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Secret CIA cafeteria complaints revealed

"They have the wrong Pepsi tank hooked up to the wrong Pepsi spout."


Fran Berkman


Posted on Jul 14, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 11:20 pm CDT

Even members of one of the world’s most covert spy organizations sometimes make no secret of the fact that they’re unhappy with the office cafeteria.

The investigative journalism group MuckRock, in a series of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, obtained documents revealing occasional dissatisfaction from employees U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) regarding the office food facilities.

Here are some of the tastier excerpts (unedited) from the relatively brief list of complaints:

• “I feel that for example Beef Stroganoff is more American than Russian.”

• “…the pepsi coming out of the regular pepsi spout is diet pepsi. They have the wrong pepsi tank hooked up to the wrong pepsi spout. Yet no one has fixed this problem. Why has this problem not been fixed?”

• “Please put back the individual packets of ketchup, mustard & mayonnaise. The large pump boxes of these items are not convenient to use, causing frustration & are not liked by many people.”

• “Why Doesn’t the BK facility here offer the ‘dollar menu’ as the outside facilities. Why can’t there be nicer food handlers? Attitude every day.”

• “However, when an item is in the title of the Jazz Salad, please make an effort to include this item in the actual salad. Thank you.”

To be fair, not all the comments revealed by MuckRack’s FOIA request were negative in tone.

“Hi – the pre-made salads in the cafeterias are very good, but this new one, Southwestern Chicken Caesar chop salad was EXCELLENT. thanks!,” one satisfied CIA diner wrote.

The series of cafeteria comments probably doesn’t reveal anything substantive about the CIA—it looks more or less like something you might see in any office—but it certainly offers a bit of levity for the group that has been so shrouded in mystery over the years.

The documents had been sitting seemingly undiscovered in MuckRock’s archive until Ben Emmel, an assistant at the University of Wisconsin’s DesignLab, tweeted about them late last week. 

Just found my favorite @MuckRock request: @CIA cafeteria complaints.

— Ben Emmel (@tenuto) July 12, 2014

The tweet prompted MuckRock to highlight not only the documents it received from the CIA in March 2011 but also a follow-up request for more cafeteria complaints that it received in 2013. 

You can view the complete sets of CIA cafeteria complaints here. For more FOIA funnies, MuckRock also got its hands on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s dictionary of Twitter slang and 2,364 formal complaints to the Federal Trade Commission from people who had gone on subpar dates arranged through websites such as, eHarmony, and OKCupid.

Photo by Phillips Academy Archives and Special Collections/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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*First Published: Jul 14, 2014, 1:44 pm CDT