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Woman to head CIA's clandestine service?

For the first time in CIA history, a woman may head the spy agency's clandestine service. But her connection to abusive treatment of terrorist suspects at 'black sites' has brought criticism.

By Staff writer / March 30, 2013

The lobby floor of the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Va. For the first time in CIA history, a woman is running the agency's clandestine service.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor

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In the film “Zero Dark Thirty,” a young CIA officer known only as “Maya” is relentless – apparently obsessive – in tracking down Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. For years, she badgers her agency superiors. She moves back and forth between CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., and CIA facilities in South Asia, sometimes witnessing waterboarding and other abuse of terrorist suspects in Afghanistan. Finally, her years of persistent work pay off and the Navy’s Seal Team Six puts away bin Laden forever.

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“Maya” is a real person, we’re told, and the filmmakers say their work is “based on firsthand accounts of actual events.”

Now, art having reflected life, life seems to be imitating art's sequel.

For the first time, a woman – a CIA veteran – is running the agency’s National Clandestine Service.

As first reported by the Washington Post (which withheld her name), the woman is serving in an acting capacity until CIA director John Brennan appoints a permanent replacement for the clandestine service chief who retired recently. She is reported to be on a short list of candidates, and she is broadly supported within the agency.

“The service is the most storied part of the CIA. It sends spies overseas and carries out covert operations including running the agency’s ongoing drone campaign,” the Post reports. “The service has also long been perceived as a male bastion that has blocked the career paths of women even while female officers have ascended to the top posts in other divisions, including the directors of analysis and science.”

The woman under consideration is in her 50s, and she reportedly served as the CIA station chief in London and New York, spent years working inside the agency’s Counterterrorist Center, and once was in charge of a so-called black site, playing a role in developing the CIA’s post-911 detention and interrogation program.

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