There’s no shortage of podcasts exploring the mechanics of espionage, celebrating fictional spies and detailing the real-life exploits of the nation’s premier intelligence agency. But only one, to date, is officially downgraded.
The CIA launched “The Langley Files” podcast on Thursday, attempting to step out of its shadow to share stories from the agency’s 75-year history – and provide insight into what it takes to work there.
The purpose of the podcast, according to a CIA spokesperson, is to provide a little more transparency in a secrecy-based agency.
“‘The Langley Files’ is an important milestone for the CIA as the agency celebrates its 75th anniversary,” said CIA press secretary Susan Miller. “This is the latest in the CIA’s ongoing efforts to be as open as possible with the public, sharing what we can about our mission, our people and our history.”
And by telling stories about the history of the CIA – with top CIA officials, agency historians and CIA museum experts as guests – the agency hopes to spark new interest from a young generation of potential recruits.
“We want to reach a wider and more diverse audience than ever before, so that people who might not have thought of joining the ICA – or might not have known there might be a place for their talents here – consider the CIA in their career plans,” said a CIA spokesperson.
“The podcast supports the agency’s efforts to connect with talent from all walks of life and backgrounds,” the spokesperson continued. “To succeed in its national security mission, the CIA must build the diverse and skilled workforce of tomorrow, and we hope that ‘The Langley Files’ can serve as a vehicle to reach these candidates.”
The podcast will be hosted by two agents from the agency, exploring new topics with special guests in each episode.
His first guest is CIA Director Bill Burns.
“In our democracy, where trust in institutions is so rare,” Burns said in the podcast’s first episode, “it’s important to try to explain ourselves as best we can and demystify a bit of what we’re doing. .”
Burns and the podcast hosts had fun at the expense of Hollywood spy portrayals, noting that their work “doesn’t always involve fast cars and solo heroes.”
“I should start by saying I love spy movies,” Burns said. “But a big misconception that a lot of these really entertaining movies feed into is that intelligence in real life is just a glamorous world of solo operators in the world of James Bond, Jason Bourne and Jack Ryan. A world of heroic individuals who drive fast cars, defuse bombs and solve global crises all by themselves every day.
“The truth is, intelligence is really a team sport,” he added.
Burns described the agency’s warnings about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine among its greatest recent successes, as well as the intelligence operation that led to the successful strike on the co-founder of Al- Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
But new challenges, driven by high-powered competition with China, are pushing the agency to adapt its mission set and recruiting strategies, Burns said.
“We have to organize ourselves to successfully navigate incredibly complicated international terrain,” Burns said. “We are trying to put more resources, to recruit more Mandarin speakers, to help address this central geopolitical challenge.”
“But it also means we have to deal with declining powers – not just rising powers – like Russia,” he added. “And Putin demonstrates every day that declining powers can be at least as disruptive as rising powers.”
The Langley Files will be available on all streaming platforms and on the CIA website.