate student and husband, a professional geologist, teacher, senior NCO, husband (again) and father.

Sue - or, rather, S. Leslie, as she prefers to be known - continued to find her way through the Hall of Mirrors; "Executive Assistant to the Director and Deputy Director of Central Intelligence and in various analytical and management portfolios at CIA related to the Middle East and weapons of mass destruction....also detailed to the Office of the Secretary of Defense as Country Director for Iran and Kuwait." She also served as the "Iran Mission Manager" for the Director of National Intelligence.

It's strange to think of my old acquaintance as a Power herself; one of the Thrones and Dominations, a Beltway Insider, making reality, as the Bushies were wont to say, with the force of her knowledge, her judgement - one hopes - and her wiles at the subtle and deadly bureaucratic infighting in the halls of the great and the mighty.

But there she is, and, what's more, one of the "Iran Hands"; one of the fonts of intelligence wisdom on that contentious and troubled land.

And now, I wonder; what secrets is she telling to those seats of power?

Because had my life gone in other directions I might be one of those whose fate depended on that tall and serious Dark Lady. On what she said, and what she did not say, to those whose decrees sway the wide world.

To those whose words move armies and fleets, and who might well have sent First Sergeant Lawes plummeting out into the night sky over Qom, on the advice of the sloe-eyed young woman who thirty years ago sat across the cheap formica table from the young sergeant who was him, on that sunny spring Georgetown day, those fine eyes glowing as she described how much she had enjoyed the adventure of her brief "combat training" at Quantico, and the fearsome power she felt as the machinegun lept and thundered in her hands.And I wonder.

What will she say?


rangeragainstwar said...

Strange that the job description is militarized since she is purely civilian.
She COMBATS threats while wearing nylons.
I feel so much safer since we now have civilian warriors.
She may have gotten away , but you still have us bartenders.
We're a better catch.

FDChief said...

jim; but I gotta be honest - her legs sure were prettier...

FDChief said...

And I still get a chuckle out of the old-school OSS training; no wonder we have CIA agents running around the unpaved parts of the world acting like Johnny Rambo; remember how stupid we were right out of AIT? That's the "combat training" they get - just enough to make them dangerous.

Funny, but kinda sad, in a way.

basilbeast said...

You like the legs, eh?



FDChief said...

basil; Wasn't she lovely? As graceful as she was troubled; sad, sad lady. But she sure had that special magic. I should post some pictures of her just for the curb appeal.

Thanks for that little clip; I needed some pretty on a miserable rainy day...

Lisa said...

I nicely-told memoir. Your memory is impeccable.