Retired CIA Intelligence Officer Patrick Weninger Charts His Career Path
What can you do with an NC State degree in political science? Ask retired CIA intelligence officer Patrick Weninger.
Weninger describes his nearly 29 years working in the National Security space — with the majority of those years as a senior intelligence officer in the CIA’s clandestine services — as a lifestyle rather than a job. “You’re living this double life that you can’t talk about,” he says. “You’re always on, always working. It never stops.”
It is also a career he “fell into,” while serving in the Air Force. Weninger originally planned to follow his father’s example and have a lifelong career in the military. But he changed course when the CIA recruited him out of the military after working with the agency on some special projects — even though he initially doubted his eligibility.
After passing a rigorous training and selection process, he entered the CIA. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he says, defined his role at the agency, a leader in the counterterrorism battle.
Weninger worked around the world, from Europe and South Asia to Latin America. He spent most of his career, however, serving in war zones in the Middle East.
Underscoring the still-secret nature of his work, Weninger would only say his key responsibilities included recruiting and developing foreign agents to supply valuable intelligence to the CIA. He adds that while a few aspects of the spy business depicted in movies or TV shows such as Homeland ring true to life, most are sensationalized.
“It’s not without sacrifices or challenges,” he says of his former career. “But knowing you’re on the frontline of protecting our country from various threats is a very rewarding feeling.”
You never know where you can go or what you can do.
Weninger says his political science classes at NC State nurtured his interest in foreign policy, as well as international and national security— and taught him how to think instinctively. Those lessons, he notes, were integral to his success at the CIA. So were the interpersonal and communication skills he gained being in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
His experiences outside the classroom were also valuable. “I wanted a big university, football and basketball games, lots of people to meet, and NC State gave that to me,” he says. “At the same time, I felt I was in a close-knit community where I was able to come out of my shell, become a well-rounded person, and build some great and long-lasting relationships.”
Weninger retired from the CIA in 2020 “to focus on my family.” Soon after, he and two colleagues from the agency founded Presage Security in McLean, Virginia. He is the chief operating officer at the company, which uses computer vision software to extract physiological data from videos for clients in the private and public sectors.
Weninger’s advice to someone thinking of entering the U.S intelligence field? “Dream big,” he says. “You never know where you can go or what you can do.”