Marcus, a Middle East political analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency who preferred not to give his last name, wants to make one thing clear: His job does not require him to do stunts like British secret agent James Bond or Jack Ryan, the CIA hero from Tom Clancy novels.
“I’m much more often behind a desk than I am defusing nuclear weapons,” he said with a laugh.
Marcus and Elizabeth, a CIA economic analyst who also preferred not to give her last name, spoke to about 30 curious students and potential agents Thursday night at a recruitment forum in the Indiana Room at Norris University Center.
With college seniors facing a national unemployment rate that was 3.1 percent in April according to the U.S. Department of Labor Web site, Marcus said the CIA has seen large increases in applicants — especially since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Fifth year Music and Weinberg senior John Pacheco attended the forum because of just this reason.
“I’m a senior looking for work,” he said.
Marcus and Elizabeth, who work for the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence, provide the government with objective information and analysis.
“If they ask us what (the government) should do,” Elizabeth joked, “we run like hell.”
But as CIA agents, Marcus and Elizabeth said their job occasionally requires them to act like Bond.
Sometimes when working in another country, Elizabeth said she must hide her identity in order to protect her job. She uses one simple and, in her view, effective disguise.
“I can pretend I’m just a housewife,” she said. She added that she has often been mistaken for a man — even when wearing a dress — when in the Middle East because the cultural perception of women is so different.
“Most people don’t think I’m in the CIA because of (the) James Bond (stereotype),” she said. “(But) it gives me the freedom to be the observer and not to be observed.”
Marcus and Elizabeth, who at one time joked about “a CIA dating service,” said CIA individuals develop their own language code.
“It becomes a goofy double speak but somehow it works,” Marcus said.
Elizabeth, whose husband also works for the CIA, said she cannot discuss specifics in her house because the phones might be tapped. Instead, she communicates to her husband regarding CIA issues by using vague language that leaves out key details.
If any applicants choose to accept the challenge of following Marcus and Elizabeth, the applicants must go through a rather extensive interview process before becoming official CIA agents. The process includes a background check, a lie detector test and a medical exam.
Although Elizabeth assured the group that those who tell the truth have nothing to worry about, she offered some advice for the nervous.
“Some (prospects) get nervous about the polygraph so they smoke a joint the night before,” she said. “That’s not a good thing.”
On the first day, new CIA employees often must learn the basics of working for the clandestine organization — a process Elizabeth said includes learning six passwords to access a computer.
The two secret agents also tried to dispel some common misconceptions about the CIA.
“We’re not the 007 types,” Elizabeth said.
Elizabeth said a variety of people, sometimes with eclectic college degrees, work for the CIA. One colleague Elizabeth knows has a degree in forestry.
Elizabeth, who likens working on a CIA project to solving a jigsaw puzzle without seeing the box, said the CIA looks for strong critical thinking skills in an applicant.
“You have to try to figure out what’s going on without it being clear,” she said.
Joyce Dominick, an Education freshman who wore dark sunglasses to the event, said all employment aspects of the CIA attracted her.
“I was just interested to see what kind of people would show up,” she said.
Despite her concealed eyes, Dominick added one detail about her identity before she left.
“That’s my real name,” she said.