Saudi Arabia: It’s Easy to be a Quick Change Artist

 

One thing Abdullah always appreciated and complimented me on was my ability to be ready in a hurry.  It did not matter if we were going out spontaneously or taking a trip, I was always the first one ready and prepared.

I attribute much of this skill to my times with the CIA.  As a field operative there are often circumstances where you must react quickly or travel with short notice.  In fact during our courtship I was fortunate that Abdullah never questioned the times when I might disappear.  This is a great tribute to his patience and understanding for I would not tell him in advance if I was going to be out of town.  The last thing I wanted was to draw any undue attention to myself.  On my return I’d usually say that I had to travel for consultations or a training slot opened up at the last minute.  I would not have been in the States as I implied but would have a cover legend that made sense and did not draw questions.

It became secondhand to take on different personas.  I might be a diplomat but in a different name.  Or sometimes I would be a business woman.  For each “cover” I would have a solid legend which I had committed to memory.  I knew the person I was; her background, her history and the work she performed.  I could respond easily to any question asked at a security checkpoint or international border.

When portraying myself as another persona I would usually take steps to alter my appearance as well.  I learned which hotels or restaurants in a foreign city had multiple entrances and exits and washrooms without attendants or security cameras.  I could change into a wig with different clothing and shoes and make up in less than five minutes and be back on my way to perform the job at hand.

The altered appearance and different name were for my protection and the protection with whom I met.  There were circumstances when I did meet with assets who knew my name and what I looked like.  They knew they were collaborating with US intelligence and had placed their trust and confidence in me to keep them safe and secure.

I’ve always had a Mother Hen attitude and even after leaving the CIA my Mother Hen attitude to protect and care for those close to me continues.  Abdullah took great care of me and he knew I was always there to take care of him and his family.

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7 Responses

  1. Oh my! I have a hard enough time figuring out what to wear to go to the store or work much less swap outfits and personas!
    Did you ever feel like the” real” you was getting lost in the midst of all the subterfuge your job required?

  2. The more I learn the more I think that you should be talking to a script writer so that a movie can be made of your life story.
    Fascinating stuff. When working as an expat overseas it was always a game and gossip to “spot the CIA operative”. Don’t ever know if we were right or wrong!

  3. Very interesting! I think, to a certain extent, people naturally portray different personas depending on who they are around, etc. For instance, people will usually act differently at work than they will at home. However, most people don’t have to deal with cover stories! It sounds like it must have been difficult to keep all the “legends” straight. And quick changes remind me of the performing arts. So many un-related memories, thoughts, and ideas this post brings to my mind! lol. You are most definitely “Mother Hen” Bedu! Love you! ❤

  4. ‘When working as an expat overseas it was always a game and gossip to “spot the CIA operative”.’

    That sounds like fun!

  5. Sort of keeping routine in different countries as well.
    Yes, overseas, somethimes, we the expats would spot unusual behavior some places, namely the mideast. I used see certain patterns at one hotel like clockwork every night.

  6. Did the CIA leave it up to you to change your persona as you wanted/needed or were you given a script of sorts to memorize? I would imagine that you would be more successful or blend better if you were able to select your own persona…something you felt intimately comfortable with.

  7. This is a fascinating post. I’d often wondered how CIA people worked and this answers some of my questions. Like Carol’s late husband I too admire people who are able to “get ready in a hurry.”

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