Intelligence: June 17, 2005


American intelligence agencies, suffering a growing demand for Arab linguists, has decided to loosen up its screening and hiring standards. Until now, an Arab speaker applying for a job with the CIA, NSA or Department of Defense, had to get a security clearance. This meant a background check of the individual and their immediate family. With so many applicants either recent immigrants, or the children of parents born in the Middle East, it has proved difficult, and often impossible, to do the usual background checks. In the past, family still in the old country, often raised red flags for those who did the background checks. During the Cold War, having family living behind the Iron Curtain often made it impossible to get a security clearance. The reasoning was that the communist governments could pressure family members to induce their American kin, with a security clearance, to give up classified information. A similar situation exists today in the Middle East, where many people live behind an Islamic Curtain, where Islamic radicals can do all the same nasty things the communist apparatchiks were capable of. Threatening, or kidnapping, the kin of U.S. government employees is not unknown in the Middle East. The United States had to create a witness protection program for Middle eastern people who assisted the U.S. with information, or other services, in the past. There are enough homicidal Islamic radicals wandering around to make this necessary for some time to come. 

So how do you deal with all those excellent Arab linguists youd like to hire, except for the fact they cant get a security clearance because of the vulnerable kinfolk back in the old country? The CIA isnt releasing details, but it feels it has a new system that minimizes the risks, both to American secrets, and the overseas kin of Arab linguists it hires. Part of the new plan involves not giving vulnerable linguists highly classified work to do. A lot of the Arab translation work is pretty mundane stuff. There are also ways you can parcel the work out, so that none of the linguists involved would really know much useful to an enemy. The CIA apparently also has new monitoring methods that would catch anyone slipping towards the dark side. Plus, of course, there would be standing instructions for what Arab linguists should do if they are approached by Islamic radicals. 


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