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Apr 03, 2020 Ask Molly: April 3, 2020

Q: Dear Molly,

What's the weirdest job at CIA, one that no one would think exists? Graphic Designer? Hamster Wheel Cleaner?

~ Business as (Un)usual

A: Dear Business as (Un)usual,

Great question, and one that I think a lot of people might be wondering as they practice social distancing with a few good spy flicks from the comfort of their living room. Popular culture and opinions of CIA may conjure up images of dark hallways filled with burly men in black suits. Hollywood movies and TV shows might have you believe that we’re all living a life of deceit, running secretive operations all over the world in a finely-tailored suit, complete with Bond-esque gadgetry and penchant for the dramatic. While some of that is true, the reality is a bit less dramatic and way more interesting.

To get to the root of your question, we need to first reframe how we think of our famously-secretive intelligence organization. Yes, our mission is to recruit assets, conduct all-source analysis and perform covert operations to protect the United States and its citizens. To do this, we hire staff officers and contractors with unique skills, many of which are portrayed—albeit dramatically—on the big screen. These are the types of jobs people think of when they think of CIA—the operations officer working on the ground to recruit assets or the analyst piecing together information to craft intelligence.

In reality, however, to carry out CIA’s important mission, we need a diverse workforce with a skillset and tradecraft to match it. When you’re dealing in the world of intelligence, creativity is your currency. At CIA, that creativity comes from our people by the truckload. So, to answer your question, yes, we have a number of ‘weird’ jobs—ones that bring the creative talents of our workforce to bear in truly exceptional ways. In preparing an appropriately researched response, I’ve had the chance to explore some of these ‘weird’ jobs, many of which I didn’t even know existed.

Without further ado, I present to you,'Molly’s list' of creative jobs at CIA:

  1. Agency Chef: In 1952, at the request of then-Director of Central Intelligence Walter Bedell Smith, CIA opened its first official dining room. The dining room, which is separate
    The Agency Chef prepares food for the Agency Dining Room.
    from the larger employee cafeteria, was—and continues to be—a space for Agency officers to host visitors and conduct business. The Agency chef is responsible for curating the daily menu, managing the dining room staff and crafting special dishes for high-level delegations and visitors. This is a tall order given the amount of visitors CIA greets on a daily basis. And, speaking from experience, I can confirm that the food is first rate.
  2. Protocol Officer: Working for CIA is all about building relationships, and often we’re building those relationships with foreign partners whose customs and traditions are unfamiliar to us here in the U.S. That’s where these officers come in. Protocol officers manage our official relationships with foreign partners and visiting delegations. It is their job to ensure we are respectful and courteous to the culture and traditions of our visitors. Our mission depends on these lasting relationships.
  3. Cartographer: I know what you’re thinking: How is map-making unusual? Well, you may change your tune after learning a bit more about this unique group of officers. Cartography has a long and
    A map created by Agency cartographers depicting Afghanistan.
    rich history at CIA, and cartographers remain some of CIA’s most valuable officers. Their mission, unchanged since the early days of CIA, is to provide the full range of maps and geographic analysis to the White House and senior policymakers. The way they accomplish this mission, however, has changed dramatically and embodies the creative spirit we value at CIA. From the pen, ink and acetate sheets of the 1940s to the big data and scientific workstations of today, cartographers are always looking on the horizon for the best ways to visualize the issues for our policymakers.
  4. Red Cell Analysts: These folks have a cool job, ones that requires outside-the-box thinking. Created in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, CIA’s Red Cell is charged with exploring alternative options to mainline analysis. Simply speaking, their job is to theorize “what-if” scenarios that might otherwise be considered “unlikely” or even “impossible” by others. It’s this sort of creative thinking that keeps us prepared for any situation.
  5. Chief of Fitness Branch: Employee health and well-being is of utmost importance, and the chief of the Fitness Branch is responsible for
    One of the gyms at CIA Headquarters.
    ensuring our officers know this. This officer keeps the Agency moving by maintaining our onsite workout facilities, creating innovative fitness programming and encouraging employees to take a more active role in their own health and wellness. Our officers are extremely devoted to their work and sometimes need that push to focus on themselves: The chief of our Fitness Branch makes it happen.
  6. Disguise Experts: These officers use their creative talents in CIA’s disguise division, where they think of innovative ways to obscure a person’s identity. They work hard to stay ahead of the curve, constantly crafting clever ways to keep assets and officers under cover.

This list barely scratches the surface. There are so many unique and interesting jobs at CIA, each one intended to maximize the creative tradecraft and ingenuity of our workforce. And with the challenges of intelligence gathering constantly changing, new opportunities are popping up all the time. While the future is uncertain, if we stay creative and just a little bit ‘weird,’ no wall is too high to climb. So, next time you watch a spy film or television show, consider how these creative jobs are being used behind-the-scenes to advance the main character’s mission.

