Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The CIA Wants YOU?!

It's been an eternity since I wrote anything here. I've been spending a great deal of time posting to my game design blog ( And that's in between all my time attempting to write the definitive history of the Scythians. They had horses. They had gold. They out Mongol'd the Mongols for a time. Then, they disappeared. I propose that aliens had something to do with it, and one day space-Scythians will return to conquer Earth. So I've also been busy hardening the Fortress of Solitude against attack.

Since Studio Manta is where I post my thoughts on the hobby games industry and game design, this blog seems more appropriate to what I want to ruminate on today. Because it has nothing to do with game design. See, lately I've been getting this ad on Facebook about joining the CIA. We're going to chat about that.

When you click the link on Facebook, this is what you get:

Go click on it. You need to see the page in order to understand the rest of this article. Go on. I'll wait.

Okay, you looked at it? There is all kinds of wrong on this page, not the least of which is that the CIA does NOT advertise on Facebook. The CIA does not need you. They already have tons of people working for them. The CIA prefers it if you come to them. Moreover, this ad does not scream "we're a secret organization looking to hire". It screams "COPS!"

Look at those pull down menus. Associates degree? GED? The CIA I know prefers its employees to have a minimum of a Bachelors degree, preferably in something useful, like Russian politics, Chinese cultural studies, or agricultural studies. I'm completely serious about that last one. See, what the CIA will do is look at satellite photos of farmland and predict yield based on crop density, in order to predict whether there'll be a famine in the Ukraine this year. Doesn't that sounds exciting? Yeah, that ad doesn't really communicate that, does it?

There are really three tiers of employment at the CIA, and they break down like this:

Analysts: This is ninety percent of your CIA. You sit and listen to NSA intercepts about what General Chernenkov had for dinner last night. Or you read a newspapers from the country to which you've been assigned (this last one is actually pretty instructive. For example, the Chinese Communist Party will tell you what's important to it by the language they use in their mass media. Also, they'll tell you what they're focusing on, policy-wise, by the articles they publish. So an analyst needs to know how to read between the lines. When they use "running capitalist dogs" in an article on bicycle safety that means something is going on, but not that bad. When it's about corruption in the army, that may mean a purge is in the offing.). Or you may spend the day going cross-eyed looking at satellite photos of the port of Aden to see which ships are there, what they may be loading aboard, and where they're going. Basically, working for the CIA is a lot like working for any other corporate environment.

It looks a lot like this:

Pictured: Spying
 Now go back to that web page from above. Totally does not look like what you do all day at the CIA. I see bullet holes. I see a cop car. I see a dude in SWAT gear. What I don't see is a fat guy who also happens to be an expert in industrial production trying to figure out how many refrigerators the Iranians are making this year... Maybe they're advertising for the next tier.

Field Operations: You may think that the CIA is about actual spying. They must give someone a laser watch and toothpaste explosives and send them to Upper Slobovia to sleep with hottie Eastern Europeans and play baccerat. Yes, and that person is likely to be Upper Slobovian. See, they reserve these field operations for foreigners. You know, the people upon whom we're spying. When the CIA recruits for field ops, they want people who are familiar with the cultural landscape, people who speak the language, people who are pro-USA and would like to demonstrate this by spying on their own country. Let's put it this way: who do you think would be better at spying on China? Some blond, six foot tall guy, with maybe four years of Chinese language study under his belt OR a Chinese guy? At least he's not going to stick out like a sore thumb at the PLA Family Barbeque. 

That's not to say there are no American spies in other countries. If you do get field operations, you'll be sent to some embassy, posing as an undersecretary for the Department of Education, sent to advise the locals on the best of educational techniques. That's your cover, because they can't put "CIA Handler" on your office door. Alright! Let's get the spying on! Bring on the cloak, and the dagger! You know what you'll actually be doing? That's right: sitting in an office at the embassy, collecting reports from foreign nationals, and forwarding them on to Langley.

This office is TOTALLY in Moscow.
Okay. So clearly the Criminal Justice Department is not talking about Americans involved in field operations, either. There's action and excitement in that photo, so maybe they're talking about the last tier of CIA operatives.

SOG: The Studies and Operations Group. SOG is the private army of the CIA. These guys are bad ass. They're trained in nothing but combat. They're pulled from the uniform services (typically Special Ops like the Green Berets) and given the cool stuff to do. Because they're technically part of the Executive Branch, the President can send them anywhere he wants and without Congressional approval. So if the President totally wants to blow up some cocaine labs in Colombia, he sends SOG. SOG operatives jumped out of airplanes prior to the Afghanistan invasion, carrying anodized briefcases stuffed with cash, in order to buy off tribal leaders. When we wanted to buy Russian-made helicopters in Vladivostok, a SOG team went along to protect the "businessman" sent to make the deal. Maybe this ad is all about joining SOG....

But there's already a way to get hired by the CIA for this work. In fact, it's pretty much the only way. It's called joining the Army.

I mean look at that guy in the ad. He's dressed in SWAT gear. The CIA doesn't kick in doors and haul out bad guys. Even if they did, they wouldn't dress up like that. And what's up with the cop car? The CIA prefers nondescript Chevy Suburbans. The advertisement looks like you'll be doing all kinds of exciting stuff for the CIA. And in as little as 18 months! When the reality is this:

Oh, and did I mention that you should replace the woman with a fat, balding guy?
So I have to call shenanigans on this ad. I don't know what it's advertising for, but it's clearly NOT the CIA.

1 comment:

  1. Dude funny blog. I agree. I like the Corporate America analogy lol