CIA goes hiring in heart of Arab America

Wanted: Spies

CIA goes hiring in heart of Arab America

A full-page recruiting ad from the Central Intelligence Agency is seen in ‘The Arab American News’ newspaper in Dearborn, Michigan. Reuters

“There is a lot of talk, and nobody likes it,” said Hamze Chehade, a 48-year-old Lebanese-American, taking a bite of his chicken shawarma.

In dire need of agents fluent in Arabic, the US Central Intelligence Agency has made an unusual public show of its recruiting effort in Dearborn — a city of 100,000 with the densest Arab population in the US.

The agency has bought full-page ads in Arabic-language newspapers and it is rolling out TV ads aimed at luring Arab-Americans and Iranian-Americans to spycraft.

But despite a weak economy and high unemployment, the CIA will find it hard to hire here, residents say. Many see the US foreign policy in the Middle East as misguided and anger over the perceived mistreatment of Arab-Americans runs deep. It won’t be easy to win hearts and minds here, they say. “If anyone goes, they would be just going for the money, not following the heart,” said Chehade, a cabinet-maker who immigrated from Lebanon 21 years ago.

CIA recruiters said the agency sorely needs speakers of Arabic and other languages due to the intensifying insurgency in Afghanistan and the continuing US occupation of Iraq. “Obviously, with the wars going on in the Middle East, that’s really on America’s radar,” said Henry Medina, who is in charge of the CIA recruitment in the Midwest.

“We are going to recruit that knowledge, that language, the linguistics, the cultural nuances that are critical to fully understand the foes and enemies,” said Medina during a briefing for reporters who were shown the agency’s new ads.

“We are trying to de-mystify the agency. We don’t want people to only see us as being something like what you see in the movies or spy novels,” said CIA recruiter Zahra Roberts.

Leaders in Dearborn’s Arab community said they welcomed efforts to make US intelligence agencies more inclusive. But they said people have grown wary of the government’s use of wiretaps and informants in the Arab-American community.

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