CIA Wife: An Extraordinary Memoir of Intrigue, Passion, and Danger (2000)

when I was 10 years old I I was living in Panama and my dad took me into our living room and he told me that he was a covert operative with the CIA and swore me to secrecy you can imagine for a ten-year-old it’s like telling somebody it’s like telling your son that you’re the Lone Ranger but they can’t tell any of their friends I I have a daughter who’s three and she thinks I work at the Metro because that’s where I’m always getting picked up after work I don’t know if I have the heart to break it to her that I’m a criminal defense lawyer the story of my parents spans 50 years five kids four countries three wars a revolution two races and one faith only then did death do the party it’s the story of a man who was part of the greatest generation ever told we hear a lot about the folks in World War two deservedly well we don’t always hear about those silent soldiers that fought in this nations cold war nor did we hear about their wives and families this is not just a story about my father it’s also a story of a remarkable woman a woman who used the most traditional of a female role for the most unconventional events helping my father recruit spies for the Central Intelligence Agency it’s also the story of a young girl from Baltimore who left into this marriage and then 29 years later was a seasoned CIA wife who had befriended ministers wives and greeted manuel noriega at the door at midnight it was this woman who when my father was dying of cancer was that sloan-kettering when the hospital officials told her that he had to go they had done everything they could for my father and space was needed it was then that she didn’t cry she didn’t threaten she didn’t grandstand she didn’t control she asked for a meeting and at that meeting with the head of sloan-kettering there and the two physicians who cared for my father she secreted from her purse a small tape recorder and pressed record as she said doctors the meeting may begin my father stayed meet my mom good evening it’s nice to see all of you it’s a real pleasure I’m pleased to see a little boy who said he was interested in the book and even stayed for the reading my Spy is more than a book it’s a promise kept I promise that I made to my husband 24 years ago as he lay dying he wanted to stand up and be counted CIA had taken an awful lot of flak and Joe was sick of going under the cover of big Department of the army civilian or foreign service officer he wanted it known that he was a spy and he was proud of it so there was sitting next to Joe’s bed while he dictated the events of our secret lives that we live together and there it was that for the first time I met the husband I’d never really found I like take you back 54 years to the University of Michigan 1946 it was right after the war and you know Japanese weren’t terribly popular at that time Joe was studying law Michigan I was an undergraduate and he was 8 and a half years my senior we were both engaged to somebody else at the time so when the exchange dinner came up for us

this brother dorms to meet I didn’t sign up because I was engaged but that didn’t slow Joe up at any rate we signed and I understand that his name was Killa Naga and I assumed it was Italian maybe never dreaming that when I went to the dinner I would be faced with a six foot four handsome Japanese as I looked across that Lobby and that’s very moments I knew the reason I’ve been born when you’re hot you’re hot the microphones no problem not being spied on or anything nice so there we had a japanese-american from a tiny island Pacific Molokai was only about its only claim to fame was that it housed a leper colony and there I was an Irish Catholic redhead from Baltimore that should have been the end of the story but was just the beginning Joe didn’t have much money so he took me on a lot of walls at the end of the walk we’d we’d go to the corner drugstore and split a can of chicken noodle soup and on our third walk Joe turned to me and said fine it’ll never work and I said sure well Joe and just like that we were engaged and that’s how I ended up with a man that every girl wanted the date but no one had the guts to marry and that’s how I ended up plunked down in the middle of the Pacific it was our sign of paradise just the two of us actually no make that three of us Joe me and his mother a mother-in-law is bad enough a Japanese mother-in-law is absolute disaster we should have just remained pen pals but one good thing did come out of Hawaii we had a baby girl her name was Mary and she was beautiful she had red hair in front black and back and I figured well that’s what comes of a mixed marriage Joe and I traded in the balmy winds of Waikiki the deep freeze of a cold war in Washington he was going to study at sighs he was going to get his degree his master’s degree in international relations but we faced the challenge we couldn’t buy