Melissa Boyle Mahle (Criminal Justice)

Time as a spy

Melissa Boyle Mahle may never have become a spy—and subsequently helped save countless American lives—if she had not taken night classes at Sac State where a professor recommended that she meet with a visiting CIA recruiter.

As an archeologist, with a flair for international affairs, Mahle fit the CIA’s agent profile. She joined the agency in 1988 and until 2002 conducted counterterrorism operations throughout the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa.

She writes about her clandestine career and criticizes the CIA’s leadership in her book Denial and Deception: An Insider’s View of the CIA from Iran-Contra to 9/11.

As a CIA field operative, Mahle worked against threats to national security, by recruiting spies, and by running operations against al-Qaida and illicit networks selling weapons of mass destruction.

Mahle also managed to balance motherhood and covert operations. Just hours after giving birth in 1998, she fielded U.S. Secret Service calls in preparation for a presidential visit to Bethlehem and Gaza. On another occasion, she took her baby in tow when Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat requested an urgent meeting on her nanny’s day off.

Mahle says spy work isn’t always so dramatic.

“It’s not the stuff of James Bond,” she says. Agents don’t usually carry weapons or conduct solo missions without management oversight. She admits she did get “a lot of the cool gadgets… But I never got the car.”

Mahle received a Presidential letter of appreciation for her work on the Middle East peace process and numerous exceptional performance awards from the CIA.

In her book, Mahle questions why no one in the U.S. government has been held accountable for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

She also gives her views on the arms-for-hostages scandal in the early 1990s.

Mahle, who grew up in Carmichael, now lives in Virginia. She is writing a second book about women in the CIA.

This article was originally published in the Fall 2005 edition of Sac State Magazine.