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December 5, 2008

Need a Job?
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 06:27 PM *

The CIA is hiring!

I expect there are going to be a lot of openings soon.

Comments on Need a Job?:
#1 ::: D. Potter ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 06:51 PM:

They were running ads on The New York Times website earlier this year (I had a screen shot, but it got lost).

#2 ::: sistercoyote ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 07:05 PM:

You know, I might consider it except for one thing - I don't think I could bear to leave my beloved deserts.

#3 ::: J.D. Rhoades ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 07:14 PM:

I think I'd like to be a "Targeting Analyst":

"Targeting analyst positions involve research, analysis, writing, and briefing using network analysis techniques and specialized analytic tools to identify and detail key figures and organizations who may pose a threat to US interests."

Is this the guy who tells the other guys who to kill? I am SO on this.

I've got a little list.....

#4 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 07:19 PM:

Yeah, me too. I love spy stuff, but living in DC? Nah.

BTW, this reminds me of a brilliant LeCarre piece I saw yesterday thanks to a link from Jim Henley... The Madness of Spies, in which he tells of people he knew when he was in the intelligence world who were made bonkers by it.

#5 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 07:39 PM:

I'm not a spy. I just read books!

#6 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 08:16 PM:

Work for "the Company"...? No thanks. Analysts get screwed (well, they did for the past eight years). Agents get hung out to dry (nature of the beast), and the philosophy behind a lot of the things which get done is questionable.

I'd be willing to take Plame's old job, but I'm too old to get started.

#7 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 08:48 PM:

JD @ #3, I think you'd be participating in COINTELPRO II rather than aiming cruise missiles.

Madeline @ #4, presumably Langley's offices are air-conditioned, and NoVa winters aren't that bad.

#8 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 09:01 PM:

That's the Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park, NY? Right?

#9 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 09:23 PM:

They really need a Pop Culture Czar. Actually, that position would be better suited for DHS.

#10 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 09:31 PM:

It could give an air of verisimilitude to your imitation of James Tiptree, Jr … has there ever been an anonymous male author who wrote something under the pseudonym 'Jane Tiptree'? … "This is my brain on suboptimal sleep" …

#11 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 09:50 PM:

Dusty, #3: The pestilential nuisances who write for autographs?

#12 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 09:57 PM:

If I could telecommute, maybe. The only good thing I know about DC is that there are a lot of very good restaurants there, but as far as I know the suburbs are just like suburbs anywhere; I'll pass.

And Terry's right about working for the Company: their motto should really be, "No good deed goes unpunished."

#13 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 10:11 PM:

Somehow I doubt I'd pass the background check.

Important Notice: Friends, family, individuals, or organizations may be interested to learn that you are an applicant for or an employee of the CIA. Their interest, however, may not be benign or in your best interest. You cannot control whom they would tell. We therefore ask you to exercise discretion and good judgment in disclosing your interest in a position with the Agency. You will receive further guidance on this topic as you proceed through your CIA employment processing..

Heh.

#14 ::: Alayne ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 10:17 PM:

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service had a similar full-page ad recently in larger Canadian daily newspapers. In both cases, it may simply be to replace staff who have retired or resigned ...

#15 ::: Geri Sullivan ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 10:52 PM:

Hey, there are even two positions for graphic designers.

I think I'll stick with being an AIRhead instead.

#16 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 11:10 PM:

My 10th Grade Social Studies teacher already tried to recruit me for the CIA way back when.

No, I'm not telling you if I joined or not. Sheesh. IITYIWHTKY.

#17 ::: Julie ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 11:14 PM:

Just saw an ad on the Dallas Morning News web site.

"National Clandestine Service Careers."

O-kay.

#18 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 12:08 AM:

Bruce at 12: I suggest the motto "Unintended consequences our specialty." In Latin. Not being a Latinist myself, I cannot provide, but this being Making Light, I have no doubt that someone else, should she or he wish to, can.

#19 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 12:24 AM:

Charlie Wilson: How old are you?
Mike Vickers: I'll be 30 next week.
Charlie Wilson: This is CIA's weapons expert?
Gust Avrakotos: One of them.
Charlie Wilson: But he's the most senior.
Gust Avrakotos: Look...
Chess Player #1: Mike!
Mike Vickers: Yeah, bishop to queen's knight 7.
Gust Avrakotos: See, he's playing without even looking at the board.
Charlie Wilson: That's a useful skill... if Afghanistan's ever invaded by Boris Spassky.

