Even Fictional Security Organizations Should Vet New Hires

Paul Hair

It’s a good idea to vet someone before you make him part of your clandestine security organization, give him access to secrets, and allow him the ability to inflict damage on you and everyone else. But you wouldn’t necessarily know this if you watch a particularly TV series currently on the air. So I thought I’d provide a few basic steps real-life organizations take when checking to see if they want to add someone to their ranks.

Movies and television series are fiction, so there is always some level of unreality that is acceptable in them. And that level varies from project-to-project. But, with the exception of extreme comedies and satires, there needs to be some verisimilitude in them or they start taking the audience out of the story. (The same holds true for written stories.)

So here is what the aforementioned television series with the international security organization should do when considering bringing someone into its ranks.

First, if the organization arrests someone who is part of an anarchist cyber group, it should hand him over to the legal system for prosecution. It should NOT make him an integral part of its ranks. That makes no sense. Regrettably, the said TV security organization did just that with one of the main characters—and it did so under the justification that the boss “had a good feeling” about the criminal or for some other irrational reason.

(Alternatively, if, the producers were set on making the cybercriminal a part of the security organization for dramatic purposes, they could’ve executed the decision in a reasonable way. For instance, the producers could have brought the cyber anarchist on board—but under strict oversight and with no one liking or trusting him. That would’ve provided the conflict the producers desired but done so with an added sense of reality.)

Secondly, regardless of who you are considering bringing into your fictional security organization, do a background check on him. I’m not saying you have to show the long, boring process of listing people who know him, where he worked during the past 10-15 years, what his debt situation is, or whether he was ever part of a nefarious organization, but at least mention in your story you’re taking this step. And who knows? Maybe you can even use this process to add depth and intrigue for your story.

For instance, as the plot progresses, have a counterintelligence special agent report to one of the main characters about the background check of a prospective new hire. And have him say something like, “There were no issues until we got to the part where he mentioned that he had supported the Communist Party. Do we really want to hire a guy who backed the most murderous ideology in history?”

There are other steps a security organization would want to take before bringing people in from the street. But these two steps are a good start.

Obviously checking someone’s background doesn’t guarantee that person won’t betray your organization. Such stuff happens in real life. And it can happen in your plot. But adding a hint of reality makes for a better story.

So don’t just rely on your characters liking the cut of a person’s jib before making him a part of your fictional security organization. Have them vet him very carefully before the organization makes that decision.