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This C.I.A. Officer Wants to Give Peace a Chance


Ms. Fox recommends clove oil, a home remedy that worked for Zoe, born into the congested Shanghai air. “He gives me a look of knowing sympathy, parent to parent, lamenting government’s inability to keep the air clean,” Ms. Fox writes. The attack never happens.

That account in particular has raised some eyebrows in the intelligence community. “For real?” The Washington Post wrote, calling the exchange “wild to the point of defying belief.” Four former C.I.A. officers told NBC News that the agency would not have sent an American case officer alone to a perilous meeting in Pakistan.

I asked Ms. Fox about the criticism, and she pointed to a disclaimer in the book that says names, locations and operational details had been changed to protect intelligence sources and methods. “I think it’s pretty funny that the journalist who wrote that article called it a ‘controversy,’ when it says on Page 1 that operation details have been changed,” Ms. Fox said, referring to the NBC article.

We had initially planned to meet on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, but Ms. Fox’s book’s publication ran into some red tape after the journalist Yashar Ali reported that the C.I.A. had not cleared her book for publication before galleys went out, as is required by law. I got a panicked call from a publicist at Knopf to reschedule. (The C.I.A. declined to comment.)

Ms. Fox couldn’t talk about her private discussions with the agency but said the C.I.A. had been aware of the book from the outset. “I knew before I set pen to paper what the guidance was in my case and what details needed to be changed, and I felt as though it was very doable because it’s not an operational story — it’s a coming-of-age story,” she said.

Ms. Fox is now working on a young adult novel and will host an upcoming Netflix documentary series about the war on drugs, a project that required her to travel to Kenya, Thailand, Myanmar and Colombia, where she embedded with the military. “I did the whole thing in my third trimester,” she said.

That tension between Ms. Fox’s personal life and professional calling is something she has wrestled with, both in the book when she straps Zoe to her chest ahead of clandestine meetings (tucking concealment devices into diapers) and in her current work, going deep into Zika country while pregnant to shoot the documentary.

“Is our job to be at home reading ‘Goodnight Moon’ every night, or is it to go out and make the world we’re going to gift our kids better?” Ms. Fox said. “The answer is both, but how do we do that?”

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