A full-page advertisement in the new issue of Ebony magazine asks: "Wouldn't You Want to Know if U.S. Territory Was Going to be Invaded?"
The campaign appears designed to overcome a traditional mistrust in the black community toward the CIA, which along with the FBI is viewed by some as sort of a secret white police force hostile to blacks.
"There's a lot of misperceptions about us," said CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield.
The color photo shows a black girl skipping rope outside a row house, a black boy perched on a skateboard and a gray-haired woman looking on from the stoop of a well-kept row house in what appears to be a middle-income urban neighborhood.
"The thought of a gang wreaking havoc to your neighborhood is disturbing. Not to mention frightening. Of course you would want to know if you could stop them way ahead of time," the text reads.
"It's the same way for the President when it comes to America's security. And that's why he depends on the country's largest information network--the Central Intelligence Agency."
The ad explains that the CIA is not a law enforcement agency, and that its job is to gather and analyze information for decision-makers.
Below the agency's eagle-head seal appears a new motto: "The CIA: Our Business is Knowing the World's Business." And in very small print, a P.O. box to address queries about career opportunities. Applicants, the smaller letters caution, must pass medical and polygraph tests.
The CIA periodically runs recruitment ads in newspapers and specialized publications. But this is the first time it has turned to a magazine whose readership is predominantly black.
One newspaper ad can generate as many as 2,000 requests for information, Mansfield said.
The outreach to the black community--and similar ads being planned for publications read by Latinos, Asian-Americans and the handicapped--comes as the CIA braces for planned personnel reductions of 15% over the next five to seven years.
The agency is hoping to achieve this cut, mandated by congressional budget cuts in light of a diminished need for spying on the Soviet Union, mostly through attrition and other management tools.
"Our rate of hiring will drop, but we will continue to hire, and our priority is to place minorities in our professional ranks," Mansfield said.
Currently, 9.8% of the CIA work force is black, he said. Of the new personnel hired last year, 21.4% were minorities, he said. The number of agency employees is a secret.
But many of the agency's black employees are merely support staff, said an official familiar with efforts to increase CIA's minority hires.
"A lot of people are automatically turned off by any mention of CIA. They think working there will require them to turn on their brethren somehow," said the official who spoke only on condition of anonymity.
The push to bring in minorities was begun in 1989 by then-Director William H. Webster, in conjunction with the congressional oversight committees of the agency. Under William J. Casey, Webster's predecessor, few efforts were made to recruit minorities, the official said.
Recruiters have been going to job fairs organized by black organizations and to predominantly black high schools and college campuses. The agency also is providing summer internship programs and scholarships for minorities.
The ad was devised by a black-owned New York-based agency, in consultation with some black CIA staffers, Mansfield said. Its primary focus is recruitment, although it's also designed to explain the mission of the CIA, he said.