I was in DC and decided to go for a tour of the CIA to shoot videos and take pictures for my boys. So I grabbed my car and asked Google to take me to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
Meanwhile Google map in all its ingenuity decided to rather take me to the Farm in McLean. Until that day I never knew the farm existed. I thought it was just a training facility for CIA recruits that only existed in the movies. Until my map dropped me off in front of a hyper-barricaded gate in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the woods and hills.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. The gate and the driveway beyond it didn’t look alive like a place people pass through on a daily basis to go to work. It looked dead and seldom used to me. First of all it was a massive row of bard-wired gates hinged against thick concrete pillars, and of course overlaid by a concrete beam that is over 30 feet in diameter. The gates are all chained and rust. And both in front and behind the gates are columns of concrete barricades and dead-looking vehicles. The whole setting created a feeling of forlornness in me. I was at a very wrong place. And I was in awe.
Could this really be the entrance to the CIA headquarters? Is this the entrance through which the president’s motorcade enters the headquarters whenever the president comes calling? Who among the White House staff will have the patience for the barricades to be removed for the presidential motorcade to pull through?
I was sitting in my car in front of this behemoth of a fortress wondering if I am at the wrong place or what. Hundreds of questions filled my head. I needed answers. So I decided to let my thoughts out. And I honked at the gate hoping that someone will pop out and provide quick answers to my nagging questions.
And within seconds these two fierce looking men in full marksmen gear with their automatic guns trained squarely on my head unchained one of the gates and came tiptoeing towards me like I was Osama bin Laden. First I was so struck at the dramatic turn my innocuous adventure has taken. And I froze. I couldn’t even open my mouth due to shock shock but happily I did not move a limb out of concern for my life. Those guys thought I was a bad guy and I suspected any significant movement of my body could trigger them to unload their guns on me. That assumption was both implicitly and explicitly stated by the way the guns were still pointed at my head as they got closer to me.
Now I was fully aware I was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
But I quickly recovered myself and started smiling. I am home, by the way. Then one of the guys shouted at me and asked what I was doing there. I told him I thought I was headed for Langley and just came by as a visitor to check things out for myself. He responded, “No one comes here without being invited. Do you hear that?,” and I answered him ‘yes sir.’ He still has the gun trained at me. Then he said get the fuck out of here now. As I was about to march down on my gas pedal with full strength, he seemed like he changed his mind and wanted to impress something else on me. So he waved his gun at me not to move and said to me, “Do not ever come here next time. Do you understand that?” And I answered back to him again and said ‘yes, sir.’ And I quickly drove away as fast as I could.
Now I originally wanted to go to Langley but ended up at the Farm. I do not know how much of a high level security facility that is, to warrant such a reception that I got. It was my first contact with CIA agents and I had tons of questions in my mind to ask them but it was implied to me right from the get go that there was never going to be any chitchatting. Personally I did not like the reception that greeted my homecoming, but as an American and viewing it through the lens of national security, I was and still am impressed with the professionalism and the no-nonsense approach to security those guys displayed in their fleet seconds interaction with me. They were ready to blow my head away should I even act strangely in the most minuscule way. Because I could be anybody. My car for all intents and purposes could be laden with explosives. And those guys could have died in their service to their country, just like that.
As I reflect on this encounter, I have no doubt in my mind that with the same level or even more sophisticated alertness and professionalism that they are protecting the Farm, so are they protecting our cyberspace, our national interests, our atmosphere, our stratosphere, and all the spheres where enemy satellites could pose a threat to us. And that gives me comfort and I applaud them for it.
And for all their efforts at keeping us safe from external aggression, I believe these guys need a commander in chief who can appreciate their sacrifices and service to the nation and always encourage them to continue their good work.
To the CIA…