Central Intelligence Agency: the “Required” Path of a Covert Discourse Community

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Updated: Aug 15, 2023
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A discourse community, according to John Swales in his work, “The Concept of Discourse Community,” is a community that “has an agreed set of common public goals” (Swales 471). Inspired to write this piece due to the lack of clarity surrounding this topic, Swales proposes a total of six defining characteristics when discussing a discourse community, with “a set of goals” being the first. In basic terms, a discourse community is composed of a population with relevant experience in the discourse’s field of work, which communicates to achieve the aforementioned goals.

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Ann M. Johns, author of “Discourse Communities and Communities of Practice,” delved deeply to put forth a more succinct and approachable description of a discourse community. Johns favors a term that is gaining traction in the academic field: a community of practice. Johns defines a community of practice as, “complex collections of individuals who share genres, language, values, concepts, and ‘ways of being,’ often distinct from those held by other communities” (Johns 500). The six defining characteristics of a discourse community are a concept that both Swales and Johns concur is accurate. Two unmentioned yet important characteristics depict the authoritative structure of a discourse community, as well as how and through what vehicles those in the community communicate with one another. Elizabeth Wardle, another author in this field, focused on the means of communication between those in the same discourse, in her piece “Identity, Authority, and Learning to Write in New Workplaces.” Wardle explains that one’s personality and self-perceived identity can greatly affect, or furthermore stifle, the written work of a newcomer in a discourse community. Though a complex discussion, understanding how discourse communities function inside and out could prove to be extremely beneficial to those planning on joining a new community.

The discourse community I intend on joining one day is controversial, covert, and complicated. I have my sights set on joining the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), a major component of America’s success as the economic & political hegemon in our world today. Though not the only intelligence agency in the US government, the CIA is generally viewed as the top-tier intelligence discourse community, as its 2013 budget was projected at or around $15 billion, far outdoing other intelligence agencies. Director John O. Brennan and Deputy Director Avril Haines head the CIA; Director Brennan reports relevant information to President Obama and the president’s national security team. Though often misconstrued in Hollywood films and other outlets, the CIA was originally established to simply acquire information. However, recent investigative reports have shown that the modern CIA does in fact go on the offensive in a variety of ways, including covert operations overseas and homegrown cyber-operations aimed at crippling foreign systems. The CIA is a discourse community that I found very difficult to study, due to the classified nature of its national security agenda. Yet, I was able to comprehend the agency’s basic structure, and it certainly resonates with Swales’ six defining characteristics of a discourse community. The generally agreed-upon set of goals put forth by the CIA is fairly straightforward.

Those employed at all levels of the agency are committed to protecting U.S. citizens and interests at all costs, or at least, at all costs permitted by the sitting president. The workforce of the CIA consists of experienced and new agents in order to remain effective by having an understanding of history, while staying in touch with the logistics of modern phenomena in this chaotic world. The CIA also has multiple mediums by which it conveys information to its workforce, the president, and the public. Each time a proposal of action is made by the CIA, they have to “sell” this idea to the president, because without his or her approval, the operation remains dormant. Although the CIA and its agenda resemble those of a discourse community in some aspects, further research is required to fully understand how such a covert agency functions.

Many people are taken aback by my declaring this interest, but I often respond jokingly, “How can the agency get cleaned up if I don’t join?” The Central Intelligence Agency was not something I had my sights set on until the past two years or so. I remember the morning of September 11, 2001, like it was yesterday. I was turning six and a half years old that day. I was getting ready for my second day of first grade when my mother walked into my room and calmly told me that a plane had crashed into a building in New York. In my little kid voice I asked, “A big plane or a small one?” – to which she responded, “We don’t know yet.” After this interaction, I calmly continued getting ready for school. With such a young brain at that age, I was just beginning to create memories. None of the facets of the attacks were simple enough for a six-year-old to fully comprehend.

A half hour had passed, and I found myself huddled around my mom’s television with my three older siblings. We watched smoke billow from the first tower with blank expressions on our faces. However, in literally the blink of an eye, we all witnessed the second massive passenger plane smash into the second building. My mom screamed in horror, as she had no idea her four children would be exposed to such trauma just moments later. She immediately took us out of the room. Before I left for school that morning, she kissed me with tears in her eyes, which I met with an innocent yet perplexed look. Despite my mental inability to gauge what happened that morning, I slowly began to form a burning desire to ensure that nothing like 9/11 would ever happen again. I had witnessed the evil of that day before the bones in my hand were fully formed. Three words that adequately describe my childhood are “War on Terror.” I had just turned eight years old when President Bush announced we were declaring war on Saddam and Iraq. The list goes on. As time passed, I found myself in a perpetual state of war, and by high school, I knew what I wanted to do with my life.

