Abetted by Harry Recon, Ace Photo Pigeon and a bomb-sniffing dog named Bogart, the Central Intelligence Agency has created a children's page on the Internet with an option for virtual cloak-and-dagger disguises for curious little nippers.
"This is not an effort to recruit," a spokesman for the spy agency emphasizes. "This is an effort to inform in a fun way."With an open smile of welcome from a virtual agent in a virtual trench coat, the "ciakids" page carries the once passionately furtive agency a playful step further into public notice, this time under the prod of a presidential directive that government agencies tell citizens, young and old, what they actually do.
The Langley, Va., espionage establishment comes across as something other than Mr. Rogers' neighborhood.
Describing the tasks of an overseas agent, the kids page does not quite specify the false identities, theft of other governments' secrets, murderous plots or inducements of others to treason via sex and shakedown that are part of the agent's job.
Rather, young visitors trying to imagine themselves in the trade are informed: "You would like to work with people from all over the world, be able to adapt to any situation (especially dangerous ones!), be well educated, know other languages, be good at working at with other kinds of people, and be courageous, well disciplined and able to accept anonymity."
While the "Home Page for Kids," reachable at www.odci.gov/cia/ciakids, hardly invites young ones out into the cold, it does hint at the romantic patriotism to be imagined in the spy's life.