Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Intelligence is a Shitty Business

It might sound cool to be a spy, or to be involved in some sort of intelligence stuff, but then you hear about some spies of ours getting caught by Iran and Hezballah.  When a CIA official says "we'll likely never see these guys again," that's when the reality of the intelligence business should set in.

It really is a shitty, thankless field to work in.  Sure you get to tell people that you can't talk about what you do, and then chuckle at them for their inevitable probing questions as though they think they're crack interrogators who are going to trick you into revealing what you know, but that's not enough to make it not suck.

I know what it's like.  In the Navy I was a cryptologist.  I only spent three years as a cryptologist, so I didn't have the chance to get into any of the seriously crazy shit, but three years is enough to know how much it sucks.

For starters, there's that whole thing where you can never tell anyone anything, ever.  That sounds cool at first, but after a while it gets frustrating.  I did some fairly cool shit in my time.  I was really good at what I did, and I wish that I could share my success stories with the people I care about.  But the only people that knew just how good I was and the great things I did are those who worked with me and were cleared to know that sort of stuff.  I haven't seen them in years, and even if I did see them it's not like we could talk about it out in the open.

It actually affected my marriage a bit.  My ex-wife didn't like the fact that I couldn't come home and talk about work other than whenever we had to paint something.  She didn't appreciate the idea that there was a part of my life that she'd never be privvy to.  You see in the movies where spies' wives get all upset about that sort of thing, and I always discounted that as silly.  "This can't be realistic.  Of course their wives would understand."  Well, not all of those wives understand, I guess.

And aside from how it affects your personal life, there's the nature of the work itself.  Intelligence is not the place for people who enjoy discovering concrete answers to their burning questions.  Much of the job revolves around guess work.  Try this little exercise.  Observe one person for like a month or so, and after that month try to predict their daily schedule for the next month.

Sounds easy, right?  Well, it's not that easy.  The person might call in sick for work one day.  He might stay in for lunch rather than going out.  He might go out with his friends and be too hungover to get to work on time the following day.  Then, after you realize that there are a million variables you have to take into account in your observations and predictions, throw five more people into the mix.  Try to predict what six people are going to do every day for the next month.

As if that's not hard enough, let them in on the little exercise, and tell them to willfully try to throw you off their scent to make them more unpredictable.  Still easy?

Intelligence involves a *lot* of guess work.  We always called them WAGs, or Wild Ass Guesses.  "I don't know," is never an answer that your superiors want to hear, so you give them the best guess with what you've got. Sometimes you don't have shit, but they still want answers.

So intelligence is a field in which all you're doing is guessing and hoping to Christ that you're right.  Your successes will never be known to the people you care about, and your failures will be plastered in plain sight for all to see.  People mock you for failing so much, but don't realize that successes are kept under wraps because if everyone knows what works, it doesn't work anymore.

So if you're into dealing with guess work, never getting to talk about the cool shit you've done, and enjoy getting shit on by a public who doesn't even understand the nature of your work, then work in the intelligence field.  You'll have a ball.


Silverfiddle said...

Those agents we lost were Lebanese, not Americans, but it is still a loss, to national security, but most of all the loss of life.

There are a lot of people living dangerously so we can enjoy our shopping, video games, and reality tv.

Harrison said...

Speaking of never being able to tell people what you do (sort of) I have a story about Ron Jeremy the porn star. Years ago a friend went to a wedding and he was there (related to the bride's family) and people would ask what he had been doing and he'd say:

I just got back from Italy or something but NOBODY would ask about his trip because they knew he was shooting porn and they didn't want to hear about it.

So being a spy is sort of like that except instead of not being able to tell anybody what you've been doing nobody wants to hear what you've been doing.

I'd imagine the effect is the same though.

Jersey McJones said...

Silver, I would think that anyone who works for us is as us, whatever their nationality, we should consider them as one of us.

I know a few people who did intelligence work, and mostly they tell you it's like a perpetual stake-out, which can be a hell itself.

I also know the frustration of keeping things to yourself. I did some work that I can't talk about. In the modern corporate word, we are often legally bound to our silence just as national security people with the government.

Of course, now I work a bs job in a bs little town in the middle of nowhere, and it drives me to maniacal laugh-tears. But you know what? At least it keeps me in physical shape! LOL!

Funny how the more specified - or classified - your work is, the harder it is to change professions, huh? Real funny. That's what frustrates me these days. You'd think someone smart enough to work in intelligence, or world trade, would be smart enough for pretty much anything. Wouldn't ya'? It seems days sheeps are more useful than wolves. I'd rather be a wolf.


Jack Camwell said...

I defs feel you on that one Jersey. It's just because the economy is in the shitter. With tons of applicants, employers don't really want to take a chance on people who don't have the exact experience and training they're looking for.

I spent three years working as a cryptologist, one year at the supervisor level and one year at a managerial level, and I've got a degree in history and political science. Where do I work now? A call center.

It's a cruel fate for a guy with my level of experience and education. But hey, money is money, right?

Silverfiddle said...

Jersey: Most spies (not just us, but everywhere), are local nationals "turned" by a handler. The handler is almost always of the nationality of the intelligence service's nation.

So you may have a few Americans on the ground collecting information from locals, but the informants themselves are locals.

Jersey McJones said...

I know, Silver. I've personally known well a few people in that business.

What I was saying is that a foreign national who does work for us - in that particular capacity - should be treated as one of us. In other words, they are now our "locals."

The good word and faith of America should always prevail in that case.

Of course, I'm forced to generalize here, so I can only hope I've conveyed my point a little better.


KP said...

Thanks for the insightful post Jack. Great comments. When SF, Harrison, JMJ and yourself comment on a thread you can bet I am coming back.

Jack Camwell said...

Haha, thanks KP. Those guys certainly do add some class to this dump I call a blog.