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When Helge Boes was a new associate at Latham & Watkins, friends there remember him saying, “I don’t want to be pushing paper for a living. I want to be paid to carry a gun.” Most of them figured he was just venting. “Everyone has grandiose plans as a first-year associate,” says John Turner, who started at Latham’s D.C. office with Boes in 1997. But Boes meant what he said. Tossing aside a promising career as a corporate lawyer, the Harvard Law School graduate joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 2001 as an operations officer — in other words, a spy. Last month, Helge Boes was killed in Afghanistan in a training accident, when a grenade exploded prematurely. His death is the second publicly acknowledged CIA fatality in the campaign to oust the Taliban and hunt down al Qaeda followers. Just 32, Boes leaves behind his wife, Cindy Tidler, an associate at the D.C. office of Foley & Lardner, and a wide swath of shocked and grieving ex-colleagues who believed that the amiable, unflappable lawyer they knew had been working in safe obscurity at the State Department. “You think you know someone when you’ve worked together that closely and intensely,” says Latham partner Nicholas Allard, one of Boes’ mentors at the firm. “It reminds you of how many different facets people have. At a big law firm, you just see the tip of the iceberg of someone.” In announcing Boes’ death, CIA Director George Tenet called him “a standout from the start. Helge was everything a superior case officer should be: bright, energetic, and ever prepared to apply his skills where they were needed most. He believed deeply in our mission of defending freedom.” Born in Germany in 1970 to an American father and a German mother, Boes grew up in West Berlin. That experience — living in a walled city surrounded by Communist East Germany — allowed him “to see up close the damaging effects of a closed society,” says his brother, Henrik Boes, in an interview conducted by e-mail. Boes would tell of visiting East Germany as a child, says David Pearson, who worked with him at Latham. The contrast made him “appreciate freedom, the freedom we have in the West. He felt that very strongly.” Boes attended Georgia State University as an undergraduate, majoring in political science, and wrote an honors thesis on the Karen rebels of Burma. But mere academic study wasn’t enough. After graduation, he went to Burma (called Myanmar by the ruling junta) and spent about six months living and training with the rebels, who for years have been fighting for independence from the totalitarian regime. “[Helge] was not one to just write something and leave it at that,” says Henrik Boes. “I know he cared deeply for their cause and was quite despondent when he returned, apparently because no one here cared or had even heard of the Karen. Helge wanted to change things, have an effect. He was too much a man of action to sit on the sidelines.” That desire — to make an impact, to fight for a belief — would be a recurring theme as Boes entered the next stage of his life: that of a lawyer. He applied to law school not out of a burning desire to practice law per se, says his brother, but because it “was simply a good, broad option for him.” He was accepted at Harvard, and enrolled in the fall of 1994. In his first semester, he met Cindy Tidler. A fellow internationalist, she spoke Spanish and German and had studied Mandarin Chinese in Beijing prior to law school. They began dating and were married in 1999. “They were perfect for each other,” says Henrik Boes. “Cindy was someone Helge could completely trust and to whom he could show his gentler sides.” Tidler could not be reached for comment. While in law school, classmate Kelly Whiting recounts, Boes, a gun enthusiast, sought to be commissioned into the U.S. Army as an infantry officer. “He repeatedly emphasized to me that he wanted to lead men in defending our liberty from those who would destroy it and harm us,” Whiting writes in a tribute to Boes on a Web site created by Henrik Boes and Ryan Clements. “He fully understood the dangers involved, and he also realized that such a course would never reward him financially with anything even comparable to what he could earn as an international lawyer.” But Whiting, who now practices law in Fruitland, Idaho, reports that his attempts to enlist “were frustrated by the Army’s insistence that he serve as a lawyer in the Judge Advocate General’s branch, rather than in the infantry.” Boes gave up on the Army — but not on his dream to serve — and accepted a job as an associate with the elite firm of Latham & Watkins in Washington, D.C. There were about 15 new lawyers in the D.C. office’s class of 1997. By chance, several shared Boes’ passion for soccer, and he became the nucleus of a tight group of self-described “soccer nuts” within the associate ranks. “We used to joke this was the only law firm in the world where soccer was the preferred sport,” says John Turner, who is now an associate at Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati in Palo Alto, Calif. It was the go-go years of the late 1990s, and Latham associates were working marathon hours. Still, says Turner, Boes “made the time” for soccer, usually playing goalie. “Sometimes he’d leave at 10 p.m., play a game until midnight, then come back to work,” Turner says. Not that he complained about the hours. “He never whined. He was a stoic guy,” says Latham colleague Arthur Di Dio, who is now a lawyer with the Department of Health and Human Services. “He did his work, he had his fun.” Still, his friends sensed that Boes had little interest in trying to make partner and spend