Intelligence and Counterintelligence

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Intelligence and Counterintelligence

John Prados

Observers over the years have provided many definitions for the term "intelligence." Many of these definitions are burdensome, or technical, or drawn directly from the term of art. Intelligence is simply information, gathered however necessary and arranged in such fashion as to be of use to those who require it. In foreign policy (and national defense) intelligence guides the hands of policymakers and helps them conduct relations wisely. (However, there are aspects of intelligence that can be obstacles to wise policy.) Foreign policy without intelligence can succeed, but at greater cost and difficulty than well-informed initiatives. In American foreign policy, at least since the end of World War II, there has been a conscious effort to harness intelligence in service of national goals.


Careful selection, integration, and analysis distinguish intelligence from other information. In the United Sates, where practitioners have made a greater effort than in most other nations to develop a conscious theory of intelligence, the terms "intelligence cycle" and "intelligence process" now denote the procedure by which information is brought to the support of policymakers. Because in the theory the word "process" is also used as a verbto mean the act of taking information and converting it into useful intelligencethis essay will use the term "intelligence cycle."

The intelligence cycle consists of a number of sequential stages, beginning with realization of what is unknown or uncertain. Officials can ask to find out about those subjects, or intelligence officers themselves may point out a gap in information, actions that lead to an order to collect data on that topic, known as an "intelligence requirement." Some kinds of information can come only from particular sources, so the capability to gather data from a particular source may be limited, or indeed there may be several ways to get at a piece of knowledge. This means that how to meet an intelligence requirement is a matter of choice, another stage of the cycle. The act of choosing how to gather given intelligence is known as "collection tasking." What many people think of as the totality of intelligencethe act of actually securing the datais a stage of the cycle called "collection."

In principle, in developing any kind of fact-based knowledge, collection must necessarily be by source, while appreciation is by subject. Many facts from a variety of sources may bear on a given subject. Different sources might be a photograph, a radio intercept, a newspaper article, a report from a spy, a diplomatic exchange, a scholarly paper, a radio broadcast, or the like. A given source may supply information on more than one subject, and subjects can be as diverse as a nation's military power, its economic position, or the health of a leader. Therefore, an act of transformation must occur in the cycle; this is termed "processing." The American conception is that "raw" information data is processed to become "finished intelligence." Occasionally, raw dispatches are given to policymakers, but most often they benefit from the skills of professionals who analyze the data to compile finished intelligence reports. This analysis is a further stage of the intelligence cycle, and the act of printing or otherwise creating the finished report, called "production," is another. Of course, the report is useless unless it actually reaches the policymaker who needs it; circulation of finished intelligence constitutes a stage of the cycle called "dissemination." Users of the data can then supply feedback on what they liked or did not like, or what they still want to know or find out, thereby completing the cycle by generating new intelligence requirements. Obviously, this is an oversimplified account of a series of repeated and interrelated steps that may impact on each other as well as on the finished intelligence report, but it does supply a basic picture of how intelligence is derived.

To make this picture more concrete, consider the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. In that event of Cold War history, the United States was gravely concerned over Russian military aid to Cuba. President John F. Kennedy publicly warned the Soviet Union not to supply Cuba with certain types of weapons. That created a collection requirement for U.S. intelligence to verify that the specified categories of weapons were not in Cuba. Russian cargoes arrived in Cuba by ship, and the United States had a number of spies in Cuba, as well as reports from Cuban refugees arriving in the United States. In addition, the United States had access to diplomatic and intelligence reporting from allied nations, primarily the United Kingdom and France. U.S. intelligence also had its own diplomatic and intelligence reporting from Eastern European countries and direct from the Soviet Union. These sources enabled U.S. intelligence to see that Soviet shipments were arriving in Cuba in great numbers.

The Central Intelligence Agency, one of the primary entities in the American effort, responded with a program of aircraft reconnaissance over Cuba, using U-2 spy planes to photograph suspicious targets. One U-2 flight brought back pictures that caused the CIA director to suspect the Russians of deploying weapons (antiaircraft missiles) in such fashion as to deny a reconnaissance capability over Cuba, an action he believed was intended to enable the quiet placing of Soviet offensive weapons (the kind Kennedy had warned against) in Cuba. A few weeks later, several refugee and agent reports indicated a possibility that offensive missiles were being deployed at certain locations in Cuba. Previous intelligence reports by the CIA and the U.S. intelligence community, called national intelligence estimates (NIEs), had found no offensive weapons in Cuba, but additional U-2 flights were eventually scheduled, and one of them checked the suspect areas identified by agents. That flight discovered Soviet missiles on 14 October 1962, leading President Kennedy to decide on a quarantine (blockade) of Cuba and other diplomatic actions. Maritime intelligence subsequently kept close track of the progress of Soviet ships steaming toward Cuba, aerial intelligence monitored the cargoes aboard the ships and the progress of the missile sites in Cuba, and intelligence reports thereafter kept Kennedy closely informed.


