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IT veteran describes working overseas for the CIA's IT Group

Many IT professionals at the Central Intelligence Agency ride alongside the CIA's "ops" personnel on overseas mission. These jack-of-all-trade techs must be able to handle any technical problem that pops up--from troubleshooting a LAN to fixing a generator.

Central Intelligence AgencyIn a CIO.com article published August 6, 2008, by Thomas Wailgum recounts his interview with CIA CIO Al Tarasiuk and a 23-year veteran of the CIA's IT group (who's name was withheld for national security reasons). According this senior IT officer, IT professionals who travel overseas must be "versatile and agile" techs, who can handle just about any technical problem--from troubleshooting a PC or LAN to fixing a generator. As Wailgum wrote"

At one time he can be troubleshooting a LAN transmission system and another he'll be called to an ambassador's residence to assist on some tech problem. "But you can be pulled away to do HVAC stuff too," he adds.

If the constantly-changing daily responsibilities weren't enough to content with, IT staffers who travel overseas must also work in "bad spots" (including war zones) and be away from their families for months at a time. The CIA's IT service is definitely not for fainthearted techs.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

12 comments
y2ktoou
y2ktoou

I'm a former IMTS/D with the State Dept and the Spooks were our neighbors in the CAA (controlled access area) among other outfits there as well, (DOD, NSA etc....) and the folks who were posted to whatever overseas office didn't seem to terribly busy to me but then you didn't always see them to often as they'd be tucked away in the ITC and I typically worked out of the IPC. The article one should note covered folks like me who did maint and repair/installation work and not network administration. They didn't travel much if at all compared to the IMTS's like myself. And an IMTS either did telephones or data or radios. Traveling sucked earlier this decade before 9/11 and after the TSA was created it only got worse for those of us traveling on/with official passports. Those idiots beat the crap out of my toolkit as I was returning from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Had a stop at O'Hare and had only 40 min to catch my connecting flight but while I was rushing to my next gate, these bozo's were busy with crowbars and mallets tearing apart my toolkit. When I arrived in Ft Lauderdale and saw my kit come off the luggage carousel I couldn't believe it. Took me several weeks to get it replaced as it was damaged beyond repair.

dr_evil
dr_evil

Its pretty frustrating that we have to go through these measures because some scums twisted ideal of there world means they have to terrorise decent human beings. I'm sorry for the financial cost to you for your belogings that got trashed but I'm really glad to here there going to full lengths to protect and care for our safety. sometimes we have to accept the bitter pill just to get well and mines the pill. I do think however that companies should be more active in liaising with security offices or establishments and take some role in getting equipment tranfered or shipped to help make transition through public service area's with high security easier to deal with for there employee's and in the interests of safety. I dont think it would be that hard to put into place iether.

seanferd
seanferd

Some of the things done by Customs and the TSA are patently ridiculous, particularly when they take or destroy things that could have no possible use as a weapon of any sort. Mind you, not all of it is that bad, but enough so that it is not unusual. Aside from that, they seem to fail penetration testing often enough that the usefulness of the current process is questionable.

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Something happens in one of their provinces and their Internet goes down.I suspect that banking and so on was hit too.Russia got hit by terrorists.Who is next?

seanferd
seanferd

Maybe?

gsimoni
gsimoni

I'm from Georgia, and many Georgian governmant websites were attacked, and defaced.

seanferd
seanferd

Even more so for the invasion. I am also aware of previous attacks on Georgia and Estonia, and the current sabre-rattling toward Poland. The Russian elements involved need to please bugger off.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

In an IT Dojo blog post, I wrote about a a recent CIO.com article that recounts an interview with a 23-year veteran of the CIA's overseas IT Group. He described an IT career filled with both potential danger and excitement. Original post: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/itdojo/?p=162 Do you think your current IT position is exciting? Have you held an exciting IT position in that past? I'll pick five of the most exciting positions from the submissions and send those who submitted them a TechRepublic coffee mug. I'll then put the position up in an IT Dojo poll and let TechRepublic member vote for which position they think is most exciting.

dr_evil
dr_evil

theres always the view that people come in different flavours? What could be exciting to one? could be dull and droll to another! You can have a carreer but not necessarily like it! Its an ambiguous statement in a sense some may ask whats exciting about I.T. and some may say "God I love spreadsheets"?

unskinnybob
unskinnybob

And here I was imagining that IT techs were well versed in a multitude of martial arts like Jason Bourne, beating the crap out of targets, and then surreptitiously breaking into a *NIX based system and retrieving vital information, all done in under 2 minutes. :)

cforbes
cforbes

I spent a few years working for a federal agency that went by an alphabet acronym (not the CIA) and it isn?t all that glorious. Almost all of the executing things I did get involved in were typically ?not to be discussed under penalty of severe punishment?. The glamour of the job is in the accomplishment of any assigned task, at least that is what they told me. This is hard to believe to be true when the assigned task is to unplug a stopped up toilet. "Well since you are trained to spy and kill you should be used to getting into deep S#*~" was the boss?s response? Now I am just happy to sit here and play on my keyboard and keep the network humming along. As long as the systems remain operational it's a sweet ride to the next paycheck. I gladly leave all of the "cloak and dagger? stuff to the James Bond wantabes and enjoy life playing the part of a plain old everyday IT guy.

melekali
melekali

Cloak and dagger isn't all its cracked up to be...