an apartment again remember that’s when the Japanese were not very popular and they tell us that there were no vacancies when actual reason was that they didn’t want japanese so finally we’ve ran into a war buddy of jose out in the virginia at four corners and they let us have an apartment joe had served in the 442 in europe the japanese-american regimental combat team he was decorated for fowler and he got a field Commission next thing we needed was a job and CIA offered him a job and Joe it’s kind of excited because it sounded so mysterious super secret and a little exotic and so he joined because he thought it would be an extension of his World War two experience CIA really did it up Brown in those days travel was wonderful and our first trip was to our first posting Japan and we went on the SS President Cleveland it was it was something like out of a Somerset Maugham novel it was so so lovely for some reason if I if I hadn’t been in love before I would have fallen in love with Joe on that ship somehow the lime seemed lime here the wind seemed windier the dinnertime

conversation more battered it was just perfect perfect until we got to Yokohama after 14 days I looked out the porthole and I thought have I come all this distance just to wind up in the Asian version of Oliver everything it was gray it was it was war-torn industrial industrious and just plain ugly I thought if this is Japan I’m not gonna like it but wait maybe it wasn’t so bad after all our car took us to Kamakura to our new home on the coast and there it was perched on a cliff over the Pacific are quasi mansion that CIA had gotten for us and it was windswept gardens food and the larder fresh linens on the beds it was just wonderful it was wonderful until the next morning I awakened late to dead silence in the house there’s no Joe oh I saw Ivan with a little note he’d left saying that the driver picked him up at seven o’clock he’d be back around 8:00 that evening great just great I am with two little children David had been born recently didn’t speak a word of the language no telephone no money no clue what to do welcome to the CIA for 28 years I lived a lie and I didn’t like it at first we died about our husbands jobs stalled inquisitive policemen befriended ministers wives kept our ears open at parties deflected the children’s questions and worried in silence alone we were the CIA wives you never even knew us I tend to be kind of gregarious I’m curious I kind of enjoy the limelight and here I was in Japan I couldn’t I couldn’t be for guys couldn’t talk I didn’t know what was going on and Joe whenever he’d come home and I was upset where had he been he’d just go like this in other words don’t say anything it infuriated me I also I couldn’t ask questions he’d be gone for days at a time unannounced and come back unannounced and I couldn’t say where have you been you know also one time I glimpsed them out of the corner my taking off in battle fatigues it seems he’d been in Korea at the front at the height of the Korean War all this I learned later but if it had a bad side that I found not being able to talk not being able to question I got pretty lonely and I wasn’t at all happy with my lot I felt that all the loops I mean if I was a CIA wife I want this be part of the action and everything was so far in and strange it was the language was different the culture was different the people all look so different and I was not sophisticated enough to realize it to be charmed and at first I was truly alarmed and then there were the kids there were no playmates for the kids we had this beautiful place set off in the hinterlands but there were no playmates marry one time opened a vial on the beach and I guess there was poison in it I don’t know what was in it there was a vial and she drank it and I took her to a doctor nearby a Japanese doctor trying to explain to him what had happened and he took a rubber hose one from the garden and started to Ram it down her throat you know the cleanser stomach I mean it’s that sort of thing I was flying blind and it was scary it was weird that’s that was the beginning and then to wake at 3:00 a.m. with a sick child it’s kind of scary when your husband’s off once God knows doing what you know I mean he could have been cavorting it was a gay shore or climbing to Mount Fuji I don’t I don’t know what he was doing I’ll tell you one thing you had to be trusting to be a CIA wife you had to be really trusting because you rather than worry about your husband’s safety when he’s gone for days at a time rather than being upset that he might be maybe is fooling around on you you don’t know you just have to trust it’s very important we were all part of a big conspiracy but only Joe was in on the secret I can understand now why James Bond never married ours was a product of a mixed and a mixed up marriage it wasn’t only biracial