#20 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 02:07 AM:

Serge #19: Mike Vickers: Yeah, bishop to queen's knight 7. Gust Avrakotos: See, he's playing without even looking at the board.

I used to do that. Best I could manage was three blindfold games at once, with one win, one loss and one draw.

#21 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 02:13 AM:

Lizzy, 18: Of course someone can: "Fortuītae consecūtiōnēs nostra proprietās."

My specialty? Macrons, evidently.

#22 ::: Nabakov ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 07:04 AM:

This para caught my eye.

"To be considered suitable for Agency employment, applicants must generally not have used illegal drugs within the last twelve months. The issue of illegal drug use prior to twelve months ago is carefully evaluated during the medical and security processing."

Presumably it's finally dawned on the CIA that you can't be a player in some parts of the world unless you're able to party down with the locals.

#23 ::: Schizohedron ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 07:54 AM:

I see the graphic designer position I'd spotted last year during a stretch of joblessness is still up. I was tempted to at least send them a resumé, if only because their salary range had my last one crushed. I figured I'd be of great utility as the Bush Administration needed various disgraced Cabinet and White House luminaries Photoshopped out of official portaits. . . .

#24 ::: Roxanne ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 08:05 AM:

Having seen the vetting questionnaire that the Obama administration has presented for lower-level folks in random agencies, I don't want to go anywhere near the equivalent documents for CIA. They'll want to know who I ate lunch with in middle school, and other long-forgotten trivia. No thanks!

#25 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 08:55 AM:

If only they had some Web Developer positions....

#26 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 09:54 AM:

Earl Cooley III @ 20... I could manage was three blindfold games at once

You're hired!

By the way, does the ad indicate how much of a budget the CIA has for wigs and sexy clothing? What? Are you telling me that Alias was not an acurate depiction of what goes on?

#27 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 10:44 AM:

OK Chris Quinones, is there any way to get those macron with regular HTML coding? If there is, I can't find it anywhere, but it must end up as HTML to show up here.

#28 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 11:00 AM:

Xopher@27:

"Show source" in the browser displays that line as:

"Fortuītae consecūtiōnēs nostra proprietās."

The numbers are decimal Unicode values.

#29 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 11:41 AM:

"Presumably it's finally dawned on the CIA that you can't be a player in some parts of the world unless you're able to party down with the locals."

More accurately, it's finally dawned on them that they should be looking for people who can do that and stay sober for a whole twelve months afterward.

#30 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 12:20 PM:

This is on topic only for its ironic relation to the title of this thread, but I'm in an ironic mood.

Obama has dedicated his weekly speech to his plans for a massive economic stimulation packaga, including public works and jobs. Daily Kos has a comment on it, which is pretty much what you'd expect until the last paragraph. Read that for a sense of wonder, political style.

#31 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 12:54 PM:

Bruce Cohen (30): That's what leaped out at me about that speech, too. Wow.

#32 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 01:02 PM:

30, 31: Obama's speech is subversive. I like that.

#33 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 02:12 PM:

Unfortunately, I can already see the wingers spinning it exactly the other way around.

#34 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 02:16 PM:

Finally I understand how my mother felt about FDR.

#35 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 02:51 PM:

Xopher, 27: Andrew Plotkin has already disclosed my method. I looked for an approach less cumbersome than Unicode, but couldn't find one at 2 am and can't find one now.

#36 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 02:52 PM:

They're hiring librarians.

The hitch is that you have to live there, and that just seems, well, impossible for yours truly.

For one thing my husband is not going to move out of NYC.

Love, C.

#37 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 04:05 PM:

Chris, Unicode works for me! Thanks.

