Newspapers Fire, the CIA Hires

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Say 'cheese,' you commie dirtbag

Reporting from the UNITY Journalists of Color Convention, Aura Blogando observed a number of her colleagues hovering around the CIA job booth:

Craig P (not his real name, I would guess) works the Central intelligence Agency booth at UNITY. As I cruised the halls the first day looking for old and new faces earlier this week, I was a bit puzzled to find that the CIA had a recruitment booth. At a journalism conference.

"We don't have journalist positions at the CIA," Craig P tells me with a wide smile, "but we do hire people that have journalism backgrounds as analysts…. And what do analysts do at the CIA? Well, they read. A lot. They read everything we give them, and make sense of it."

While it might shock young journalists to find that the CIA wants (some of) us, the agency has a long and creepy history of recruiting from the news industry. Mort Reichek, who worked at Business Week and Forbes in the '60s, responded to an "editor-writer" ad in the Washington Post in 1949:

A couple of weeks later I received a strange letter inviting me for an interview. The envelope and the letterhead displayed no organizational name. I recall only an address in the 2000 block of E Street, N.W. in Washington and a phone number. I was instructed to call for an appointment.

I got to the E Street address, and found a large building that bore no identification….

[S]ecurity in the E Street building was extraordinary. I had to go through a maze of reception desks manned by armed guards before I could get to an elevator that would take me to the office where I was supposed to go.

It was the most unusual job interview I have ever had. The scene was like something out of a Kafka story. I was instructed to fill out an application form outlining my educational, military and employment background in greater detail than I had already submitted. I was then told to wait in another room. I still had no idea who the potential employer might be. After about an hour, I was called into another room where two interviewers bombarded me with very personal questions for at least another hour.

Only during the interiew did I learn that I was sitting in the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency.

But not everyone in the Realm of Truth is cool with the Feds hanging around journalism job fairs. According to Richard Prince at Journal-Isms, the National Association of Black Journalists has a policy banning the FBI and the CIA from its job fairs that dates back to 1989. Wayne Dawkins wrote about the ethos behind the policy in "Black Journalists: The NABJ Story":

Modern-day black journalists feared being labeled or used as spies by the white-majority government, or worse yet, becoming the spy and police agencies of government. NABJ asked the two black women CIA representatives to leave. The intelligence money was returned.

In 1996, several international news organizations published a joint letter to Congress asking it to abandon legislation that would allow the CIA to use journalists in clandestine missions:

Any policy that allows intelligence agents to impersonate journalists, use journalists as agents, or otherwise use journalism as a "cover" is unacceptable on its face. In particular, it endangers the safety of all journalists in war, civil war, terrorist and other situations.

As long as the possibility remains that any journalist may be seen as linked to an intelligence agency, all journalists remain at risk of harassment, personal attack, abduction and murder.

Journalists in hazardous situations should not have to fear for their lives because others may believe they are not what they say they are.

In his essay "Journalism and the CIA: The Mighty Wurlitzer," Daniel Brandt argues that post-WWII intelligence model relied heavily on cooperative, sometimes duped, journalists; Carl Bernstein said much the same thing in a 1977 Rolling Stone article. I feel compelled to agree: How is any ethically-motivated journalist—laid off or no—to trust Craig P, when the guy won't share his last name?

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26 responses to “Newspapers Fire, the CIA Hires

  1. Seems like half the CIA works for the NYT anyway.

  2. Reason’s attempts to pretend something other than the fact that 99.99% of “journalists” are anything other than tools and are capable of thinking independently from protectors of some kind or other has been duly noted.

  3. FOOLS – THAT’S WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO THINK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!ELEVENTY

  4. Well, they read. A lot. They read everything we give them, and make sense of it.

    And sometimes they come home to find all of their friends machine-gunned dead. It happened to Robert Redford.

  5. And what do analysts do at the CIA? Well, they read. A lot. They read everything we give them, and make sense of it.”

    I’d point out there’s quite a bit of difference between that and running around Crackpotstania with a Walther PPK and lapel-button camera.

    I’m married to a reporter. I’m certain a CIA analyst would have much better pay and a lot shorter hours.

  6. Somehow I don’t feel any safer knowing that the CIA is relying on journalists for analysis. No wonder they haven’t produced any decent actionable intelligence in fifty years. Honestly, unless you were a jounalist who had lived and worked in an area, why would a journalist be better suited to be an analyst than anyone else?

    I suspect the reason why the CIA likes to hire journalists is because journalists do little and know less. The intelligence community hates independent thinkers and people who bring outside knowledge and experience to the table. No kidding. To be accepted in the intel community you need to start out with them as a GS 8 and work your way through the ranks and learn to think and act just like them. People who have done things and have independent knowlege are not welcome.

  7. 99.99% of “journalists” are tools. 00.01% are Dondero.

  8. Modern-day black journalists feared being labeled or used as spies by the white-majority government

    Not to stick up for gummit or anything, but why is working for a white-majority government any worse than working for a white-majority media conglomerate? And why was the CIA singled out for racial exclusion: Was their convention held in a white-majority hotel? Was the food provided by white-majority caterers? Where all of them members of white-majority political parties?

    I’ve got no problem with them dissing the CIA, I do have a problem with them dissing them because of race.

  9. To be accepted in the intel community you need to start out with them as a GS 8 and work your way through the ranks and learn to think and act just like them. People who have done things and have independent knowlege are not welcome.

    This is true of all government jobs

  10. The modern CIA analyst’s job is little more than that of a journalist, only you can guarantee that your circulation will never be any greater than a couple dozen. The other big difference is that your rewards are entirely based on the amount of your output not its readability. A big similarity is that accuracy isn’t particularly important in either case.

  11. Weren’t the guys who recently rescued the FARC hostages posing as journalists?

  12. “Weren’t the guys who recently rescued the FARC hostages posing as journalists?”

    Yes they were. It was the best disguise the Columbians could think of. Wear a Che shirt and pose as a journalist or an NGO worker and the FARC terrorists were gaurenteed to think you are a friendly. It is really sad but very true.

  13. The majority of jobs in the CIA are desk jobs reviewing intel. The idea that they should be forbidden from hiring journalists (“oh, saintly ones who cannot be sullied with the dirt of the world.”) is asinine. BTW, what defines a “journalist” these days, anyway? Would this law prevent bloggers from getting hired as well?

  14. Yes they were. It was the best disguise the Columbians could think of. Wear a Che shirt and pose as a journalist or an NGO worker and the FARC terrorists were gaurenteed to think you are a friendly. It is really sad but very true.

    NOT TRUE, though you might want to believe it, given your idealogy. The controversy was over them using Red Cross emplems.

  15. If the CIA doesn’t have some journalists on the payroll they are derelict in their duties.

    Just sayin’.

  16. While it might shock young journalists to find that the CIA wants (some of) us, the agency has a long and creepy history of recruiting from the news industry.

    What’s creepier: The CIA recruiting from the news business, or journalists agreeing to work for the CIA?

  17. I’m married to a reporter. I’m certain a CIA analyst would have much better pay and a lot shorter hours.

    Small-town circular, LarryA?

    Starting salaries for TV general-assignment reporters remain at around $45,000. Reporters who hustle may inch up to $75,000 after five years of experience. To get to Denver, however, they’ve usually had to hopscotch the country, climbing from smaller markets, working odd shifts and covering wee-hour traffic accidents in the sleet, appearing cheerful.

    No, $75,000 isn’t rich by any standard, but but it’s a helluva lot more than I make as a veteran in my job. Maybe I should spend less time on H&R, and more time attending to my job… never mind.

  18. NGO worker and the FARC terrorists were gaurenteed to think you are a friendly. It is really sad but very true.

    But yet strangely unsurprising.

  19. FARC guerilla #1: Who’s he?

    FARC geurilla #2: A journalist.

    FARC geurilla #1: Oh, cool, we can trust him, then.

  20. The controversy was over them using Red Cross emplems.

    Um, one guy had Red Cross badges. The claim has been made that this was a war crime violating the Geneva Conventions. Its a pretty odd war crime that saves lives, so I personally file this one under “whatever, dude”.

  21. Staffing these programs is the purpose of the hiring by the Cia & other intel agencies (Dod/Fbi/Dhs etc).

  22. Brandybuck | July 28, 2008, 3:53pm,

    Well, “UNITY” is an event designed to culturally divide media workers on the basis of skin color. Anything “white” or involved in the current power structure is automatically disenfranchised.

    How do you expect the revolution to roll through the streets unless we identify some arbitrary loser to fight? Guh.

  23. Your piece about me and the CIA is taken out of context. The agency did not “recruit me from the news industry.” In 1949, when I responded to its ad, I was a war veteran a year out of college, unhappy working as a press officer in the Labor Dept., and an aspiring journalist who had never held a job in the news industry.
    The job offered me at the CIA was quite innocent. I would have been an editor in a 3-man team monitoring Soviet bloc radio broadcasts. A radio engineer and foreign language specialist would be the others. I did not take the job because I had a better offer elsewhere and was not eager to go overseas after more than 2 years Army duty abroad. Incidentally, I finally obtained a legitimate journalist job and worked in the news business until my retirement about 20 years ago.

  24. Whoa. A little celebrity around these H&R parts.

  25. the Central Intelligence Agency is so mysterious and solemn.

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