Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why Democrats and intelligence don't mix

The Central Intelligence Agency is stepping up recruiting efforts.

Being a spy may involve assumed identities and coded messages, but becoming a spy isn't exactly top-secret business. These days, in fact, all you have to do if you're interested in this particular career path is turn up your radio. The CIA is running ads on stations across the country for jobs in its clandestine service.

"Are you a person of curiosity and integrity?" asks one spot. "Are you ready for a world of challenge ... a world of ambiguity and adventure?"

No, but I like martinis and I've seen every James Bond movie. Does that help?

But then, I'm not exactly whom they are looking for:

The agency is not lacking for applicants; it gets more than 100,000 résumés a year, and the number is growing fast. Little says if current trends hold, there may be a 40% to 50% increase in applications this year over 2008.

But the sheer volume of applications masks some of the agency's recruiting problems. In a roundtable discussion with journalists last month, Panetta noted that less than 13% of his staff have foreign-language skills, and 22% are from minority communities. "I'd like to get to a point where every analyst and operations officer is trained in a foreign language," he said. Panetta also said he'd like to increase the number of minorities at the agency to 30%, "so that we resemble America." And he acknowledged the need for "better outreach for Muslims, Arabs, African Americans and Latinos."

Okay, why are we trying to recruit CIA agents that "resemble America?" Shouldn't we be recruiting agents that look like the rest of the world?

"Hey, who's that?"
"That's the CIA officer at the embassy. You can tell by how well he resembles America."
"Wow, they did a really great job recruiting him. He really looks like an American."

You can see how that doesn't work.