James Olson, a quite unassuming university professor once worked for the Central Intelligence Agency as a spy for 31 years chasing Soviet KGB secrets during the Cold War.
Olson says his job at the time “boiled down to chasing Russians.” He was looking for those with information who were willing to betray their country and pass on secrets in exchange for some sort of inducement. These inducements could range from money to health care to getting a family member to the United States.
“It’s manipulative,” Olson said. “It’s dishonest, because you’re befriending people for an ulterior purpose, but it’s the nature of our business. It’s the bread and butter of spying”, he admitted in a recent interview with the Des Moines Register.
Today he recruits spies (I mean students) at Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public Service, where he teaches courses on intelligence and agency spy craft.
Its no coincidence that several of Olson’s former students have gone on to careers with the CIA, FBI, the State Department and the Pentagon.
The Bush School has become a prominent recruiting ground for government agencies, Olson said, because of the way it prepares its students with hands-on training and guidance from faculty who served in the field.
Olson teaches courses in the areas in which he worked: intelligence, counter-intelligence, national security, counter-terrorism and international crisis management. His students say he uses his own anecdotes and has them role-play scenarios in class.
“Our students get the opportunity to understand what that’s like before they get there, and I don’t think there’s any other program in the country that takes students into the real world of intelligence the way our program does here,” Olson said.
Olson also chairs the Bush School admissions committee.
He says he looks for students that he calls “infected,” because they “have that bug to serve.”
The CIA also recruits students online by offering a variety of “Student opportunities”, including paid internships working for the National Clandestine Service. The National Clandestine Service (NCS) is one of the US Central Intelligence Agency‘s four main components. The NCS “serves as the clandestine arm of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the national authority for the coordination, de-confliction, and evaluation of clandestine operations across the Intelligence Community of the United States.”
According to the CIA own website it also recruits potential spies in High School:
“Applications for Summer 2015 employment will be accepted until October 15, 2014. Applications for winter, spring, and fall employment should be sent nine to twelve months before the desired start date.
The application period for the National Clandestine Service Undergraduate Internship program for Summer 2015 employment is closed. Please check back in January 2015 to view application deadlines for Summer 2016 employment.
See CIA website: https://www.cia.gov/careers/student-opportunities