I’m not sure I have fully processed this movie about a genetically engineered super-soldier in the form of a teenage girl locked inside one damn twisted fairy-tale-esque nightmare, but here we go…

The movie opens with a young girl in the Arctic tundra stalking an elk (or was it caribou?). She nabs her prey only to then be attacked by an older man, whereby an fantastic fight sequence ensues. Of course, we learn this older man is dear-old “Papa” and we begin to wonder what kind of home life this child leads.

Well, it’s one of languages, and encyclopedic knowledge, and living off the land, and mastery of both martial arts and any object you can get your hands on to kill another human being.

Hanna is on lam, born on the lam actually, and her home life has been crafted by Papa to prepare her for her enemies because Hanna, as we come to discover, is a highly prized asset by a certain American spy-outfit. Hanna was genetically altered as an embryo in a reverse-twist on the Bionic Woman, where Hanna wasn’t re-built as a super-human hybrid but constructed as one.

Long story short: Hanna ends up back on the radar where CIA baddie, Marissa Veigerly, a link to Hanna’s conception, is trying to track her down. Hanna must realize the truth of her beginnings and protect herself from those who would destroy her.

So what does it bring to the table? There’s your usual Spy-Fi stuff about experimental science, assassins, and rogue agents chasing each other around the globe, and while I thought this movie would go down the path of nepotism (a subject I loathe: supposed inherited greatness), it actually brings up a rather interesting debate on nature versus nurture.

Sure, Hanna is genetic engineering marvel. She was created to be great, stellar genetic material that also makes her a liability, but the irony of the movie is that it is only by relentess training and realizing her true and full potential that she can protect herself. Hence, growing up isolated in the woods in the Arctic circle, learning as many languages as she can master, and becoming the ultimate survivalist.

But the fly in the ointment is actually two-flies: one, Hanna’s isolation makes her susceptible to over-stimulation where a TV, a fan, and a light switch is enough to drive her bonkers; and two, Hanna is an adolescent girl with enough pubescent hormones to power a small city.

There’s no resolution to Hanna. I rather enjoyed that as I don’t care much for pat endings. But two things I have found really fascinating about this film: the first, the director, is re-knowned for English romance films; and two, the that in an all-United-Kingdom-and-Commonwealth acting troupe, the baddie, Marissa, played by Cate Blanchett, has a Southern accent, thus keeping alive a tradition where Americans represent the baddies as Brits but the Brits represent our American-evilness as somehow being Southern.

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Definitely not a spy, but this monarch held an even better title, one of “Spymistress”.

Americans tend to have this idea about England, where the country seems to preternaturally have its act together, however, not many Yanks know that at one time, The Great Empire once existed in a state of near chaos.

Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603) was the second daughter of the notorious King Henry the VIII, the chap who had a penchant for food and executing his wives, and the only child of Anne Boleyn, the King’s second wife who had her head lobbed off when Elizabeth was but a toddler.

Tons of intrigue and no small amount of scandal later, Elizabeth ascended to the throne at the age of twenty-five. She inherited a country with a warring feudal system, a slew of relatives who would possibly like to see her dead, a state of enmity with the Catholic Church that definitely wanted to see her dead, poor relations with neighboring countries, and empty coffers (i.e. England was close to being broke if it wasn’t already). The country, quite simply, was a mess.

Enter Elizabeth, young, beautiful, female, single. We all the know the story: the young queen must marry appropriately, secure a male child, which in turn secures the line of ascension, and preferably said marriage should be with either a Spaniard or a Frenchman so at least one of those countries would be off England’s back.

However, Good Queen Bess wasn’t having it. Whether it was the sterling example of her father, the rumored romance with a certain Lord Robert Dudley, the rumors of her being a man, or whatever, Elizabeth married herself to England and blazed forth what would be known as England’s Golden Age.

