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CIA Turns to Mainstream Media for Recruiting

Spy Agency Advertising for Clandestine Service on Radio

By Published on . 2

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The CIA is advertising for a few good spies.

The Central Intelligence Agency is running radio recruitment spots for its National Clandestine Service unit, and it's not the first time the covert group has turned to mainstream media to drum up interest. The CIA has in the past run a TV campaign on cable stations such as Discovery and has as a presence on the social-networking site Facebook.

The careers section of the CIA website includes print ads with the tagline 'The work of a nation. The center of intelligence.'
The careers section of the CIA website includes print ads with the tagline 'The work of a nation. The center of intelligence.'
Nothing new
Surprised? Don't be. The supersecret spy agency is following in the footsteps of more groups than just its military counterparts. "CIA, as well as other intelligence agencies such as NSA [the National Security Agency], have advertised in the media off and on for many years," said Richard K. Betts, a specialist on national-security policy and military strategy at Columbia University and a former consultant to the CIA.

On the careers section of its website, the CIA urges, "Make a difference in your career. Consider the global employment opportunities at the CIA. We're looking for a diversity of people for the important job of keeping America safe. This includes Clandestine Service Officers to be on the front line of human intelligence." It also includes a "top 10 reasons" list for working at the CIA, copies of print ads and a personality test. Its tagline is "The work of a nation. The center of intelligence."

The CIA did not return calls for comment. But if it's buzz it's seeking, it looks to be getting some in the blogosphere. On The Smoking Argus, a political website, one woman wrote about hearing a "help-wanted advertisement from the CIA, attempting to recruit Americans to apply for a position in 'The National Clandestine Service.'" She goes on to say that the commercial contains buzzwords such as "patriotism," "adventure" and "ambiguity" and said it "reeks of a federal government out of control."

At Parrot Head Jeff, the webmaster wrote in his blog, "I actually know quite a few old 'spooks' from the grand old days of the CIA via my involvement with the Road Runners [aviation-enthusiast group]. ... From my discussions with them as well as what I've read and heard elsewhere, paid advertising in the mainstream media was not the way the CIA used to recruit. It still blows my mind as I write this."

Peer-to-peer marketing
It is not known whether the new radio ads are in response to a failure by the CIA to meet recruitment goals. "I don't know what determines the frequency of such advertising, but even at times when the agencies are not expanding they are on the lookout for appropriate people to maintain the ranks," Mr. Betts said, adding that he doesn't know any details about recruitment "except that CIA sends recruiters in the open to universities."

The agency has not only tried what it previously called peer-to-peer marketing by being on Facebook -- a move that was promptly met by a Facebook group called "CIA Out of Facebook" -- but its presence back on college campuses has actually gone better than expected.

The 16 U.S. intelligence agencies -- the CIA, NSA and FBI among them -- are now actually working with colleges. The umbrella group that makes up the various agencies, known as the Intelligence Community, or IC, has created the Centers of Academic Excellence Program in National Security Studies.

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence told the student newspaper at Wayne State University in Detroit -- one of 10 colleges that make up the pilot program -- that "the nation faces increasingly complex global threats. As a result, the Intelligence Community must have a work force that reflects America's diversity and has a deep understanding of global cultures; foreign languages; science, technology, engineering, math, and economics; plus other key issues. Clearly, the CAE Program is needed to build a work force that will help the nation tackle national security challenges."

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