-- To many Americans, the image of the CIA is a Hollywood-crafted cloak and dagger world of spies and secrets, operated from a place which very few outsiders will ever see.
Insiders said the reality is very different, NBC5's Phil Rogers reported.
"We have a sacred trust," said Tim Buck of the CIA. quote mark "What we do is really critical."
But even the reality is that the CIA has changed. Beginning last fall, the agency has gone public with a series of commercials. It was a seismic shift in what traditionally was a very closed culture.
One of them urges viewers to be a part "of the national clandestine service of the Central Intelligence Agency -- the CIA."
"It was disconcerting for some of our more seasoned officers, I think," said Betsy Davis, the CIA's deputy chief of recruitment.
Agency officials said the ads have been very effective. Davis said the agency has been "flooded" with applicants.
The CIA continues a residentially mandated increase in staffing, and they are fond of saying that if one joins up, they hope one will do so for life.
The exact number of CIA employees is classified, but the agency does say there are 91 different occupations. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the agency said the number of applicants has more than doubled.
One CIA analyst, who had to be shown in silhouette because she could be assigned overseas at anytime, said she enjoyed her job, where she specializes in the Middle East.
"I absolutely cannot imagine having a more rewarding job," she said. "On 9/11, it became clear to me that this is my generation's war. I felt called to serve my country."
The analyst's role is the same as that of author Tom Clancy's hero Jack Ryan.
"I would say that my life is actually quite normal," the analyst said. "My family and very close friends are aware of where I work, but it's not something you tell someone when you first meet them."
While the CIA headquarters in Langely, Va., is home to thousands of employees, secrecy is evident everywhere, Rogers reported. A memorial in the lobby commemorates agents who, in some cases, remain undercover years after they died in the line of duty.
Cindy Bower, director of human resources for the CIA, said the danger level depends on where someone is assigned.
"You know, there's a lot of amazing work that goes on right in this building (Langely)," Buck said.
For Buck and other agency chiefs, the targets constantly change.
"Many of these societies are doing everything they can to hide information from us," Buck, who is the director of Near Eastern and Asian analysis, said.
Bower said the agency was trying to hire a different kind of person, Rogers reported.
"We're trying to hire a very different generation of people, who are much more comfortable with computers, with TV, with iPods, with MP3 players," Bower said. "We needed to try and find a way to reach that population."
The CIA, an agency that has traditionally shunned the spotlight, shuddered at the recent revelations that publicized employee Valerie Plame and her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson. But if there has been negative publicity, the agency said it has not affected hiring.
"I can say in my three years of being a recruiter, I have not met with hostility at all," said Henry Medina, a CIA recruiter based in Chicago.
Medina said he recruits from all of the Chicago area's universities, including Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.
"There can be all kinds of personal reasons that drive somebody to work here," said an analyst, who joined the agency from the Navy.
The analyst said she liked having a job that makes a difference.
"We're providing the information for policy, and policy all over the world," the analyst said.
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