CSU alum and Central Intelligence Agency recruiter David Burris came to the Lory Student Center Wednesday afternoon to discuss career opportunities in the CIA with students.
The small meeting room on the second floor of the LSC was packed with students as Burris began his speech. About half of the 60 or so students who came to hear Burris speak were criminal justice majors. The rest of the crowd included students from a variety of majors; many had received word of the visit from the Student FYI e-mail system.
Burris graduated from CSU with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1975 “back in the days when it was still called ‘Moo U,'” he said.
He received his master’s degree in history in 1976. About a year later, he was approached by a CIA recruiter and hired as an undercover counter-intelligence operative.
“I was hired because I had the ability to write, think, present myself and understand things with a historical context,” Burris said.
After working undercover for 20 years, Burris now serves as the southwest region recruitment representative for the CIA, a job he has been fulfilling the past 11 years.
He recruits for all four hiring divisions in the CIA, “from spooks to spies to accountants,” Burris said.
Shortly after introducing himself, Burris spoke about the purpose of the agency.
“In essence, the CIA recruits spies and steals secrets,” Burris said. “But it takes a lot of analysis. At the core of the CIA is human intelligence, but it’s not intelligence until it’s analyzed.”
Burris said that the largest source of this intelligence is the media.
“When I was hired, you couldn’t Google a thing. I was amazed with what the Corona project let us do; we could look at pictures taken from satellites. Now you can do that on Google Earth,” Burris said. “That was 30-plus years ago; you can imagine what we can do now.”
He went on to explain that the mission of the CIA is to be the keystone of US intelligence, and that it was established to bring objective truth to the US policy makers. “We want to know what the intentions of our enemies are,” Burris said.
Burris said that he could talk all day about his job, but as a recruiter he had to move on to what the CIA looks for in its employees.
“The absolute, number one thing this job needs is integrity,” Burris said. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, how smart you are, or anything else if you don’t have the ability to do what is right when nobody is looking.
“This is not a job, it’s a responsibility. If you want a job, don’t come and talk to me. Come and see me if you want a responsibility,” Burris said.
Burris also went on to emphasize the importance of excellence in the CIA.
“Doing your best is absolutely critical. Doing your absolute best is what drives us,” Burris said.
Creativity, Burris said, is also a value the CIA looks for in its employees.
“When you have so much information you need to have creative ways of filtering out what is important,” Burris said.
There are a variety of positions offered by the CIA for employment: intelligence, science/tech, clandestine service, and support.
It does not matter what your major is, the CIA is looking for people that will be committed to their work. There are positions involving planning and direction of operations, collection of data from human sources, processing of data, analysis and technology development.
Anyone interested in pursuing a career in the CIA can visit their website, www.cia.gov, for more information and to apply for a job.
“We look for productively neurotic people,” Burris said. “You need to be excited about it . in the CIA you can do something for the greater good.”
Staff writer Trevor Simonton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org