Saudi Arabia: Honey, We’ve Got to Talk


I truly believed I’d likely end my CIA career as an undercover operative, especially since I was choosing love over career and love to a foreign dignitary at that!  I took my vows of cover seriously.  Even while Abdullah and I began to plan a life together I never indicated that I had been anything else but a ‘regular diplomat.’  He was already working in the United States at the Saudi Embassy in Washington when I joined him from New Delhi, India as his wife.  During those first weeks of marriage he understood that I was still “out-processing” from my job and finishing up administrative paperwork.  One of those “administrative” issues included a briefing and instructions from the ‘Central Cover Staff’ which were responsible for helping to build and protect the cover of employees.  I went to the meeting expecting to sign a continued declaration of secrecy and oath of cover.  Wrong!  Instead I was informed that since I was leaving the CIA I was “being brought out from under cover.”  For various legalities, I would no longer be an undercover operative and instead my record indicated my true employer.  I was shocked.  I had become so accustomed to living under a cover that blanketed me.  I made sure that the department was aware I had married a foreign official and that he had no indication or hint of who I had worked for.  I was politely but firmly told that was my issue to deal with.  Actually after going through the initial shock and feeling of nakedness without a cover, I began to realize there were more benefits and opportunities without a cover story to worry about.  But I still had to get through the challenge and fear of telling my new husband that there were some (big) things he may not have known about me.  My concern wasn’t as much about his reaction but I did not want any retribution to fall upon my husband because of choices I had made.

My cover was unraveled at the same time Abdullah and I were purchasing our home in Virginia.  Central Cover Staff advised me that the mortgage application had to reflect my CIA employment since the record changes had gone into immediate effect.  Plus, a mortgage required a lot of legal documentation that had to be correct and truthful.  I had a window of about 14 hours to share my revelations with him.

As a newly married couple we were shy, loving and always warm around each other.  I loved how he would enter our home, put his briefcase in the foyer, open his arms wide and holler “Honey, I’m home!”  I’d always come running and fling myself in his arms.  It didn’t matter we were not teenagers although our love for each other radiated like innocent children.  One of the first things he asked the day he knew I had some “resignation meetings” was how did they go?  Without any further ado I took his hand and led him to the couch.  Sitting down and holding his hand I told him, “Honey, we’ve got to talk.”

Abdullah squeezed my hand in assurance and simply looked in to my eyes waiting for me to speak.  His face held no expression.  I began by apologizing that there were things I had not shared and had never thought I’d share.  Things that would never affect my love, honor or desire for him.  Then I just pretty much blurted it out and told him that I had never been a real diplomat.  I had actually been an undercover operative, an intelligence officer, a spy for the past 20 years.  He was amazing.  He looked at me, kissed my forehead and simply said, “Carol Ann Fleming, I married YOU; not your career or former career.  I am proud to learn how you served your country.”

Abdullah never wanted details about my career with the CIA.  While we did not hide my true employment when necessary it was not something that was brought up as a topic of conversation either.  We chose to maintain with our diverse friends and contacts from around the world that I also had served in the diplomatic corps.  There were no reasons to state otherwise.  Whether Abdullah had to report the identity of my true (former) employer I do not know.  When it came to career issues, we always respected each other’s privacy.

Individuals and officials from both countries and third countries often times seemed to not know how to take Abdullah and I.  We came from such very different backgrounds and cultures yet fit together like two peas in a pod.  The girl who came from where oil was first discovered finally met her Prince whose Kingdom reigns over OPEC.  We learned our roots, values and goals in life were the best foundation to build new roots and beginnings together.


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