#38 ::: Prince Aathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 05:25 PM:

I enjoy this website, and while I am not a fan of the CIA, I found this posting not to my liking. I tried to figure out why, so I would like to offer my thoughts, in case others might agree or not. Keeping in mind that this site is named ”Making Light,” I might be taking this all too seriously.
Presumably the thrust of this thread is that service in the CIA is either for lesser mortals or is so contextually tangential to our own personal hopes and aspirations as to be unfathomable.
For those still of an age and state of innocence prerequisite for employment with the CIA, recall that Obama continually stressed in his public lectures that he could and would only succeed with a greater assistance of Americans than has been heretofore apparent.
With his (Obama) formidable intellectual skill sets he could have exploited establishment tokenism and have lived very well indeed. Instead, like a modern day Alinsky, he stood in the rain and confirmed to us that we are indeed a greater society than has been heretofore apparent.
We trust our national security to a failed southern aristocracy and other intellectually disfranchised castes at our peril.
I feel better already.

#39 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 05:33 PM:

Since the CIA doesn't seem to be into telecommuting, and most of us who aren't already there don't seem to be interested in moving to Northern Virginia, maybe we could set up a distributed, open-source intelligence agency. After all, an awful lot of the CIA's intelligence comes from analyzing public documents like newspapers, government reports, and such.

I've never seen eye-to-eye with Richard Stallman on open-source philosophy or I'd suggest we could call it the GIA (Gnu Intelligence Agency). And I'm not into covert ops, or I'd want to call it Special Circumstances. So how about "The Bizarre Cathedral" after Eric Raymond?

#40 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 06:06 PM:

Prince Aathan @ 38

I'm a rather harsh critic of the CIA, mostly because it does a bad job of fulfilling its mission most of the time, and because its operatives and command structure have never quite lost the cowboy attitude they inherited from the OSS. They never had a sense of the moral nature of their acts; the acts that have become public show that, and that a lot of the time they haven't really thought through what they're doing, but are just vamping, trying to react to events as they occur.

That said, there's a need for any country with extensive international relations to have the sort of intelligence that CIA analysts can provide; it's not the idea of the CIA that bothers me, but the way they've gone about their work.

I might just apply there if they allowed telecommuting; I like where I live, and I am unemployed (or will be in about 3 weeks), and you might notice that a lot of the responses here were from people who think that many of the things the Company does are kind of neat and interesting. I suspect some of us here at Making Light are the kind of people whom the CIA might like to employ: smart, well educated, thoughtful people who are mostly less than average in being socially-adjusted, and very good at focusing on precise sorts of jobs. If they were to clean up their act, I think a lot more of us might be interested in them.

#41 ::: AndrDrew ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 06:20 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ #39

Since it sounds like you're not proposing a Governmental agency, rather more of an alternate one, how about the M I A. the Masses' Intelligence Agency?

#42 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 06:55 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 39 -
Since the CIA doesn't seem to be into telecommuting, and most of us who aren't already there don't seem to be interested in moving to Northern Virginia, maybe we could set up a distributed, open-source intelligence agency. After all, an awful lot of the CIA's intelligence comes from analyzing public documents like newspapers, government reports, and such.

[cellphone rings]
[Aleph]: Bruce Cohen? You're on the Global Frequency.

#43 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 07:02 PM:

Bruce Cohen @# 40: Amen!

I note that the CIA has been somewhat abused under ShrubCo's reign. If Obama plays his cards right, he can probably manage a pretty thorough cleanup -- and aside from squelching misbehavior, that could give us a much more competent agency for foreign intelligence!

#44 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 07:10 PM:

Fragano #8:

Note to self: Before applying for food-tester job at CIA, make sure it's the one you think it is.

#45 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 08:29 PM:

Nabakov @ 22: I once interviewed for a job that, if I had gotten it, would have required me to apply for a Secret clearance. The guy who interviewed me said that the security-clearance folks understand that "you've been to college".

#46 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 08:30 PM:

Bruce@12: DC also has a large number of excellent museums, easily reached by public transit, without admission fees. (I ran into a teen from there a couple of years ago; he told me of his shock at finding that most museums charged admission.) That being said, I wouldn't move back there; I hate wet heat -- I can always add another layer in cold, but I'm stripped down and still feeling miserable it's time for changes in latitude.

Prince Aathan: do you really feel that the CIA could be reformed by hirees? That trick rarely works; pressure from the outside seems more likely to be effective, if you're willing to let them continue existing at all. cf. Fletcher Knebel's Vanished (~1970), at the end of which the President announces that the CIA is being dismantled -- not because "gentlemen don't read each other's mail" but because it isn't reformable.

