As we get older it is common to think and reflect upon some of the more interesting and exciting experiences in our lives. One such memory for me was how I was hired by the Central Intelligence Agency. YES THAT Central Intelligence Agency most commonly referred to simply as the CIA. Enough time has now passed that I feel it is now okay to share that story with you.
During my second year of law school at the Chicago Kent College of Law I became President of the Chicago Kent International Law Society. As such I wanted to do something for my fellow law students and international law society members – something very cool and unprecedented. What better I thought than to have the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency come to our school and give a speech,
So being the complete moron that I clearly was I simply dialed up directory assistance and asked for the telephone number for the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia. The operator give me a number and I dialed it. Someone answered “C I A how may I help you?” I asked to speak to the Director. To my utter shock and amazement the Director of the C I A took my call.
I explained to him who I was and how honored we would be if he would come to our humble school and give a speech. He thanked me for being so positive but then pointed out that since we were a law school perhaps the better choice would be the General Counsel for the CIA. That seemed reasonable and so I eagerly agreed and about one hour later I received a call from a man identifying himself as General Counsel for the CIA. We chatted a bit and he cheerfully agreed to come to our school and give a speech to our International Law Society followed up with a question and answer session. He had but two requests. One, we pick him up at Chicago’s O’Hare Field and two – NO MEDIA. I instantly agreed and it was “game on”.
About two weeks later, along with another Chicago Kent student, I drove out to O’Hare Field to pick up our honored guest. We got to the gate just as the aircraft was pulling in. We waited and watched as each passenger came off of the aircraft and into the terminal. Finally everyone had disembarked but no sign of the General Counsel. Just as a wave of sadness was starting to grab me I felt a tap on my right shoulder. I turned around and a man behind me stuck out his hand and introduced himself as the General Counsel for the CIA. I immediately wondered how in the hell did that happen but I figured that question best not be asked and so off we went with our first stop – a Greek restaurant not far from our law school. We often ate there and we were certain that our honored guest would enjoy the ambience and the food. As we entered the restaurant we couldn’t help but to notice a man sitting alone near the entrance who seemed to be paying particular attention to us. Although, not spoken, my immediate thought was that man or one or more of his coworkers with the CIA had been watching me for a couple of weeks prior to this day and so he knew exactly where we would be taking our honored guest for lunch. But again wisdom suggested that matter simply not be discussed.
As we approached the conclusion of our fine dining experience I did comment to our honored guest that I had an interest in working for the CIA but since the CIA recruited exclusively from Ivy League Schools I hadn’t bothered to apply. He responded that such was no longer the case and the CIA, in fact, recruited from a wide variety of schools at which point I reached into my jacket pocket and retrieved my resume which I handed to our honored guest requesting that perhaps he could consider little ol’ me. He smiled and said “sure thing” and then it was off to our school and his speech.
About six weeks later my wife and I were taking a brief vacation in Nassau, Bahamas when one day the phone in our hotel room rang. When I answered a man saying that he was calling from the CIA told me that on our return the next day my wife and I would both fly to Miami but that she would continue on to Chicago but that I would get on a flight to Washington, DC. I cheerfully said “Great” and it was “game on”.
When I arrived in Washington, DC I was met by a young man who instantly knew who I was and who immediately drove me to a hotel where I was already checked in. No credit card, no cash required – just checked in. What followed were a series of interviews mainly but not exclusively at CIA headquarters. One of the scariest events was a polygraph test. The rooms where these tests were done are absolutely monochromatic ergo nothing to focus on except for the test being taking. When I was asked if I had ever engaged in a subversive activity against any government my mind immediately went to my 13 months as a Marine in Vietnam. That brief hesitation apparently caused a wee blip in the polygraph whereupon the man administrating the test said “I need to show this to my supervisor” and then he quickly left the room locking the door on his way out.
I thought “Great, here I am in the basement of CIA headquarters where it is now believed that I am a subversive agent, next a trap door will open and I will simply disappear forever.” That didn’t happen and when the test was over the guy who did the polygraph with me suggested we go get a beer together once I got hired. Yeah right.
So what happened next? Well I’d love to tell you but then I’d have to kill you. However this I will say, my whole experience with the CIA was nothing short of truly amazing. The sad news, the really sad news is having to accept the fact that at my current age I’d be lucky if I could get hired as an assistant meter maid. That said the good news, the really good news, is that I have been blessed with some truly special memories.
Photos: Courtesy of Ron Irwin