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96.11.13
Web Del Sol

The "Locus of Literary Art on the WWW."

96.11.06
Metrobeat NY

The Web isn't only about connecting the global village.

96.10.30
Idea Central

An antidote to the airy nothings of today's political rhetoric.

96.10.23
DisInformation

"Everything You Know Is Wrong." Or so the creators of this new search engine are out to prove.

96.10.16
World Birthday Web

Banal online gimmick or digital dadaism?

96.10.09
Witness: Roads to Refuge

An innovative online documentary looks at the plight of Bosnia's uprooted population.

96.10.03
The Library of Congress Exhibitions

A look at one of the country's -- and the Web's -- most extraordinary resources.

For more, see the complete Web Citations Index.

November 20, 1996

Moscow. Mid-November, three o'clock in the afternoon. Leaden skies, cold drizzle, impending dusk. Wearily, geography professor and former KGB officer Boris K. descends from his bus, leans into the wind, and trudges to the university through puddles, slush, and vague despair. Burrowed into his overcoat, the good professor shuffles into the computer room, seats himself in front of a monitor, and logs on.

Spinning Seal of the CIA His modem whistles and squawks; he connects. Netscape. Alta Vista. On a lark, he taps in "Central Intelligence Agency" . . . and sits bolt upright when a slew of links appears. Glancing furtively over his shoulder, he makes a discreet click. What streams onto his screen a few seconds later strikes him as one of the great oxymorons in cyberspace; never in his wildest dreams did he think that he would -- except in handcuffs, maybe -- read the words, "Welcome to the CIA."

Excited, cynical, and apprehensive, the professor explores the intimate electronic interface of his old nemesis. He soon finds the "Frequently Asked CIA FAQ Questions" area, where -- after thirty-five years in intelligence work -- he finally gets the answers to such burning questions as, "Does the CIA spy on Americans? Does it keep a file on me?" ("No."); "Does the Central Intelligence Agency engage in drug trafficking?" ("No."); and "Does the Central Intelligence Agency give tours of its headquarters buildings?" ("No.") Enlightened, he moves on and soon discovers that a virtual tour is possible, and within a few clicks he has seen revealing photographs of the "CIA Memorial Wall," the "New Headquarters Building Entrance," and the "Work and Family Center," as well as an aerial shot of the Langley headquarters complex.

View of Langley

A few more clicks and Boris K. reaches the "CIA Exhibit Center," where he finds pictures of such intelligence-gathering paraphernalia as a "seismic intruder detection device," a matchbox camera, a hollow silver dollar ("still used today to hide and send messages. . . . virtually undetectable"), and CIA-produced pamphlets from the Gulf War (complete with cartoons of Stealth bombers attacking a panicked enemy and titles such as "Time is up!" and "Leave your equipment! Or defend it and die. The choice is yours").

The professor then learns, in the "CIA Vision, Mission, and Values" area, that the agency does its work by "taking risks to get the job done." He raises a bushy eyebrow and proceeds to check out current job opportunities. An announcement of "THE ULTIMATE OVERSEAS CAREER" calls out for his attention; he follows the link, and reads: "For the extraordinary individual who wants more than a job, this is a unique career -- a way of life that will challenge the deepest resources of your intelligence, self-reliance, and responsibility." Boris K. snickers and makes a note to update his résumé.

After bookmarking some intriguing sites listed under "Other Intelligence Community Links" (the FBI; Army, Navy, Air-Force, and Marine Intelligence; the NSA; the DIA; and more), the professor then stumbles across a listing of CIA publications and finds some genuinely useful information. The "1995 World Factbook" offers detailed geographic, demographic, economic, and political information on all the world's countries. "Chiefs of State and Cabinet Members of Foreign Governments" gives relatively up-to-date information on political leaders world-wide. "CIA Maps and Publications" offers readers the chance to order declassified CIA maps. Another click or two and the professor also finds an interesting historical package on "Intelligence in the War of Independence."

The professor looks at his watch. Well over an hour has gone by. Looking out his window he muses into the oncoming Russian winter and thinks, Ha! The CIA on the Web! And they say there is no intelligence in cyberspace.


Copyright © 1996 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
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