#47 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 08:45 PM:

Prince Aathan: I think you mistake the response. Youth and innocence aren't requirements (and a lot of us know this, in detail).

We don't even cavil at the need for 1: intel, and 2: covert ops. Where we are less than credulous is that the CIA is actually ept in their performance of the latter; based in part on the way they seem to collect the former.

The number of known screw ups (some of which were done before some of us were born) from which we are still reaping whirlwinds (the installation of the Pahlavis in Iran being one of them. It's quite possible to make a good case that the present Mess in Potamia is a direct consequence of blowback from that little fiasco, even if we don't look at the [questionable] claims the Iranians are trying to build a bomb, but I digress).

The real question is how well the entrenched interests can be cleaned out, without losing the kernel of competence needed (and it's hard... I'm not going to move to Langley, and I don't think the folks I know who no longer work for/with them are likely to come back).

Because we do need something like the CIA, but the internals are bad. The bad apples and cowboys are better able to lie low (because they have, to quote Martin Blank, "A certain flexible morality) and wait until their corrupting influence can once again dominate the way the CIA works.

#48 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 08:55 PM:

I once read that the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research was one of the only agencies that actually made the right call on Iraq, way back when. But I can't tell if they're hiring.

#49 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 09:33 PM:

Bruce Cohen @40: I suspect some of us here at Making Light are the kind of people whom the CIA might like to employ: smart, well educated, thoughtful people who are mostly less than average in being socially-adjusted, and very good at focusing on precise sorts of jobs. If they were to clean up their act, I think a lot more of us might be interested in them.

I'd thought that there should be an open CIA scholarship, where the government would provide tuition and expenses for any student willing to study abroad. Students studying abroad would be understood to be ambassadors for the United States*, and appropriate conduits for political concerns.

It would be assumed that these students would come to identify with their host countries, and their reports ('dear diary') would reflect the attitudes of people they come in contact with. All of this would be useful information for the people tasked with knowing "what's going on".

Future ambassadors could be recruited here.


* In the late 70's, I met Iranian students in Canada who were suspicious of countrymen who were on government scholarships; they were understood to be military recruits reporting on the activities of other students. Hopefully, we could establish American students to be honest brokers.

#50 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 09:55 PM:

#45
'Secret' is relatively easy to get. Go above that and it's a much more thorough investigation.

#51 ::: sara_k ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 10:10 PM:

No listings for Early Childhood teachers? They're missing a large market.

#52 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 12:30 AM:

#49 Bruce etc.

I suspect some of us here at Making Light are the kind of people whom the CIA might like to employ: smart, well educated, thoughtful people who are mostly less than average in being socially-adjusted, and very good at focusing on precise sorts of jobs.

Um, no, that bolded bit. I am socially adjusted. I work well with others, as well as play well with others. I am, among other things, a librarian, and librarians are among the most socially well adjusted people I know. They also like to enjoy a good time with like-minded people better than most, and they also like to help people out. We're also very curious and very tenacious in trying to find the answers to Your questions, or the questions of anyone else. Why, yes. We do like challenges.

Love, C.

#53 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 12:50 AM:

This is off topic, but somehow it seemed to belong here, not in the open thread: Obama has just chosen retired General Shinseki -- you all remember him, right? -- to head the Dept of Veteran's Affairs. That's a big FU to Rumsfeld and Bush, and it only confirms my appreciation of Obama's smarts.

Things are getting interesting.

#54 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 02:33 AM:

CHip @ 46

Yes, I totally forgot about the museums. I've been in a couple (I once spent most of a day in the Air and Space Museum); my son and daughter-in-law lived in DC, 3 or 4 blocks from the Mall, for 3 years, and couldn't get to see all of the museums.

And I agree about the heat. What on Earth made them put the capital city in a swamp?

Constance @ 52

I beg your pardon; I expressed myself poorly. I meant to say that most of us are not the kind of people who accept a social order unquestioningly; we're somewhat intellectually independent. I certainly didn't mean that we don't like people, and I'm afraid that's implied by what I said.

P J Evans @ 50

For purely logistical reasons a Secret clearance can't involve much checking, or the FBI wouldn't have any agents left to do anything else. Every commissioned officer in the armed services has to have a Secret clearance, as does every Congressman and Senator.