Thanks for the great question!

~ Molly,

P.S. Much to my chagrin, we have no hamster wheel cleaners in the building, but keep checking back, you never know where the future of intelligence might take us!

Apr 01, 2020 UFOs: Fact or Fiction?

Back in 1978, CIA declassified hundreds of documents detailing the Agency’s investigations into Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) in the late-1940s into the 1950s.

We’ve decided to highlight a few documents within the vast amount of data contained in our FOIA UFO collection that both skeptics and believers will find interesting.

The truth is out there, and it’s your time to find it. Click the links to begin your search.

Top Five CIA Documents for Believers:

  1. Flying Saucers Reported Over East German, 1952
  2. Minutes of Branch Chief’s Meeting on UFOs, 1952
  3. Flying Saucers Reported Over Spain and North Africa, 1952
  4. Survey of Flying Saucer Reports, 1952
  5. Flying Saucers Reported Over Belgian Congo Uranium Mines, 1952


Top Five CIA Documents for Skeptics:

  1. Scientific Advisory Panel on Unidentified Flying Objects, 1953
  2. Office Memorandum on Flying Saucers, 1949
  3. Memorandum to the CIA Director on Flying Saucers, 1952
  4. Meeting of the OSI Advisory Group on UFOs, 1953
  5. Memorandum for the Record on Flying Saucers, 1952


Want to learn more about CIA’s investigations into UFO’s? Check out our tips for investigating flying saucers here.

Mar 31, 2020 Celebrating Women of America’s First Intel Agency

Marlene Dietrich, WWII
As Women’s History Month comes to an end, we’re celebrating a few of the many women whose courage and dedication helped form the foundation of today’s CIA.

These extraordinary women served in America’s first intelligence agency, the Office of Strategy Services. They were artists and adventurers, mapmakers and pilots who operated in some of the most dangerous places in the world. Several of them went on to work for the CIA.

They challenged stereotypes, broke down barriers, and their legacy paved the way for women to eventually hold senior roles throughout the Agency: including taking the helm as Director of CIA.

Burrell in Berkeley Square, London. April 29, 1944.

Mar 27, 2020 Homeschooling Resources for Parents

Tips for Parents with School-Age Children!

School closings across the WMA have many parents scratching their heads in search of educational and entertaining activities to keep their little ones sharp and engaged through these uncertain times. Fear of the ‘Summer Slide’ or ‘Brain Drain’ – the loss of knowledge and skills learned in the classroom – is starting to set in as some schools close for the remainder of the academic year, leaving parents to develop fun, interesting, and educational activities to keep the ‘Brain Drain’ at bay.

In an effort to help CIA has pulled together a few of its resources that might be helpful as you develop options for learning at home.

Lesson Plans

Check out some of these lesson plans that were originally created to help teachers educate their students about the profession of intelligence. These interactive lesson plans challenge the student’s problem-solving skills, explore the history of intelligence, and stress the importance of clear and accurate communications. Although these were originally created with the classroom in mind, they can be easily adapted for use at home.

Coloring Book

Download CIA’s very own coloring book activity packet, which features a superhero from each of CIA’s five directorates. As your child completes their masterpieces, talk to them about ‘real-life’ superheroes, such as the doctors and nurses who are working hard to keep this virus at bay.

Book Club

Do you have an older, high school-aged student who is interested in the intelligence profession? Consider hosting an intelligence book club using this suggested reading list. Schedule some time each week to discuss the themes you’ve encountered in the book.

Online Resources

Of course, CIA has plenty of valuable resources online as well. Adults and older students can head on over to for access to the World Factbook, Center for the Study of Intelligence, CIA’s Electronic Reading Room, and more. For younger students, Spy Kids is loaded with fun games, entertaining stories, and much, much more. You can stay up-to-date with some of our latest posts by following us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

We hope you find some of these resources valuable as you look for fun ways to keep your child(ren) active and learning as we adjust our routines.

Mar 26, 2020 Explore CIA’s Coolest Spy Stories

TRIGION at desk in Moscow.
Are you fascinated by spy stories? Then you’ll love this collection of unusual tales from our archives.

Find out the secrets that made Area 51 so mysterious.

Meet one of the real-life inspirations for James Bond.

Discover what happened to James Donovan, the main character from the Hollywood blockbuster “Bridge of Spies,” after the events of the film.

These and many other cool spy stories are waiting for you to explore below:

And speaking of James Bond…

  • What do James Bond, Downton Abbey, and the CIA have in Common? Find out here.
Mar 06, 2020 Advancing Diversity and Inclusion at CIA

Diversity and inclusion is not only important to the workforce at CIA, it’s essential to our mission of keeping America safe. Diverse perspectives enable us to understand our world and address national security challenges. In order to leverage diversity in thought, background, and experience, we must continue to embrace and prioritize an inclusive culture at CIA.

