Wippl Gives Talk on Importance of Foreign Language for CIA Officials


Joseph Wippl, Professor of the Practice of International Relations at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, gave a recent speech to the German Language Association of Milwaukee.

Wippl’s talk, given on May 1, 2016, focused on his experience learning German as a teenager and how the German language played a role in his career at the Central Intelligence Agency.

“During these years, I had thousands of conversations in German; you learn a lot from conversing with people,” Wippl said.  “You know a good way to maintain a conversation with a German:  know a lot about your country, the United States.  Specifically the Germans but Europeans in general are informed about events in the U.S.  and they love to ask questions.”

Wippl also discussed the critical role German played during his final assignment in Berlin as the CIA’s Chief of Station when the World Trade Center was attacked on September 11, 2001. Three of the four pilots in the attacks had met and were radicalized in Hamburg, Germany.

“The relationship between the U.S. and Germany became more tense and intense,” Wippl said.  “All of my business with senior German officials in the Chancellor’s Office, with the external intelligence organization, the BND, with the internal intelligence collection agency, the BFV, and with the federal police agency, the BKA was conducted in German.”

Prof. Wippl is a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer. He spent a 30 year career as an operations officer in the National Clandestine Service (NCS). Wippl has served overseas as an operations officer and operations manager in Bonn, West Germany; Guatemala City; Luxembourg; Madrid, Spain; Mexico City; Vienna, Austria; and Berlin, Germany.
 Learn more about him here.