Miscik (pg. 3)
She lost her job but salvaged her reputation - in contrast to others in the political maelstrom around the war. Until Bush commuted his sentence, Libby faced 30 months in prison for perjury and obstruction of justice. Foggo has been indicted on fraud and other charges related to the bribery case of convicted Congressman Randy Cunningham. Tenet has been widely criticized for his deference to the President. Miscik, meanwhile, has managed to earn respect even from Iraq hawks. Doug Feith, the neoconservative who was undersecretary of defense for policy from 2001 to 2005, says that he was frustrated by the quality and, as he sees it, the antiwar bias of the CIA's information about Iraq, but he says about Miscik, "Among CIA people, she was one of the most impressive and professional."
To Miscik, however, getting another job in the capital wasn't an option. Kissinger told her, "In Washington, no matter what you move on to, you're always known as 'the former.'" Miscik didn't want to be a former anything. "I wanted to prove to myself that I could do something totally different," she says. "It was either New York or back to California. New York got me first." (Married and divorced in the '80s, she has a boyfriend in Los Angeles about whom she is typically reticent.)
She initially faced some skeptics at Lehman, who were well aware of her role in the WMD judgment, but among her references was Tenet, who told Lehman executives she was "remarkably cool" under pressure. Dave Goldfarb, who oversees risk and principal investing for Lehman, notes that the firm had mixed success with other Washington recruits. "I remember when I interviewed Jami," he says, "I told her, 'The toughest thing will be staying relevant. Can you get the same insights that you had at the CIA?'" Once onboard, at a salary in the mid-six figures, more than double her government pay, Miscik realized, "You have to show your value in a short amount of time."
She can no longer get her intel from CIA analysts and operatives. ("That would be crossing the line," she says.) So she keeps a web of sources who include Washington contacts, government officials, and experts at nongovernment organizations and think tanks. She also talks to journalists who cover local governments - "which I couldn't do before," she says - and locals in "entrenched industries" like mining and timber, because those people tend to stay put in their native country. On a typical day Miscik reads and surfs the Internet for about two hours, perusing foreign newspapers ranging from the Bangkok Post to the Turkish Daily News, plus websites such as qantara.de (a "dialogue with the Islamic world" funded by the German government), icps.kiev.ua (a Ukrainian think tank), and sasnet.lu.se (a Swedish collection of South Asian think-tank websites).
Have her mistakes at the agency made her a better analyst? "Absolutely," she says. "Having come through it, I'm smarter for it." Asked about her current thinking on global risk, she says, "Hardly anything is generally considered risky in the markets now." For investors, that perception of safety should be worrisome. "The idea that geopolitical risk doesn't move markets is wrong." When a foreign economic crisis happens again, she says, the extent of the damage will probably hinge on geopolitics: "It usually comes down to a government having the political will to do something smart vs. something stupid."
Miscik sees rising turmoil in the Middle East this fall. In Iraq "you'll see heightened levels of insurgency as the Iraqis want to make sure that we leave," she says. Miscik found herself in London during the recent terrorist attacks in Britain. "Unfortunately," she says, "the attacks bear out my thinking that al Qaeda is flexible and adaptive. It's still planning from the center, but it's increasingly relying on local terrorist groups and branding these groups under the al Qaeda umbrella." Is she surprised that al Qaeda has not attacked the American homeland since 9/11? No, she replies. "They're very patient - more so than we are. The intent, I have no doubt, remains."
Miscik no longer carries the burden of looking out for the overall security of Americans, which comes as a relief to her. Any miscalculations will have an impact only in dollars. But her new role comes at a time when capital is gushing through the world with a force and complexity that dwarfs any one human's ability to understand it. She has found the totally different kind of risk she was looking for.
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From the July 23, 2007 issue