By Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. defense and spy agencies played a major role in creating the internet, and now the CIA is turning for the first time to online streaming services to recruit spies between the ages of 18 and 35.
“It only takes one new piece … of foreign intelligence … and everything can change in an instant,” a CIA officer tells a classroom full of apparent recruits in the opening sequence of a new advert released by the agency on Monday.
“Start a career at the CIA and do more for your country than you ever dreamed possible,” the officer concludes the pitch reminiscent of Hollywood films.
The online recruitment campaign was conceived before social distancing measures were needed during the novel coronavirus pandemic, Central Intelligence Agency spokeswoman Nicole de Haay said. The agency has typically sought out future spies by targeting college students through “traditional” methods such as job fairs, she said.
The agency said in a statement it had cut 90, 60 and 15-second versions to run nationwide on entertainment, news and lifestyle streaming services.
More than 70% of U.S. households subscribe to at least one of Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime, according to Leichtman Research Group.
“To get the top talent we can’t just rely on traditional recruiting methods,” said de Haay.
In a speech at Auburn University last year CIA director Gina Haspel said it had the best recruiting year in a decade and wanted to make the agency “an employer of choice for all Americans.”
While the target audience for the streamed video spots is 18-35, all potential recruits would be considered, de Haay said.
Some of the CIA’s most famous foreign allies, including British spy agencies MI5 and MI6, have historically recruited officers through social connections, although more recently they have also turned to online recruitment pitches.
(Reporting By Mark Hosenball; editing by Michelle Price and Grant McCool)