Archive for the ‘Honorable Mentions’ Category

Millicent Jessie Eleanor Bagot (1907-2006) could smell a rat at twenty paces and had an illustrious career as one of the UK’s premier spy hunters and what we now call Whistleblowers.

The last decade has been full of Dame Whistleblowers so we should pay particular attention to the woman who made a career of sniffing out the phonies amongst us.

Bagot began her life as the daughter of a solicitor, raised by a French governess, and was later educated at Oxford’s Lady Margaret Hall where she studied the Classics. Bagot went to work for the special branch of the Metro police and later moved on to England’s Ministry of Defense working for both MI5 and MI6. This is slim pickings for developing a profile of Millie, and maybe her early life wasn’t as interesting as her career, but it sure would be great to know what made this lady tick.

Bagot the career lady, however, was a lad’s worst nightmare back in the day: a competent female taskmaster with an opinion and a voice. Apparently someone had the good sense to think that such traits recommended her and so Bagot began to move up the ranks.

Bagot specialized in Communism and was a well-regarded Sovietologist. She was the first to warn Intel community that notorious MI6 English double-agent, Kim Philby, was a member of the communist party and not who he appeared to be. She was ignored, of course, but despite Philby’s escape to Moscow in 1963, I hope Millie felt some small measure of satisfaction in knowing she was right.

Bagot was the first woman to reach the rank of Assistant Secretary at MI5. She received the MBE in 1949 for service and later advanced to CBE in 1967 at her retirement. Famed director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover, even wrote to Millicent expressing his admiration.

However, even in retirement, Bagot did not call it a day. With her exceptional memory and famed ability at finding patterns in massive amounts of information, she continued working part-time sniffing out active spies and also writing what some call the definitive account of the Zinoviev Affair.

Millicent finally called it quits in 1976, after a debilitating stroke claimed her prized memory and left her infirmed for the rest of her life. A sad and drawn-out end for such an amazing woman with a truly brilliant career.

Okay, so here we go with the second departure from writing about the dames, but it is certainly for a good cause and it is related to themes of this blog….

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The National Women’s History Museum in Washington DC is in need of a permanent home. Apparently those in government do not recognize the need for studying the history of women and do not appear to be so hot for the cause.

This museum is a very necessary entity in our nation’s capital for one simple reason: when it comes to history, we ignore the broads and the amazing stuff they do. For whatever reason, the stories of women do not get written down, rarely get studied, and truth be told, the only things I learned in grade school about women’s history is that Betsy Ross sewed a flag, Elizabeth I was the queen of England, and George Washington’s wife was named Martha.

It’s fairly ridiculous to tell a girl she can be anything she wants (except president of the United States apparently) when history does not reflect or recognize the accomplishments of the dames. Our nation’s history is incomplete and you can not call yourself an educated skirt or suit when you only receive half the story.

The National Women’s History Museum has been in flux for 12 years since its inception in 1996. They have chance at a permanent home where the National Museum of Health used to be but legislation is required to make this happen.

And for purposes of this blog, they do have cyber exhibit on American female spies.

So c’mon, do us all a big favor, go to the website, contact your representatives, and help a sister out.

Nancy McNally

Posted: October 30, 2008 in Decision Makers, Honorable Mentions

Anna Deavere Smith served as National Security Advisor, Dr. Nancy McNally, on TV’s “The West Wing” for seven seasons. On a fictional level, she beats Condleeaza Rice to the finish line for an African-American woman serving in the position. On a real level, she plays Paul McCartney to Allison Janey’s John Lennon, aka dynamic duo of McNally/Cregg. Check out this 2001 episode regarding an arms deal with the fictional country of Qumar:

The scene certainly exemplifies how much life can sometimes suck when you are a decision maker. That personal politics unfortunately rarely coincides with geopolitics. It’s a bitter pill to swallow but as a National Security Advisor, Nancy would have taken that medicine often particularly when she would be so much more privy to information the average Jane would not be.

It’s important to note that from an analyst’s perspective, the intelligence process does not necessarily solve problems. Sometimes intelligence merely recognizes a problem, sometimes it addresses the problems, sometimes an analyst makes recommendations that feel more like a choice between a variety of terrific evils and not at all a solution.

