CIA Cracks Down on Sex Harassment
But ex-agents say stressful jobs blur the lines
By Tim Karan,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 5, 2012 12:28 PM CDT
A man crosses the Central Intelligence Agency logo in the lobby of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Va., on August 14, 2008.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Being a spy might have a sexy reputation, but the CIA is staring at its decidedly seedier side in the mirror: Spurred by widespread complaints among female employees who work in war zones, the spy agency is cracking down on sexual harassment, reports the Los Angeles Times. But it's no straightforward task: While the majority of reported incidents involve male supervisors making racy jokes or comments, a survey of officers suggests many unreported instances of physical harassment. And the agency's high-stakes mission means that lines often blur under stress, former officers say, and affairs between supervisors and employees are commonplace.

"This has been going on for years, but it seems to have become more serious," says one former official. "The agency has not come up with an effective tool to stop it." But recent cases of over-the-line behavior have come to light, including one husband who took his complaint about his wife's affair with a supervisor straight to Leon Panetta. Says one former officer whose boss hit on her: "He wouldn't take no for an answer. I said no, and it put me in a really awkward position." Eventually she left, without filing a complaint. "It sounds cliche, but it's an old boys' network, and that kind of comes with the territory."