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"She served her country well"

Janine Brookner, an accomplished former CIA agent who overcame brutally unfair treatment at the agency, has unfortunately passed away. While many tributes to this wonderful person have already appeared (here), I would be remiss not to add a revealing anecdote from decades ago that I’ve kept confidential until now.

I met Janine Brookner, then a single mother, a couple of times in the mid-1980s. Her son Steve and I lived next door during our freshman year at Dartmouth. At the time, she was assigned to the United States Mission to the United Nations where she monitored Soviet Bloc officials. Our UN Ambassador then was Jeane Kirkpatrick.

In 1985, Amb. Kirkpatrick hired me for a 6-month internship. My job was to help her compile and edit four years of speeches, Congressional testimony and other official documents. We worked together almost daily for months and gradually, as I earned her trust, she would open up about some officials she worked with during her 4+ years in the Reagan Administration. Though she never shared anything confidential, she didn’t pull punches in giving her views.

I still vividly recall mentioning that I’d returned from New York to see Steve and had also bumped into Ms. Brookner. This was about 5 years before the CIA’s public humiliation of her. At the mention of the name “Janine Brookner,” Amb. Kirkpatrick put down her pen and became literally motionless. After a few moments she looked at me and said, “Janine Brookner has served her country well.”

She paused and then repeated that same statement.

The reason that memory has stuck with me so long is that I’d heard Amb. Kirkpatrick speak about many officials. Typically she’d comment about their intelligence (or lack thereof), savvy, or leadership. But I never heard her describe anyone else the way she described Janine Brookner, not even remotely.

Janine Brookner was a remarkable woman for her career and for how she triumphed over an awful level of misogyny. Rest In Peace, Ms. Brookner.

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