What to Expect at the CIA’s First Public Conference

Put on your lanyard! The CIA is hosting its first ever, public conference on national security today in partnership with Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program. While a list of topics and speakers is available here, I thought I’d outline a few things to expect if you plan to attend.

First of all, we can be pretty sure that, unlike at every other conference held in Washington, no one will be wearing nametags. These people are kind of sensitive about that kind of thing. But a little hint: if you call everyone Mike or John, you’ll be right most of the time.

Second, the sign in sheet might be a little more complex than at a regular conference. Where you would normally be asked to jot down your name, company info, and email address, I’m guessing the sign in sheet for this conference will also ask for your social security number, parents’ names, spouse’s name and birthdate, pet’s name, income level, address, all social media handles, phone number, daily alcohol consumption, prescriptions, general mental state, bra size, and favorite activity.

That bra size thing is a trick question. If you’re female, great, that’s good to know. If you’re not but you fill it out, well, now they have something on you.

The Agency organizers are certainly hoping the academics in attendance will do most of the talking. Trust me, any Agency analyst will hate public speaking, as it requires looking up from one’s shoes. And the operations officers aren’t allowed out to this kind of event. If any operational people are in attendance, they are likely named Sergei, Vlad, Wei, Jing, or Li. They might ask a lot of questions.

The coffee will be from Starbucks. Agency people love Starbucks. The Agency Starbucks is the highest revenue Starbucks in the nation (admittedly, based on no actual evidence except the never-ending line there). And the lunch break will be super early.

It’s clear the CIA is trying to come in from the cold and manage its public image. In addition to announcing this conference, the Agency last week joined Twitter and Facebook. The organization’s first Tweet showed that someone has a great sense of humor. And of course now we can all make jokes about whether or not the CIA is following us.

It will be interesting to see how the public conference turns out and who turns out to attend the public conference. But I’ll be skipping the sign in sheet.