All posts tagged: earliest signs of al-Qaeda

The Women Who Saw 9/11 Coming

The Women Who Saw 9/11 Coming

One day toward the end of the 20th century, John Rizzo, a career lawyer at the Central Intelligence Agency, found himself chatting with Jack Downing—a former Marine and stalwart Cold Warrior who had been brought out of retirement to oversee the clandestine service. The two men were talking about an analyst named Michael Scheuer, the cerebral but polarizing leader of a team focused on a terrorist group called al-Qaeda. Skeptical that Scheuer was up to the job, Downing brought up a perceived weakness of his staff. “The only people who work for him are girls,” he scoffed. It was a small moment, but one Rizzo never forgot. “I remember him saying girls,” Rizzo told me in an interview before his death in 2021. Ironically, Downing, who also died in 2021, was seen as relatively supportive of women at the CIA. Back in 2018, I met with a group of CIA historians to talk about women’s roles and experiences at the agency. The historians pointed to the striking number of women engaged in several key missions, …