(Alex Wong — Getty Images)

And so it’s fitting, in a way, that the CIA’s newest gatekeeper comes from a long line of secret-keepers.

Cynthia Rapp, who was named head of agency public affairs last week by Director David H. Petraeus, traces her agency lineage to 1947, when her chemistry-trained father began a 33-year career in the agency’s department of science and technology.

Her mother spent more than two decades working in counter-intelligence assignments. Rapp’s husband is employed at “the company” as well, overseeing analysis of Europe.

Rapp said those connections were a factor in her decision to take the job. “I really have roots here,” she said, “and this is a way to represent the agency.”

Serving as the lead spokesperson for the CIA is less a contradiction in terms than it might seem. The agency has become increasingly assertive in the press over the past decade, protecting its image and interests even if its officials are rarely willing to be identified by name.

“Isn’t that the way we always do our work,” Rapp said, referring to the agency’s clandestine mission. “What we want to be sure that we do is communicate our mission in a way that is understandable to the American public and also to the agency workforce.”

Rapp will be working for a director who was known during his military career for being cooperative with the press. Nevertheless, she said, there are unavoidably awkward aspects of a job that involves “representing a secret organization to the world.”

Rapp, who grew up in Oakton, Va., began her CIA career in 1977. She has served as head of the analytic staff that produces the president’s daily brief, and deputy director of congressional affairs. Her most recent position was as an assistant deputy on the staff of the director of national intelligence.

Rapp’s family was secretive about their spy work. Until she was in her teens, Rapp said, she assumed her father worked for a newspaper, because he brought one home with him every day. Her parents are deceased, and Rapp said details of their work remain classified.

Her father, Karl H. Weber, left the agency in 1980 after serving as director of what was then called the Office of Scientific Intelligence. He had a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin, and an early patent for a form of synthetic rubber.

Asked whether the formula might have been useful in making disguises, Rapp replied: “It could. I think it was more for tires.”