Almost every kind of information can be relevant to intelligence, as becomes evident by reviewing the variety of intelligence outputs. Diplomacy requires information on the private opinions, negotiating positions, and political factors impinging upon actors with whom foreign relations are being conducted. This political intelligence may need to be supplemented by economic intelligence, which covers such areas as resources, national economic organization and strength, labor skills, industrial processes, long-term growth trends, foreign trade, balance of payments, and other information. Military intelligence is of key import and ranges beyond simple counting of numbers of men, ships, and planes. Naval and air intelligence may consider necessary information different from that needed by ground force experts. All will want material on foreign forces, but also predictions on how those forces may change in the future, and on the quality and flexibility of their support systems, weapons technology, trained manpower, planning processes, and the like. Filling in those blanks, in turn, requires more recourse to economic intelligence, as well as scientific and technical intelligence. The latter attempts to judge the capabilities of weapons by reference to data regarding scientific achievement, industrial base, research and development programs, general levels of technological sophistication, and other information.

Judgments in any of the particular intelligence fields may be influenced by additional kinds of information. These include biographical intelligence on the individuals who may be key actors in policies or programs in which intelligence may be interested. In addition, there is basic intelligence, which is a compendium of social, demographic, geographic, economic, and other data about societies of interest to the analyst.

There is also intelligence that is primarily about the adversary's own intelligence organizations and activities. A foreign nation, even a friendly country, may be of interest for the intelligence operations it conducts, the results achieved with a given style of organization, the threat it poses, some opportunity offered, some specific activity parallel to or interfering with friendly activities, or for many other reasons. In addition, separate intelligence requirements, collection, and analysis may be conducted for the precise purpose of carrying out an operation against a foreign intelligence service, most commonly in espionage or in attempts to recruit an agent.

The above represents a wide panoply of information that can be relevant, truly a world of secrets. The concept that so much raw information is required is a relatively recent development. In the United States, with arguably the most sophisticated approach to intelligence, the practice of closely meshing and piecing together huge arrays of information of many different kinds to derive knowledge on a single discrete question dates from only about World War II (19391945). At that time, benefiting from British (and other) experience, and building on a foundation of code breaking, the United States fashioned methods that relied upon several pillars of intelligence, representing different kinds of collection techniques. In the Cold War period and after, those techniques were successively improved and integrated, in a process that continues today. In contrast, prior to World War II, intelligence reporting remained episodic, focused on a single (or a few) sources, and did not explicitly aim at information for policymakers, except where given reports seemed to demand it.

A good example of crosscutting influences and the impact of different kinds of intelligence reporting is the history of U.S. intelligence on Soviet nuclear missile programs. In the period immediately after World War II, scientific, economic, and biographical data, along with intelligence sharing with British allies, enabled the United States to discover that the Soviet Union was pursuing creation of an atomic bomb. Predictions by U.S. military intelligence and the nascent CIA were not accurate on when the Soviets would acquire nuclear weapons, in part due to Soviet espionage, which reduced the technical uncertainties associated with the Soviet program. On the other hand, U.S. scientific intelligence in the form of atomic test monitoring aircraft provided instant knowledge that a nuclear test had been carried out in August 1949.

Predicting the rate at which the Soviets might manufacture nuclear weapons; their ability to deliver such weapons against the United States, either by bomber aircraft or by ballistic missiles; and the attendant production rates for those weapons became priority issues for U.S. intelligence. These concerns drove intelligence tasking and even technological research and development programs (especially those for the U-2 and SR-71 aircraft and the CORONA/Discoverer KH-4 photographic reconnaissance satellite) through the 1950s and even into the 1960s. The CIA sought to recruit agents for information in these same areas, and defectors leaving Russia, along with German scientists returning from working in Russia, were interrogated for their knowledge. Estimates of Soviet factory floor space, fissile materials availability, and other items were compiled from the intelligence and used to predict the size of the Soviet bomb and the delivery vehicle inventory.

In intelligence estimates between 1955 and 1960, the CIA successively overestimated Soviet bomber and missile forces. These estimates led to decisions by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to build up U.S. bomber and missile forces to very high levels, in fact levels that arguably led Soviet leaders in the 1960s to create land-and submarine-based missile forces far greater than required for basic security. Meanwhile, Eisenhower's confidence in his intelligence also led him to offer, at the Geneva Summit of 1955, an "Open Skies" plan for mutual verification of nuclear forces and confidence building, which Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev rejected. In a negative impact of intelligence, in 1960 another Eisenhower-Khrushchev summit scheduled for Paris was aborted as a consequence of the shooting down of an American U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union on 1 May 1960.

