NSA: World Citizens Need Not Apply

I've always thought of the NSA as the best of our spooks, so “I Was Recruited by the NSA made me sad.

Other people linking to this make a fuss about the NSA objecting to excessive file sharing are a bar to employment. I'm not sure I agree. If the file sharing was known to be illegal, it suggests you are not a by-the-book kind of straight arrow. And I'm OK with the NSA wanting only the most punctiliously honest employees.

No, what made me sad was the “no Peace Corps veterans” rule. I understand that clearing anyone who has lived for a substantial time abroad is a challenge, but I would have thought that the NSA would be better off with the occasional Peace Corps idealist. And I would also have thought that the missions of the two agencies were not inimical. The NSA, sadly, seems to see it differently.

As most people who have done anything involving a clearance know, recent Peace Corps service is a definite bar to a clearance. During the first hour, the female recruiter couches it in terms of the Peace Corps and the NSA have conflicting missions. But later, she points out that the travel and the problems in doing background checks were a factor.

I'd have thought that the idealism and knowledge about the world were worth the effort.

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5 Responses to NSA: World Citizens Need Not Apply

  1. Matt says:

    I was a Peace Corps volunteer (Russia ’99-01) so I’m hardly disinterested in this. But, there is quite clearly a strong tendency to make it hard for anyone who has lived abroad to get security clearence even for non-intelligence jobs. This is, obviously, pretty stupid since it encourages the agencies to be made up of people with little knowledge of other cultures or ways of thinking. This is so _even of the foreign service_ where it is decidedly _not_ and advantage to getting a job to have spent time over seas. (It’s not impossible- three of my PC colleagues are in the foreign service now, but it’s not help and makes getting security clearence much harder.) I applied for a state department internship one year in law school. I dropped out when it was clear that I’d not get my security clearence in time to take the post. I’d suspisciously decided to live abroad and so needed extra clearence. If you would have thought You’d want people who actually know something about life outside the US to work in US embassys you’d be wrong. Very, very sad.

  2. Seth Gordon says:

    The best explanation I’ve heard for this kind of mishegas is: The intelligence agencies are under pressure to bulk up their staff, and most of the jobs they want to hire people for require security clearances. But there’s a huge backlog of applications for clearances. So hiring a large number of straight-arrows who have never left the country looks better, bureaucratically, then hiring a few offbeat well-traveled folks–even if the offbeat well-traveled folks would do the job better.

  3. Michael says:

    I wonder if the ban also applies to people who have spent a couple of years abroad as missionaries (LDS Church members, for example)?

  4. jjs says:

    When I was in the Peace Corps 20 years ago, we were told that we’re not eligible for intelligence agency work, (either ever, or after a prolonged period of time, depending on type of work). This was, at least in part, to maintain a firewall between the Peace Corps and intelligence agencies. There was (and probably is still) a perception that PCVs are really American spies.

  5. Casey Richardson says:

    I think it’s a bit deeper. The NSA is probably more concerned with the relationships that are cultivated during those overseas tours. A Corps member has the ability to form relationships with broad range of people including indigenous natives, war sympathizers, rebels and foreign military command staff with minimal oversight.

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