And the Golden Age really came about because QBI was exceptionally good at threat management and maintaining stability. Forces within France and Spain saw England as weak while forces within her country saw her as weak.  Ireland and the Catholic Church quite simply saw the queen as a threat to salvation and agreed she had to go. The task at hand, holding  England together, was a lot like juggling and Elizabeth certainly had a lot of balls in the air. She wielded the very idea of marriage like a tool of both domestic and foreign policy. She brought some semblance of organization to the Anglican church by firmly aligning it to the Protestantism. And she certainly kept close tabs on her foes through her excellent appointment of advisers.

Elizabeth’s inner circle helped her manage both domestic threats and threats from abroad. William Cecil, Baron of Burghley ran a tight financial ship and was responsible for bringing Sir Frances Walsingham, the father of modern-day intelligence practices, to the queen’s court.

With Walsingham in place, the queen was able to acquire the necessary domestic and foreign intelligence for decision-making. Walsingham infiltrated the Spanish military, secured the evidence for the execution of Elizabeth’s greatest rival, Mary Queen of Scots, and foiled any number of plots instituted by nasties within the realm.

All the while, Elizabeth and Walsingham had quite a contentious relationship. He was plain-spoken to the point of being blunt, a literal man of action, and while she had her hide to protect, Walsingham on more than one occasion offended her royal sensibilities.  But he did his job and did it well. It’s very hard to dislike a man who saves your neck day-in to day-out.

All this risk management allowed the queen to enjoy nearly a half-century on the throne. Quite a feat considering that at the end, Elizabeth died an unmarried woman, England’s future secured and a smooth transition of power to King James VI.

George Washington often stands out as the historical figure who best managed the spy trade, but he certainly never had to deal with the level of difficulty, treachery, nor had as many enemies painting targets on his back as Elizabeth had. Under close scrutiny, Elizabeth’s reign was not a rousing success, but in an era where it was exceptionally easy to die on the throne, managing to keep your enemies at bay for 45 years certainly says something about a dame’s, pardon me, queen’s acumen.

High profile people make the most interesting spies. Their fame and subsequent connections allow them access to places everyday schmoes can only dream of (like a certain Miss Baker  during WWII). It makes me wonder though about Princess Stephanie Julianne Richter zu Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Schillingsfürst (1891 – 1972), a high-society, Austrian of Jewish descent married into German royalty and a spy for Hitler: does this odd relationship say more about a famed wild child-celebutant or a keen self-preservationist?

Stephanie was born in Vienna, Austria, and raised in the lap of luxury. Her training as a ballet dancer, charm and good looks helped insert the young Miss into the highest social circles. It also helped Stephanie get into a good number of fixes over the years as well.

At the tender age 22, Stephanie found herself knocked-up with the illegitimate love child of an Archduke/Prince. The family’s money and connections manage to cover up her indiscretion through a hasty marriage to German Prince Friedrich Franz von Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Schillingsfürst.

The child was born and raised with Hohenlohe name. Stephanie herself took to royalty like a Cinderella and a glass slipper. Despite her divorce in 1920, Stephanie continued on with her “Princess” shenanigans all throughout Europe and was involved with anyone from a British newspaper tycoon to a Nazi diplomat. It was during this time that Stephanie began her association with one Adolf Hitler, who intimated her with the moniker “My Dear Princess”. She held close relationships with the Nazi elite and managed to secure yet another title, one of “Honorary Aryan“, a pretty important title if you had but a drop of Jewish blood in you during those times.

During the 1930s, Stephanie took up residence in London and circulated through London society. The assumption during this time was that she was spying for Hitler and using her charms for propaganda and the Nazi cause. Not a hard sell as the London elite of the age had plenty of Nazi sympathizers among their ranks. Passing correspondence and arranging meetings between noted Britons and high-ranking Nazis, Stephanie even arranged the infamous meeting between the abdicated King Edward VIII, now Duke of Windsor, and his American wife, Wallis Simpson, with The Fuhrer in 1937. The British government kept a close eye on her though, noting her influence with Hitler and how he actively sought her advice.

