A spy by luck: the case file on CIA's Jeanne Tisinger
CIA Chief Information Officer Jeanne Tisinger
May 25th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

A spy by luck: the case file on CIA's Jeanne Tisinger

Editor's note: In the Security Clearance "Case File" series, CNN national security producers profile key members of the intelligence community. As part of the series, Security Clearance is focusing on the roles women play in the U.S. intelligence community

By Pam Benson

You don't really expect to simply fall into the spy business, but for Jeanne Tisinger, that's pretty much how it happened.

She was a business major at George Mason University, looking for some experience in her field while continuing her studies. She joined the college's work-study program and, much to her amazement, her first interview was with the Central Intelligence Agency.

"I was surprised they were even hiring co-op students," she says. "Why would they want a college kid to come into their version of campus? I wasn't sure what they were going to do with me. Then there was, of course, a part of me that was. wow, the mystique of the CIA - what better place to start. It was just kind of a bit of a wide-eyed wonder."

That was nearly three decades ago.

"I'm the classic story of sometimes it's better to be lucky than good," Tisinger says.

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Intel Gatekeeper: the case file on Senator Dianne Feinstein
April 29th, 2012
10:00 AM ET

Intel Gatekeeper: the case file on Senator Dianne Feinstein

by Suzanne Kelly and Pam Benson

Editor's note: In the Security Clearance "Case File" series, CNN national security producers profile key members of the intelligence community. As part of the series, Security Clearance is focusing on the roles women play in the U.S. intelligence community

It's true: one of the most powerful players in the world of U.S. espionage and intelligence wears ruby red nail polish.

In her role as chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California is the gatekeeper for the country’s most sensitive intelligence agencies. She is regularly briefed on evolving national security threats and keeps her ruby red-topped finger on the pulse of the most secret of missions. She’s blunt, direct, stubborn, and not afraid to admit it.

Since taking the gavel of the intelligence committee, Feinstein has added her own touches, among them changing the way some classified briefings are held.

“Typically, the sessions were pretty formal, much like the style of public hearings,” said a committee staffer who asked not to be named. Before Feinstein, members of the committee would sit in a briefing room, the witnesses at a separate table before them, and each member would wait his or her turn to pose questions to the witness. Now, once a month, “they all sit together at a round table, usually a few dozen doughnuts are brought in, and they have a discussion,” says the staffer. “There are no opening statements or written statement for the record, no rounds of questioning. Members just ask questions as they see fit.”

The sessions may be informal, but Feinstein remains on a mission of her own when it comes to her responsibility as chairwoman, a responsibility that she says is a key reason why she remains in the Senate.

“It is congressional oversight of intelligence. It is very important,” said Feinstein, who agreed to a rare interview to discuss the role she plays in the country’s intelligence structure. “We have the ability to stop something if we want to stop it. And we have the ability to watch things very carefully, as closely as we want to watch or can watch.” FULL POST

Pulling back the curtain of secrets: The 'Case File' on NSA's Fran Fleisch
March 25th, 2012
02:29 PM ET

Pulling back the curtain of secrets: The 'Case File' on NSA's Fran Fleisch

by Suzanne Kelly

Editor's note: In the Security Clearance "Case File" series, CNN national security producers profile the key members of the intelligence community. As part of the series, Security Clearance is focusing on the roles women play in the U.S. intelligence community.

She is the highest-ranking woman entrusted with the National Security Agency's most-guarded secrets. Inside Fran Fleisch's mind are the details of the country's most delicate and sophisticated intelligence-gathering operations, intertwined with the knowledge and experience needed to run the world's most secretive spy agency.

As executive director of the NSA, Fleisch is No. 3 in the management chain, reporting to Deputy Director John "Chris" Inglis. He recently assumed more responsibilities when Director Keith Alexander took on the extra job of heading U.S. Cyber Command, which is dedicated to the growing national security threat posed by those using keyboards and servers as their weapons of choice. FULL POST

Intelligence Goes Private: the case file on Joan Dempsey
Booz Allen Hamilton Vice President Joan Dempsey
March 16th, 2012
10:30 AM ET

Intelligence Goes Private: the case file on Joan Dempsey

By Suzanne Kelly

Editor's note: In the Security Clearance "Case File" series, CNN profiles key members of the intelligence community.   As part of the series, Security Clearance is focusing on the roles women play in the U.S. intelligence.

One of the first measures of tradecraft, as any good spy will tell you, is being able to tell when something just doesn't add up. So when Joan Dempsey began ticking off her decades of experience in various roles in the military and intelligence communities, it's tough not to add it all up in your head. With some 25 years in the U.S. Navy, (some of it in the reserves) another seven at the CIA, and some 17 at the Pentagon in a variety of intelligence leadership positions, Dempsey is one of the women in the intelligence community who has been a true pioneer, which of course, also means she has achieved a number of "firsts."

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'Eye in the Sky': the case file on NGA Director Letitia Long
March 9th, 2012
10:26 AM ET

'Eye in the Sky': the case file on NGA Director Letitia Long

By Suzanne Kelly and Pam Benson

Editor's note: In the Security Clearance "Case File" series, CNN national security producers profile the key members of the intelligence community.   As part of the series, Security Clearance is focusing on the roles women play in the U.S. intelligence community


On May 1, 2011, Letitia 'Tish' Long was at Central Intelligence Agency headquarters, watching the greatest intelligence-special operations mission of the past decade, unfold.

"We were anxious. It was tense. There were periods of time when we didn't know exactly what was happening," Long told CNN.

Long and others could do little but wait to see whether months of intelligence preparation would pay off as Navy SEALs raided the compound in Pakistan where they believed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was hiding out.

She was one of only a few women in the room that day, and the only woman who headed a major intelligence agency. FULL POST

Help wanted, must keep a secret: the case file on ODNI's Stephanie O'Sullivan
February 9th, 2012
12:02 AM ET

Help wanted, must keep a secret: the case file on ODNI's Stephanie O'Sullivan

By Suzanne Kelly

Editor's note:  In the Security Clearance "Case File" series, CNN national security producers profile the key members of the intelligence community.   This story is the first in a special Case File series focusing on the roles women play in the U.S. intelligence community

You never know when a life of espionage is right there in front of you, in an advertisement, calling you to a new adventure.  At least, Stephanie O'Sullivan says she didn't know when she answered a help wanted ad more than two decades ago for an employer looking for someone with experience in "ocean engineering."

The recent college graduate with a civil engineering degree had moved in with her parents in Annapolis, Maryland, while her fiance, whom she'd met in college, finished up his own program.  Her parents, in full anticipation of sailing off into the sunset when her father retired, had bought a boat, and that's where the three of them lived.

"I thought, 'Well I know about that, I live on a boat and I've been into boating all my life because my father was into it," said O'Sullivan, who answered the ad, not really understanding the full scope of what "ocean engineering" meant.  She soon realized why the ad was so cryptic:  it was for work on a classified program. "It turned out to be intelligence community work and it was luck because it's been a career of infinite challenge." FULL POST