The CIA webpage is an oft under-appreciated gem in the U.S. government’s suite of dry, formal websites. There’s no formal decree that mandates government sites have to be boring, but something about the need to exude inoffensive professionalism throughout every corner of these sprawling domains has sanitized everything .GOV into the digital version of the Department of Motor Vehicles, including, of course, the websites devoted to the various DMVs throughout the nation.
Despite their similarities in presentation, government websites are not uniform in content or even their organization. If you know your way around the Pentagon’s website (Defense.gov), you can rest assured that the State Department’s (State.gov) won’t operate in an even remotely similar way, meaning digging for the information you’re on the market for requires a different method at each of Uncle Sam’s sites. If you’re on the hunt for a specific thing, this can be frustrating, as you bounce between government sites trying to assemble a complete picture of American policy in action, rather than in description, as you tend to get from press releases. But if you’re not digging for something in particular, you’d be surprised at some of the things you can find, as long as you’re willing to suffer the frustrations of digital bureaucracy in motion.
Which brings us to the hands down winner of most fun way to spend your Sunday night on a .GOV website: CIA.GOV. When their site first loads, you’re greeted (on Monday) by a lovely story about a puppy that wasn’t cut out for life as a service dog in the CIA, for instance, as if to say, “sure, you’ve heard about our covert operations all over the world, but why don’t you check out this puppy instead of whatever you came here for?”
Good try, CIA. You guys are good.
When you reach that homepage, you’re only a few clicks away from a goldmine: the CIA’s Freedom of Information Archive. This archive is comprised of all kinds of fun documents that have been declassified through the efforts of previous internet explorers (and likely, a good number that stuck to paper) – including all kinds of UFO and alien related content, studies about psychic powers and ESP, and of course, lots and lots of Cold War era Soviet analysis.
You may be thinking, “Soviet analysis? That’s not very much fun!” – but you’d be wrong. It’s easy to look back on our country’s simmering fight against the Soviet Union as a collection of Reagan quotes and square jawed generals looking to the horizon with gritted teeth, but just like today, America recognized the need to appear socially and culturally relevant in its efforts. Your average American was just as prone to escapism and the need for a good joke to cut the tension as modern Americans are. Perhaps, it’s because of that that this list was put together: which is titled simply, “SOVIET JOKES FOR THE DDCI.”
The Deputy Director of Central Intelligence (DDCI) undoubtedly had to attend a number of social events, in which he needed to schmooze with other high ranking officials or prominent civilian figures, and he needed to be able to keep the effort cool by cracking jokes about America’s number one enemy. Or maybe these jokes were intended for public addresses, so he could demonstrate his cool confidence in the face of the Soviet threat. Maybe he just loved a good cheesy joke. In any regard, it’s fun to read through them with the understanding that this was our federal government’s honest attempt at equipping its senior leadership with the latest in anti-Soviet verbal weaponry.
The fact that these jokes were kept classified might indicate that they weren’t intended for wide distribution, or maybe, just that the Deputy Director didn’t want the world to know he wasn’t that witty on his own…
Read the list of jokes below, or download a PDF here:
Images courtesy of the CIA