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Fact vs. Fiction: Debunking Some Myths

Over the years, many movie makers and authors have painted various pictures of the CIA and its employees. We all remember watching the movies about the glamorous, jet-setting lives of karate-kicking spies. And remember all those mind-blowing technological gadgets hidden in cars, clothes and on the spies themselves?

But, what’s real? Does the CIA have employees like 24’s Jack Bauer or Alias’s Sydney Bristow or gadgets like those shown on James Bond and Mission: Impossible? Do all of our employees drive sports cars or live in anonymity where friends and family never see them?

Some movies and books have painted an unreal portrait of the US Central Intelligence Agency. Although much of what you see is entertaining (we find it fun, too!), much of it’s not true. And we’re here to debunk some of these myths.

Myth: You don’t get to see your friends and family.
Our employees’ lives are fast-paced and the work they do is secret. But that doesn’t mean they live anonymously and never see friends and family. Many of the careers at the CIA are similar to those of any major company. We have IT and communications specialists, doctors, lawyers, librarians, analysts, scientists, researchers, and inventors, among others. And though their lives are busy, their family and friends are part of their daily lives.

Myth: You drive a fancy sports car with machine guns in the tailpipes.
Though some of us wish this were true (I’d like mine in red, please), car chases through the alleyways of foreign cities with machine gun fire shooting from the tailpipes are things of Hollywood soundstages. There are certain careers at the CIA that will put you in touch with world events and the international stage, but our main mission is to collect intelligence. Every CIA employee is part of that effort, whether they work in an office or in the field.

Myth: You have to be superhuman.
We’ve all seen the movies or read the books where a CIA operative withstands a huge electric shock, and within seconds is karate-chopping his (or her) way out of danger. Well, to work at the CIA, you don’t have to know karate or have superhuman strength.

All our employees, however, must possess intelligence, have the ability to make good decisions, and be dedicated to serving the United States. We collect and analyze intelligence, which means our work involves assessing and monitoring international developments, from political and environmental to scientific and technological.

Myth: You attend parties with billionaires and show off your tango skills.
We do have employees who travel around the world and do exciting – often extraordinary – things. But, truth be known, our employees are normal, everyday people who lead normal lives. Many of our employees perform essential administrative office functions. We depend on these administrative managers and staff for our operational success at home and abroad.

For more about the real life of our CIA employees, visit the Life at CIA section of our Web site or read our Employee Profiles.


Historical Document
Posted: Jun 14, 2007 10:55 AM
Last Updated: Jun 20, 2008 09:04 AM