The planes and satellites provided U.S. intelligence with unprecedented information-gathering abilities. They served as platforms for high-resolution cameras to take pictures or for sensitive radio and electronic recording equipment to monitor radio communications or electronic emissions of all kinds. Even though Eisenhower prohibited further overflights of the Soviet Union after the U-2 was shot down, satellite capabilities soon replaced and outshone those of the aircraft. In this period, as John F. Kennedy took office as president in January 1961, the United States also enjoyed excellent data from a Russian agent, Colonel Oleg Penkovsky, an officer of the Soviet military intelligence with access to much highly secret information of interest to the CIA.

During the 1960s the arms race between U.S. and Russian missile forces continued to be the focus of the secret world of intelligence. This arms race was punctuated by the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. It was not until after the crisis that the Russians had a dependable ballistic missile capable of mass deployment in a protected mode. The Soviet Union began to build these missiles at an increasing rate. President Kennedy, who had discovered that the gap in missile strength actually favored the United States, relied upon this intelligence in canceling further U.S. production, capping the land-based missile forces at 1,052. The Soviets continued to deploy until they reached the figure of 1,512 in the early 1970s.

Predicting how quickly the Russians would increase their missile force, at what level they might curtail deployment, and whether they would also field novel technologies such as ballistic missile defenses or multiple independently targetable warheads became the key intelligence issues of the 1960s. The CIA and other agencies, even with the considerable intelligence gathered by their machine spies, underestimated the numbers of Soviet missiles in the long term (that is, beyond those under construction, which could be directly observed by reconnaissance satellites). On the other hand, the intelligence estimates did much better on predicting when the Russians would acquire new technologies. However, the estimates seem to have been less influential in the major weapons decisions made by the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson, who initiated multiple warhead programs for both land-based (Minuteman III) and sea-based (Poseidon) missiles, as well as development of an advanced manned strategic aircraft (eventually the B-1 bomber).

Growth in Soviet strategic forces moved the United States to seek arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union. The Johnson administration concluded a nonproliferation treaty and other agreements prohibiting nuclear weapons on the seabed or in outer space. Johnson also attempted to open talks on strategic nuclear weapons, but the effort was canceled in August 1968, when the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia. The administration of Richard M. Nixon followed up and actually began Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) in mid-1969, culminating in the SALT I agreement, signed on 26 May 1972. The course of those negotiations was influenced by diplomatic intelligence the United States picked up from Russian officialsin particular a technical collection program code-named "Gamma Guppy," in which the United States intercepted radiotelephone conversations among Russian leaders, as well as information gleaned directly from Russian negotiators. The intelligence estimates also gave the Nixon administration confidence that its negotiations covered relevant issues and that it had a handle on what Soviet strength would be under various possible outcomes. After the SALT I agreement, intelligence verified compliance, tracked technological developments, and assisted follow-up negotiations for SALT II and the two Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties (START I and START II), plus the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Various intelligence disputes occurred in the 1970s and 1980s that affected these negotiations and U.S.Soviet bilateral relations, but the essential point is that many types of intelligence reporting were relevant and that the intelligence had crosscutting influence.


In the U.S. system there are various documents that reflect intelligence appreciations, each with different standing. With knowledge of the generic type of an analysis, the observer can better understand the importance of intelligence.

National Intelligence Estimates The national intelligence estimates (NIEs) represent the highest category of intelligence document (or "product"). The director of central intelligence (DCI), the official who heads the entire American intelligence community, is responsible for the NIEs. He is advised in this by the National Foreign Intelligence Board, a committee on which sits the head of each U.S. agency in this field. The NIEs are drafted by a subordinate unit on the basis of "contributions" from the member agencies. Since 1973 the drafts have been written by area specialists known as national intelligence officers, who collectively constitute the National Intelligence Council. Before 1973 the drafters were generalists in an office subordinate to the Board of National Estimates. Some DCIs (including all since 1973) have had the council/board within their own office; a few earlier intelligence leaders subordinated the board to the CIA's Directorate for Intelligence. Either way, the director has always had the power to require that specific language (and therefore particular substantive judgments) be included in an NIE. There is also a procedure whereby agencies belonging to the National Foreign Intelligence Board can take exception to a conclusion in the NIE, usually expressed as a footnote to the main text. (At times these dissents have appeared as footnotes or as appendices to a paper or have been written in the main text, depending on the preferences of the director, but the colloquialism for a dissent in an NIE remains to "take a footnote.") A change in intelligence appreciations that occurs after an NIE has been issued is reflected in a paper known as a "memorandum to holders" of the NIE. A more important change can require a fresh estimate. Presidents, national security advisers, and top officials have varied in the amount of attention they pay to NIEs. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson accorded them great importance; Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush paid little heed; others have been somewhere in the middle. Perhaps the main significance of NIEs has been politicalthese documents represent the considered opinion of the U.S. intelligence community; their substance can be expected to leak if presidents take actions contrary to them, embarrassing the senior policymakers. The NIEs also have a more formal role in weapons system acquisition decisions and military budget planning that should not be ignored.