Today, we are renewing our commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion at the Agency. This updated CIA Diversity and Inclusion Strategy builds upon the foundational work of the Director’s Advisory Group on Women in Leadership and the Diversity in Leadership Study.

This strategy focuses on 4 key goals for 2020-2023:

  1. Weaving Diversity and Inclusion Throughout the Talent Cycle: Employees and managers benefit greatly from a diverse and inclusive workplace, and so do the American people. The Agency’s ability to safeguard the nation requires a deep-seated appreciation for the wide range of talents, experiences, and perspective each Agency officer can bring to the proverbial table. Diversity and inclusion is woven into the cultural fabric of the American standard and should equally be woven into CIA’s culture through enhanced personnel practices and reviews.
  2. Becoming an Employer of Choice: Not only is diversity and inclusion culturally enriching to the Agency workforce, it is also a key part of the Agency’s long-term recruitment and retention strategy. Improving applicant impressions will require enhancements to the application process and experience, and a strong, steadfast commitment to improve collaboration, fairness, and inclusive workplace behaviors at all levels.
  3. Increasing Diversity of Leadership: Agency leaders are held to a higher standard, and are expected to serve as role models for fostering an inclusive workplace and show how diversity is impacting mission in a positive way. Through mentorship programs, targeted diversity and inclusion training, and greater leadership accountability, the Agency will continue to capitalize on past successes and further equip leaders, managers, and supervisors to develop the next generation of leaders.
  4. Creating a Culture of Inclusion: When employees feel they are heard, respected, valued, appreciated, and given a voice, everybody wins. Cultivating an inclusive culture that encourages collaboration, flexibility, and fairness enables all officers to contribute to the CIA’s mission to their utmost potential.

“Each of us has a responsibility to promote an inclusive workplace that upholds our values as Americans, allows all officers to reach their full potential, and enables us to advance our mission,” CIA Director Gina Haspel said when announcing the newly updated strategy to the workforce. “Working together, I know we will continue to build a more inclusive culture, and I am confident in the Agency’s ability to become the Employer of Choice for all.”

Mar 05, 2020 CIA Senior Leaders Discuss "Smart Women Smart Power"

On Monday, March 2, CIA teamed up with the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ (CSIS) “Smart Women, Smart Power Initiative” for a panel discussion on how leadership at the CIA has changed, CIA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, and how CIA will continue to be a leader in national security in the 21st century.

For the first time ever, women hold all five of CIA’s top deputy positions, and many more women fill senior leadership positions throughout our organization. Monday’s panel included three of these senior leaders: Deputy Director of CIA for Science and Technology Dawn Meyerriecks, Deputy Director of CIA for Support Elizabeth “Betsy” Davis, and Deputy Associate Director of CIA for Talent for Diversity and Inclusion Sonya Holt.

They sat down with CSIS fellow Beverly Kirk for a wide-ranging discussion on their varied paths to senior leadership and the people who helped them along the way. Throughout the conversation, all of the panelists emphasized the role mentors and sponsorship played in their careers.

Sonya Holt grew up in the Agency after being recruited right out of high school for an administrative position. She credited her mentors throughout the years for laying the foundation for her success and encouraging her to take steps to stay competitive.

“Early on most of my sponsors didn’t look like me. They were either white women or white men, but they were able to have those honest conversations with me,” Holt said.

Despite these differences, Holt was fortunate to have great mentors who saw her talent and wanted her to succeed. “I always found value in different perspectives. At the time, those were the individuals that had a seat at the table and in the room who could teach me things. So you know, open your aperture to just having relationships with individuals of all demographics and backgrounds.”

Dawn Meyerriecks also talked about having mentors who did not look like her. She graduated with 400 electrical engineers and was one of only nine women in the class. With so few women in the field, many of her mentors had been men, including former CIA Director General Michael Hayden who was present at the event. Regardless, she said the support she received made a tremendous difference throughout her career.

“We all have those stories we can share,” said Meyerriecks, who now looks to show the same support to the next generation of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) professionals. “People invested in us. And now, we really feel like it’s our responsibility now to make those same investments.”

Likewise, Betsy Davis attributed her success to the support she received throughout her career at CIA, and she works to provide the same backing to others.

“It’s made us look around and realize that at some point in our careers someone invested in us. Someone brought us to the table,” Davis said when talking about the women who are currently leading the Agency. “We need to identify the talent that is that next generation. We need to put them into the right jobs, connect them with the right people, and connect them with the right opportunities to make sure they can come up as well.”

CSIS’s “Smart Women, Smart Power Initiative” aims to amplify the voices of women in foreign policy, national security, and international business and development.

You can watch the entire panel discussion here.