Tradecraft, Radio and Homeland

Had I been smarter, more attractive, farther up on “the spectrum”, further down, more conniving, more authentic about my inauthenticity, I would  have loved to have been tapped by an operative to work for the CIA.    It would have been perfect had it happened during my fall semester of my Junior year in High School.   Why then?

Why not then?

I felt very different when I was in high school.    I felt odd and out of place, so did  a billion other teens.   It’s a hormonal haven.  So, if HS is the perfect time to feel different, it would have been groovy to have had someone from a very relevant place  to make me feel ok about feeling so different.    You know, like that Maya chick, from the movie, Zero Dark Thirty.   She was was a real person and decidedly NOT a fan of UBL.    Her obsessive compulsive need to kill him paid off in May, 2011.


The character Quinn on the Showtime hit Homeland was also handpicked in high school to be a CIA agent or intelligence operate of whatever the title is.  What might a 16 or 17 year old High School student be like  from a behavioral/personality standpoint to be tapped to young to help protect his or her country so covertly?

So, I looked into it.

According to a Newsmax article from a few years back, the CIA does in fact, recruit From High Schools and then again….it doesn’t.

….”According to the CIA’s website, high school students are eligible to be a part of the agency through the Undergraduate Scholar Program, where students are given $18,000 per year for tuition, fees, books, and supplies. During their summers in college, they’ll work at headquarters using skills they excel in. After graduation, the students will work for the agency for a period of 1.5 times the period they were a part of the program.     Seventeen and 18-year-olds are not being asking if they can ‘meet the challenge’ of the Central Intelligence Agency,” Chen Mills writes. “Open to all high school seniors . . . the CIA ‘Undergraduate Scholar Program’ appears to be the Agency’s attempt to get ‘em while they’re young…”

The Newsmax article goes on to say, “The character of Maya is based on a real woman, and the Washington Post reports that director Mark Boal met with her and other CIA officers. “Maya” joined the agency before the attacks on 9/11 and worked as a targeter in Islamabad, Pakistan. She was recently given the agency’s Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest honor given by the CIA to those who have worked under fire.”

It’s unbelievable, but 16 years separate us from that balmy September day.  It forced our hand in places it needed to be slapped.    We’d become lackadaisical and lazy.  So, fortunately, our Intelligence has changed.    Things are  certainly now different then they were during the Cold War and the days of the classic Moose and Squirrel dialog.    While the Agency might know exactly who and what it needs in an employee, its philosophy has had to change with the times.

The enemies to Democracy version 2017 are very different.  They varied and these days, more numerous.  Their approach, the philosophy might be different, but the goal….eradication of the West and Western ideals….remain the same.

So, how does one become a CIA prodigy?

Well, decades ago, that might have happened while as an intelligent college Sophomore, floundering academically but a certain Prof with certain covert connections sees something else.   That might have lead to a tap on the shoulder that lead to a clandestine meeting.    Maybe one the eventually, endsed up in Langley, VA.     There could have been a call or two  from  wrong number that oddly engaged you in a conversation and or there could have been unfamiliar voices with vague messages left on  your answering machine.    Yes, a separate machine connected to your phone to record messages.     Look that one up yourselves, youngsters.

What I just cited are a few examples of classic  CIA recruitment.   That might still happen in extreme situations, except these days, you can apply online, at the CIA’s website.

Based  on TV shows and movies I’ve seen,  it seems to me that “The Agency” actively recruits sociopaths and psychopaths who can  kill and maim and sleep with anyone or anything without an ounce of remorse.    While I’m  sure those attributes help, a Forbes article explains the CIA is looking for the whole package.

For almost all occupations within the CIA, hiting agents conduct a résumé review in which an applicant’s skills and experiences are considered, along with knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary for the position. This review is followed up  by a telephone interview to determine general qualifications and basic security compatibility.

An applicant is then given several tests that look at key arenas such as writing skills and problem-solving abilities. These tests also evaluate whether the applicant has the right “interpersonal fit” to work at the agency. Following this, a face-to-face interview occurs and, if successful, medical tests and a psychological screening. For some occupations, candidates have to undergo a current events knowledge screening.

Lets say though YOU read a lot La Carre novels and the corner doodling on the pages of MAD magazine  as a kid and you want some real clandestine spy vs. spy action.    Those gigs exist but they’re more focused on overseas events, and the skills they require are different.  How different?   It’s the CIA people—–no one is saying.

But when it gets down to the general, non-specific nut cuttimg, the Agency hires someone based on the reasons you might employ a person… for their honesty and integrity, but does that go beyond not stealing teems of paper or toilet paper from the company pissoir?

Again, based on what I can determine, yes and no.

If you’re a serious applicant, your past is looked into, of course.   What jobs have you held and how well did you work in those positions.    There’s academic  performance in HS and college.  What kind a student were you?   Popular?   Were you active in clubs or a loner?   Active?    Your friends and former co-workers are interviewed.    Weee you ever disloyal?     Exhibit weird behaviors?      My God, in my life of work, you HAD  to be weird.    Weird enough to be adept at piano wire placed around a random neck?   Probably.   Holding your hand over a candle foam till you flesh burns to prove a point?  Definitely.    I always thought TV and radio weould be great places for recruiting.    Making you endure an overnight shift would be a helluva determining method.  It would be a hiring box of chocolates for the Agency.  Lots of variety.

I wont pretend to know more about the Sgency then what’ll allowed on the web, but I I doubt if it necessarily wants flag wavers…are flag waivers, for that matter.   It would seem to me that the CIA likes liars.    But effeicient, proficient, convincing liars, not just someone merely willing to tell a fib or bend the truth from time to time.

Other questions in a typical interview include:

1. Why do you want to work for the CIA?

2. Tell me about the expectations that will be asked of you by working at the CIA.

3. Share an example from your recent professional or educational experience where you successfully navigated an ambiguous situation.

4. Please describe an example of a time you were in a leadership role and failed. What were the lessons learned and your subsequent change of behavior?

5. In what ways have you recently or currently serve others?

HHmmmmm.   I’ve both asked these questions and answered them  for the simplest of positions.  .  So, I would think how one answers these questions are as important as the answers themselves.   That said , I don’t think you can get an answer wrong per se.  Not wrong in the classic sense.    There are so many factors at play here….the value of the answer.    The value of the physical response before, during and after the question was posed.    You have to remember you’re  not applying  to be an overnight secuity guard position.    The CIA want to be a good fit for the applicant and be a good fit for the CIA but only recruiters know exactly what that means.

I dig the notion of bring a spy.    What a lifestyle!!    Each Sunday night, thoroughly  enjoy Homeland, because air have no lifestyle.    But this is a recent thing in my life.   I hated all things intelligence related, but perhaps 9/11 changed that for me as well.     Homeland especially.   All these people are at a million different places in one show, but you never see how they get from one place to another.   I never see them flying; especially not commercial.   All things considered, I wonder if that’s intentional.  Those people are also rarely ever seen eating.  Drinking, yes, but consuming food is rare.

Homeland has many detractors, it has its many fans.   It’s tenure on Showtine, plus it’s many awards and accolades prove its staying power is real.  Like many viewers, I think Carrie is an ugly cryer.   Sol has never illicited a visible emotional in his life.  And I wonder what a guy like the character Quinn was  like in HS?    Band nerd, jock….tinker….tailor?








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