Special National Intelligence Estimates Like the NIEs, special national intelligence estimates (SNIEs) are created by the interagency process of drafting and review. Their scope and content differ, however. The NIEs tend to be long-term studies of large subjects, for example, the NIE 11/3-8 series, which were five-year predictions for the evolution of Soviet nuclear forces. The SNIE is an analysis of the near-term impact of a specific course of action. For example, in July 1965, when the United States intervened in South Vietnam with massive ground forces, SNIE 10-9-65 analyzed foreign reactions to the new deployment. Similarly, in July 1961, when the United States considered military intervention in Laos, SNIE 58-2-61 predicted probable reactions to this and several other possible courses of action. The national estimates tend to be produced following set schedules, and the SNIEs most often at the request of the president or other senior officials. Partly for this reason the SNIEs can garner more attention than the NIEs.

President's Daily Brief President Harry S. Truman was the first chief executive to demand daily intelligence on key subjects. Since then every president has gotten this kind of reporting, though the form has varied. For Eisenhower, the reports went to his staff secretary, Colonel (later General) Andrew J. Goodpaster, who created summaries he related to the president. John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson were provided a president's intelligence checklist, and the president's daily brief (PDB) nomenclature was in use by 1968. During the Clinton administration a vice president's supplement has been added to reflect that official's special concerns. The PDB is an example of "current," as opposed to estimative (predictive), intelligence. Because it reflects immediate events and concerns, the PDB tends to get the most attention. For example, Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to President George H. W. Bush, related that Bush devoured the PDBs but had little time for the NIEs.

Other Current Intelligence Publications In the United States, intelligence has long supported the government with daily, weekly, or other periodic reports containing the latest data. These range from daily briefings for directors (the CIA takes care of the DCI; the Defense Intelligence Agency, of the secretary of defense; and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, of the State Department), to newspaper equivalents to digests of communications intercepts or photo imagery. The Central Intelligence Bulletin, published since the 1950s, and the National Intelligence Daily, started in the 1970s, are classic examples of the genre. At the turn of the millennium, excluding the PDB, intelligence published about ten different dailies containing current intelligence items and at least as many weeklies or monthlies, including such titles as Terrorism Review, Narcotics Monitor, Organized Crime Report, Illicit Finance Review, Proliferation Digest, and Arms Trade Report. Burgeoning U.S. interest in global trade is reflected in the daily (five times a week) started under the Clinton administration, Economic Executives' Intelligence Brief. In general, the current intelligence field is characterized by increasing specialization, which follows from explosive growth in interagency centers focused on single issues or sets of issues.

A further initiative of the 1990s, a product of the computer age, is a distributed information network connecting intelligence analysts and policymakers. Originally called Intelink, this system gives users immediate access to current data on subjects of interest. The system also permits officials to rise above the simple database and contact analysts directly for the most current knowledge. This kind of distributed network has the potential to change the way current intelligence is disseminated, modifying the intelligence cycle by reducing the importance of publication of reports as part of intelligence production.

One more type of intelligence product from specialized intelligence agencies or staffs also bears mention. The National Security Agency produces a paper, The SIGINT Digest, which describes daily developments, the knowledge of which is derived from signals intelligence. Similarly, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency produces World Imagery Report, which serves the same function, although it is produced in the format of a television news broadcast. In terms of format, the television news approach for delivery of intelligence information has gained in popularity in recent years, and the Defense Intelligence Agency and Central Intelligence Agency both now create some film-type reports.

Warning Intelligence A significant type of intelligence, usually ignored because of its similarity to current intelligence, is data intended to warn policymakers of sudden major developments, such as the outbreak of wars, military coups, or comparable crises. The director of central intelligence employs a national intelligence officer (NIO) for warning who is specifically responsible for this function. The NIO is backed by an interagency committee of second-tier officials from the intelligence community that meets weekly. Both the committee as a group and the NIO have the authority to issue warning memoranda that activate crisis management efforts by the U.S. government. The warning committee also maintains a checklist of potential hot spots and troublesome situations anticipated in the next half-year or so. The committee reports twice a month on the countries and issues carried on the list. An example of warning occurred in the Gulf War of 19901991, when the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990 included a military buildup along the Kuwaiti border that caught the attention of the NIO and led him to issue a warning memorandum some hours before the invasion began.

Basic Intelligence Much analytical work builds upon data maintained and updated on a constant basis. Economic statistics; biographies of foreign leaders and officials, not to say adversary intelligence officers; and information on nations' populations, political parties, transportation infrastructures, and the like are all necessary from time to time. The intelligence agencies all utilize research libraries and have units that produce such basic intelligence. At the CIA the Office of Support Services (formerly the Central Reference Service) performs this task. Its best-known publication is called The World Factbook, though it also produces monthly statistical collections and biographical registers.


With outputs of so many different kinds, it is clear that information requirements must necessarily be massive. Intelligence has long since ceased to be a game of spy versus spy and has become a field in which almost every imaginable source is plumbed for its contribution to the whole. Alongside the secret agents are ranged what former CIA director Richard Helms called in a 1967 speech the "machine spies." The raw information is massaged by analysts and value is added to it by careful comparison, review, and fitting together what are, in effect, jigsaw puzzles. Intelligence authorities are loath to discuss these "sources and methods," but the outlines of the process are readily apparent and an understanding of this process is important to according intelligence its correct place in American foreign policy.

Until the early nineteenth century, spies remained virtually the only source of intelligence, while intelligence organizations were most notable by their absence. Both organizations and technical means of intelligence collection began to enter the field about the time of the American Civil War. Scientific inventions drove these changes as the twentieth century opened, World War I demonstrated a continuing need for intelligence, and World War II provided a huge impetus for all kinds of intelligence collection methods. The coherent theory of intelligence discussed in this essay also began to come into focus with World War II. The sophistication of all techniques has improved constantly since then, and the Cold War served to spotlight evolving methods. Intelligence is now characterized by a synergistic dynamic in which information requirements drive technological improvements, while scientific talent solves collection problems, thus making new information important and creating fresh requirements.

Agents Spying has been characterized as "the second oldest profession," in the sense that its attempts to divine an adversary's intentions and capabilities are recorded throughout history. Agents remained important even in the era of the machine spy, for some kinds of information cannot be gathered by technical collection means. In the postCold War era, with an intelligence focus dominated by terrorism, drug trafficking, international criminal activity, and concerns regarding the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, much of the key thinking and decision making of adversaries took place in a manner more accessible to the spy than to the machine. As cost became a factor as well, it was evident that in many cases spies were cheaper than machines, even with the extensive networks of the CIA and other agencies for the care and feeding of spies. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, spies were the province of the CIA's Directorate of Operations and the Defense Human Intelligence Service of the Defense Intelligence Agency. There were continuing conflicts, to some degree inherent in the nature of this kind of activity, between employment of spies to gather intelligence and their role in covert action, political action, or other fields. In addition, there were difficulties from a human rights perspective, because individuals recruited as agents frequently had checkered pasts. Only in the 1990s did the United States establish standards for personal character in individuals recruited as agents, and these were sometimes honored more in the breach than in the observance. Spies remained a necessary evil.

Individuals to be recruited were often identified by a third party and sometimes solicited by them as well. All aspects of the agent's relationship with intelligence were handled by a case officer, a CIA (or other agency) person who was not himself or herself the spy. The case officer typically reported to the CIA station in the country in which the espionage took place, though in exceptional cases a relationship might have run directly to headquarters. Material from agents was rewritten by "reports officers" before being circulated to analysts who used it to compile finished intelligence of the kinds noted already. Some policymakers, for example national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski during the Carter administration, insisted upon being shown the raw agent reports.

Attachés The diplomatic service assigns individuals to posts in foreign capitals as commercial, economic, and cultural attachés. These posts are often used by the CIA and other agencies to provide a cover occupation for intelligence officers overseas. More important, the military services openly send officers to foreign countries as attachés. These officers provide a channel of communication between the U.S. military and foreign services, provide occasional diplomatic assistance, and more or less openly gather intelligence. The practice of sending military attachés in general dates from the late eighteenth century and was adopted as a standard by Napoleonic France (17991815). In the United States, the army colonel Emory Upton conducted a two-year research visit to Europe and Asia in the 1870s and demonstrated the value of military officers gathering information abroad.

The U.S. Navy also conducted such roving visits beginning in 1870. Naval attachés (the Marine Corps shares in naval attaché assignments) have been permanently stationed in foreign nations since 1882, army attachés since 1889, and air force attachés (first as part of the Army Air Corps) since the 1930s. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) administers the attaché program, using officers seconded from all the armed services. Reports go to DIA, where they are used in publications and circulated to other intelligence agencies. Attachés can provide considerable amounts of information, even from closed societies. For example, in 1954 an air attaché in Moscow furnished the initial intelligence on a Soviet heavy jet bomber. Similarly, U.S. naval attachés in Japan before World War II reported on Japanese technological improvements, including early data on oxygen-powered torpedoes, the highly capable Zero fighter, the large-caliber guns of the Yamato-class superbattleships, and other matters. Military attachés in Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) during that same period sent home valuable material on Soviet military doctrine and organization.

Combat Intelligence Often ignored, combat intelligence is acquired by military forces in the course of their activities, and not only in wartime. A wide variety of intelligence can be encompassed by this category, which includes things learned by scout patrols sent out by ground forces, data from interrogation of prisoners (and defectors), lucky finds by forces in the field, and observations made during normal operations. Information from defectors proved a fruitful source during the Cold War, and would merit its own category except that interrogation of prisonersthe same functionfits more naturally into this category.

A few examples illustrate this category nicely. Union armies in the Civil War made a lucky find in September 1862 when a copy of General Robert E. Lee's orders to his Army of Northern Virginia was discovered wrapped around some cigars shortly before the Battle of Antietam. In World War II, German prisoners taken before the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944) revealed details of preparations for an attack that were not taken seriously, leading to surprise of U.S. troops along the front. Beginning in March 1978, in the course of normal operations, the submarine USS Batfish detected and followed a Soviet Yankee-class ballistic missile submarine for some seventy-seven days, thereby gaining key information about the practices and habits of these Soviet strategic forces. In 1983 information from the Russian intelligence officer and defector Oleg Gordievsky proved critical in interpreting a series of Soviet moves indicating they believed nuclear war might be at hand. The case of the war scare of 1983 also shows directly how this kind of intelligence can be reflected in analytical reports, since Gordievsky's information was incorporated in a special NIE done in early 1984.

Scientific Intelligence Scientific intelligence is gleaned from study of technical or scientific documents (often research papers) produced by the intelligence target, or from direct examination of equipment or machinery captured from an enemy in wartime or somehow acquired during peace. Scientific intelligence reached a takeoff point during World War II when the effort to gather information in this fashion first became systematic. Notable examples from that period include British successes in countering radio navigation systems used by German bombers in the Battle of Britain (1940), and in deceiving the Germans as to the accuracy of their rockets and ramjets (V-weapons) launched against Great Britain in 19441945. A U.S. example is the capture and analysis of the Japanese Zero fighter aircraft, results of which were incorporated into the design of a countering aircraft, the Grumman F6F Hellcat. A Cold War example is how the United States learned of Soviet aircraft design techniques from examining a MiG-25 supersonic aircraft whose pilot flew it to Japan to defect in 1977.

Electronic Intelligence Related to scientific intelligence in that it is also analyzed by scientists, electronic intelligence, too, received a great boost in World War II. It involves the reception and recording of electronic emissions, usually from radars, or of the telemetry transmissions from guided missiles, ships, or aircraft undergoing testing. Scientists are able to deduce from this information the radio frequency bands and other characteristics of radars, or a variety of information about systems being tested. Submarines, surface ships, aircraft, and space satellites have all been used to gather electronic intelligence. From the 1940s until at least the 1980s the United States maintained a vigorous program of flights by aircraft equipped to collect electronic intelligence along the periphery of the Soviet Union, China, and other communist countries. These flights, known in the trade as "ferret" operations, numbered over 20,000 and account for the vast majority of the planes shot down in the course of Cold War spy flights. In August 1964 the American destroyers involved in the Gulf of Tonkin incident in the Vietnam War were on an electronic intelligence mission. The same was true of the ship Liberty, attacked by the Israeli air force during the Six-Day War (June 1967), and the ship Pueblo, captured by North Korea in January 1968. Similarly, a U.S. Navy EP-3E reconnaissance plane off the southern Chinese coast became involved in an incident on 1 April 2001, when a jet fighter of the People's Republic of China subjected the American plane to such intense harassment that the two craft collided. The Chinese aircraft was lost, and the American plane had to make a forced landing in China, where the crew was held in custody for eleven days, until the United States made a formal statement that could be taken as an apology. In general, gathering electronic intelligence has been among the most dangerous kind of intelligence missions, and has provoked serious diplomatic repercussions as well. On the other hand, electronic intelligence can be quite useful. An example can be taken from 1978, when telemetry data from Russian missile tests indicated that a certain Russian ICBM was being tested with more reentry vehicles than it was credited with by diplomats negotiating the SALT II treaty. In this case the result was to negotiate new definitions for the treaty on how to count missiles for inclusion in the categories allowed by the treaty.

Communications Intelligence Communications intelligence is a large subject that includes secret writing, codes and ciphers, transmission and interception, and decryption. All these are aspects of the process of gaining access to, and then knowledge of the contents of, the private communications of a target, whether an individual or a state. This type of intelligence has probably existed as long as there have been spies, given the advantages of knowing what a spy was reporting. Government messages have long been sent in code, and breaking those codes offers knowledge of the inner thoughts of the opponent. In modern usage, messages are most often sent by radio, cable, teletype, E-mail, or other forms of electronic transmission. These communications are subject to interception, and this source of intelligence is considered among the best (and most sensitive, from a security standpoint). The general label of "communications intelligence" used here encompasses all aspects of contriving to intercept messages, analysis of the transmissions, decryption and decoding of the contents, and translation and making the results available to friendly intelligence analysts. In the United States each of the armed services has a component dedicated to communications intelligence, and all feed material to an umbrella civilian unit, the National Security Agency (NSA). With increasing technical sophistication the personnel requirements for collection of radio transmissions have decreasedthe armed services alone employed roughly 120,000 people for this purpose in the 1960s, but the number went down to about half of that by 2000. The NSA employs approximately 20,000 people. With much of the burden of collection switched to satellites, ground stations have been abandoned in Pakistan (1969), Ethiopia (around 1975), Subic Bay in the Philippines (1985), and Berlin (about 1995). In 2000 there were still ground stations in Turkey, Japan, South Korea, and, by means of liaison relationship, in China. Diplomacy and foreign aid required to maintain communications intelligence ground stations have been a complicating factor in U.S. foreign policy.

Special collection operations are sometimes conducted by the CIA or other agencies for the benefit of the NSA. Best known of these are the tunnels built in Vienna (1949) and Berlin (19451955), and under the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C. (1985?), for the purpose of placing listening devices and taps on telephone or teleprinter cables. Diplomatic fallout adverse to the United States occurred when these operations were revealed. In almost every case the target became aware of the special collection activity before its public revelation, and used that knowledge to feed false information to U.S. intelligence. Another special activity involved the use of submarines to secretly place taps on telephone cables underwater in the Russian Far East.

Communications intelligence works like a huge vacuum cleaner, and for all of its difficulties has proved a highly valuable intelligence source. Communications provided key information on the structure and activities of Soviet armed forces; important insights into negotiating aims of Soviet-American arms control talks from the 1970s to the 1990s; data on Chinese involvement in the Korean War; vital information on North Vietnamese commands and on the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the Vietnam War; material on Soviet maneuvers in various international crises; knowledge of the activities of drug cartels and others using telephone communications from the 1980s on; and much else. Communications intelligence played a huge role in World War II, a significant role in World War I, and evolved continuously from the moment when Morse code telegraphy began in the 1850s.

Photographic Intelligence Images taken with a camera have been an intelligence source since World War I. Observation from above ground level increases the scope of this intelligence, and aerial observation has been in use since a French officer used a balloon to watch the Austro-German enemy at the Battle of Fleurus in 1794. In the American Civil War balloons were used in this manner, and the first recorded instance of aerial photography dates from that time. The airplane was an important scout in World War I, with cameras soon added, and purpose-built cameras and aerial photography reached a stage of advanced development in World War II. During the Cold War the U.S. Air Force used specialized reconnaissance squadrons for overhead photography. In the mid-1950s the CIA joined the effort, first with high-altitude photo planes (the U-2 and SR-71) and then space satellites (CORONA, or KH-4, with follow-ons, currently up to KH-12). Sophisticated films, cameras, computer-driven digital readout techniques, and database-linked photo interpretation techniques have made overhead reconnaissance a premier intelligence source. The National Reconnaissance Office, formed in 1960 but whose existence was admitted only in 1992, controls the production and operation of satellite systems (aircraft reconnaissance systems known today remain under the auspices of the air force). Interpretation of imagery and circulation of intelligence reports based on photographic intelligence is the province of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, formed in 1995 from components merged from the CIA and the Pentagon.

Some photography other than overhead reconnaissance is also important to intelligence. Submarines have taken pictures through their periscopes of coastal targets ranging from invasion beaches to adversaries' naval bases. Casual pictures taken by private citizens ("Aunt Minnie photographs") may show objects of intelligence interest. In addition, a quite critical contribution through photography is made by the miniature cameras that secret agents use to surreptitiously photograph documents, and the microdot and other photographic methods used to assist the communication of secrets from agent to handlers. These aspects of photography, and related research and development to create the cameras, are the responsibility of the CIA's directorates of administration, science and technology, and operations.