Requirements for a Secret clearance basically call for records checking, especially financial history. Top Secret involves sending agents out to talk to friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, employers, and even your dog, to get at the really personal stuff. They say these days it can take up to three years, but I've seen it take a month or two. Of course, that was during a war.

#55 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 03:00 AM:

Rob @ #49: I'd thought that there should be an open CIA scholarship, where the government would provide tuition and expenses for any student willing to study abroad.

Oh, you'd be surprised at what's already in place. But your idea is an interesting one, as a blatant statement. The problem is how many countries would let them in.

#56 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 03:08 AM:

Presumably the thrust of this thread is that service in the CIA is either for lesser mortals or is so contextually tangential to our own personal hopes and aspirations as to be unfathomable.

Yeah. Come back to me with your recruiting pitch when the CIA isn't torturing people anymore. Until then, you can all go Cheney yourselves, for all I care.

#57 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 07:11 AM:

I think they were on the right track to begin with, especially with the canonical distinction of intelligence collection and analysis. The importance of this is shown by Iraq; the actual information was the same, but the government sought out and indeed falsified the analysis of it.

Perhaps you should reorganise it along functional lines; Central Intelligence Collection, Central Intelligence Analysis. Whether you need the James Bond functions at all is a live question..

#58 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 08:16 AM:

Lizzy L @ 18... "Unintended consequences our specialty."

It really is a reminder that the supposedly smarter people who manage the world are no more intelligent than the grease-monkeys who do the real work. I'm sure there are subalterns who told upper-management "If we do this, we will need some followup even after the goal has been attained."

#59 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 09:03 AM:

Sservice in the CIA indeed is for lesser mortals. For the others, there's the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense.

"Remind me why I do this again."
"Rotten eggs and the safety of mankind."
"Ah!"

#60 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 09:24 AM:

Speaking of social adjustment, I could never do intelligence work no matter how clean the agency's hands, because I could never take a job that required me to lie to my family. (Keep secrets, sure: I have a job like that now.)

Fortunately, most people seem to be less clannish than I am, and not everyone is in a long-term partnered relationship.

#61 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 10:07 AM:

#40 Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers): ...have never quite lost the cowboy attitude they inherited from the OSS.

Alas, in my opinion (which I can expound about in face-to-face conversations), (one) problem at the Company happened when they started moving over to Management By Objectives and Objective Standards in general.

#62 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 10:37 AM:

Lila @ 60:

Yes, that. Not only would I not be willing to lie to my family about what I do for a living, I'm not generally inclined to keep parts of my life secret.

That's not, or not primarily, a moral position, it's self-observation. I'm willing to keep other people's secrets--you can tell me stuff and not have it passed on--but not talking about what I do all day would be difficult. That doesn't mean everyone gets a detailed narrative, but it means it would be difficult to go home to my beloved and not mention anything if we'd done something stressful, exciting, and/or important.

As you note, not everyone is the same on this: there are people who would have no trouble telling their spouses "I'm doing intelligence analysis, and that means I can't talk about any of it until much later." Some of those people are also willing and able to tell the rest of their family and friends that they were doing something bureaucratic and boring, and that they didn't mind because they liked the steady civil service paycheck, and then change the topic to something of mutual interest like music, or ask how the other person's job was going.

But my saying "I couldn't do that" is not an argument against those jobs existing, any more that I assume someone who isn't comfortable enough with math to go into accounting objects to the existence of bank audits.

#63 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 10:57 AM:

#54
I remember my father calling home for the birthdates of his siblings, one time when he was dealing with a Much Higher Level clearance. (I think that one was for a Q clearance.)

I had a secret clearance at one time, because at the company where I was working, some of the stuff was secret in some ways. A couple of the execs had 'top secret' - they wore gold badges (secret was red).

#64 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 11:10 AM:

Jim Macdonald @ 61

I agree with you that the Company was damaged by the institution of standard management perversions. Pretending that you can manage covert ops and risky human information-gathering projects with Harvard MBA snake oil is a good way to alienate your agents and end up with the wrong information, or even dead agents*.

Years ago I read an interview with a military analyst who said about management styles in DOD: "You can't manage people to their deaths; you have to lead them." This applies to spying as well.

