Every week, more than 15 million viewers tune in to the hit CBS-TV series NCIS.
A real-life agent for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Maria Alexandratos ’00 says that while the show isn’t a realistic depiction, it has boosted agency recruitment. NCIS provides services to the Navy and Marine Corps as a federal investigative agency under the Department of Defense.
Based at Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, she works on 15 to 20 cases at a time. Unlike her TV counterparts, Alexandratos has never fired her weapon on the job. Nonetheless, her cases are exciting and have taken her throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. When you work overseas, she says, “You are a U.S. intelligence official, and you are also responsible for the safety and security of U.S. military personnel in country.”
Her work ranges from criminal investigations, such as drug dealing and sexual assault, to classified counterintelligence work involving military espionage and terrorism threats. “Sexy” is how she describes the cat-and-mouse aspect of counterintelligence work. “You have a threat, and you have to neutralize it,” she says.
A government and law graduate, she says, “I have used much of the material from the criminal law classes in my work. I also learned how to write and how to think critically—important skills that I use every day.”
Alexandratos joined the foreign counterintelligence division of NCIS in 2003 while attending American University part time as a graduate student. In 2004, she accepted a posting with NCIS on the Greek island of Crete. She grew up in a Greek-American home and speaks the language fluently. “Working with Greek law enforcement, you have to make contacts, develop sources, and collect information. It’s tough if you don’t understand the culture,” she says.
In 2007, she was promoted to senior resident agent at the Crete office, overseeing a staff of four. Her work included producing intelligence reports, meeting with representatives at the U.S. Embassy in Athens, and providing direct support to the Navy’s regional security staff.
—Robert S. Benchley