By: Limor Ben Ari Contributing Writer
Lisa was referred to me for an interview by multiple Delray veteran sources. They all mentioned that she was interesting and something about being a secret agent. I was curious enough to take them up on their suggestion and scheduled a coffee date with her. We met at Caffe Martier. I knew who she was right away, by her flowy dress and laid back demeanor. She looked like the ultimate Delray Beach chick.
Lisa Ruth, 52, was born in Alabama, and grew up in Virginia. Her father worked for NASA, and worked for “The Agency” in nuclear physics in their science and tech division. The term “The Agency” came up a lot during our talk. For Lisa, it’s a common term carrying nostalgic eyes with childhood memories. For everyone else it’s an exciting, thrilling conversation piece. She and her two sisters grew up as an agency family. “They like to select people whose family members have been part of the agency. We grew up in it. We knew it was coming.” After graduation with a Masters Degree major in International relations from the University of Virginia, Lisa was recruited to the Agency at the age of 22. After a year of training she became an overseas analyst, and visited Latin America, the Middle East, Europe, and other regions across the globe. “My job as an agent was problem solving – Learning the cultures, finding reliable sources, analyzing the playing field.”
She talks about terrorism: “Security is the aftermath. It’s the clean-up. Preventing terrorism starts with intelligence. We helped prevent many terrorist acts before they took place. It was very fulfilling.”
“On TV it all looks like a chess game. When you go to these countries and meet the people, see everything, you realize these are real people. It’s not just news. And they are very smart”.
Terrorism though was never scary to her. “The countries where I felt the most fearful were actually the countries with internal chaos through gang crimes and violence and mobs like Haiti. These places are very unpredictable.”
I was not sure when I was supposed to put my pen down due to ‘top secret’ information and when I could capture her story. I randomly alternated writing and listening. I asked her if any of the information she was sharing with me should not be disclosed. She showed no fear. She’s known in the community as “The Agent” and has been contributing to news outlets as an international/terrorism expert.
During her service Lisa volunteered for humanitarian causes abroad, like helping the children behind the terrorism. “We get to do things you never get to do. I know the stories behind it. And it’s personal.” She recalls how when Wiki Leaks came out with news about Afghanistan, some sources soon after were hunted and killed. “Behind that information there are real people. There is a reason why some information is, and should be, kept classified.”
Being a female CIA agent was a challenge, “Many people don’t really believe women should be doing this and the main attitude is that we are going to fail. Men don’t really like it when you’re doing cooler stuff than them.” At the same time she jokingly notes: “The CIA is the biggest dating service. You create a secret bond. You spend time together and must keep secrets together.” It also has the highest divorce rate – “you travel a lot, you meet a lot of people, you get used to leading fake lives, lying, having different identities, and the overall search for conquests, it all carries over into personal life.”
As for Lisa, she found love outside the CIA. She met her partner in life, Bob Kubin, 10 years ago through his sister, her friend. “It was the first time in my life that everything stopped when I saw someone. The world stopped”. He was a gymnastics coach training Olympians. The thought crossed her mind that he was gay. He wasn’t. Prior to meeting him, Lisa was married to someone else, but that relationship ended quickly. She met Bob when her son was 7. “It’s all about timing, serendipity of timing. The most important thing is to first have a sense of self” she says. “Then everything falls into place.” When they have disagreements, they sit and talk it out. “Bob tells me ‘no matter what, we are staying together… how can we make it work?’ is the only question.” Putting each other first. Living their life together and opening their home and friendship to others . “We are inseparable. People know that when they hang with Bob they hang with me and vice versa. We come together. We focus on the depth of our footprint in the sand. Whose life can we make better?”
The most challenging assignment in her life was raising her child. She’s been confident and successful in her career. A natural problem solver, a world traveler. But raising her child on her own “turned my world on its head.” “Looking out for someone else… respecting his journey. It’s not easy to step back (especially as an alpha female), and not tell him what to do.”
Her son attended Rosarian Academy through 8th grade, and then went to Pope for a year. “Homeschooling isn’t for everyone, but it was perfect for us. Connor thrived in that environment and it was absolutely the best choice for him and for our family.”
As for her days as a CIA agent, when I asked if she still does it, she avoided the question with a smile. She said that she is now focused on her company, an international investigation firm, CTC International Group, helping perform market entry analysis for companies and leading companies into overseas operations. The firm is a collaboration of ex CIA agents she partnered with 16 years ago. With over 800 people around the globe, CTC performs cultural analysis and strategy for entry, based on local laws, etiquette and regulations. They carry out PI and fraud investigations as well. “I still get to use my problem solving skills to make an impact globally, so it’s fulfilling in a different way.”
She doesn’t miss her old career – “I appreciate having had it.” She won’t do it anymore, though: “Once you have kids it’s hard. Too tense – jeopardizing your kids.”
For fun she goes sailing every Sunday with her partner and friends at the north end of Delray Beach.
Every once in a while she receives messages by what she calls “agency intel groupies”…wannabe CIA agents. It’s mostly cases of mental illness “people are fascinated by it. Some of them think they were abducted and have had information installed in their brains.”
I’m not sure if she installed any information in my brain. If anything, I was left curious for more.