Debate U.S. foreign policy – apply at the CIA

John Troyer

IIn mid-January I decided to apply for a job with the Central Intelligence Agency. I am not kidding. It turns out applying for a job at the CIA is incredibly easy and actually kind of a hoot. By simply going to the CIA Web site, any person can apply for a whole gaggle of positions within the United States’ intelligence community. After looking over the endless possibilities for future employment with the CIA, I decided to apply for a position as an operations officer in the Clandestine Service unit. With a simple point and click I applied for a job as a spy in the U.S. government.

Some readers might wonder what such a job entails, so here is the actual job description from the CIA Web site: “For the extraordinary individual who wants more than a job, this is a way of life that will challenge the deepest resources of your intelligence, self-reliance, and responsibility. It demands an adventurous spirit … a forceful personality … superior intellectual ability … toughness of mind … and the highest degree of integrity. It takes special skills and professional discipline to produce results. You will need to deal with fast-moving, ambiguous, and unstructured situations that will test your resourcefulness to the utmost.

“This is the Clandestine Service, the vital human element of intelligence collection. These people are the cutting edge of American intelligence, an elite corps gathering the vital information needed by our policy makers to make critical foreign policy decisions.”

Rarely have I felt more confident in saying I know I am the right man for the job. Not only am I all those new-speak business/bureaucratic terms listed above, but I am also an actor with an uncanny ability to blend in with any local environment. No matter where I go in the world, the local population assumes I’m either from that place or German. I think it’s my glasses. I am, in sum, a perfectly built spy machine. And not only am I 32 flavors of CIA subversion and then some, my dad is a funeral director and can, therefore, help me “die” so I am able to go completely underground for the U.S. government.

I should take a moment to explain why I spent the time applying for a job with the CIA. Because I travel quite often to foreign countries, my mother has started telling her friends I work for the CIA or some kind of covert government agency. While I can neither confirm nor deny my employment with any government agency, I thought it best to actually submit a job application for a position my mom keeps telling her friends I already occupy. After submitting my online application for employment, a message popped up explaining that if my skills were currently useful to the CIA a representative would contact me by phone or e-mail within 45 days.

Since those 45 days have almost come and gone, I’ve decided the CIA was not interested in making me an operations officer in the Clandestine Service. I expect my language skills in German and Dakota didn’t fill any glaring holes for the CIA. It’s too bad, really, since I couldn’t wait to tell a CIA representative the Dakota language word for America is Isantanka (EE-shawn-tanka), meaning “Big Knives” or “Long Knives,” referring to early meetings between the Dakotas and U.S. Calvary sabers.

In the end, I believe a set of three words strung together might have something to do with my not being hired by the CIA: “extensive background investigation.” Even though I have never committed an illegal act and been arrested for it, I think the paper trail I’ve left over the years might have weakened my overall credibility as a patriotic supporter of clandestine operations overseas. I have never publicly stated I think the questionable procedures enacted by the CIA are anything other than resourceful responses to fast-moving, ambiguous situations. The only other reason I can fathom for my not being hired by the CIA is the short essay (only a 1,000-character limit) applicants must submit with their applications explaining “Your career goal in taking a position with CIA.”

Here is my essay: “My interest in working with the CIA is to offer a critical perspective on both the gathering of intelligence and to what ends the information is used. The current Bush administration has created a whole host of problems for the CIA in working with foreign agencies in determining what information poses threats to the United States. While both the president of the United States, as commander in chief, and the president’s Cabinet need to appear in charge of the country, the CIA has an opportunity to make sure information is presented so paranoia does not paralyze the public. While secrecy is important for the gathering of information in the field of clandestine services, the recovery of that information must serve a purpose other than party politics.

“My goal in working with the CIA is to argue for how the political regimes of other countries are more complicated than reductions to concepts of good and evil. As a person who travels extensively around the world and blends into the local population so my American citizenship is rarely perceived, I believe the CIA has an opportunity to explain how and why U.S. federal policies abroad are so unpopular within the global community.”

As the days pass, I am hopeful the CIA might still call. Until that time, I do have one final thought for all readers to consider. Since applying for a position in the CIA is so easy, I would like to take the opportunity to encourage everyone with an interest in discussing U.S. foreign policy to submit an application with the friendly people at CIA headquarters. I know the CIA would love receiving hundreds, hopefully thousands, of applications from people concerned about U.S. foreign policy decision-making.

John Troyer’s biweekly column appears alternate Fridays. He welcomes comments at [email protected] Send letters to the editor to [email protected]