But at the same time, I think the cowboy mentality is still at the CIA, in the field operations people and the case officers if nowhere else. I expect the combination of the two styles, PHB up top and Rambo down below is worse than having just one or the other; mistrust and duplicity between levels of a command structure are a recipe for disaster.


* It works just about as well in industry, but there the failures aren't as critical to national security or usually to life and limb.

#65 ::: Charlie Dodgson ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 11:39 AM:

FWIW, the CIA has a checkered history that precedes the Bush years, particularly as regards its "cowboy mentality" --- viz., for instance, its long and bloody involvement in South America. So, just cleaning up the messes made by Dubya's crew would leave a somewhat messed-up place. So a serious cleanup effort would have to deal with changing a lot more than eight years' worth of history.

As to why the capitol was put in a swamp: the site was chosen by George Washington personally. One rationale, I believe, was that the swamp happened to be at the mouth of the Potomac, which was thought to be good for commerce and industry (particularly in an age when bulk cargo shipment over land was prohibitively expensive). However, it escaped no one's attention that it was also near some of Washington's personal land holdings...

#66 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 12:08 PM:

The core problem with the CIA is that they recruit from what used to be called the landed class and as such reflexively side with the landlords.

Siding with the landlords is antithetical to democracy. (Nor is it good business, but, well, axioms.)

Actually believing that power rests with those giving the orders, rather than those who carry out the orders, is another dire delusion of the landed class; not inherently antithetical to democracy but really bad for effectiveness. (This is one of the great fights anyone trying to set up good industrial quality assurance will have; it doesn't matter what you told them to do, it matters what they actually do, and if you believe they by default care about stuff you can't explain clearly or which does not immediately effect their pay or prospects, well, they're not the folks with the problem.)

An effective intelligence agency would be principally recruited from trades and the urban poor, preferably by competitive examination, and persons from that background would keep general control over its hiring policies.

In the specific present case of the CIA, it needs to be burned right down to the ground and the ground sown with salt; a nation governed by democratic principles is better served by no intelligence agency than by one with maintains clandestine extra-judicial prisons.

#67 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 12:19 PM:

Gradon @ 66... An effective intelligence agency would be principally recruited from trades and the urban poor

If I may again quote from Charlie Wilson's War...

"My loyalty! For twenty four years people have been trying to kill me! People who know how. Now do you think that’s because my dad was a Greek soda pop maker? Or do you think that's because I'm an American spy? Go fuck yourself, you fucking child!"
#68 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 12:20 PM:

Vicki @ #60: yes, exactly. I recognize the necessity that *someone* do that sort of job; it's just that I'm not the right someone. Ditto for many other kinds of work. I just don't have the necessary independence, or whatever you want to call it.

And that's without getting into the obvious problems of torture, institutional corruption/incompetence, and having to deal with the Potomac Basin climate (though from my perspective the Smithsonian would make up for the climate, which is only marginally worse than the one I live in now).

#69 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 01:45 PM:

#66 ::: Graydon

Actually believing that power rests with those giving the orders, rather than those who carry out the orders, is another dire delusion of the landed class; not inherently antithetical to democracy but really bad for effectiveness.

That is what worries so many progressives: Obama says that he's the one in charge and all these members of his security and economic teams will be carrying out his vision. This declaration also has disturbing echos of "I am the Decider." We all know how well that decision-making worked.

But then, that's why there is some appeal to someone like me about working at the Company -- I'm so much not the profile, that if there were enough mes, it might be turned around. However, I would never be hired there, just because of that. Second, I'm not interested in the gathering of intelligence side, but the organizing of the information side, which doesn't provide too much scope for policy decisions. But we really can't go and live in D.C. anyway, so it is all empty speculation.

Love, C.

#70 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 01:59 PM:

... because I could never take a job that required me to lie to my family.

The high-tech industry does this too, but the lies are more easily swallowed.

You should see some of the NDA memos I've signed over the years. My friends and family have grown accustomed to assuming that when I'm talking about some new system that allows a computer to communicate in new and interesting way with a "printer" that I'm probably not talking about something that eats paper.

#71 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 02:14 PM:

Constance @69 --

Leadership is making the folks who actually do stuff decide that it's them doing it, so it'll be done right whether god or the devil say different.