What you have to respect about the McNally character is that she has to recommend the lesser of multiple evils. She has to put aside her biases, she has to bury any personal opinions she may or may or may not have on the matter, and try to put forth the best possible options. What is brilliant about the character is that the options are awful, she knows it, but she owns them anyway. And there’s no magical solution that makes everyone happy at the end of the day. That’s some real life there.

About the only complaint I can make about McNally, is that she didn’t receive enough play on the show. Seriously, the producers of the West Wing did a great disservice by not making her a more integral character.

Laura Linney portrays the character Kate Burroughs, an FBI agent hunting the mole, Robert Hanssen, in the 2007 film “Breach”.

Robert Hanssen, less you forgot, is considered the most treacherous spy in the history of the US. He was arrested in 2001 after 16 illustrious years of espionage for the former Soviet Union.

Now whether Kate Burroughs is a real person or just a character based on a real person, we don’t know. However, Laura Linney plays one bad-ass, rocking Fed and this Agent doesn’t at all mind admitting that “Kate” almost kinda of scares her. Just a little bit.

What is most fascinating about Kate, and refreshing as well, is the fact that she is just a broad doing her job. How many movies or TV shows do we see where women in intelligence are trying to juggle their life, while finding a date, looking hot, or having all sorts of “feelings” about being a “girl” who works intel? Well, it’s either that or they are manifested into some girlfriend or mother figure, both of which are equally frustrating.

But not this sister. Not our Kate. We know she works hard and late, she doesn’t have cats, and is all about her work. She is most certainly not there to play the soothing mommy-type to Ryan Phillipe’s Eric O’Neil. She is a boss with a job to do and being a chick is the least of her. This broad is demanding, she is tough, she is unrelenting, and she is dispassionate about everything except for this: catching Robert Hanssen.

The most mind-blowing feature about the character of Kate Burroughs is that she could just as easily have been a male character. And when I say “mind-blowing”, and I mean this with all sincerity here, it is because Kate is doing a job just like a man would, just like a regular person would, just as women do every damn day without all these gender issues or sexed-up-killer-fembottery tangled up into the mix.

Aside from being an excellent movie about the massive resources it required to hunt down the most dangerous traitor of our time, this movie is also an interesting look into the life of an FBI employee and the sacrifices federal employees of this nature make for our country. Anyone who wishes to glamorize the trade really ought to give this movie a good viewing before signing up.

C.J. Cregg

Posted: June 27, 2008 in Decision Makers, Honorable Mentions
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Say what you will about the politics of the show, but TV’s “The West Wing” accomplished a very important feat: the writers of the show provided us with a fully realized female character at a time when women characters on TV kinda sucked. Okay, so C.J. was not a spy-dame, per se, but this lady was obviously vetted with some heavy-hitting, top secret, White House info. A very crucial part of the intelligence process does lie in the relationship with the decision makers at the top, and C.J. was a respected female voice in the White House inner circle. And hey, let’s face it, Allison Janney rocked this role like the Beatles on a rooftop.

Given the intel she was privy to, C.J. had to know what to say, what not to say, and how much to say at any given time. As White Press Secretary, C.J. faced the firing lines on a daily basis. For her troubles, she was targeted by a stalker, Islamic hate groups, rabid conservatives, and garnered the insufferable Secret Service code name of “flamingo”. But C.J. handled it all with style and grace while fighting a constant internal battle of the Old Boy’s Club that is politics for which Janney rightfully earned no less than 4 Emmy Awards for her portrayal.

Any fan of the show can name a favorite moment. C.J. had all the best lines, most in front of the press corp when she unleashed her barely contained fury. But the true moments of glory were when C.J. used her smarts to play the game and held her tongue.

Of course, when she let loose the ballistic missile of words, you’d best not want to be on the receiving end, that’s for damn sure.

And though, I’m not sure about the reality of a transition from White House Press Secretary to White House Chief of Staff, this Agent is willing to suspend disbelief for her gal C.J.

Although, let’s be honest here, despite C.J.’s political smarts, nervy persona, and single-minded determination towards the task at hand (and seriously, I will never forgive the show writers for not making C.J. the VP candidate after Leo died), the crowning glory of all that was C.J. was her incisive humor. So for purely gratuitous purposes, I have to post my favorite C.J. moment: