Review: Why Does the CIA Need a Podcast?

The director worries that the public doesn't trust his spy agency.


When not spying on Americans or plotting the overthrow of [REDACTED], the CIA has been branching out into online content. The Langley Files is an interview-style podcast produced in-house for the CIA's 75th anniversary. Episodes run under 30 minutes and are hosted by Dee and Walter—who, true to form, go only by possibly pseudonymous first names.

CIA Director Bill Burns, the first episode guest, hopes the show will "demystify" the famously opaque agency. He draws a contrast between Hollywood spy movies and the actual "dedication" and "teamwork" of real-world spying. Career spies laud the agency's diversity and plug its YouTube channel.

The podcast is an obvious P.R. effort. When Burns worries that "trust in institutions is in such short supply," the show avoids any role the agency played in contributing to that erosion of trust.

Dee quips that she "can confirm that yes, we did invent" the phrase neither confirm nor deny. Left unaddressed is any actual covert agency activity: Middle East and Latin American coups, bulk data collection, a post-9/11 torture program that the Senate determined was "brutal and far worse than the CIA represented." The agency even admitted to spying on Senate investigators. The hosts sign off with, "We'll be seeing you." Friendly farewell, or threat?