Are CIA employees given fake identities to hide what they really do

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Mudassir Ali
Feb 17, 2020 05:15 AM 0 Answers
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Mudassir Ali
- Feb 17, 2020 05:15 AM

It depends. I was given a cover legend (fake identity) from my very first day at CIA but that was due to the job I was hired for. I was a spy (more commonly referred to as an operations officer, case officer or operative). Outsiders are often under the mistaken impression that the CIA is comprised entirely of spies. In fact, the actual spies are a very small minority within The Agency.

The Directorate of Operations (or D.O.) is only one of four major departments at CIA but it’s where all the spying (at least the human kind) takes place. With very few exceptions, it is only within the D.O. that employees are put under cover. But even among D.O. people, the vast majority are not spies. They are managers, paper-pushers, secretaries, etc. Generally, it is only the relatively small cadre of operatives (these are the street-level spies who the public incorrectly refers to as “agents”) who are provided with an actual, back-stopped cover legend.

Operatives will spend all or most of their careers posted overseas living undercover while actively committing espionage. This brings with it a plethora of risks (imprisonment, torture and death to name a few) that requires the protection of a cover. An operative may, in fact, have a half-dozen or more operational covers “on the shelf” (the documents are actually kept in a safe) that he utilizes depending on the mission at hand.

For the CIA, putting someone under cover is a complicated, expensive, labor-intensive ritual (consider payroll, health insurance, retirement benefits, living accommodations, etc., etc.). Therefore, they don’t make these decisions lightly. For a (non-operative) Agency employee (and to emphasize again, this applies to probably 97% of the CIA population) who lives full-time in the Washington, DC suburbs, goes to work every day at the Langley headquarters building and sits in a cubicle tapping away on his keyboard, the hassle of a cover is completely unnecessary. No one is getting kidnapped from the Arlington, Virginia Chick-fil-A by enemy agents.

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