Fuller attended Harvard University, where he earned first a BA and then a MA degree in Russian and Middle Eastern Studies.
Fuller joined the State Department of the United States, entering the Foreign Service for assignments in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
He served 20 years as an operations officer in the CIA. Assignments include postings in: Germany, Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, North Yemen, Afghanistan, and Hong Kong.
In 1982, the CIA appointed him National Intelligence Officer for Near East and South Asia,.
In 1986, the CIA appointed him vice-chairman of the National Intelligence Council.
In 1987, Fuller was identified as the author of a 1985 study that according to the New York Times was "instrumental" in the decision of the Reagan Administration to secretly contact leaders in Iran and "eventually led to the covert sale of United States weapons to Tehran in what became the Iran-Contra Affair."
The document suggested that the Soviet Union was in position to influence Iran and that the United States might gain influence by selling arms to the country.
According to Fuller, he had revised his opinion as the situation developed, but though he had told Government officials, a written report on the change was not circulated.
Fuller denied that the original "think piece" he had prepared with Howard Teicher was
"tailored... to support Administration policy."
Fuller left the CIA in 1988 for the RAND Corporation, remaining as a senior political scientist until 2000.
An active author and media spokesman, Fuller is an adjunct history professor at Simon Fraser University.
After the Boston Marathon bombings, it was revealed that Fuller's daughter Samantha Ankara Fuller was married to Ruslan Tsarnaev (Tsarni), the terrorists' uncle.