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Fact vs. Fiction: Debunking More Myths About the CIA

What’s the first image that pops into your head when you think about the CIA? Do you envision cutting-edge, Hollywood-esque gadgetry? Do you see men and women, cloaked in black, sneaking into buildings and using their superhuman strength and swiftness to take down the enemy? Do scenes from your favorite movies flash before your eyes? If you said yes to any of these questions, you’re not alone.

But, what’s real? And what’s not? What’s fact? What’s fiction? There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the Agency. We’re going to take a look at – and debunk – some of these myths.

When we ran our original “Debunking Some Myths,” article, we looked at some glamorous and outrageous assumptions people have about the Agency:

  • If you work for the CIA, you get to drive a fancy sports car with machine guns in the tailpipes.
  • To get a job at the Agency, you have to be superhuman.
  • Our employees get to attend parties with billionaires and show off their tango skills.

Although we wish some of these were true (sports car, please!), these myths are just that … myths. (Read more to learn the truth behind these myths.)

But what about the myths that are a little harder to figure out? Do you have to speak a foreign language to work at the CIA? Do you have any chance of getting through the background check? And, what about your family … if you work for the CIA, will they ever know where you are?

Myth: Interested in a job with the Agency? Forget about it. Hardly anyone ever makes it through the background check.

Because of our national security role, CIA applicants must meet specific qualifications — but, don’t worry. Getting caught smoking in high school isn’t enough to disqualify you. Your intellect, skills, experience and desire to serve the nation are most important to us.

Myth: If you don’t speak a foreign language, you don’t have a chance at getting a job.

We’ve all seen the movies where CIA officers speak fluent Farsi or Mandarin (and several other languages, too!) to do their jobs. Speaking a foreign language is definitely a plus, but it’s not a requirement to work for the CIA. And, if you ever have to learn a foreign language for your job, we’ll teach it to you.

Myth: Your family will never know where you are.

Whether you’re living in the US near our headquarters, or on assignment in another country, your family will know where you are. If you’re on a highly classified assignment, of course, you’ll have to contact them through a US Government intermediary.

Myth: You’ll get to use lots of secret gadgets.

Spy movies like to show off all kinds of high-tech gear, but real CIA officers don’t necessarily use them. An analyst wouldn’t need a sneaky device to write a report. But our scientists and engineers do work on technology so advanced, it’s classified.

Myth: You can only get a job here if you come from a family that’s lived in America for generations.

Yes, it’s true that US citizenship is required for employment. But, we are fully committed to building a diverse workforce. We believe that Americans who have lived in or visited foreign cultures have an invaluable understanding of the world from outside our nation.


Historical Document
Posted: Sep 04, 2008 02:12 PM
Last Updated: Apr 30, 2013 12:07 PM