Former FBI Agent Speaks Out: 'I Was Not Protected' Robyn Gritz investigated major national security threats, but says the FBI drummed her out of a job after she fell out of favor with her supervisors. She went on to sell cosmetics and answer phones.
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Former FBI Agent Speaks Out: 'I Was Not Protected'

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Former FBI Agent Speaks Out: 'I Was Not Protected'

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Former FBI Agent Speaks Out: 'I Was Not Protected'

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Next, a woman who says she was pushed out of the FBI - she's speaking out about how the bureau treats women. Robyn Gritz worked for the agency for sixteen years and investigated major national security threats. She says that when she clashed with her supervisors they ended up yanking her security clearance. NPR's Carrie Johnson has her story.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Pick one word to describe Robyn Gritz, and it's this - tenacious.

ROBYN GRITZ: When you're fighting terror, and you're seeing buildings come down before you, you're passionate, and you're emotional. And I think the American people want you to be that way when you're keeping them safe.

JOHNSON: That passion fueled her to work weeks on end investigating the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11. And for years after, she devoted herself to national security cases that just kept coming. Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl disappeared in Pakistan, a former FBI agent, Robert Levinson, went missing in Iran, and then there were the al-Qaida leaders hiding overseas.

GRITZ: I wanted to be in the middle of it, and I wanted to be able to make a difference.

JOHNSON: For 15 years, Gritz says, she did. Her bosses at the FBI gave her excellent or outstanding performance reviews. But when I made contact with her last year, she was selling cosmetics at Macy's.

GRITZ: Watching everything that's going on in the world - how I had battled al-Qaida in Iraq - how I had battled the Taliban, al-Shabab - all my experience, all the time I put in there - I'm selling lipstick and blush.

JOHNSON: How did that happen? Gritz says the FBI drummed her out of a job, all because of allegations about fraud on her timecard that she says just didn't happen. The FBI also blamed her for sending an unprofessional e-mail to an ex-boyfriend. Now she's got the ear of people like Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley. The Republican lawmaker from Iowa says he's concerned about what he heard from Gritz and a small but vocal band of female whistleblowers at the FBI.

SENATOR CHARLES GRASSLEY: When you have seven or eight people come to you and talk about gender discrimination, I feel like I have a responsibility to raise that issue.

JOHNSON: So Grassley asked the FBI director about its treatment of female agents at a hearing last year. Grassley said he heard from one woman called emotionally unstable and difficult all because...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GRASSLEY: ...She pointed out that her men's size 40 hazardous material suit didn't fit her. Another whistleblower claims that she was denied a job for what she which she was ranked first out of six candidates because her male supervisors claimed that she was, quote, unquote, "emotionally fragile" following a divorce.

JOHNSON: The FBI didn't want to talk about Robin Gritz's case in part because it's still moving through the system. But officials there say they understand the importance of whistleblowers. And FBI Director James Comey says he's trying to diversify its largely white male ranks.

That won't come soon enough for Gritz who says she never wanted to be a complainer. After a decade of 24/7 work fighting terrorism, things got rough in her personal life - a hostile divorce caused in part by her work. And then after she'd gone to work on detail to the CIA, her FBI supervisor started asking about her hours. Gritz says she tried to resolve the problem short of a lawsuit. Plenty of male agents got away with far worse, she says, with no punishment. But she says the FBI pushed her into a corner.

GRITZ: I sat there for about a year and a half idled, basically ignored, ostracized.

JOHNSON: Then Gritz got a notice the FBI intended to begin a process to fire her over the timecard issues and the inappropriate e-mail she sent.

GRITZ: I had given up a marriage. I had given up 16 years of my life - of anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, special events, Christmas - all the holidays. I dedicated my life to protecting the people of the United States, and then I was not protected, and I felt it was because I was a strong female.

JOHNSON: Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn who led the Defense Intelligence Agency worked closely with Gritz to find terrorists overseas. He says it's a shame the FBI let go of someone with years of national security experience.

MICHAEL FLYNN: She was one of the - really, to me - bright lights and shining stars early on that sort of got it when it came to the kind of enemy that we were facing. And I just thought that she was really a real pro.

JOHNSON: Gritz, now 46 years old, had to sell her home and move in with her parents. The FBI yanked her security clearance, and she thinks they've been blackballing her for jobs in the field. That's how she ended up selling makeup. She recently moved to a better paying position answering phones at a call center. Even though Gritz has left the government, she says she still hears from a lot of women and some men at the FBI who she says aren't getting a fair shake. After all, Gritz says...

GRITZ: When you can take out an agent that has my credentials, you can do it to anyone.

JOHNSON: An inspector general is looking at Gritz's allegations, and her case is slowly moving through a backlog in the equal opportunity system. Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington.

SIEGEL: And NPR producer Evie Stone co-reported that story with Carrie.

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