A former CIA agent chronicles her story.
While attending a career-day event with her sorority sisters at the University of Southern California, Walder stopped at a recruiting table for the CIA. One of her sisters challenged her, “ ‘I thought you wanted to be a history teacher.’…‘I did,’ I said. And then I thought, but making history would be way better than teaching it.” The author was certainly there when history was made. On 9/11, she was inside CIA headquarters in Langley when all the chatter they’d been hearing about Osama bin Laden exploded into specific tragedy. In this debut memoir, Walder brings a you-are-there intimacy to her accounts of visits from George Bush (“he was always kind and cracked jokes, even as the tension mounted”) and Thanksgiving dinner delivered by George Tenet (“the food was amazing”). Often, the author was the youngest person in the room and one of few females, and she suggests that her politics were more liberal than those of many of her colleagues. Throughout the narrative, she leaves no question about her devotion to the agency and how misunderstood she feels its role has been. (She submitted her manuscript for CIA vetting and made the decision to publish it with passages and even whole paragraphs redacted.) Indeed, Walder fiercely defends the CIA, particularly as the Bush administration focused its attention on Iraq rather than targeting terrorists elsewhere. Regarding the CIA’s being blamed for faulty intel about weapons of mass destruction, she writes, “not a single bit of anything my team turned in was faulty. How it was changed and twisted by the White House was faulty. The CIA did not betray the White House. The White House betrayed the CIA.” Walder subsequently shifted from the CIA to the FBI, which she liked a lot less and eventually left. She now teaches at an all-girls high school, helping new generations prepare to confront the institutional misogyny they will likely face.
A mostly breezy read through some undeniably challenging and threatening circumstances.