Wednesday, September 20, 2006

THE CIA WANTS YOU! Especially if you enjoy Fox's animated series, King of the Hill

The last couple of nights, DD has noticed commercials for employment at the CIA between reruns of Fox's "King of the Hill" comedy cartoon at dinner time.

The CIA wants you!

And Dick Destiny is unsure what placement in the middle of the "King of the Hill" hour (two reruns) says about shared interests and skills among fans of the series, like me, and ideal candidates for employment at the CIA. Run, Dale Gribble!

In any case, I noticed the commercials after an excellent Los Angeles Times story entitled: "Spy Agencies Outsourcing to Fill Key Jobs."

"Largely because of the demands of the war on terrorism and the drawn-out conflict in Iraq, U.S. spy agencies have turned to unprecedented numbers of outside contractors to perform jobs once the domain of government-employed analysts and secret agents," wrote the Times.

The paper related "more than half the employees are not U.S. government analysts or terrorism experts" at the National Counterterrorism Center.

Problems and benefits associated with the reliance on outside contractors, or the private sector-ization of intelligence work are discussed in the Times article. On the plus side is the management and maintenance of the intelligence apparatus' computer systems and the necessary "plugging" of holes created by staff cuts during the previous decade.

On the negative side: The introduction of the profit motive which impacts the analysis and interpretation of intelligence as well as morale of employees in operations.

DD has discussed the issue previously, in Annals of Terrorism.

It comes down to being wary, as most people should be, of for-profit firms that purport to either compete with or replace functions of the work of national intelligence agencies, no matter how lousy one may think such agencies are.

An inescapable fact of the war on terror is that capabilities and threats are frequently exaggerated.

To get people to listen to your story or stories, to make them buy something you are selling, to make them believe you are providing value for your analytic labor, you must frighten them. And if the evidence at hand isn't sufficiently scary, or the people who you're serving aren't attentive enough, then the temptation is strong to embellish and sell the goods like something they ain't.

Unchecked, it's destructive to analysis. It also selects for the hiring of people who are good at telling you things that currently blow with the winds of received wisdom, as opposed to the delivering of information which is true, as far as it is in the best of your ability to know it, but which runs counter to the same.

Another way of looking at it is the pleasing of two bosses -- your corporate manager, who wants to keep the client thinking the vendor is producing great things, and the client, whose agency more urgently needs critical thinking as opposed to interesting, but not necessarily true, "stuff."

"The spike in the use of contractors is likely to diminish as the bumper crop of recruits at the CIA and other agencies rises through the ranks," concludes the Times. "However, officials said that was a process that would take years."

The entire story is here.

So you saw the CIA ad, too, and you think you want to be a spy?

Well, "[The] CIA is interested in hearing from you," I wrote -- way back in 1992.

"It interviews thousands of Americans for jobs as spies, intelligence analysts and technical specialists every year. But because of its classified mission, hiring methods are unusual and Kafka-esque, taking at least a year to complete and bound in smothering bureaucratic process, comic ineptitude and secrecy."

Hiring was a long process involving multiple interviews, essay writing, test-taking, background checks and the completion of an extensive personal history file.

One might reckon, unless you're Nick Fury, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. coming out of retirement, it still is.

Whether or not the agency still employs a brain-damaged personality test from the Fifties, one I took, to screen its applicants is an unknown. If you find out, let Dick Destiny know. That is -- if you can, without being fired or charged with treason.

Read Job Openings at the CIA. It's one of a kind. Nothin' else exists like it on the net.

The CIA also thought very highly of polygraphs. At the time, all candidates, if they were given an offer, were required to pass one.

"David T. Lykken, a psychologist who did pioneering research and public education on the limits and abuses of polygraph testing, died last week at age 78," wrote Steven Aftergood in today's Secrecy Blog at the Federation of American Scientists.
[Lykken said] the use of the polygraph for security screening of personnel, as is commonly done by U.S. intelligence agencies, cannot reliably achieve its purported goal of identifying spies or traitors and in many cases becomes counterproductive.

"I think it is now obvious that polygraph testing has failed to screen out from our intelligence agencies potential traitors and moles. On the contrary, it seems to have served as a shield for such people who, having passed the polygraph, become immune to commonsense suspicions."

A fascinating obit, read the rest here.


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