The CIA recruits came to campus

Published: December 4, 2011
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The CIA has polygraph experts who can, at most times, accurately determine whether a person is lying or telling the truth. PHOTO: REUTERS

Two members of America’s spy nest, the National Clandestine Service (NCS) of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) visited the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh today to attract potential recruits into the spy agency. The NCS, formerly known as the Directorate of Operations (DO), is where agency trains spies in secret trade-craft for clandestine activities.

The briefing lasted a little over an hour, followed by questions about the application process. The two presenters themselves were career spies. The male speaker was a Russian expert with extensive experience in the Middle East. He had military experience prior to joining the CIA. The female speaker was also a clandestine officer with expertise in counter-terrorism. Efficiently trained in human deception, manipulation and paramilitary operations, they spoke persuasively and enlightened the students with the benefits of being part of the community at the CIA. Their highest accomplishment was that they served their country.

It would come as a surprise to many that for being an intelligence agency, the CIA is very transparent in their recruiting process. Except for the director of the CIA, who is a political appointee, all employees have to go through the same employment process. People who are interested in working with the agency have to go through the application process online, where they are provided with a temporary username and id. The entire employment process could take between 12 to 18 months. The process is very rigorous, with the agency’s human resource team conducting extensive background checks, vetting accepted applicants for any criminal records, and conducting a thorough investigation before the applicant can be pushed through the time-consuming process of obtaining a security clearance.

Once applicants apply through the CIA website, which could take as long as three days, applicants of interest receive a phone call from the agency. After a 30 minute phone interview, if the applicant still interests the recruiter, he or she is invited for a three-day in-house interview, where the applicant, on the CIA’s expense, spends time at agency headquarters in Langley, VA. If one passes through this interview, they are offered conditional employment. An excellent part of this process is that the CIA looks at potential vulnerabilities in a person that could turn them against one’s country. For instance, you may be disqualified if you have substantial amounts of unnecessary credit card debt because you could be easily bribed by a foreign intelligence service. In addition, the agency checks if you have consumed any illegal drugs or substance in the past 12 months. Applicants are required to remain drug-free for at least 12 months to qualify for employment with the CIA. Even though one needs to have a strong allegiance to America and be willing to go to all possible extents to protect it, those with dual-nationality are also eligible for employment. It benefits the agency due to the ease of sending officers in countries of high value and importance.

Accepted applicants are also polygraphed—a lie detector. The CIA has polygraph experts who can, at most times, accurately determine whether a person is lying or telling the truth.

“We’re gonna interview the heck out of you” is the standard operating procedure.

The CIA also has a student internship program and applicants have to go through the same application process due to the sensitivity of the work they are assigned. Internees also have to obtain a security clearance before they can be offered employment because they have access to sensitive buildings and materials that could pose potential national security threats to the country if misused or if they fall into the wrong hands.

The CIA is an equal opportunity provider. Applicants are required to have at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree with a grade point average of 3.0. The CIA as an intellectual workforce, with clandestine officers holding either a master’s degree or a PhD. It has one of the best computer genius’ in the country, in addition to professional from all sorts of discipline.  Psychologists, doctors, artists, wardrobe specialist—disguise experts, computer scientists and top engineers, all make up the fabric of America’s premier spy agency. They pay well; provide good compensation for government service, and equal opportunity for career advancement.

It is the work of a nation, and they are the centre of intelligence.

Shahzeb Shaikha

Shahzeb Shaikha

A staffer at The Express Tribune who is a graduate in the field of Security Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. He tweets @shahzebshaikha (twitter.com/shahzebshaikha)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.