Inside the CIA, the “nonofficial cover” program is run by the curiously titled Office of Central Cover, in coordination with the Office of External Development.

CIA recruiters refer candidates to the OED for evaluation as potential deep-cover NOCs. Other NOCs are recruited by blind “Help Wanted” ads placed in newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal by headhunter firms like Stackig, Sanderson & White in McLean, Va.

A typical NOC recruitment ad reads: “Our international client offers professionals challenging opportunities in a number of foreign countries that require no selling from representatives.. . .We are seeking men and women with college degrees and education/work experience in a variety of areas: advanced technologies, investment and international finance, research, marketing and public relations, business administration.. . .Successful applicants will be provided full details of employment.”

The Office of External Development also helps identify and recruit U.S. corporations to participate in the NOC program. Using the type of approach it might use to recruit an overseas agent, the CIA first–without the knowledge of the target firm–prepares a detailed profile of the company and its chief executives. Then the CIA extends quiet feelers to the company’s CEO, to gauge the company’s willingness to lend its overseas offices to a NOC. Finally, when the CIA is satisfied that the company will be receptive, it makes the pitch.

“Above all, they’re looking for some CEO who’s not a liberal, who is not going to holler ‘Help! Police!’ if he is approached by the CIA,” said a former CIA officer.

If the company agrees to participate, only the company’s CEO and perhaps one or two other people will ever be aware of the arrangement. The CIA asks the company to sign a nondisclosure agreement to maintain the secrecy of the program.

Because of this secrecy and the potential for embarrassment, no company is willing to confirm its participation in the CIA’s NOC program. Companies contacted about their reported involvement issued denials or refused comment. A Procter & Gamble spokesman, after checking with senior executives, declared that his company was not involved.

Asked whether Prentice-Hall supports the CIA’s NOC program, a spokesman replied, “If we did and we told you, it wouldn’t be very good cover, would it?”–and then called back to say that all Prentice-Hall employees are employees of the company, not the CIA. Similarly, a Ford Motor Co. spokesman said, “If it were true, do you think we’d tell you?” At Rockwell International, a public affairs representative declined comment, saying “I’m giving you a Rockwell-type answer.”

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

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It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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