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Posted at 6:52 PM ET, 01/12/2011

CIA gets spooky with new radio commercials

By Jeff Stein

Let’s face it: If the CIA was hoping to recruit new cupcake cooks, the recruiting pitch would be all pastry and light

But in its unique line of work, the CIA’s National Clandestine Service -- where the spies are -- apparently wants to appeal to the hidden knife-flasher in us all. Its new radio commercials get right to the heart of the matter, complete with a spooky soundtrack of sawing violins and rising timpani.

Unfortunately, we heard only heard a slice of it on WTOP all-news radio while driving into a parking garage -- something about “no one will ever know what you do”-- so we were eager to hear the rest.

But we got turned down by the radio station's director of sales.

Matt Mills explained apologetically that the station’s practice was never to release its commercials to the public. But the CIA’s commercial, he added, was wrapped in unusual layers of secrecy.

Mills passed along an e-mail from one Renee Schlossnagle, of TMPGovernment, the Tyson's Corner agency that purchased the air time for the CIA. It said: “Please direct all inquiries to the CIA’s Public Affairs [office]. Station shouldn’t be providing any info at all.”

All this seemed even more odd considering that the CIA touts several of its TV recruiting commercials on its own home page, including one for Iranian-Americans, another for Arab-Americans.

A CIA spokesman, Preston Golson, would only say, “The agency is currently running radio advertisements for the National Clandestine Service in seven major metropolitan areas, including Washington. The CIA seeks to attract highly qualified Americans who want to serve their country and help us perform our vital intelligence mission.”


“It makes sense for any organization, including the CIA, to make known its job opportunities” he added, “especially when we’re focused on growing the diversity and foreign language capabilities of our workforce.”

We couldn’t agree more. But the ad copy and audio file would not be forthcoming.

The mystery thickened after we learned who produced it -- Katz Dimensions, in Atlanta -- and tried to give them a ring. When we pressed the number for the radio division, we were directed to a non-working number -- twice.

“The person at 3075 does not subscribe to the service,” the message said. “Good-bye.”

But like a good spy ourselves, we were finally able to get our hands on the CIA’s new radio ad after all. Of course we're not saying where we got it.

It goes like this:

A phone rings twice. It stops.

“Understood,” a man says, all business.

He hangs up.

“My working hours can change instantly,” he continues. “The mission is a constant, but every day is different.”

Rising violins.

“What I do is important, yet no one will ever know. But an entire nation will be grateful.”

Dramatic pause. Cellos, timpanis, then silence.

“Don’t just watch the news,” he says. “Live it, 24-7.”

On comes a woman’s voice now, equally serious, widening the pitch:

“Be a part of history in the making. Become a National Clandestine Service officer, in a Washington, DC-area career at the Central Intelligence Agency.”

In Washington? What, no Afghan tents?

“This is no ordinary assignment,” the woman continues. “You can make a difference for the nation.”

There’s the small print, of course: “You must have U.S. citizenship and the ability to successfully complete medical examinations and security procedures, including a polygraph interview. For additional information, and to apply, visit cia-dot-gov.

“That’s cia-dot-gov,” in case you missed it. “The work of a nation. The center of intelligence. An equal opportunity employer.”


Listen to the commercial here.

Update: CIA spokesman George Little insisted Thursday night that the agency had sent an audio copy and transcript of the commercial to SpyTalk late the previous afternoon, and he supplied a date/time stamp for the transmission. However, a thorough check of our e-mail records shows no receipt of the package. It appears to be an honest technical glitch, and we regret any confusion from the matter.

By Jeff Stein  | January 12, 2011; 6:52 PM ET
Categories:  Entertainment, Financial/business, Intelligence  
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