Alum discusses days as CIA agent

Former CIA operative and GW alumnus Joe Kiehl made becoming a secret agent not so secret Tuesday night. He gave students tips for landing a job with the intelligence agency.

More than 100 people packed the Alumni House for the lecture, “How Do I Become a Secret Agent?” which lasted about an hour and a half. Kiehl received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in international affairs in 1972 and 1986, respectively.

Kiehl worked as the CIA’s Directorate of Operations for 26 years, traveling to Africa, East Europe and South America. After retiring in 1994, he began working as a government contractor and private consultant, pursuing incidents such as private kidnapping cases in Latin America.

“It was something new every day. I was upset when weekends came because I would have to mow the grass, and I couldn’t wait for Monday for some excitement,” Kiehl said.

The Class Council and Office of Alumni Programs organized the event, which is the first installment in the “How Do I Become a …” series. The purpose of the events is to connect students and alumni, said Joseph Bondi, director of Alumni Constituency Initiatives.

The organizations plan to sponsor an event each month with astronauts, political activists, ambassadors and a real estate mogul from New York, Bondi said.

As part of the Clandestine Services, Kiehl’s job description included traveling to other countries to “meet, develop, assess and recruit foreign agents to work for the U.S.,” he said.

“It’s like being a salesman. What we are trying to force people to do is to commit treason against their own country. It’s a hard sell,” Kiehl said.

He told students about the rougher aspects of being a secret agent, reminding them that if you are a secret agent, you must “respect and live your cover” as well as “protect your source to the death.”

Despite some serious subject matter, Kiehl joked with the students and shared some of his unusual experiences, such as getting punched in the face for trying to recruit someone. He also told students that resembling “call girls or gigolos” is not something the CIA looks for in an employee.

Kiehl listed traits the CIA does look for in a new recruit, such as knowledge of foreign languages, study abroad experience, personality, psychological capabilities, intelligence, no history of drug use, world affairs interest, a 3.5 GPA and an interest in current events.

Michael Geremia, a senior who plans to apply to the agency, said he was “satisfied that Kiehl was so open about his job and lifestyle overseas.”

Other students also said they were pleased with how straightforward Kiehl was about how to become a new CIA recruit.

“It helped me with understanding the hiring process and what they are looking for requirement-wise,” junior Jody Miller said.

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