In 1968 Janine Brookner was enrolled in the CIA’s secretive operations training program. She was one of 6 women registered, and although she knew that women were generally treated as second-class citizens, she was determined to become a foreign clandestine agent.
Her tenacity proved fruitful with postings in the Phillipines, Thailand and Venezuela. In Jamaica, she became the first female station chief in Latin America overseeing other undercover officers. However, just as she was to accept a lead position at a station in Europe, subordinates who she had reprimanded for bad and abusive behaviour and drunkedness accused her of promiscuity. Her career of twenty-five years was stalled when the agency’s inspector general called her a sexual provocateur. She had to either go quietly to a demoted desk job or sue the CIA. She felt her only option was to sue the CIA for sexual discrimination. Although the allegations were proven false and she was awarded a sizeable settlement, she quit working for the CIA knowing her undercover career was over.
Janine Brookner went back to school and began a second career as an advocate and litigator for women and whistleblowers who had been treated poorly by the government. She was fierce, stealth and formidable in her approach, always working carefully and quietly as she had in her former job. She was sought out by those needing a knowledgeable advocate especially in intelligence abuse cases because of the agency’s right to secrecy. Decades before the Me Too movement Janine Brookner fought and exposed the unethical behaviour of government including the CIA. She died this year at the age of 80.