Will my army deployment make me ineligible for Peace Corps?
January 10, 2006 2:50 PM   Subscribe

Does my involvement in information-gathering activities make me ineligible for Peace Corps?

I was in the Army from 1997 to 2001. I was operationally deployed during the spring/summer of 2000. During my deployment, my unit engaged in information/intelligence-gathering activities. In fact, my unit was involved in two separate programs; one involved the CIA, one did not. I was involved in the program that did not involve the CIA, and never actively collected information. Rather, I edited situation reports sent to our headquarters from teams in the field. Does my involvement in this program, or the fact that my unit (but again, not me personally) had contact with the CIA make me ineligible for Peace Corps? If so, for how long? I've read the Peace Corps form relating to this topic, but it looks like there's some gray area. Anyone else with a similar military background applied to Peace Corps?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (13 answers total)
This is going to sound dumb, but why dont you call and ask them anonymously?
posted by merlin17 at 3:23 PM on January 10, 2006

Anecdotally, it sounds like it might make you just right for the Peace Corps. When I was spending time with my PC pal in Guatemala, one of the things he had to do was regularly file reports not only on how his project was going, but also a lot of detail about the region that he lived in, who the power brokers were, who hung out with whom, who was helpful and who was hostile, that sort of thing. That said, their form specifically outlines that it's the detemination of Peace Corps Counsel who make the final decision and you won't know without runnning it by them.
posted by jessamyn at 3:47 PM on January 10, 2006

I cannot elaborate on this, but I can speak from experience:

You have no chance of being accepted into the Peace Corps.

posted by barnacles at 4:07 PM on January 10, 2006

My understanding has always been that the Peace Corps wants to stay far away from any links to the CIA (for fear of being tainted and thus unwelcome in the more paranoid nations) . My brief flirtation with becoming a volunteer led me to believe, as barnacles does, that a CIA or otherwise-sneaky-government background would disqualify you.

But yeah, call and ask. They may have room for you in less-sensitive places.
posted by jaysus chris at 6:47 PM on January 10, 2006

Yeah, as a former volunteer I'd lean toward what barnacles said. The thing is that they might now outright reject you, but rather they just won't place you, or they won't find a position/region you really want. I really think that very few folks are outright rejected from the application process, but rather they convince you to deselect yourself by jerking you around.

Seriously, though, there's an argument to be made that Peace Corps has a very little amount of credibility in a lot of countries--and the accusation of working for the CIA is frequently thrown around. Therefore, at some level they need to keep themselves very separate from counter-intelligence activities. And, Jessamyn, in my country in Africa I was never asked to provide that type of information about my community.
posted by handful of rain at 6:51 PM on January 10, 2006

Barnacles is right. (Supporting evidence: here and here in Peace Corps webchats with recruiters.) Furthermore, ops are forbidden from using Peace Corps as a cover because of the sanctity of the program by its enabling legislation (no matter its reputation in some areas) - I wish I could find a primary source, but reading Kessler has always been highly recommended.

But don't get too down - Americorps can use you here. Go down to Appalachia, the Mississippi delta, the Gulf, or New Mexico. We need help from good people in lots of places.
posted by sachinag at 7:33 PM on January 10, 2006

From sachinag's first link:

Chuck430 - So what are some of the reason why an applicant maybe rejected?

(PC Rep) - not american citizen, doen't have a skill set that matches the request from the field, questionable professionalism, certain affiliations with intelligence- CIA, or arrests and convictions, maybe even a medical non disclosure.

I think you should just ask. It might not be a deal breaker.
posted by jaysus chris at 7:59 PM on January 10, 2006

I was involved in the program that did not involve the CIA, and never actively collected information. Rather, I edited situation reports sent to our headquarters from teams in the field.

Anonymous, you need to go through the application process and/or talk with the Peace Corps about your specific situation, because it looks like there's plenty of loophole to jump through here if they want you badly enough and they're sending you someplace more along the Marshall Islands than, for instance, one of the former-Soviet'Stans. In a non-paranoid locale, you could quite fairly be marketed as a glorified former editor/proofreader.
posted by availablelight at 8:43 PM on January 10, 2006

["along the" = "along the lines of"]
posted by availablelight at 8:45 PM on January 10, 2006

I just realized that barnacles paid the five bucks to post his/her response. (posting history) But, hey, a call wouldn't kill you. But as I'm sure you're aware, do it from a pay phone.
posted by sachinag at 8:51 PM on January 10, 2006

This is a hot topic, apparently, due to the National Call to Service law expanding military->Peace Corps recruitment. Several sources indicate that the CIA-won't-infiltrate rule stems from a personal promise that Kennedy made to his brother-in-law Sargent Shriver, and is probably enshrined in agency regulations, rather than the US Code (I looked). Thus you'll have to find out yourself what the limitations are, I'm afraid.
posted by dhartung at 11:09 PM on January 10, 2006

sachinag, you're right. I have a bit of a history along these lines and wanted to maybe help someone in a similar situation.

And handful of rain, I can attest that outright rejection might just be in the cards, but if it's going to happen to anonymous, I hope he pushes the PC to tell him upfront, rather than listening to recruiters who tell him "Oh, it'll probably be nothing. Don't worry about it!", going 90% of the way through the application/interview process, and getting rejected at pretty much the last step before being shipped out for staging.
posted by barnacles at 11:47 PM on January 10, 2006

I would think that a major factor is what your MOS was while in the Army, in addition to your unit of assignment and nature of the activity while deployed. It sounds like you were basically doing administrative/office duties in support of active collectors (editing and forwarding reports to the next higher echelon)... if you were a glorified 71L/42L proofreading papers, it's more "innocent" than doing the same duties while holding an intelligence MOS. (For example, even being a 97B counterintelligence agent like myself is an automatic disqualifier for Peace Corps, even if I had spent my entire tour stateside doing PMCS in the motor pool, LOL.) I'd echo the recommendations above and say that if you think you have a shot, contact the Peace Corps and explain your situation, the worst they can do is say sorry, we can't accept you. :(
posted by SenshiNeko at 3:56 AM on January 11, 2006

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