CIA Wining and Dining Lebanese Students in US
Sabah Ayoub, al Akhbar, Apr 6 2012
Several CIA agents walk into a room full of Lebanese students. It is decorated with the flags of Lebanon, the US, and the CIA. The participants’ eyes glow as they stare at the spymasters who have decided to pay them a visit in appreciation of their intelligence. They give their full attention to a presentation about the different sections of the CIA. They note down information about the agency’s need to recruit smart, ambitious, and multilingual young Lebanese like them. When they are done, students and agents go out to lunch where they eat hummus, grilled meats, tabbouleh, and flat bread. The CIA’s long experience taught it that recruiting a Lebanese agent starts with a hummus plate and a shawarma wrap. So, following each session, the CIA hosts and pays for a traditional Lebanese spread.
None of the above details are embellished or fabricated. Such meetings have been taking place since 2008 in the US after a US Lebanese student group decided to connect Lebanese students with one another in various states and cities. Under the guise of working toward providing them with employment opportunities in the US, they hold yearly recruitment sessions for the CIA. Once again, some Lebanese find the usual clever excuse to collaborate with the CIA. The smart alecks this time are a bunch of Lebanese students and USAian-Lebanese citizens studying in US universities. They founded or joined a “non-profit” organization known as the Lebanese Collegiate Network (LCN). The network is run by Lebanese and aims “to connect and develop Lebanese collegiate clubs, students, and alumni within the US.” The LCN which claims to work toward providing students with employment opportunities in the US has been holding information sessions sponsored and run by the CIA since its inception in 2007 up until last week. The lecturers are CIA agents who are openly recruiting and hiring students. The last such meeting took place between Mar 30 and Apr 1, during LCN’s fifth Annual Convention at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California.
But the CIA’s contribution is not limited to hummus. It is an LCN “Gold Sponsor” in 2012, alongside other, “Silver,” sponsors like Rotary and RotarAct. The financial contribution of the CIA to the LCN could be a violation of the CIA’s regulations about working on US territory. US laws allow the CIA to directly recruit agents in the US but not to fund US organizations with US citizens as members inside the country, except in extraordinary circumstance. LCN’s activity calendar published on their website shows that a few months into its founding in Apr 2008, LCN hosted the first CIA Info Session. LCN explains that the aim of such sessions is to encourage institutions to employ members. But for five years in a row, the CIA was the only “institution” to provide career training for students! Moreover, minutes of an LCN meeting held on May 31 2011 show how some LCN leaders are satisfied with the CIA being the only sponsor and organizer of the sessions. The meeting involved several members of LCN’s board and staff and drew up a five-year workplan for the organization. During discussions, LCN Treasurer Elect Tammy Ayoub suggested:
Other than the CIA maybe we can get a professional to come in and talk about their profession.
Another official, Anthony Gemayel, replied:
This might be difficult because not your whole club would be one specific major.
Patrick Sislian, LCN founding member and first president, said:
The reason the CIA works is because it works across all fields, LCN doesn’t specialize in Engineering, etc.
At the end of the session founding members and former presidents Serge Haddad and Sevag Sislian recommended a career fair and suggested two guest institutions: the CIA and the US Army! LCN mission states that it is “a non-political, non-religious, and non-profit organization aiming to connect and develop Lebanese collegiate clubs, students, and alumni within the US.” On the other hand, the CIA mission says:
We are the nation’s first line of defense. We accomplish what others cannot accomplish and go where others cannot go. We carry out our mission by collecting information that reveals the plans, intentions, and capabilities of our adversaries, producing timely analysis that provides insight, warning, and opportunities for the President and decision makers charged with protecting and advancing USAia’s interests. Conducting covert actions at the direction of the President to preempt threats or achieve US policy objectives.
In the meantime, several people in the US are voicing their objections to the utmost secrecy of the CIA’s policies, financing, budgeting, and spending inside and outside the country. Its lax regulations, contrary to other US government agencies, are also under scrutiny. Several famous US commentators have also criticized the agency for being a killing machine. LCN considers the “CIA info sessions” as one of its major achievements. In its first communique about the issue it claimed:
More than 100 students attended and engaged the CIA representatives with several intuitive questions that ranged from salary, commitment, and policies.
The student network does not deny CIA funding. Its website and annual letters indicate:
The CIA donated $500 per info-session to the LCN, and purchased the food for all student attendants. Each dollar is invested back to the LCN membership.
Nevertheless, several leaks from inside LCN indicate that the CIA’s contribution is upward of $10,000/yr, thus giving it the Gold Sponsor status. When LCN hosted its first info and recruitment session sponsored by the CIA in 2008, several students complained to its leadership. Former LCN Treasurer Serge Haddad replied in a signed official letter titled “Response Letter to CIA Info-Session.” He defended LCN’s partnership with the CIA while “understand[ing] the sensitivity in this issue” and attempting “to clarify any misconceptions or myths.” The letter claimed:
The CIA is not an elected part of the US Government, it is an apolitical (vice appointed) institution. In this aspect, it is similar to institutions such as the Federal Emergency Management Association, the Internal Revenue Service, or the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Each institution provides a vast array of job opportunities. As a student in the US with a US Citizenship and/or proper paperwork, you have a right to be employed at any one [and more] of the above listed institutions. We have discussed this event thoroughly within the LCN board and got feedback and approval from several University Lebanese Club presidents. We also sat down with CIA representatives in Washington and discussed both the job opportunities as well as the negative perspective the CIA may have with the Middle Eastern community. They believe in open, respectful, and constructive dialogue. On a personal level we are citizens and residents of the US, as an organization, LCN is recognized by the US. The CIA mission does not conflict with the LCN Constitution and Bylaws. Remember, we are here to serve you.