Enter the Smoke and Mirrors Domains of the CIA

The theatrical release poster of the film, “The Recruit” starring Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, and Bridget Moynahan. It was released on January 31, 2003 in North America by Touchstone Pictures. Credit: Wikipedia Encyclopedia.

Yesterday afternoon during a gray and wet afternoon I had a blast viewing a thriller film in YouTube titled “The Recruit”.  The movie was about the process of recruiting units for the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and the training program that follows.

In an era when the country’s first line of defense, intelligence, is more important than ever, this motion picture opens the CIA’s infamous closed doors and gives an insider’s view into the Agency: how trainees are recruited, how they are prepared for the spy game, and what they learn to survive. Two phrases that they use at the Agency are:  “Nothing is what it seems” and Trust no one.”

At some point of the movie, Al Pacino’s character says: “Nothing is what it seems”. This is what “The Recruit” is about. Deceiving. Of course, it’s a good thriller, lots of action scenes, interesting psychological (even if it’s very shallow) aspects, a love affair between two of the main characters, a good car-chase scene, and then some.

I learned a new term used in the CIA.  The term is “NOC” (Non-Official Cover).  This is the title given to a CIA asset when he/she has passed all their training tests at the agency’s Farm or training  facility.  There, highly-skilled instructors teach the candidates the skill sets of espionage, covert operation protocols, and intelligence gathering techniques.

In espionage, agents under non-official cover (NOC) are operatives who assume covert roles in organizations without ties to the government for which they work. Such agents or operatives are typically abbreviated in espionage lingo as a NOC (pronounced “knock“). These agents are also known as “illegals“.

Agents under non-official cover do not have this “safety net”, and if captured or charged they are subject to severe criminal punishments, up to and including execution. Agents under non-official cover are also usually trained to deny any connection with their government, thus preserving plausible deniability, but also denying them any hope of diplomatic legal assistance or official acknowledgment of their service. Sometimes, entire front companies or strawman entities are established in order to provide false identities for agents.

At the entrance of the CIA in Langley, VA, there is a wall that pays tribute to those agents who died in the line of duty.  A legend on the wall in the lobby of the building reads, “In honor of those members of the Central Intelligence Agency who gave their lives in the service of their country.”  Instead of the agent’s name, there is only a lonely star.  In the CIA, even the tributes of the fallen agents are surrounded by secrecy.

During the early days of the CIA headed by Allen Dulles, the entity acted like a rogue elephant.  It was a large organization which had been operating with a high degree of independence.  Its officials regarded themselves as sophisticated individuals who had such an understanding of the realities of the world, that they do not feel people in Congress, the White House or the State Department shared.

The CIA played a critical role of the assassination of several foreign leader.  Richard Bissell and Richard Helms became responsible for what became known as Executive Action (a plan to remove unfriendly leaders from power).  This included a coup d’état that overthrew the Guatemalan government of Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 after he introduced land reforms and nationalized the United Fruit Company.

Other political leaders deposed by Executive Action include Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, the Dominican Republic dictator, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, General Abd al-Karin Kassen of Iraq and Ngo Dinh Diem, the leader of South Vietnam.  However, the main target was Fidel Castro who established a socialist government in Cuba in 1959.  The assassination of this elusive Cuban dictator was never accomplished, no matter how hard they tried for several years.

The CIA was also heavily involved in the planning of the Cuban invasion known as Bahía de Cochinos on April 1961 which was a total fiasco.  John F. Kennedy was so frustrated by the poor planning of this operation, that he fired Allen Dulles and his top aides.  Some historians claim, this action contributed to this tragic death on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas.

If you’re are interested in espionage and the inside workings of the Central Intelligence Agency, you might want to view “The Recruit” packed in a High Definition 1050p You Tube video.  For your convenience, I have included the film right here at your finger tips.  I trust you will enjoy this 2003 thriller brilliantly performed by Al Pacino,  Colin Farrell, and Bridget Moynahan.

Remember:  “Nothing is what it seems”, and “Trust no one” in the cloak and dagger world of the intelligence community.  Good Day.

2 thoughts on “Enter the Smoke and Mirrors Domains of the CIA”

  1. I’ve known two people who spent some years in this shadowy world. One was a CIA pilot during the Viet Nam years, the other was a Navy cryptologist and worked aboard a spy ship like the Pueblo.

    All of those years of living by the rules – “Nothing is what it seems” and “Trust No One” – took a toll in both cases. The pilot was known as “Old Weird Harold”, and the cryptologist had plenty of friends but few deep relationships. It’s always possible their personal characteristics played a role in their being selected and groomed for such work, but there’s no question that it takes a toll.

  2. Morning Linda:

    I think that it takes a special breed of people to become CIAs covert operatives. Living in the shadows, always looking behind your back to protect yourself is not something I would like to do for a living.

    I’ve read so much about the intel community, that I feel sorry for those people. But on the other hand, somebody has to do the job. Take for example the obstinate CIA agent who tracked Osama bin Laden to his compound in Pakistan where he was killed.

    Certainly it’s not a pleasant job.



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