WASHINGTON -- For curious children with active imaginations and a love for cloak-and-dagger, the Central Intelligence Agency has a new Internet site where they can play spy for their country.
Greeted by smiling virtual agents, one in an obligatory trenchcoat, the website uses animated characters such as a winking golden eagle and Bogart, the bomb-sniffing canine cop, to provide basic explanations of what the agency does.
The site opened last month after President Clinton urged all federal agencies to find ways to encourage children to use computers and explore the Internet, said CIA spokesman Bill Harlow.
"We thought a kids page for the CIA would be a good way of fulfilling that requirement, as well as encourage kids to learn more about geography and history and about what we do," Harlow said.
The website also helps put human faces on mysterious agents.
"For people who work for the agency, it gives them another tool to explain to kids what we do -- something useful to help their kids understand the role of intelligence," Harlow said.
In addition to Bogart and his buddies doing virtual dog tricks on the "CIA canine corps" page, the "ciakids" site also includes geography quizzes, a world factbook and an interactive disguise game that lets users dress up agents. The site also provides links to other federal agencies, including the FBI.
"When people think of the CIA, they think of people lurking around in trenchcoats, sending messages in code, and using cool tools to do their job," according to the site's mission page. "Well, to some extent that's true, but it's not the whole story. The Central Intelligence Agency's job is to help the president, the National Security Council and all other government officials who make and carry out U.S. national security policy."
Children also can learn about what qualities are needed to be an agent.
"If you worked in the Directorate of Operations, you would like to travel and have a great curiosity about the world and its different cultures," reads one section. "You would like to work with people from all over the world, be able to adapt to any situation (especially dangerous ones!) be well educated, know other languages, be good at working with lots of different kinds of people and be courageous, well disciplined and able to accept anonymity."
Harlow assured, however, that the site "is not aimed in any way at recruiting anybody."
The web site can be found at: www.odci.govciaciakids