Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Valerie Plame

Spy Training

Movie poster: Private Benjamin
Movie poster: Private Benjamin
It was like a scene out of Private Benjamin, only it wasn't a movie. There she was, covered in mud, on all fours, gripping an M-16 and training in escape and evasion tactics at four in the morning. An eighty-pound backpack strapped to her back, she and her fellow trainees ran across the swampy grounds in the brisk late fall air to "escape" the explosions of firecrackers and flares.

Though the physical training was grueling, the psychological tests were nearly as exhausting. The prospective agents were vetted for readiness, assessed not just for mental soundness, but also for intellectual creativity, as Plame would soon learn.

In a beige, non-descript building in Washington, she met with a CIA interviewer who posed a problem: What if she was meeting an agent in a foreign country in a hotel room and the police are at your door? The young, plucky aspiring spy responded saucily. "I would take off my blouse, tell the agent to do the same, and jump into bed before telling the police to come in."

She passed the test.

Not surprisingly, she and her classmates, underwent further psychological scrutiny. The Myers-Briggs psychological test was administered to all the prospective agentsthe ones who were deemed ENTJ (Extrovert, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging) were often singled out to be Operations Officersthe type of agents who work out in the field, undercover. Plame was an ENTJ.

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