This is hard to do; on the scale Obama has to do it, it's probably impossible without invoking a certain amount of myth. Getting the myth right, and the value of "done right" correct, are continuous problems.

But it does need someone to get out in front and lead, and settle arguments, and make someone care about something larger and more abstract than their immediate concerns.

That's not quite the same thing as the "I'm the decider", which translates into "I don't have listen to anybody". Or, for that matter, settle any arguments; the Bush administration has been an erratic cloud of faction fights.

#72 ::: Johan Larson ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 04:06 PM:

Graydon@66: "The core problem with the CIA is that they recruit from what used to be called the landed class and as such reflexively side with the landlords."

I don't think that's true any more. These days, the CIA seems to prefer well-educated people from with uncomplicated backgrounds. If the writer is right, the CIA is, if anything, too middle class.

#73 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 06:04 PM:

Lila: Lie to your family? Most intelligence work doesn't require more than keeping secrets. The number of "agents" who have to lie about what they to do is small, not more than a few thousand.

It does cause relationships to end, even if the level of lying is minimal. Not so much because of the lying (mostly it's a case of comparmentalizing things, though if one has several idendities, that becomes a case of keeping the lies straight from the truth). The simple fact of the matter is most people can't do that level of compartmentalisation.

The interesting question is, are the people who can do that the sorts of people you want doing that. I can say, with some certainty, that it's not impossible to find good, and upright, people, who can do it and stay decent.

P J Evans: To nitpick; there are three levels of clearance: COnfidential, Secret, Top Secret. Because of how information is controlled (level of clearance, and need to know), some of it is categorised by mission, project, subject category, etc. Those are, by and large, all in the TS realm. Being cleared for that sort of thing gets an SBI (Special background investigation), these are the things Bruce Cohen (StM) was saying can take up to three years (though the pending record I know of is going on six years, but I digress). The one-two month TS he is talking about is for military TS clearances, which don't require an SBI.

Graydon/Johan Larson: The rank and file are pretty middle class, but the requirement that all CIA employees have a degree is a bar to a lot of clever people (and about the only way to get around that is a long stint in the Army, as an enlisted soldier, in analysis).

The folks who run the show, however, tend to be landed gentry sorts. Geo. Bush Pere was chosen because of where he came from, more than who he was. The people in the highest echelons of, esp. the covert side of the house, aren't much different now.

As for the article, it's mostly snobbish rot. One doesn't recruit forgeign diplomats, one elicits from them, and that's, sort of, easier, if one has the same social strata, but the people in the states who belong to that class, weren't doing that work. The Bush's, et al., were (and are) in management.

Given the differences in sense of class between the sorts the writer believes are in the diplomatic corps of the world, and the opinion of the US "upper crust" those associations aren't as there as he believes.

From a purely practical standpoint, being an intelligent, well read; and sympathetically ignorant, sort is a far more useful tool in the sort of casual collection that venue allows.

When it comes down to running a source in Marseilles, Warsaw, Ankara, Cairo, Bogota, etc, being one of the "elite" class is a downright handicap.

#74 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 06:55 PM:

Charles@65: good point but wrong fact; political Washington DC is a distance from the mouth of the Potomac (which itself only lets onto the Chesapeake, a ways from the seacoast). It's just downstream from the fall-line settlement of Georgetown, which is as far up the river as you could navigate reliably (not far below Little Falls), which is why the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal starts there. They still had active docks (and a rail spur to them) when I was young, but IIRC the last commerce was gone decades ago -- now there are restaurants so close to the water that they need flood gates in case of storms.

#75 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 08:36 PM:

Bruce, Charlie, DC is not built on a swamp, that's urban legend. There's rivers and canals that come together there, plus some wetlands, but not a swamp. The mouth of the Potomac is a good bit further east. As to why DC is where it is, that's the Compromise of 1970.

#76 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 08:37 PM:

Erm. Compromise of 1790. Hmph.

#77 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 08:47 PM:

Marilee #s75/76: Will you be writing a time-travel story involving a certain soon-to-be-former president and a queen?

#78 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 09:26 PM:

#71 Graydon

Constance @69 --

.... But it does need someone to get out in front and lead, and settle arguments, and make someone care about something larger and more abstract than their immediate concerns.

