Celebrating Women Special Agents: Debra Smith (2012)

Special Agent Debra Smith is currently special agent in charge of the Washington Field Office Counterintelligence Division. She speaks fluent Russian and worked closely on the Robert Hanssen espionage case. She has served as the special assistant to the Director.

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While I was working at the Bureau in the Records Management Division, I was actually communicating with a recruiter in Washington, D.C. about going into the Academy. And I was all ready to go except for the fact that I didn’t weigh enough to get into the class. I weighed at the time 88 pounds, and the minimum weight was 97. So I had to gain nine pounds. And it took a year to get there. So one day when we were close to it, the recruiter called and asked if I was 97 pounds yet and I said no but I was very close. And he said go to McDonald’s, eat a Big Mac, drink a shake, eat everything that you can hold, come right into the office and he will weigh me in. I did that and I made it by half a pound. So I was very happy at that point because it really was a struggle for me to get up to the actual 97 weight limit as an agent.

I became interested in working counterintelligence. At that time new agents were not assigned to counter intelligence squads so whenever I could, I would volunteer to do surveillances with them and an opening came along to attend Russian training school and I volunteered for that.

So I became proficient in Russian and transferred to the Los Angeles Division where I worked Russian foreign counterintelligence for four years. I talked to a lot of Russian émigrés during that time in Russian and conducted interviews in Russian prior to being transferred to a Russian organized crime squad.

I never thought I would help in the manner that I’ve helped with counterintelligence because that’s not just helping a particular person, it’s helping the country. And that’s how I look at counterintelligence work overall. I think every agent who’s working it everyday are coming in and you’re giving of yourself to help your country, totally.

I think things have changed. I know they have. In fact, I was having a conversation with a female agent I guess a week ago or so. And she told me that she doesn’t look at herself as a female agent, just as an agent. I thought, that’s a good thing and it was good to hear her say that, because it shouldn’t be, “you’re a female agent.” You’re an agent.

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