it was just kind of weird because it was so secretive you know if it can’t visit you can’t have a drink when your husband comes home from work and it’s not a bad day and all that if you can’t just visit about it it’s it’s hard you can’t share as much I made it very difficult for me we had our problems I wish we could take back some of those painfully beautiful Sundays or some of those magical Saturday night parties spoiled because we had the plaster smiles on our faces what was our problem couldn’t we see that we’d been given so much great kids a good career life overseas each other and we’re close to destroying it couldn’t we see that we were tempting God in our quiet moments yes but how do you stop yourself when you’re hurt furious count to ten say a Hail Mary maybe that helps but you need more you need humility to calmly await your husband’s return not knowing where he is to debrief a defector with critical information those things are difficult to admit that you’re wrong they asked forgiveness next to impossible but we tried we tried to fight the good fight we tried to keep the faith there was a good side to being a CIA wife because as my son said a spies main job is to recruit agents well what better thing to do than me help them recruit days and of course I never knew who the agents were that was the problem but I could I could at least garner some information for him and that’s when I started to join various clubs try to get on the board join the PTA as the children grew and do things that gave me entree to the local folk and it was there that I began to make a few friends for both of us and that’s when the really interesting part comes in the parties that we would give it was all of our parties had themes they were either a Italian villa of Moroccan cash ball whatever but everything had to be along that scene the flowers the music the menu I mean it’s tough fighting communism and somebody’s got to play in the menu so and along the way when we’d have parties it would be nice if I picked up a little information that would help Joe like a cabinet minister was it going to Washington no but I understand his wife’s going to Paris that type of thing and oh by the way doesn’t say the son wants to study urban planning Joseph hmm that’s not a bad idea maybe I’ll get him a scholarship that would that would help so that’s the sort of thing that went on and a Catholic Church and CIA have always worked hand in glove and Joe had a lot of priest agents actually I thought job Joe spent an awful lot of time in church it seems that he was meeting an agent in the confessional he’d go in and into one of the little receptacles and he would open the sliding door and for the agent was there he’d go ahead and have a meeting but if by chance if there was a priest there Joe would confess his sins and that way when he left he had something he at least had either information or absolution after Japan we were sent to Brazil if Japan taught me to be a good wife Brazil taught me to enjoy it for us Brazil was a dance on the beach a knowing glance across the room all set to the general Toto a bossa nova the clink of ice Joe’s drag on a cigarette for the first time in my life I didn’t feel outrageous I loved it we loved it sayonara Tokyo good night dear Washington bond gia San Paolo what contrast what is free yin and yang hot and sour I tend to equate a country in terms of taste Japan enjoyed innate quiet good taste Brazil’s was flamboyant but no less refined if Japan was a sublime choreography of silent tea ceremony

Brazil was a careening samba parade but you better watch your wallet everything in Brazil is larger than life their sunsets are surreal their full moon is luminous to the point of being airy and their southern cross on a starlit night out sparkles any possible diamond concoction the music makes you makes you nostalgic even if you’ve never heard it before and the people everyone’s having a good time and it’s contagious I suspect that all Brazilians are born relaxed you can see it in the way they walk they just don’t seem to take life all that seriously maybe it’s because so much there operates on faith God is certainly not dead in Brazil I could see as much as we flew into Rio while kamakura was presided over by the dobutsu a huge statue of christ without stretched arms reigns over rio in fact they have a saying God is a Brazilian the resulting philosophy is to my mind dead on and aspiring life is short it said God’s hands anyway so live it up brazil always opens another bottle of wine spines exciting work as a ripple effect in the marriage feeling of suppressed excitement so if your husband was off cavorting for days at a time when he finally did come home it was well worth the wait but Joe felt that being chief of station had to be the most rewarding job in the world it was a stressful job it also was a job that leaves a lot of us widows next we were assigned to Panama that’s when the canal negotiations were heating up Manuel Noriega was all over the front