The Central Intelligence Agency is recuriting doctors to treat and care for overseas officers and paid agents at the agency's far-flung outposts around the world.
The CIA will not say why it recruits its own doctors, except to point out that it occasionally conducts "medical evacuations" from remote or threatened regions of the world where people "must be given medical support or flown out for medical treatment."
Informed sources with past ties to the CIA said the agency has long relied on its own doctors in the United States and abroad, partly because it doesn't want its officers and agents drugged, anesthetized or put in compromising medical situations where information can be extracted from them.
Through an advertising agency named Gaynor and Ducas on Madison Avenue in New York, the CIA has placed advertisements for physicians in two of the nation's leading medical journals. One ran April 13 in The New England Journal of Medicine and the other ran April 21 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Both ads employ the same low-key pitch. They simply say: "The Central Intelligence Agency has opportunities for physicians to serve overseas. Positions involve management of health care delivery systems for employes and dependents. Attractive benefits and opportunity for foreign travel. U.S. citizenship required."
The salary offered by the CIA is $33,845 a year. The ads say nothing about age, experience or specialty. Presumably, the CIA is looking only for doctors who've graduated from medical school, completed their internship and passed their state medical boards.
The CIA said it saw nothing unusual in the ads, declaring it had run similar ads in 1975 and 1976. The New England Journal of Medicine said it was the first CIA ad it had received. The Journal of the American Medical Association said it also was its first CIA ad.
The CIA refused to say how many doctors it now employs or how many it is seeking through new advertising.
Former CIA officers said one reason the agency wants its own doctors overseas is to keep an eye on the physical and mental health of its officers and agents. One former officer put it this way: "The agency's people are often under great stress in overseas assignment."
Another former CIA official had a more elaborate explanation. He said in recent years the CIA has reduced the numbers of its officers whose cover is employment in American embassies. Nowadays, cover is often a private U.S. firm or institution, which means agency people no longer have access to U.S. military and embassy doctors serving abroad.