NPR

CIA Recruiting Comes Out Into The Open

Under CIA Director Gina Haspel, the spy agency is reaching out in very public ways it's never done before, from social media to superhero conventions.
The CIA had a booth at the recent Awesome Con gathering for movie and comic book superheros in Washington. It's one quirky example of the way the spy agency is reaching out to a broader potential pool of recruits. Source: Greg Myre/NPR

At a superhero extravaganza in Washington, comic book fans dressed the part. No matter which way you turned, middle-aged men were in Batman costumes.

Not exactly the place you'd expect a CIA discussion on recruiting foreign spies. And yet CIA staff historian Randy Burkett, wearing khakis and a polo shirt with the CIA logo, was doing exactly that.

"We came up with this game," explained Burkett, who handed out copies sent to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 warning about early Nazi efforts on an atomic bomb. Einstein was already in the U.S. by this time. But for this game, the twist was to pretend he was still in Nazi Germany and figure out how to recruit him — without getting him arrested or killed. A man dressed as the Joker explained: "Clearly a stable individual, forward thinking. It's going to be difficult to get in and out of Germany."

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