Wag the dog

“Teacher, what did Edgar Hoover wear to work?”

If you worked for the CIA, I’ve always wondered: How in hell do you explain to your kids what you do for a living? Well, these days, you just send ‘em to “The CIA’s Homepage for Kids” — one of the many sites that spooks created after Bill Clinton signed a 1997 law demanding the US’s trench-coat set be more accomodating to the public. In the current issue of Wired, Noah Shachtman reviews the various offerings:

Imagine a world where Teletubbies pack heat and Spongebob goes undercover. That’s apparently what US government designers had in mind when they followed President Clinton’s 1997 order to add child-oriented Web pages to government sites. Today, the results are bizarre - cryptographic coloring books, drug-sniffing dog cartoons, and spy-satellite sing-alongs. Are they giant inside jokes? Coded messages? Only Uncle Sam knows for sure.

Above, that’s Ginger the blue teddy bear visiting CIA headquarters — without a security badge (“Lucky the guard knows me!”)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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