The Secret Service is hiring jocks out of LSU.
One of these days, perhaps, some Middle Eastern terrorist will get taken out by a burly agent who honed his tackling technique in Tiger Stadium.
Right, the latest idea in cybersecurity is combining brains and brawn.
While mens sana in corpore sano is not exactly a new idea — apparently it's been around since everyone spoke Latin — Baton Rouge has given it a new twist.
The special agent in charge of the Secret Service's New Orleans field office is Leslie Pichon, who happens to be an LSU alumna herself. She explains that cyberspace is “where crime is going” these days and “recruiting athletes is the perfect pipeline for talent” in that sphere since “we're huge on team mentality, discipline and physical fitness.”
Technical skills are naturally at a premium in the age of high tech.
While the balance between mind and muscle remains crucial, it may be that the emphasis has shifted lately in a bookish direction. The balance certainly appears to have shifted somewhat at LSU's Special Agent Talent and Recruitment program, where budding sleuths go to learn the ropes.
LSU does indeed appear to be relaxing the physical standards for student athletes, Elsa Hahne, its Strategic Research Communications Director notes. The university seems “willing to broaden the net,” she says. “Everyone doesn't have to be able to run a marathon.”
Still, the Secret Service is not about to employ any nerds. The ideal agent is one who can crack a complex cybercrime in the morning and bravely preserve unpopular diplomats from harm in the afternoon, according to Professor Golden Richard, LSU's cybersecurity guru. Thus the hunt is on for students with the “physical and technical skills” that will qualify them for the dual role.
Meanwhile, it's a brave new world for everyone, including the criminal fraternity. In more primitive times, the Secret Service was on the look-out for counterfeit machines churning out $20 bills, Richard says. Now the crooks are “defrauding people out of credit card charges and, on top of that, cryptocurrency stuff.”
To deal with this new breed of crook, we have not so much a new breed of investigator as an ancient paragon redux, the scholar/athlete that American universities were traditionally supposed to nurture.
Like all paragons, this character has been largely a myth, for the American habit of giving jocks a free pass to the groves of academe never did make much sense. James Thurber made that clear in his famous account of a lunkhead Ohio State football player's vain attempts to keep up in economics class. Other countries see no reason to pretend that their college graduates are all well-rounded; while we'd all like to be both smart and athletic, one or the other is clearly better than neither.
Even given our ambitious pursuit of a physical and intellectual balance in our college graduates, it is a revolutionary step for fresh-faced young intellectuals to hook up with the federal government's worldly champions of law and order. As LSU president William F. Tate IV put it in a statement, “From the day the Secret Service joined us last year on the stage to announce our intent to become a leader in cybersecurity, they have been committed to breaking the mold and showing the world what an agency and university can achieve by working together.”
So much for the secret bit.
Email James Gill at firstname.lastname@example.org.