The CIA has a plan to poach Big Tech employees

It can’t beat tech salaries, so it’s trying the next best thing.


September 23, 2020

The CIA has toppled governments and negotiated hostage crises. But when it comes to attracting tech-minded college grads, it just can’t beat Silicon Valley.

The government agency doesn’t have the funds to compete with Facebook’s mammoth starting salaries. So instead, it’s trying to recruit candidates with patents.

Under a new initiative, CIA Labs, any employee who patents an invention for the agency gets a cut of the proceeds.

There’s a limit to the generosity

Say you invent an 8G network during your shift. The agency will let you take home 15% of the income it generates — up until you hit a $150k cap.

But that’s still ~2x the average CIA salary, according to the MIT Technology Review.

The CIA isn’t a stranger to the tech biz

The agency has its own venture capital firm, In-Q-Tel, that commands $120m+ a year in cash.

In-Q-Tel claims to be independent, but it doesn’t toss a penny anywhere without asking the CIA first. It has recently invested in quantum computing startups and data-mining companies.

CIA Labs is an attempt to bring more innovation in-house.

Is defecting to the feds ethical?

You might invent some stuff with morally gray uses. The agency’s patent history ranges from lithium ion batteries to controversial warfare tools, like drones.

But given the surveillance power of some tech companies, inventing for Big Tech isn’t always so idyllic, either — and the CIA is hoping that some workers won’t blink.

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