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TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY SPIES
Going Where the Secrets Take Them

06/22/05

Map of the United States and OklahomaThink foreign spies spend all their time in Washington and New York City? Nope, these days they’ll go wherever the secrets lead them. Take Oklahoma City. It has three Air Force bases, an Army base, and the biggest munitions supply plant in the nation. It’s also home to several universities with research facilities and a legion of science and technology companies and firms. We spoke with Special Agent Karen Cid—who runs a Counterintelligence Squad—about life as a spy catcher in Oklahoma City.

Q. What’s your background…and why the interest in counterintelligence?
Karen:
Actually, I was a history teacher before joining the Bureau. One day, as I took a sanity break while chaperoning a high school dance, I saw a newspaper ad saying the FBI was hiring women. I became an FBI Agent in 1981 and have moved around a bit, but it’s foreign counterintelligence that I’ve worked the longest and have enjoyed the most. It’s really my cup of tea; my calling if you will. I find it fascinating, challenging, and immensely rewarding.

Q. How do you know what to look for in Oklahoma City?
Karen:
We have the national strategy which outlines key threats. Our approach then becomes more unique to what’s happening in our area. Our counterintelligence agents may focus on one or two core areas—to strengthen a particular expertise, for example. This might involve issues with defense contractors, technologies, or key assets of interest to foreign countries. We also work closely with our Field Intelligence Group, which has an agent and analyst dedicated to supporting our counterintelligence program. This generates a lot of useful intelligence. And we work hand-in-hand with other investigative squads—counterterrorism, cyber, and white collar—which helps us better understand the threats and vulnerabilities.

Q: How do you work to stop spies?
Karen:
Largely through our investigations. We’ve got our own local cases, unique to our situation here, and we support many other FBI offices, covering leads, providing investigative results, and sharing intelligence. We also do a lot of listening and partnering—both inside and outside the Bureau. For example, we help corporate managers assess their company vulnerabilities—from foreign threats or insider sources, both common to economic espionage. We value relationships with intelligence, military, and other agencies and with neighboring counterintelligence squads, like Houston and Dallas. When threats overlap, it’s great to be able to share strategies and work together.

Q: Any successes of late?
Karen:
Plenty, but none that I can discuss here. But I can tell you that we’re working hard to make acquisition of our technology, military information, research products, and business ideas so inconvenient for spies and intelligence services that it ruins their day. That’s what makes ours.

Links: FBI Counterintelligence website | More counterintelligence stories