With Germany effectively being broke during this time, one wonders how the Princess managed to support herself. Well, she did so by becoming the paid mistress of a British Lord. The relationship eventually fizzled and Stephanie went as far as to sue the Lord in court (she lost) demanding continued payment as was promised to her for life. Considering the payments were regarded as a “retainer”, one doesn’t have to go far to guess what kind of services were rendered.

An affair with Hitler’s top-aid, Fritz Weidemann, saw Stephanie through the rest of the 1930s. When Fritz was name consul-General to the United States and assigned to the San Francisco post, she followed. She traveled back and forth between the US and England but settled in the US after the official outbreak of war. Her spidey-senses a tingling, she became fearful the Brits might arrest her as a spy. However, the US, despite not taking part in the global festivities, kept a close eye on the minx. FDR famously wrote that the activities of one Princess Stephanie made her “worse than 10,000 men”.

Stephanie’s relationship with Fritz ended and after her visas ran-out in 1941, she was detained by US immigration. However, yet another affair, with the head INS no less, prolonged her stay in the country, and even saw her put up in a hotel in DC for a spell.

But as we all know too well, all good things must come to an end. In 1941, the FBI arrested Stephanie. She was placed in a detainment camp in Texas until her parole in 1945. But she made good use of her time there, she helped the OSS develop a psychological profile of Herr Hitler and was influential in a 1943 report “Analysis of the Personality of Adolf Hitler“.

After the war, Stephanie resumed her affairs in post-war Germany, targeting men who were best able to support her lifestyle. She lived to the ripe-old age of 81 and died in Geneva, Switzerland. A good long life, longer and better than most who lived during those times.

A very good book about this dame and her exploits was crafted by Martha Schad and is definitely worth a read.

Miss Jenny is an interesting little mystery. Not as interesting nor as tragic as the drama surrounding Agent 355, but a nice little mystery all its own.

Miss Jenny, as we understand, was a French-speaking Loyalist during the American Revolutionary War who infiltrated the French camps during 1781 and passed information along to the British. Acting on intel that the French were moving troops in an impending attack on New York City, Miss Jenny was out and about trying to confirm the information when she was caught by a French guard.

The little minx held to her story that she was looking for her French-Canadian father, a story which did not appear to go over well, and consequently, Miss Jenny was turned over to none other than George Washington. Further questioning achieved nothing because she stuck to her story despite rigorous questioning. Washington handed her back over the French, who in a last ditch effort, attempted to make her talk but to no avail.

The French carried out a traditional punishment of the time, lobbing off a gal’s coif, as more stringent forms of punishment without proof would be unthinkable and mostly because the “wisdom” of the era saw women as not being intelligent enough to be spies. Hair cutting as punishment has a long and distinguished history in the Arab and Islamic world, the Europeans during the witch hunts in Medieval times, and the French and Dutch during World War II when humiliating female Nazi sympathizers.

Miss Jenny, sans hair, was released and immediately made her way back to the British camp in New York where she reported her findings. The British responded by holding their position in New York rather than the original plan to move on.

Luckily, the French and Americans switched gears and launched an attack on Yorktown, which proved a pivotal battle in the war. To date, the real-life identity of Miss Jenny has never been confirmed.

We only know of Miss Jenny due to the meticulous nature of the British and their OCD-like abilities in record keeping. Baron Ottendorf, a German mercenary whom Washington gave the boot thus inducing him to switch sides in the war, relayed the tale of Miss Jenny to Sir Henry Clinton, a British military commander, in the form of a letter which is in the keeping of the Clements Library at the University of Michigan.

