Confessions of a CIA Operative

My Father the Spy

Darryl+Thibault+while+on+assignment+in+Asia.
Darryl Thibault while on assignment in Asia.

Darryl Thibault while on assignment in Asia.

Darryl Thibault while on assignment in Asia.

Ethan Diefenbach, News Editor

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What is the CIA and how does it operate?  Darryl Thibault, a 20+ year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Clandestine Service and father of a Clairemont student, knows how the CIA works and explains what his training was like.  

Thibault said that he was contacted by both the CIA and FBI when in college because of his past U.S. military experience and language skills.  Thibault said, “The FBI offered a higher starting salary, but the CIA interested me more because, at that time, the CIA’s primary mission was to operate overseas, while the FBI’s mission was to work within the United States.  At that time, I had never been overseas, but had always wanted to.  I enjoyed foreign language, I loved German, I loved Russian, I had studied some Polish, some Ukrainian, and if you love foreign languages and travel, it makes sense to take a job that will take you overseas. So, the CIA won out over the FBI even though it offered less pay.”

Thibault says the CIA is divided into three directorates, the Directorate of Operations (also known as the Clandestine Service), the Directorate of Intelligence, and the Directorate of Support. The Clandestine Service is what most people think of when they hear “CIA.”  It trains, handles, and sends spies and operatives overseas to collect, record, and report intelligence.  The Directorate of Intelligence then reviews, interprets, and decrypts the information acquired by the Clandestine Service.  The Directorate of Support handles the recruitment of new agents and personnel issues, but also handles the development of new weapons, technology, and secret messages.

After accepting the position with the CIA, he was brought to Washington D.C. where he underwent extensive testing. He was then moved to a remote location to begin training.  He was trained extensively with a small group of others for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They were taught techniques regarding espionage strategies, tradecraft, assessing targets, recruiting and training agents, and several other skills necessary for field operatives.  After about six months, they were moved to other larger cities such as New York, Richmond, and Los Angeles for over a year to complete training.  Thibault says, “One of the exercises that a CIA operative goes through during training is being captured and interrogated, usually happening when you are in a large city such as Chicago or New York.  And you think that you were really caught, because it’s the police.  They would hold you in a small prison cell and interrogate you all night.” He said,  “It’s a test of your integrity and confidence to not confide what your real objective is.”  

Thibault said, “After you complete the training, you will then be assigned to a geographic location.  And if you have language training already for that area, you will then wind up on a headquarters desk preparing to be dispatched to that area.  If you do not, you go to language training.  Language training can also be very intense.  You go full time eight hours a day six to seven days a week to learn the language.  You will normally need to have a level four language capability on a one to five scale, where five is perfect fluency and one being beginner.”  For Thibault’s first tour, he was required to speak fluent German, and was moved into language training.  “I was placed into German language training for three months, starting in the United States, then was moved to a European location to complete training.”

Thibault said, “There is an old Chinese proverb; find a job you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life, and that’s the way I felt about working for the CIA, I believed in what I was doing, I enjoyed it. I remember, even when I first joined, I always said, ‘Look, I would do this for nothing, if the Agency would just pay my bills.’”  He said that those who join the CIA, especially the Clandestine Service, are very adventurous, interested in other cultures and languages, love to travel, and first and foremost, are very patriotic. When you travel overseas on an assignment, you will have to work extremely hard, and your loyalties will be questioned.

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Confessions of a CIA Operative