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“Frumentarius is a former Navy SEAL and a former Clandestine Service officer with the Central Intelligence Agency’s Counter-Terrorism Center,” according to his profile on the website for news and analysis from military and special operations veterans. Frumentarius writes:

Working in the intelligence field, and specifically, for the CIA’s National Clandestine Service (NCS), is a kick-ass job, and a great way to serve your country. You will find little else as intellectually stimulating, challenging, and thrilling—on a regular and sustained basis—as a career in the NCS. You can make a direct and critical contribution to your nation’s security while simultaneously making money doing a job you would probably do for free if they let you. With that in mind, I offer below a list of five qualifications that will help you secure a job working for the NCS, if you are so inclined.… If you think you might have what it takes to spot, assess, develop, recruit, and operationally run a human spy, or penetration of a foreign entity (terror groups, foreign governments, and criminal enterprises, for example), then the NCS is for you. Before you can secure yourself a job there, though, you might want to make sure that you have some or all of the qualifications listed below:

Spy vs Spy
  1. Military experience. Just as in the private sector, the CIA/NCS places great value on military experience.…
  2. Language skills. Speaking a foreign language is not a requirement to get hired by the NCS, but it sure helps.…
  3. Experience abroad. It only makes sense that an organization that puts 90% of its focus on events and developments abroad would prefer its potential employees to have experience living overseas.…
  4. Higher education. I am absolutely not one of those people who thinks that a college education somehow makes one more qualified for life than does vocational training, or just good old-fashioned real-world life experience.… In certain circumstances, you might be able to sidestep this degree requirement—for example, if you are a master computer programmer or a 20-year special operations veteran moving over to do paramilitary work—but, for the most part, this one is non-negotiable.…
  5. Life experience. This should go hand-in-hand with #4 above, in that one should be required to have both of these qualifications for employment in the NCS. However, the agency does hire a number of graduates right out of college each year. These young people have little to no major life experience, but plenty of them do just fine in the NCS.1

James Powell of SOFREP writing for Business Insider adds “some of the internal qualities that the Agency looks for in a candidate, and that a successful intelligence officer must possess and maintain throughout their career and even into retirement”:

  • Integrity
    Probably the most important of all of the attributes, this is also the most difficult to maintain, as attested to by the fact that, despite the Agency’s strenuous vetting and hiring process, it has endured such traitors as Philip Agee…and Aldrich Ames.… In essence, integrity comes down to the unofficial definition of “doing the right thing even when no one is looking.”
  • Honor/courage
    Honor and courage don’t always happen on a battlefield. Sometimes they are shown when an operation goes wrong, or when an asset has to be extracted through an extremely non-permissive environment. Sometimes it shines brightest from the cell of a dark and wet prison in a far-off place where no one even knows you are being held, and…you stick to your cover story.
  • Flexibility
    If you have been in the military, run a business, or been a parent, then you know all about flexibility.… Things can change in a heartbeat, and most certainly in the intelligence community.
  • Confidence
    Having done my homework,…I walked out of the exercise with a pass and a new lesson for working in this business: Walk in with confidence, and you’ll walk out with your freedom.
  • Humility
    Seems weird to list this given the above-listed trait, but humility does not mean timidity or lack of self-confidence. It simply means that you realize that you are human, that you are not (despite what your parents, your high school yearbook, or what you wore on your uniform tells you) invincible, and that you will make mistakes. In the intelligence business (and the military, hell, in life) it is called self-assessment.
  • Amiable (friendly)
    As those of us who have spent any time in the military or the intelligence community know, being friendly, especially to those who deserve anything but, is never easy.… “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” holds true, from the boardroom to intelligence operations.
  • Subjective
    In this case, the definition of the word is: “(of a person or their judgment) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.” We all have our opinions, formed by a variety of sources including our upbringing, talking to friends, books, TV and the Internet. But here’s the thing: In the intelligence world, we deal in facts. Period.… There is no place for generalizations, stereotypes, racism, or prejudice when it comes to intelligence gathering.
  • Objective
    Quite simply, the opposite of the above. As I said, there is nothing wrong with having and voicing your opinion (in most cases). Just know when and where to use that tool.
  • Sense of humor
    Last, but certainly not least, is maintaining a sense of humor. If you can’t laugh at a situation or even at yourself, you may not be cut out for this gig. I thrive on self-deprecation in a humorous way, because it keeps things light, reminds me that I am human, and keeps me focused.…

Self-assessment is the key.2

1 Frumentarius, “Top 5 Qualifications for CIA’s Clandestine Service,”, 16 November 2014, at (retrieved: 18 August 2015).

2 James Powell (SOFREP), “8 attributes you need to be an effective spy,” Business Insider, 18 August 2015, at (retrieved: 18 August 2015).

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