The Revlon Lady Joins the CIA

How is the CIA trying to change its cloak and dagger image?

August 11, 2000

How is the CIA trying to change its cloak and dagger image?

She is smiling from the magazine page —- a blond woman in her mid-twenties, fresh out of graduate school, no doubt. Surrounding her, there are five words that describe the traits of the ideal job applicant — integrity, intellect, common sense, patriotism and courage. The CIA promises a way of life that will “challenge the deepest resources” of future employees’ intelligence and self-reliance. But they will not be spying —- not in the traditional sense of the word. At least not initially, anyway.

Another break from tradition: the young woman in the ad looks nothing like a “James Bond girl.” Her clothes do not reveal enough, for one thing. Nor does she have that dangerous-but-cool look. This woman is much closer to the all-American girl-next-door type.

Rather, they will become “Collection Management Officers” — a sort of waste management expert for the global information age. They will “coordinate” the collection efforts. The other target group is recent college graduates. They are encouraged to apply for the agency’s “Professional Trainee Program” which — after successful completion — could allow them to enter the “Clandestine Service Trainee Program”.

In the age of global transparency, it is a necessity for the CIA to turn less secretive. No more men in trench coats approaching potential new agents under cover of darkness. The agency is — as the ad suggests charmingly — openly looking for people who help securing and safeguarding the interests of the American people by collecting information and seeking out new sources of information.

Wait a minute! Isn’t that what the agency has been so bad at over the last years? Remember India and Pakistan testing their nukes? The CIA was caught completely off guard. Also, did they not use some outdated maps for the bombing of Belgrade? That slip up resulted in American bombs being dropped on the Chinese embassy rather than a Serbian warehouse.

Anyway, the new strategy seems to evolve around young career-minded women. Picture them: bullet-spitting lipsticks, high-heeled shoes that turn into transmitting devices, earrings that actually function as radar and so on. What has happened to one of the last resorts of male prowess? Can anyone imagine James Bond ever having replied to a newspaper ad? Just try to visualize future 007’s job interview where he introduces himself as “Bond, James Bond.” It just does not sound right.

Despite its new drive for normality, the CIA still will subject all applicants, regardless of sex, to a rigid physical and medical evaluation program and will also do an intensive background investigation. There it is again: adventure, secrecy, spying. When CIA and Revlon meet both have to change.