his life at the firm. “I remember Helge talking about being a desk jockey,” says Di Dio. “His penchant was not to be confined within an office.” “He definitely wanted something with more of a sense of adventure,” agrees fellow associate Pearson, now a lawyer with the Carlyle Group in Washington. Nor was the six-figure associate salary enough to turn Boes’ head. “He was never that driven by money,” says Pearson, who describes Boes as frugal and recalls his policy of spending no more than $4 on lunch — just enough for a meatball sandwich from Subway. Instead, Boes directed much of his paycheck to paying off his student loans, which he did very quickly, according to his brother. At Latham, Boes worked closely with partners Nicholas Allard and John Sachs, doing project finance, regulatory, legislative, and corporate counseling work. Allard describes Boes as an ideal associate. “No project was too big for him or too tedious. He threw himself into the work, mastering the details.” Allard was also struck by Boes’ sunny disposition and cool head. “When he was faced with a big problem, or if he was making a proposal that met a harsh reaction, or he was dealing with a really hostile person, he’d just say, ‘Their attitude was suboptimal.’” Much of Boes’ work was for the Internet startup beenz.com, and in 2000, then-General Counsel and Executive Vice President Sean Lane offered him an in-house job as deputy general counsel. He accepted. Now defunct, beenz was a classic dot-com, complete with a bold vision for the New Economy, $90 million in venture capital, and a business plan that imploded once the Internet bubble burst. Essentially, beenz was an online loyalty scheme, awarding credits, or “beenz,” to people for logging on to member sites or buying items on the Web. Users could then spend their accrued beenz at hundreds of online retailers. Working from his home in Northern Virginia, Boes served as the “doorkeeper to all [the company's] commercial contracts all over the world. It was a massive job,” says Lane. Boes’ language skills — in addition to flawless English and German, he also spoke French and Spanish — were invaluable, Lane says, citing his ability to “relate to Europeans as a European, Americans as an American, to earn very quickly the trust and respect of people in far-flung subsidiaries.” Boes liked the independence that came with the job. “He could identify problems and had the ability to craft solutions. He didn’t wait to be told what to do,” Lane says. “He adapted to every situation, every issue you threw at him.” By the end of the year, beenz was headed toward bankruptcy, but Boes’ exit strategy was finally in place. After what appears to have been more than a year-long wait, he received his top-secret security clearance from the CIA, and in January 2001, he began working for the agency. Lane knew all along that Boes was planning to leave. “Upfront he told me that he had applied to work for the government and that it was a long application process, a year or more,” he says. “I had my suspicions” that he was headed for the CIA, Lane says, but he didn’t press him. “I respected the fact that he didn’t want to talk about it.” Henrik Boes believes that one reason his brother was drawn to the CIA was because his wife, Cindy, worked in the agency’s Office of General Counsel for two years after law school. “She had encouraged him to look at the agency, as a way to satisfy his many work-related desires,” he says. About 100 lawyers work in the Office of General Counsel, according to America’s Greatest Places to Work With a Law Degree, which calls the positions “highly coveted and terrific.” But Boes, perhaps fed up with life as a “desk jockey,” applied to join the agency not as a lawyer, but as an operations officer in the clandestine service. A CIA spokesman says that it is “not uncommon for people with law degrees” to join the clandestine service, which offers starting salaries of $43,500 to $60,400. As a background, he continues, law provides “one skill set” for prospective agents. On the CIA Web site, the agency calls graduate degrees a plus for the positions, which demand “an adventurous spirit, a forceful personality, superior intellectual ability, toughness of mind, and the highest degree of integrity.” All describe Helge Boes. “Helge was a man of principles; he valued honor, camaraderie, trust. I know that he found that at CIA,” says his brother. “It was a challenge, and my brother loved challenges. It was also a way to be of service, to ‘give something back.’ “ His family was aware of his new employer, but he told his friends he was working for the State Department. All they knew for sure was that he’d disappear for long periods of time. “We always joked he was in the CIA, but he never let on,” says Pearson. Scant details are available about Boes’ work within the agency, where he was part of the Counterterrorist Center. In the press release announcing Boes’ death on Feb. 5, Tenet says he was “no stranger to Afghanistan and its dangers, having served there before and done outstanding work. In fact, he was on the weapons training range yesterday preparing for yet another intelligence collection operation.” He was killed by a grenade in a live-fire training exercise. Even as they mourn his loss, many who knew Helge Boes say they are also left with a feeling of tremendous pride and gratitude — for the man he was and what he was willing to give. “When I think about the kind of person he was, his intelligence, his intensity, it’s comforting to know that someone like that is doing the job he was doing,” says Di Dio. “We’re lucky to have people like him in that work.”

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