I cannot believe I am about to blog about Lana Kane, aka sex-bomb super-agent of Archer‘s fictional spy-outfit “Isis”, but here we go…

If you haven’t seen the anachronistic FX animated Series “Archer”, then you’re in for a treat. The show is snappy, dirty, raucous (great word – don’t get to use it very often), and abso-freakin-lutlely hilarious. Of course, I can see where it would offend someone with more “delicate sensibilities”, so if you’re one of those, you best skip it altogether.

Lana Kane, voiced by the highly-nuanced Aisha Tyler, plays a constant second-fiddle to the slightly dumb and misogynistic Sterling Archer, spy extraordinaire!, of Isis, a security agency run by Archer’s fabulously wicked mother.

Lana is mostly a consummate pro when on the clock. She’s regimented, disciplined, and not above shooting Archer in the foot when he’s being an ass, which is pretty often. And the running joke on her monster paws is amusing. However, Lana does introduce a great point of contention in the co-ed workforce and that is the difficulties of “inter-office dating”.

Lana’s dating fiasco with Archer is followed up by her equally disastrous relationship with Cyril, agency comptroller, and further muddied by a fling with an agent from a rival outfit. Lana’s not about to let a bad-man get her down, but it does frustrate the beejeebers out of her when she can’t escape the idiocy that are her former flames.

Tune in for name drops on tradecraft and obscure pop-culture references, but mostly just tune in because it’s so damn funny.

“YUP!”

You have to admit, WWII for all its awfulness, was a great time for women in the spy trade. We’ve seen operatives, cryptographers, and inventors, and now, we have another to add to the list: human smugglers. Considering the heated American debate on illegal immigration in America, Ruth Klieger Aliav (19??-1979) is a worthy dame to examine.

Ruth was either born in 1914 or 1907 and she was either born in Romania proper or in what is now the Ukraine (a matter of semantics, I know, but people do go to war over this stuff). Ruth’s autobiography and documentation seem to be at odds concerning the official accounts of her life.

Now Ruth not only sported a big-bad-brain, but also a talent for linguistics. Upon graduation of the University of Vienna, she had her law degree and was fluent in 9 languages.

In 1935, our gal emigrated to Israel fulfilling a life-long dream. She married and settled down on a kibbutz and had a child. However, neither the marriage or the life seem to have satisfied Ruth, and after the death of her child from meningitis, she moved to Tel-Aviv where she was recruited into the Mossad.

In 1939, Ruth was sent into Romania and with her style, wits and connections, she not only helped smuggle out Jews but also to import arms and coordinate resistance activities.

In 1942, saw Ruth landing in Egypt where she was taking Jews overland into Palestine. During her stop-over, she discovered a corp of Egyptian Officers sympathetic to the Nazis. Ruth called in French Freedom forces, helped land Anwar el Sadat in jail, and continued on her merry way.

At the end of the war, Ruth was sent back into France in time for liberation, and during this period, she helped minister Jewish displaced persons and refugees. In 1945, she was bestowed the rank of honorary colonel in the US Army by none other than Eisenhower himself. She also managed to convince an American officer in charge of displaced Jews to “lend” her a boat to take Jewish orphans to Palestine. However, when the ship arrived in Haifa, it also contained 2600 older, displaced persons as well.

So here’s where Ruth’s activities become messy. During the entire war, there was a covert-operation sponsored by Mossad called Aliya Bet. Aliya Bet was the coordinated effort of Jews to illegally populate Palestine in direct violation of British Mandate.

Now, depending on how and where you come down on this subject, this leads to very different views of Ruth and her activities. One, is that Ruth is a sort of Harriet Tubman in leading Jews to freedom during a decidedly horrific time in history. The other view is that the Aliya Bet’s intentions was to usurp the Palestinians with a Jewish population long before the war occurred, hence, the war and its atrocities further served to achieve that goal. Now considering there are over 3 million Palestinians today, living refugee camps for the last 60 years with no state and no citizenship and their food, water,  electricity and general living conditions controlled by the Jewish state, you could also see where some people would see Ruth in terms of what we Americans would call Coyote, and illegal trafficker of immigrants.

