Saudi Arabia: Honey, We’ve Got to Talk

 

I truly believed I’d likely end my CIA career as an undercover operative, especially since I was choosing love over career and love to a foreign dignitary at that!  I took my vows of cover seriously.  Even while Abdullah and I began to plan a life together I never indicated that I had been anything else but a ‘regular diplomat.’  He was already working in the United States at the Saudi Embassy in Washington when I joined him from New Delhi, India as his wife.  During those first weeks of marriage he understood that I was still “out-processing” from my job and finishing up administrative paperwork.  One of those “administrative” issues included a briefing and instructions from the ‘Central Cover Staff’ which were responsible for helping to build and protect the cover of employees.  I went to the meeting expecting to sign a continued declaration of secrecy and oath of cover.  Wrong!  Instead I was informed that since I was leaving the CIA I was “being brought out from under cover.”  For various legalities, I would no longer be an undercover operative and instead my record indicated my true employer.  I was shocked.  I had become so accustomed to living under a cover that blanketed me.  I made sure that the department was aware I had married a foreign official and that he had no indication or hint of who I had worked for.  I was politely but firmly told that was my issue to deal with.  Actually after going through the initial shock and feeling of nakedness without a cover, I began to realize there were more benefits and opportunities without a cover story to worry about.  But I still had to get through the challenge and fear of telling my new husband that there were some (big) things he may not have known about me.  My concern wasn’t as much about his reaction but I did not want any retribution to fall upon my husband because of choices I had made.

My cover was unraveled at the same time Abdullah and I were purchasing our home in Virginia.  Central Cover Staff advised me that the mortgage application had to reflect my CIA employment since the record changes had gone into immediate effect.  Plus, a mortgage required a lot of legal documentation that had to be correct and truthful.  I had a window of about 14 hours to share my revelations with him.

As a newly married couple we were shy, loving and always warm around each other.  I loved how he would enter our home, put his briefcase in the foyer, open his arms wide and holler “Honey, I’m home!”  I’d always come running and fling myself in his arms.  It didn’t matter we were not teenagers although our love for each other radiated like innocent children.  One of the first things he asked the day he knew I had some “resignation meetings” was how did they go?  Without any further ado I took his hand and led him to the couch.  Sitting down and holding his hand I told him, “Honey, we’ve got to talk.”

Abdullah squeezed my hand in assurance and simply looked in to my eyes waiting for me to speak.  His face held no expression.  I began by apologizing that there were things I had not shared and had never thought I’d share.  Things that would never affect my love, honor or desire for him.  Then I just pretty much blurted it out and told him that I had never been a real diplomat.  I had actually been an undercover operative, an intelligence officer, a spy for the past 20 years.  He was amazing.  He looked at me, kissed my forehead and simply said, “Carol Ann Fleming, I married YOU; not your career or former career.  I am proud to learn how you served your country.”

Abdullah never wanted details about my career with the CIA.  While we did not hide my true employment when necessary it was not something that was brought up as a topic of conversation either.  We chose to maintain with our diverse friends and contacts from around the world that I also had served in the diplomatic corps.  There were no reasons to state otherwise.  Whether Abdullah had to report the identity of my true (former) employer I do not know.  When it came to career issues, we always respected each other’s privacy.

Individuals and officials from both countries and third countries often times seemed to not know how to take Abdullah and I.  We came from such very different backgrounds and cultures yet fit together like two peas in a pod.  The girl who came from where oil was first discovered finally met her Prince whose Kingdom reigns over OPEC.  We learned our roots, values and goals in life were the best foundation to build new roots and beginnings together.

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16 Responses

  1. That’s a ‘Honey, we need to talk’ conversation like no other! So love Abdullah’s response. He sounds like he was a fabulous human being.

  2. Awesome story Carol!! Sounds like I may not be the only one with a story most normal people would ever believe 🙂

    Also, I like the picture you’ve put in my head of you running into his armswhen he got home. Absolutely lovely 🙂

  3. Wow! That’s all I can say!
    Jay

  4. I imagine it must have been hard for you to talk to Abdullah about this, but it sounds like he understood and really, really loves you. Who knows? Maybe he half-expected it.. From what you say, he must have been very wise and intelligent. Maybe he thought there was more to your work life than what you would tell him before you “came clean” to him about the true nature of your work, so to speak?

  5. I love tales of intrigue and mystery. I so enjoyed your secret life and eventually informing Abdullah about it. If he was shocked, he must have controlled it out of love for you and to make you feel that he accepts you uncondtionally. It must have been such a relief and warm feeling at that point.

    Keep the stories coming

  6. Your story reads like a novel, Carol. Keep it coming!!! Ha!!!

  7. Wow that could have been dangerous for you and maybe even more so for Abdulla. Obviously he was very brave and his love for you was so genuine.What a shock that the CIA would put their employees in such situations without prewarning them what would happen if they were ever to leave. That almost feels like a stab in the back!
    Im glad it never caused you any problems, but then again Im just assuming???
    Seems Abdulla kept his cool about everything, maybe he was also a secret agent? lol

  8. ‘True Love-Unconditional Love’
    I remember in my mid twenties, a very successful and accomplished doctor told me, ‘You are NOT your job’. During the late 90’s early 2000’s, I was toying with the idea of leaving a career in banking, yet could not see my life as ‘something else’. Years later, I realized, the career change I made has made me less stressed and more sincere.
    I though there was so ‘proctection act’ passed in 1970’s after one agent spilled the ‘beans’. ( forget the name, giving info to the former Soviet Agents while working in Langley as double agent) I am surprised at Agency’s exit interview process.
    Carol, I am been on blog for some time now, and I am pleased to find out you worked for the CIA. I truly hope there are more agents out there like you! Agency was very lucky to have you working for them!

  9. I agree,CIA were out of luck when she left!
    Did your status effect the marriage permission process in Saudi?
    I can’t imagine them being too excited about a saudi marrying a former spy!

  10. Hmmm, and Abdullah was also a diplomat, I see a ”Mr and Mrs Smith” scenario here…
    😉

  11. ditto to the Mr and Mrs Smith

  12. TOTALLY love this story…almost like a movie…hmmm now there is a thought!

  13. Enjoyed the visuals this post supplied me!

  14. Abdullah and I certainly had an unusual courtship and wonderful marriage. He was such a distinguished diplomat and fabulous representative of his country. He was genuine through and through. As I am sure many can see there was no way both of us could have pursued our respective careers and be married…too much potential for serious conflict of interest and perception thereof.

    To this day I am convinced Abdullah was not aware of my true affilitation…heck, I made sure of that! (smile)

    Just being a former government official made our marriage approval process a bit more complicated. There’s no doubt that whether we wanted to or not we made history with our marriage given our backgrounds. However I believe if there were ever any indication or doubt on the sincerity and deepness of our love we may never have received the approval.

  15. “To this day I am convinced Abdullah was not aware of my true affilitation…heck, I made sure of that! (smile)”

    If you say so… 🙂

    I’m glad that you both were able to experience life together. I just wish that you both could have had more time together as it is apparent you both deeply loved each other.

  16. I love it! This is an absoutly lovely story about your life and love. You are truly a superwoman!

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