That's not quite the same thing as the "I'm the decider", which translates into "I don't have listen to anybody". Or, for that matter, settle any arguments; the Bush administration has been an erratic cloud of faction fights.

Fair enough. I hope you're right.

Love, C.

#79 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 10:21 PM:

Marilee #75: plus some wetlands, but not a swamp

I've always thought that "wetlands" was just a euphemism for "swamp".

#80 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2008, 12:26 AM:

Background information--Macdonald is a mustang--someone who became an officer the hard way, by serving as enlisted first, and then going to college and getting the degree and commissioning as an office--and had a clearance.

And working in/for the government, only those who completely lack a sense of humor or are complete martinets, don't at least sometimes use sarcasm/make jokes/snarky comments etc. even at or especially at the organizations they're in....

Once upon a time, a bunch of people up in Shemya--a radar station at almost the end of the Aleutian Islands (the ones that the hellbitch from Alaska think gave her international experience by osmosis from...)--where running around yelling "
TPS! TPS! TPS!" (tee pee ess, pronouncing them as individual letters) The Base Commander found it it stood for, "This Place Sucks!" and ordered them to cease and desist. The next day they were out, yellign "TPRS! TPRS! TPRS!" for, "This Place Really Sucks!" -- source, one of the sergeants who was telling the story first hand, who had been out yelling away.

#81 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2008, 02:47 AM:

Terry Karney @ 73

The one-two month TS he is talking about is for military TS clearances, which don't require an SBI.

That's probably true in general, but I know they did one on me, because they talked to my cousin, who thought it was a great joke*. But that didn't take longer than 3 months; the only reason it took almost 6 months to get the clearance, given than I had already had a Secret Clearance for almost a year, was that the NCOIC of the security section in my battalion was a lush, and kept losing the paperwork.

* He was a cousin by marriage who was a naturalized US citizen originally from Belgium. He'd served in the US Army in Korea to speed up getting the citizenship, which apparently made the G-men who talked to him consider him a reliable source.

#82 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2008, 02:55 AM:

Earl Cooley III @ 79

I've always thought that "wetlands" was just a euphemism for "swamp".

Nope. Ever heard of "temperate rainforest"? I live above latitude 45°, and there are places less than an hour's drive from here where many plants from the Amazon can grow, as long as they're sheltered from the cold in the winter.

For that matter, the land on the other side of the south fence of my yard is designated as wetlands by the government, and protected so I can't use herbicides or pull out weeds (I cut off the blackberry canes that creep over the fence). But there isn't a bit of standing water there, because it's all hillside.

#83 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2008, 03:19 PM:

Linkmeister:

Madeline @ #4, presumably Langley's offices are air-conditioned, and NoVa winters aren't that bad.

There's a little detail in The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence about this. When the CIA building was built they wouldn't tell the contractors how many people would be in it. The contractors then made a "Best Guesstimate" on the air conditioning and managed to underestimate. This meant that in summer everyone cranked up the air conditioning and the system failed. When they figured out what was happening the folks that ran the building put up lockable wire cages over the heating controls for each room. This would have worked if the folks in those rooms hadn't had friends in covert operations...

#84 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2008, 05:09 PM:

Bruce: Ah... yes, well the TS invesitgation takes some time, but since they had your secret, a lot of of the legwork was probably shortcutted.

In the best of times a TS:SBI takes about 4 months, and plain TS takes about 1 month, once the investigation starts.

The best of times is like the TO&E, usually a notional idea.

#85 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2008, 10:57 PM:

Fragano, #77, now, I didn't say it on TV!

Earl, #80, no, wetlands are places near ponds that get wet every now and then. A swamp is an entire area with almost all water, not much dirt (plants/trees grow up through the water, usually).

#86 ::: Erin ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2008, 01:46 PM:

Rob@#49:
I'd thought that there should be an open CIA scholarship, where the government would provide tuition and expenses for any student willing to study abroad.

I was a graduate student in an International Studies program and we had CIA recruiters on campus both years. We grad students had the distinct impression that we were quite welcome to apply at anytime.

One year I was there, I believe all the grad students in my program took the Foreign Service exam, except the students who were already in the military.

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