Unfortunately, this is also where America begins a long, sad, and strained relationship with the Middle East. While the British were none too pleased at Ruth’s activities, the publicity could not allow them to deny the entry of the refugees in Haifa. However, Eisenhower, or at least those on his staff, had become convinced of the necessity of Aliya Bet and wanted more ships with more refugees to be allowed into Palestine. Eisenhower eventually shot down this plan because of the pressure exerted by the British in this matter.

Following the war, Ruth became a fundraiser for Mossad in both South and North America. She also continued her work with immigrants entering Israel, but, after 10 frustrating years of ill-treatment simply due to being a woman, Ruth went on to work with the Israeli shipping company ZIM.

Ruth’s work in public relations with ZIM brought her into contact with Hollywood luminaries, painters, and even Helen Keller when they toured Israel. During these years, Ruth also changed her last name to add “Aliav”, a variation on Aliya Bet, to her official passport. She wrote her memoirs shortly before her death and it sold over 2 million copies.

Ruth passed on in 1979. She is buried in Israel.

Oh, boy. Here we ago again. The fourth reiteration of “Nikita”, a juvenile delinquent taken into the folds of a secret government agency and turned into a cold-blooded assassin extraordinaire! has premiered on television…again…

Of course, the 1990 original (and best) has already been covered, and I refuse, absolutely refuse, to discuss the 1993 American remake, or it’s bastard-step-sister, the 1997 television series. Because, really, they were poor and unsatisfying imitations of the French classic, so they do not bear mentioning let alone any sort of analysis. That being said, let’s just get on to the new girl in town.

So Nikita is back. She is Asian-American and embodied by the martial arts star Maggie Q. That alone is enough to spike my interest since I really liked her character in the severely underrated Mission Impossible 3. Unfortunately, it seems the show is heading in the direction of sexed-killer-fembottery and you need only to glance at the promotional poster to ascertain that. The plot, this time, picks up three years after Nikita leaves/escapes the agency and shows her as a woman returned, scorned, and hellbent on revenge.

In the film versions, Nikita leaves not only the  agency, but leaves behind her boyfriend as well because she sees herself as dangerous, damaged goods and beyond redemption. And I liked this ending because it doesn’t tie everything up with a pink bow, white wedding, and a house in the ‘burbs. Nikita is a messy character, she has enough control to take a life but no control when it comes to managing her own affairs. So, I rather dislike Nikita 4.0 because now the boyfriend has been killed by “Division” and Nikita wants to avenge not only his death but avenge her perceived ruin life, and save those in the evil agency’s evil clutches.

Now to me, this flattens Nikita, makes her boring and predictable. The whole “girl-meets-boy, boy-gets-killed, girl-gets-revenge” plot is tired and played out. Been there. Done That. Bought the T-Shirt. What made the original Nikita so interesting is that she really didn’t have a problem with the killing as much as she had problems between managing her day job and managing her cover. And that’s interesting. Why not run with that? Oh yeah, because that, too, has already been done…

Have Nikita return simply because she bored and she can. Or because she wants to take over. Or because she’s out of her ever-livin-gourd. The impetus of the dead boyfriend cheapens the original little sociopath we have come to love. That, and it rips off another girl-gone-rogue show, ALIAS, big time. And the bit about the planted protegé/mole? Really? I’m not hopeful of that plot element, I guess we’ll just have to see where it goes.

But I think this issue with Nikita and her new-found nobility is an extension of this blog’s last post. When it comes to the dames, popular culture portrays them as the Madonnas or the Whores with the heart of gold. Mass media, and maybe people in general, are not prepared to see women as unconscionable killers. Too bad, because if you want to do something fresh with this character, or the personality of an assassin, then you need to explore that dark side no matter how ugly or uncomfortable it may be.

