During my time in Hamburg, the philanderer was the chief of base, a woman, admittedly single at the time, who reportedly had worked her way through the married senior officers of European Division at headquarters to obtain her assignment.
In Turkey it was a secretary who was assiduously trying out every Turk in the consulate motor pool, and a first-tour female officer who once invited the Chinese Consul General to a party at her house and met him at the door in a bikini. As Gerecht would no doubt attest, the two most senior officers in Istanbul during our tenure in that city were respectively a dim bulb who would have had trouble unzipping his trousers, let alone having an affair, and a burned-out WASP who was so laid back that he had trouble finding his coffee cup in the morning.
An obvious source of potential philandering, sleeping with one’s foreign agent in a safehouse, only rarely provided an easily exploitable opportunity to cavort in secret because nearly all agents overseas are men, as are most case officers.
Women case officers in most instances are sensible enough to realize that turning the relationship with a male agent into a sexual romp would be very dangerous indeed, both in terms of personal security and one’s career.
He is also right to note that the argument generally made against having affairs, that it would make someone vulnerable to blackmail, in practice was never an issue.
That is because having affairs in the overseas diplomatic community was so common that it was barely worth a mention.
Everyone used to joke about his non-stop libido and pity his long-suffering wife, though one suspects he would have been little different if he had been in any other profession where there are a number of younger women available who are ambitious enough to dally with an aging mentor.
I contacted some alte kameraden from places I served in, and we all agreed that most stations and larger bases generally had one spectacular philanderer and a few wannabes, but that there was little actual playing around.
And for those who would argue that the transgressions were secret, enabled by CIA tradecraft, I would note that the lack of any opprobrium meant that those who philandered were fairly open about it.
In other words, his philandering was the constant that defined him, not how he made a living.
But Gerecht’s account got me thinking about the CIA clandestine services culture, which has certainly changed dramatically since 9/11 but which used to be as difficult for an outsider to penetrate and comprehend as a group like Opus Dei.