The Trouble with Disguise…

22 February: As part of its outreach programme, the CIA website today reveals that among the many top secret job vacancies available at the Agency is the post of … hairdresser!

The website explains that disguise is an important part of the work for CIA field officers and that the Agency employs hairdressers, make up artists and even seamstresses. Apart from a quick change of top coat, disguise is not a skill much used by most other intelligence services these days. It is fine for some purposes, but if you get caught it is pretty hard to explain your way out of it and no officer of any service likes to use anything that might suddenly become a liability.

The UK’s SIS had an unfortunate encounter with disguise in September 2008. An SIS officer with the pseudonym “John” was to be interviewed for the BBC1’s evening magazine programme “The One Show.” (Trust us, he has never lived this one down). The interview was part of what was then SIS’s outreach programme to encourage young people to apply to the Service. To maintain his anonymity, “John” was to be filmed in silhouette by a BBC camera crew in a room at the Foreign Office while he explained what a great career secret service was. At the last moment, “John” thought it would be a good idea if he further disguised his silhouette with the addition of a moustache. He chose quite a handsome one. Unfortunately for him the moustache glue weakened under the hot lights used for filming and the giant moustache fell off mid-interview. The incident didn’t do much for the Service’s reputation … nor for “John” once he got back to the office.

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