Marina Lee

Posted: September 1, 2010 in Abwehr, Blame a Dame, Britain, Espionage, MI5, Undercover, WWII

There’s all sort of animal, vegetable and mineral that fall under the umbrella of “Nazi”. I’ve seen Nazi clowns, Nazi dogs, Soup Nazis, and Nazi film-makers; but I’m going to be honest here, the very idea of a Nazi ballerina comes pretty close to taking the proverbial cake.

The broo-ha-ha erupted this past week upon the declassification of WWII documents from British security services and then vomited all over the Web about this Tiny Dancer being responsible for the British defeat in Norway in 1940.

HOWEVER, let’s ask the obvious question here: Fact or Fiction? Base or Baseless? Less Filling or Tastes Great?

Is the story being spread around the globe about Marina Lee the real deal or this just another episode of our favorite show Blame-A-Dame?

Here’s what we know: Lee was born in Russia during the revolution, her parents were killed by the Bolsheviks, she was a trained dancer, she fled to Norway where she married and taught at a dance school. It’s easy to see why she is targeted in this scenario. She spoke 5 languages, she was decidedly beautiful, being a dancer provided her with excellent cover, and also, back in the day a dancer was more akin to being a “loose woman” so it afforded a determined spy a little more access to those in vulnerable positions.

But none if this is what anyone would call proof. The conjecture that is being bandied about is that Lee bamboozled strategic plans by the Brits out of a General Auchenlik and then slipped them to a German agent. Presto-change-o the Brits lose Norway to the Nazis.

But here’s the rub: this is neither proven nor dis-proven, hence the term conjecture, and in the weighing of evidence, the accusation does not hold. The BBC report on this story bears the headline: Blond Nazi ballerina ’caused war set back’ which let’s admit, is spicy stuff, but the first line of the article goes on to read that: secret government paper suggestThis is a far cry from stating “that beyond a shadow of a doubt this dame ratted us out.”

Google “Nazi Ballerina” and you’ll come up with hundreds of articles, most of them supporting the “validity” of the tale. This little gem by journalist Guy Walters points out the obvious “junkiness” of the evidence. Thank.You.Guy! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I have no problem calling a spade a spade but let’s make sure we’re first actually dealing with shovels and not wheelbarrows.

Is it worth examining why these tales of female agents capture the imagination so forcefully? On one hand, the conditioned response harkens back to traditional stereotypes would have you believe that women are soft and fragile, noble and righteous. While other stereotypes play off the seemingly innate fear men have over beautiful broads thus the gorgeous Spy Dame is the epitome of all that is dark and dangerous about the mysterious female form. In the end, we deal with the same gender issues that have plagued society for years and they all seem to center around women either being the Madonna or the prostitute.

We saw this nastiness arise earlier this summer in a subject I am loathe to mention: Anna Chapman, alleged agent in the Russian Spy Ring that was busted in the US earlier this summer. While everyone talks about the “flame-haired“, “femme fatale“, “great-in-bedness” of Chapman, does anyone stop to consider the story? Taken into consideration, she really comes off as a spoiled diplomat-brat-mail-order-bride who minored in real estate and majored in partying. During the set-up for her take-down, she was handed, by undercover Feds, a passport to deliver and Chapman called her daddy to ask what she should do (daddy’s response was to turn the passport in to the police). Hardly the acts of a trained Spy Dame! Seriously, Virginia Hall is rolling over in her grave.

But the point is this: all of that detail is lost in the flame-haired-femme-fatale-great-in-bedness of the story…well, that and the pictures of her in a tiara

So let’s get back to Blond Nazi Ballerina at hand…Marina Lee: Spy Dame or Dame Blamed?

I could be really teed off at this broad for dashing my hopes of what I thought would be a kick-ass thesis by accomplishing it first, but I am too in awe of her massive mental abilities, and as such, have decided to profile her instead.

