Episode 233: Kathy Stearman – FBI in India and China, Women in the FBI, It’s Not About the Gun

Retired agent Kathy Stearman served in the FBI for more than 26 years. In this episode of FBI Retired Case File Review, Kathy reviews her time overseas as Legal Attaché, in charge of FBI offices in south-central Asia and China and discusses her memoir, It’s Not About the Gun: Lessons from My Global Career as a Female FBI Agent where she examines the influence of attitude and gender in her journey to becoming FBI Legal Attaché, the most senior FBI representative in a foreign office. 

Kathy was the FBI Legal Attaché (Legat) in India, based out of New Delhi, from 2006 through 2008, where she was responsible for oversight of all FBI interests and concerns in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. She was Legat China in Beijing from 2008 through 2011, with oversight of all FBI interests and concerns in the People’s Republic of China and Mongolia.

Her first Bureau assignments, after graduating from the academy, were to the Alexandria, Virginia Field Office and the Washington Field Office where she worked a variety of criminal investigations to include Government Fraud (Major Case13), Health Care Fraud, Public Corruption, and Environmental Crime. In 1993, she was selected to attend the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, where she studied Mandarin Chinese in both the Basic and Intermediate Courses. Other courses of study in Chinese include two 9-week immersion courses at Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont and a 10-week refresher course at Berlitz, Washington, D.C.

Following language training, Stearman was transferred to the New York Field Office where she served on a national security squad. In 1998, Stearman was transferred to the San Francisco Field Office where she served on the international terrorism squad and a national security squad. In 2005, Stearman was promoted to Program Manager for a major counterintelligence initiative at FBI headquarters. Kathy’s previously mentioned Legat assignments followed her time at FBIHQ.

Her last assignment, prior to retirement, was Supervisory Special Agent of a national security squad in the FBI’s San Francisco Division.

You can learn more about Kathy Stearman and where to purchase her memoir, It’s Not About the Gun: Lessons from My Global Career as a Female FBI Agent on her website Kathy Stearman.com.

Here’s bonus audio from our conversation. Kathy and I discuss the real reason why she wrote the book (WARNING: It gets political), whether there’s crying in the FBI, and if it’s possible for women agents to serve in the higher leadership roles and still have a family.

Special Agent (Retired)

Kathy Stearman

May 1987 – July 2013








“Women who join the FBI, they’re dynamic. [They] take on this job that is still looked at as mysterious. I believe they’re stronger in their personality, stronger in their convictions. They look at the world differently.”—Retired Agent Kathy Stearman

The following are links to additional information about women agents in the FBI and news articles about the lawsuit filed by women alleging discrimination and gender bias in the FBI:

FBI Retired Case File Review episodes featuring Legats and overseas assignments

FBI Website: International Operations, Legal Attaché Offices

FBI Website: Celebrating Women Special Agents, Part 1

New York Times – 5/29/2019: Women Sue FBI, Claiming Discrimination at Training Academy

Washington Times – 2/3/2020: 17th woman joins sexual harassment lawsuit against FBI’s Quantico training academy

Kathy with Light Machine Gun. How ironic! Photo was taken in Sri Lanka when she was Legat New Delhi.









Kathy Stearman recounts the mixed feelings that she now holds about the sacrifices she had to make to survive in a man’s world. You can purchase It’s Not About the Gun here.














Jerri Williams

View posts by Jerri Williams
Jerri Williams, a retired FBI agent, author and podcaster, jokes that she writes about the FBI to relive her glory days. After 26 years with the Bureau specializing in major economic fraud and corruption investigations, she calls on her professional encounters with scams and schemers to write police procedurals inspired by true crime FBI cases in her Philadelphia FBI Corruption Squad crime fiction series featuring flawed female FBI agent Kari Wheeler. Jerri’s FBI for Armchair Detectives nonfiction series enables readers to discover who the FBI is and what the FBI does by debunking misconceptions about the FBI in books, TV, and movies. Her books are available as ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks wherever books are sold. She’s also the host of FBI Retired Case File Review, a true crime podcast with more than 250 episodes available for free on all popular podcast apps.

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