Thursday, March 19, 2009

Meet the CIA's Shrink

By Noah Shachtman
March 19, 2009

Meet Dr. David Charney, the Brooklyn-born, Virginia-based psychiatrist who's been treating the CIA's cloak-and-dagger set for nearly 20 years.

SpyTalk shares a fascinating St. Patrick's Day lunch with Charney, who breaks down the issues that various spooks face. For analysts in the Directorate of Intelligence, the problem is "obsessional," like fretting endlessly over whether a safe has been locked.

"They start leaving and they think, 'Did I actually close all the safes?' Then they go back and check the safes and spin the dials and leave. And then they say, 'Well, wait a minute -- the safe was closed in the first place, so maybe when I spun the dials I actually opened it.'

"In other words, they have obsessional worries. They might think, 'I have static electricity on my dress, and maybe a classified paper clung to my dress and I wasn't aware of it when I walked out, and it dropped off.' And then they'll go back and check their pathway."

Charney has interviewed the spies who've penetrated the American intelligence services, too -- guys like Robert Hansen and Earl Pitts, the FBI-turned-KGB agents. "A spy is one of the loneliest people in the world,"

Charney told Newsweek. "He is completely dependent on his handler."

Suffice it to say, my wife's practice in the Bronx is a wee bit different.

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