Many high school kids will say they have a career in mind, yet many have also not really given it much thought. Before any interest of joining the CIA surfaced, I was fully set on joining the U.S. Marines. Much of my basis for this desire was “shoot first, don’t ask questions,” which was a result of my emotional drain caused by the evil acts of terrorists. However, I am thankful that I was provided a great education, because over years of studying previous American conflicts and the widespread mental destruction caused by participating, I decided to redirect my passion for dismantling terrorist organizations. The Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013, really helped shape this passion into what I intend on pursuing. The outstanding work done by the intelligence and law enforcement communities in the following week caught my attention. The fact that they were able to identify and locate the bombing suspects within days of the attack made me extremely interested in analyzing video surveillance. As the kid who is good at nothing but weird things like noticing flaws in commercials, I decided I wanted to investigate for the Central Intelligence Agency.

The three artifacts I gathered relating to the Central Intelligence Agency were not particularly easy to find. I gathered a CIA World Factbook, a career application form, and the 2014 CIA Office of Inspector General Report. The CIA has many career choices, almost all of which require colossal amounts of reading and writing. The field within the CIA that is an exception is protective security. Even so, if and when an incident takes place, a protective security agent is required to fill out a significant amount of paperwork. For other fields within the CIA, much of the work done requires reading. One example is a cyber-security specialist who is assigned to scour the Internet, namely forums established under the premise of “Jihad,” for any clear and present threats to American citizens and interests. The career application form acquired has a heavy emphasis on the linguistic ability of the applicant, as a cyber-security specialist, for example, is far more effective when they can translate potential threats in real time. The CIA World Factbook is a famous publication because of its in-depth analysis of every sovereign state worldwide. Understanding the culture and economy of a country that the CIA has its sights on is essential for CIA agents. The Factbook, albeit more geared for public viewing, is a prime example of the immense information one in the CIA must know in order to stay afloat and remain effective.

Decisions in the CIA are fairly one-sided, as they deal with sensitive global issues and could very badly damage the American image overseas if cases are not handled with care. The Director of the CIA hands down information given by the sitting president, as mentioned earlier, and there really is no democracy established to push back on the president’s decisions. From time to time, the Director will cross the president and cause a storm, but usually, this happens as a way to show authoritative force, more than anything else. In basic terms, the president ultimately makes decisions for the CIA. The specialized language of the CIA is not one like hieroglyphics, however, it is powerful in that it is encrypted, classified, and covert. The general discussions between agents are entirely kept secret. When out in the field on a mission, or simply transporting an important government figure, the CIA agents use a coded language not much different from what you would hear on a police radio. Terms like 10-4 meaning “OK,” or “I need a bus!” meaning “I need an ambulance!” are what you would normally come across. The CIA surprisingly does not require an extensive resume of educational background. Generally speaking, the agency requires a bachelor’s degree in criminal investigation. However, for someone majoring in political science like myself, I have to attend three years of criminal investigation school in Washington D.C. to qualify for the CIA. I suspect that acculturation in this community will be extremely difficult and competitive.

There are so many possible paths one could take in applying for the CIA. If I were fortunate enough to work for the agency in the future, I would have to move heaven and earth upon arrival in order to remain relevant. As with many careers, the CIA agent position requires the ability to be driven and determined, yet calm and collected simultaneously. I conducted a brief interview with a family friend who once worked in the CIA. Despite the fact that he is retired, he requested anonymity. He explained that the main issue a newcomer faces upon arriving at the CIA is “getting used to the whole ‘bottom of the food chain’ deal.” When I asked for more specific information, he referenced that he graduated with the highest honors for his undergraduate degree, and felt invincible at the time. He was one of the most decorated students in the institution’s long history. Once he was able to get hired by the CIA, it was made known right away that their main objective for his first few months there was to entirely strip his ego down. He claimed this was their attempt to get us working as a group—to put the individual accolades aside.”

As someone who once pledged a fraternity and endured eight weeks of hazing, I can certainly relate to the bottom of the food chain concept. Despite being stressed out of my mind throughout the process, I eventually came to an understanding that when done precisely, the whole “hazing” concept can actually help people better understand working with others and being accountable. It is difficult to compare what I went through and what my family friend went through, as they are different in numerous ways. However, the ego-stripping brutality of being the new kid in town is not something foreign to me. I am glad I interviewed him, as his words helped calm my nerves about entering such a competitive field.

This project certainly boosted my desire to work in this field. I think my issue and the issue of many young Americans all over is that we become complacent about our futures and say we will do things without any actions taken to support the claims. This project helped me delve deeper into the once daunting career choice of being in an intelligence agency. I certainly feel like there is much room for improvement in how I approach pursuing this career. These areas that need improvement range from simple concepts like punctuality, all the way to having respect for fellow agents. I would like to think that I am understanding and open-minded presently, but I know that as life becomes more competitive each day, that will be a concept I must hold onto dearly.

In terms of the role of my future career in society, I have two major goals. One, I would like to help transform the CIA into becoming more pragmatic and less dipped in controversy. Two, as I’ve said since I was six years old, I would like for my legacy to be connected with the complete prevention of any attack on American citizens as large as the 9/11 attacks. I hope to look back on my career in a few decades and be able to say I helped prevent potential tragedy each and every day.

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Central Intelligence Agency: The “Required” Path of a Covert Discourse Community. (2022, Nov 18). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/central-intelligence-agency-the-required-path-of-a-covert-discourse-community/