Judee-doll was born in Ames, Iowa in 1948. A fairly normal upbringing ensued and resulted in classic mid-western dame. Judee attended Iowa State University where she earned a degree in both Speech and English minored in both Social Studies and Education. She quickly went on to earn a Masters in Speech Communication and a PhD two years later in Communication and Educational Psychology.

So let’s tally this up before proceeding:

  • Speech: verbal communication
  • English: written communication
  • Social Studies: ability to learn about people in context
  • Education: ability to teach people
  • Communication: a hefty blend of all of the above
  • Speech Communication: a further blend of speaking about all of the above
  • Educational Psychology: how people learn in educational settings

I’m not going to lie here: I expected her head to be size of mutant watermelon. I mean really, that is a heck of a lot of knowledge for one brain in such a short amount of time, but I Googled her and her head seems well-sized. So let’s continue:

Judee bounced around academia teaching in Florida, New York, Michigan and finally settling in Arizona where she is firmly installed a the University of Arizona. Her teaching and research interests according to her website read:

My primary teaching and research interests center on nonverbal and relational communication, with emphasis on such interpersonal communication processes and outcomes as expectancy violations, deception, nonverbal relational messages, conversation involvement and dominance, and dyadic adaptation patterns. I also have a subsidiary interest in mass media uses and evaluations.”

So you might be asking yourself:  Why does this dame deserve a post on this site? Simple, because she performed research  in something that I predict will become massively important in years to come: automated detection of deception

Long story short, aside from the usual verbal and non-verbal cues people provide when trying to deceive, Judee and her team developed a tool called “Agent 99” (named after the female Get Smart characterlove it!) that can detect (not always but there’s always room for improvement) deception in text messages.

Wow, wow, and more wow. In a world where Twitter informs the public of a major revolt inside a seemingly closed society, or is used as a tool of communication and deception in a government experiment, or is used to proffer information during a natural disaster , sound decisions making is going to depend on the ability to separate the wheat from the chaff, the noise from the signal, the mayo from the baloney. So this Agent 99 tool? Pretty damn useful.

And Judee exemplifies what I love most about women and their contributions to Intel: they come from where you least expect it.

This, of course, still means I am stuck in search of a thesis topic…

If I were a praying girl, I would be screaming “Amen and Hallelujah” from the rooftops today over the confirmation of Letitia Long as the new Director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. But since I am not, let’s just discuss Long instead.

But if I may, can I comment on the fact that there are 16 Intelligence agencies in this country and we are only just now appointing a woman as the head of one? Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased as punch, but it’s still akin to waking up today and feeling like it’s 1990 and not 2010. Baby, you’ve come a long way, but not long enough…

So who is Letitia Long? She is a longtime Navy-civilian professional entering the trade in 1978, where she worked in project engineering in the area of submarine acoustics, and climbed the ranks to join the Office of Naval Intelligence where she managed R & D programs.

From there, Long performed a dizzying rotation in the Senior Intelligence Executive Service while also serving as Director of Resource Management for the Office of Naval Intelligence in 1994. She then completed a hat trick by joining the Defense Intelligence Agency during this time where she eventually became the Deputy Director of Information Systems and Services in 1996.

Can you say “dayamm”? I’m tired just typing all of that.

Please let this be a lesson to everyone out there who is stuck in the belief that Intelligence revolves around poli-sci, history, and computer science. Long is a trained engineer. And let’s think about that: it involves design (establishing a requirement and refining it); building (collection, exploitation); testing (production), roll-out (dissemination); and checking (feedback when it’s given).

Engineers work in teams; they are often great collaborators. They require project engineers to manage them; someone to juggle the pieces and keep in mind the bigger picture. They require communication skills to dumb-down the technical terms for non-engineers (read: clients). And most importantly, they require sound, logical thinking lest the whole contraption falls apart.

A person who can accomplish honing all of those skills is a golden egg and it looks like NGA just got theirs.