Anderson Cooper has
long traded on his biography, carving a niche for himself as the most human of
news anchors. But there's one aspect of his past that the silver-haired CNN star
has never made public: the months he spent training for a career with the
Central Intelligence Agency.
Following his sophomore and junior years
at Yale—a well-known recruiting ground for the CIA—Cooper spent his summers
interning at the agency's monolithic headquarters in Langley, Virginia, in a
program for students interested in intelligence work. His involvement with the
agency ended there, and he chose not to pursue a job with the agency after
graduation, according to a CNN spokeswoman, who confirmed details of Cooper's
CIA involvement to Radar.
"Whatever summer jobs or internships our
anchors had in college couldn't be less consequential," she added. He has kept
the experience a secret, sources say, out of concern that, if widely known, it
might compromise his ability to travel in foreign countries and even possibly
put him at greater risk from terrorists.
"He doesn't want to be
any more of a target than he already is," says one Anderson confidante. On the
other hand, as Bob Woodruff and others have learned, American journalists are
already prime targets in the world's conflict zones, and are typically accused
of having CIA ties even where none exist. And by not disclosing his training
before now, Cooper has arguably made it into a potential issue. "It creates the
appearance of something smelly there," says a former CNN official who knows
Cooper. (Particularly in light of the period Anderson spent studying Vietnamese
at the University of Hanoi after college. Soon after, Cooper apparently gave up
his Bond fantasy to pursue a career in journalism—except for a brief period when
he starred as host of ABC's reality show, The Mole.)
the spokeswoman, Cooper told his bosses at CNN about his time with the agency.
But even if he hadn't, says Walter Isaacson, who headed the network from 2001 to
2003 and is now president of the Aspen Institute, it's not the sort of thing
that would automatically require disclosure, since the stint was brief and far
in the past. "I think what he did was probably fine and cool, and I've got no
problems with it," he added.