page of the local newspapers we did our stride we were late bloomers we’re going to take it slow so we could taste some vanilla like my grandmother Katie used to say we were on top of the world you cannot see the canal clays from the waiting room of Balboa’s Gorgas hospital but in the Panama sky will hundreds of birds gulls cormorants kites hawks and buzzards I watch them from the window until I saw the doctor coming toward me his green operating gown wrinkled from four hours of intensive work nose mask dangling from one air with immense wariness the doctor said mrs. kenig wa it’s bad I would have preferred thee taking me aside to talk to me oh it’s just too public people whom I felt that I’d known almost came to know during our annual our waiting room vigil perked up their ears misery loves company and I had none no family no friends for the first time I was facing bad though news with no Joe beside me the doctor was a good surgeon but no diplomat I had to remove three-quarters of your husband’s stomach I’m quite sure it’s cancer it may have spread to the lymph nose I studied myself against the door jamb the doctor didn’t seem to notice I suspect it’s in the lungs too my knuckles whitened against the painted wall but doctor isn’t that combination fatal only then did his eyes hollowed by fatigue meet mine all cancer is fatal mrs. kealoha i think that’ll do it I like to if you’d like to ask some questions I’d be happy to take threatened it all and your situations of lifeforce pie you’re late with your children there were times one time in Brazil I remember was Annie’s birthday and I got up early to get ready and open the front living room curtains and there was a machine gun armed guard standing in front of the window when I questioned you there were two guards one in front of back he said it was because of an oncoming imminent revolution in fact an agent had doubled the one in the confessionals matter-of-fact had doubled had threatened the lives of us the children and me come on you must have something else you want to know I can’t see too well longest he was away from you maybe 2 weeks 2 weeks he made a movie he went Hollywood and he made a movie called I

was a prisoner in Siberia and he would be gone quite a bit on that I doubt if he started in the movie I think CIA funded it but it had to do with it was aimed at the Communists of Japan and it was evidently kind of a hit at least Joe told me it was a hit yes warden Bennett which band he spent over a few years how did your fellow CIA colleagues welcome Joe I don’t think they could quite figure mouth I don’t think that well I had trouble figuring them out I was married to him but I don’t think they could figure him out because first of all he had he didn’t speak anything but Japanese until he was 8 and he not only knew the language he knew the body language he knew when to pull back when to press forward and he had an advantage in that I think I think at first they weren’t real keen for the idea because he was the first me say to be sent to Japan as an as an operative but I think as they got used to him and he went up in the ranks they got to like him yeah that would have been terrible CIA can just imagine just look at me tonight no thank you but that’s a very nice compliment I like to think I would the feminist a little ahead of my time you know helping my husband’s five but at any rate yes what was that sure your family react your marriage what was interesting my mother and father who were hardly bluebloods really welcome Joe they thought it they thought he was great my father told me in fact that he thought Jill was the only man who could handle me truly but Joe’s mother was of a different mind you in those days you don’t you didn’t marry outside the race and so when he brought a bride back when he brought me back as his bride she was very unhappy that’s one of the reasons that she felt threatened when she saw me because she knew I was gonna take her son away which I did yes how much of the other CIA wise I didn’t contact the book why didn’t L see I was writing this book you know I didn’t I never sign anything I have a feeling they know now looking at the display that Elizabeth has ultra bug-eyed no I really haven’t contacted many CIA wives I see one in the audience and I’m happy to see her smiling face but in general it’s not known this is my own story and I just I think the agency if they do read it instead of being upset with me maybe they’d put a medal on me I’m not sure any other questions yes like I’m your children well my children I asked them recently I have five children three boys and two girls and I mentioned to them recently you know it was it hard living under the strictures of CIA and I said Oh CIA nothing we just thought we had strict parents and he did have strict parents my husband was very very strict but they seemed to love him all the more for it anything else cuz I’d be happy to sign some books thank you