I never planned to write this. I was watching a TV show I love—Strike Back—and it just got under my skin. My wife has learned to either ignore the stuff I mutter under my breath, go in another room and watch something else in peace or ask, “Is that right?” For some reason, it just irks me when Hollywood (and the media, and many others) get it wrong about the CIA and the world of intelligence in general.

No, I’m not mad enough to start a Facebook page about it or to start some sort of hashtag campaign (#itsnotthatimportant), but just enough that I want to set the record straight—sort of. I won’t give away any classified stuff, so put the pitchforks and torches away, oh, guardians of the non-disclosure agreement. I just wanted to compile a quick list of the Top 10 Things that Hollywood (and everyone else) seems to always get wrong about the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), in no particular order.

I am sure this has already been done somewhere out there on the big, scary interwebs, but guess what? It’s my article. So zip it and follow along.

1 | Calling CIA personnel “agents.”

This one is pretty common, and it isn’t just Hollywood that gets it wrong. The media does it all the time. I have had personnel from other agencies refer to me or other CIA personnel as agents. That is just not right.

We are officers. The people we recruit to spy for us are referred to as agents (or assets). Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) personnel are agents. Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) personnel are agents.

WE ARE OFFICERS. Ok, enough of that. Let’s move on to number two.

Strike Back
‘Strike Back’ TV series (Image courtesy of Cinemax)

2 | We arrest the bad guys.

Nope. The CIA has no arrest or law-enforcement powers. None.

We may provide information to the FBI or another agency that results in the arrest of an individual or individuals based on intelligence that we gather, but we don’t slap the cuffs on anybody.