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OXFORD, MS (Mississippi News Now) -
It's cloak and dagger, a highly secretive world of espionage, spies, and national security. Most of us are not aware of just much work goes into tracking terrorists and threats to this country.
Students are being trained in Mississippi to work as agents and analysts at a special program at the University of Mississippi in Oxford.
Most of us likely think of James Bond or the latest action packed thriller when it comes to the world of spies and international intrigue, the experts know that's only entertainment. The real world of intelligence and national security is far more serious and secretive.
"In the first class we have our entry level class, we have a discussion on why James Bond may have been the world's worst spy. With apologies to Ian Fleming and the series. He's not discreet, he goes in and breaks things, its just.. Flamboyant..He's very flamboyant. Everybody knows who he is, which is exactly the opposite of what you want to have for an intelligence professional", said Dr. Carl Jensen, Director of the Center for Intelligence and Security Studies at Ole Miss.
Dr. Jensen is a former FBI agent.
"The world today, we have massive amounts of information, the real trick is separating the weak from the chaff and that's what we educate our students to do", Dr. Jensen said.
Jensen says there are 45 students in the program, which is a minor, a sort of ROTC program for the intelligence community. Students must apply and be selected.
"These are students that are in some of the hardest majors we have here, like Intensive Chinese, Intensive Arabic, Computer Science, and Engineering, and International Studies", explained Dr. Jensen.
While WLBT was not allowed to interview students who are interested in working in intelligence, Jensen explains some are now serving in the intelligence community with the U.S. government, as legislative aides for Senators and in the military.
"Do you have some who are actually working in intelligence now? We do, for those who are allowed to tell us", Jensen said.
Jessica Chastain's character in Zero Dark 30 works for years on intelligence that leads to Osama Bin Laden. This is not a stretch, according to the Associate Director of Ole Miss' program, Melissa Graves, who is also an attorney.
"If you're looking for an easy minor, obviously we're not the right choice for you", said Graves.
From 9/11 to the Iraq war, Jensen and Graves say analyzing data, looking for the needle in the haystack is critical to national security.
"You think of the lives that would have been saved, think of the dollars that would have been saved", Jensen said.
"You know that in a couple of years these students could be making some really important decisions", Graves added.
Analysts investigate everything from rogue nations, to organized crime, pandemics, even climate change.
"Today the Director of National Intelligence has identified 14 emerging threats and challenges the intelligence community will have to take on", said Jensen.
The next generation of intelligence analysts and yes, spies, may need the skills of James Bond to stay a step ahead of some of the greatest enemies of this country.
Ole Miss was recognized as an Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence last year by the Director of National Intelligence. Since 2008, 18 students have graduated from the program. Ole Miss has also teamed up with Jackson State University to offer opportunities to more students.
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