Cindy Storer was a valiant, even heroic, in my book, former CIA expert on Al Qaeda. All the frantic warnings of Cindy and her workmates, most of them women, that Bin Laden was coming for us went up in smoke and fire on September 11, 2001. And she’s here to talk about it with me this week.
“We don’t really talk about how we feel at the anniversary, and I have kinda mixed emotions about it,” she says. “I think of the people still working and still still in the fight, so to speak. I think of my friends who were actually in New York and Washington, D.C. and experienced both attacks. And for them, these anniversaries are more visceral because they were physically present and they saw things…
“For me and my colleagues from back in that time, so many of us still have some trauma left over from our time working counter-terrorism. So, you know, it brings up a lot of stuff.”
Cindy also relives the months and weeks leading up to the 9/11 attacks. In the summer of 2001, there was “almost panic,” among analysts tracking Al Qaeda as they grew certain that something big was coming, she says. ”It was very tense”.
Cindy teaches intelligence now at Johns Hopkins and the University of Texas at El Paso. A number of them ask her about making a career at the CIA.
“I tell ’em it’s the greatest job you’ll ever have, but it’s also really hard,” she says.
“It’s a hard thing to navigate any bureaucracy. And then at CIA, you’ve got moral issues and you’ve got, in my case, working on a subject that people didn’t care about [for years]. So when I was assigned a mentor, my mentor wasn’t very helpful, ’cause she’d never done anything like this before. So I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to find people outside of your chain of command who can help you when things get hard—because they will.”
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