Graham Fuller remembers the first time he drove through Squamish. It was 1996, and he was working as a senior political analyst at Washington state-based RAND Corporation, a think tank that valued him in part because of his 20 years in the CIA. With the weighty fare of geopolitics demanding much of his attention, Fuller and his wife, Prue, would relish their trips to Vancouver and the city’s environs, where they would hike the mountains and wander the woods.
“I remember smelling the paper mill and at the same time seeing the Chief loom up ahead of us — and reading in the guidebook that it was a mill town,” he says. “But we were impressed with the scenery, and then came back several times more, and just thought it was terrific.”
He lives there now, this man who’s made his home in far away lands like Lebanon, Turkey, Afghanistan and other exotic corners of the world. Each place was a fascination in and of itself, the languages, food and people coming together to offer the sort of experience a studied mind learns to crave. And yet, he chose to settle in Squamish.
He lives with Prue in Garibaldi Highlands, has a house on a quiet cul-de-sac amid the neighbourhood’s rambling roads and pitched driveways. Their living room is foliaged with books, magazines and artwork, and Fuller, an author himself, moves through the thicket like a mellow cat through a shaded garden.
He doesn’t want to focus too much on his past with the CIA. It could be fodder for sensationalists, and it ended years ago, anyway. Seeing him after yoga practice, dressed in light green pants and a button-up flannel shirt, hair a little disheveled thanks to his sometimes-roving fingers, he seems far removed from the man-in-black cliché the intelligence industry calls to mind.
But, before he was here, he was definitely there.
“I expected probably to have an academic career,” says the Harvard educated expert in Russian and Middle Eastern studies. “But I got drafted. And, because I had studied a lot of Russian and some Turkish at university, I was put into military intelligence.”
He was later offered a position in the CIA. The job promised travel and immersion in cultures he had long been interested in, and so he took it, eventually rising to vice chair of the National Intelligence Council during the 1980s war between Iraq and Iran.
That life is not entirely behind him. While he no longer works for the CIA, Fuller is still very immersed in the world’s political machinations. He’s hoping Barack Obama defeats Hillary Clinton to become president. He thinks the Stephen Harper Conservatives are guilty of parroting American political philosophy. No fan of George Bush, the fallout from the 9/11 attacks influenced the couple’s decision to move to Canada. Further to that, he’d like to see the world stage gain a few more power players, a dynamic he views as beneficial to all nations.