I noted recently in the Wall Street Journal that a striking 55 percent of all intelligence community analysts were hired after September 11, 2001. On balance, I argued, this is a positive development: “Whatever the cost in lack of experience, the creation of a youthful and highly responsive workforce, motivated by a desire to get into the fight against America’s enemies, has to be counted as all for the good.”
The CIA seems to have taken my comments to heart. On its website, it is now boasting about the inexperience of its intelligence analysts. It features a self-portrait of one of them — “Scott” — who hails from Michigan and has been with the agency for less than a year.
What are Scott’s credentials?
“[M]any people think that CIA employees spend their entire lives preparing to work at the Agency. Not me!”
Scott had a different plan: “I focused my studies on domestic politics and planned to work as a U.S. policymaker, not as a foreign-intelligence analyst.” But this lack of preparation was no barrier to entry for him or anyone else: “I’m not alone. I’ve been surprised to find how many officers did not expect to end up in the CIA.”
What is the CIA like these days? It certainly confounded Scott’s expectations. “Officers didn’t walk around in black suits; they dressed somewhat casual, many even wearing jeans on casual Fridays.” Even more significantly: “Headquarters didn’t feel like an intelligence agency; it felt like a college campus.”
Maybe it didn’t feel like an intelligence agency to Scott because it is not an intelligence agency at all, just a large government bureaucracy pretending to be one. As Scott puts it, it is a “great” place “for somebody like me who studied domestic politics and never expected to work with foreign intelligence.”
Here is another page from the CIA website addressed to another set of inexperienced recruits: K-through-5 elementary school students:
You may have heard about the Central Intelligence Agency. But, do you know what we really do and how we do it? The people of the CIA do very important work. They help keep our country safe. They give our leaders information so they can make good decisions. And they take pride in their important jobs.
We have a lot of different jobs here. We have analysts, doctors, lawyers, scientists, geographers, and librarians, to name just a few.
Look through our pages and you will learn all about us. If you read carefully, you can become a CIA expert. We also have some fun stories and games for you.
Okay, let’s take a short time out from sharing fun stories and play a little game: where in the world is Osama bin Laden and can Scott help us find him? Run Scott run.