In his 28 years at the CIA, Darrell Blocker figured out a reliable strategy for recruiting covert agents.
“A person like myself is always looking for that anomaly, that person who doesn’t feel like they’re being listened to, that person who doesn’t feel like they fit,” Blocker said in a talk early this year at the International Spy Museum. “That’s who I’m looking for as a potential spy.”
In some ways, he could have been talking about himself. Blocker, known in the intelligence community as “the spy whisperer,” is reportedly on a shortlist of candidates President-elect Joe Biden is considering to lead the CIA, the country’s international intelligence service. If selected, he would be the agency’s first Black director — and the third Jewish one.
Raised in a churchgoing Air Force family, Blocker began exploring Judaism in college and formally converted in 2017, just before retiring from the CIA as the most senior Black officer in the Directorate of Operations, a division once known as the clandestine service.
Blocker declined to comment on the reports that he is being considered for the CIA’s top position, starting with one last week in Fox News. But in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, he described a passion for questioning authority that led him to success in the field and to embrace Judaism.
His father was in the Air Force and until he was 11, and Blocker lived in Japan, Italy and Texas before moving to his family’s ancestral home in Augusta, Georgia, after his father retired. In Augusta, in 1975, when the notion of integration was still fragile in the South, he was the only Black kid who would move between groups of white and Black children on the playground.