Domestic Collection Intelligence services acquire some information directly from Americans or from foreign citizens who are not agents or spies in any traditional sense. An individual traveling to a foreign country might be asked about impressions gained during the visit. Journalists, missionaries, and others residing abroad have frequently been a source for well-grounded local information. Academics expert in a certain field can provide information or perspectives of which agency personnel are unaware. Business-people may have valuable contacts and knowledge. At times, such as the period of the communist Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, this kind of collection from individuals was such a significant source that the CIA made efforts in advance to ask persons traveling to that country to be alert for information on specific matters. This technique remains useful in closed societies. At one time the CIA maintained the Domestic Contact Service to gather this information. The function still exists, although the work of that office has been subdivided elsewhere within the agency.

Open Source Information Evaluations of sources of intelligence consistently find that perhaps 80 to 90 percent of information necessary to intelligence can be obtained from sources that are completely public. The term "open sources" has become current for this category of material, which includes newspapers, magazines, technical journals, scientific papers, books, video programs, information that appears on the Internet, and similar items. Since the mid-1990s there has been a more explicit effort to improve the collection and use of open source material. For a short time the CIA contemplated a major directorate for open sources, but eventually settled on the Office for Open Source Collection, which today is located within the Directorate for Science and Technology. Open source information is highly desirable in that its collection involves no political or diplomatic obstacles, often includes material that already has been analyzed to some extent, and is relatively inexpensive compared to data gathered from technical collection sources. A significant drawback lies in the fact that intelligence officers and the policymakers who rely upon them often attribute greater credibility, almost automatically, to information that is "born secret," simply because it is secret.

Liaison with Friendly Intelligence Services Foreign intelligence services with which the United States is allied or maintains private relations are significant sources of information. The best known of these relationships is that with the British, forged during World War II and regularly renewed since. Similar relationships exist with Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Greece, Israel, and other nations. Some relationships are multilateral and general in nature, similar to military alliances. Others pertain to specific subjects. Some relations exist even with former enemies, such as between the United States and Russia on organized crime. Sharing of intelligence information varies with the degree of trustfor example, the United States shares a wide range of information with Great Britain, but much less with France. The use of the CIA as an intermediary, such as between Israel and the Palestinian Authority from 1998 to 2001, can also have diplomatic aspects. The question of liaison relationships is also complicated by efforts of the partners to spy on one another. United StatesIsraeli intelligence cooperation soured after 1985, when naval intelligence analyst Jonathan J. Pollard was revealed as an Israeli agent. More recently, FrenchU.S. relations have been complicated by allegations that the nations engaged in industrial spying against one another, a situation that led to the recall of a CIA station chief in Paris in February 1995. Interests in preserving intelligence relationships may factor in diplomatic initiatives in many instances.

Counterintelligence The work of uncovering foreign spies in one's own country or intelligence services is termed counterintelligence or counterespionage. This work predates creation of the Office of Strategic Services in World War II, having been a major focus of U.S. naval intelligence even during the prewar years. From its inception the CIA had a counterintelligence staff within the Directorate of Operations; in recent years this has risen to the status of a center combining both CIA and FBI resources and headed by an FBI official. Counterintelligence can be a double-edged sword. The knowledge and access to secret information of counterintelligence units made them a favorite target for the Soviet secret service during the Cold War, as epitomized by the Russian recruitment of British counterintelligence chief Harold ("Kim") Philby, who, after years of suspicion, fled to Russia in early 1963.

The existence and duration of counterintelligence investigations can also have a negative impact on an intelligence organization. During the 1960s, when James J. Angleton headed the CIA's counterintelligence staff, inquiries aimed at suspected (but innocent) agency officers came close to paralyzing the CIA's foreign intelligence effort against the Soviet Union. Some observers argue that the reaction to the excesses of the 1960s was to dismantle much of the counterintelligence effort, leading to a permissive climate in which espionage flourishedthus "the year of the spy" in 1985, during which half a dozen major spies for Russia or China were uncovered, and the cases of Aldrich Ames (1994) and Robert Hanssen (2001), each of whom succeeded in spying for Russia for at least a decade without being caught.

Counterintelligence failures like these invariably lead to more stringent security regulations and regular monitoring and reinvestigation of veteran intelligence officers. In the United States there are demands for the broad use of polygraph (lie detector) tests, whose utility and accuracy are disputed. The net effect of heightened security, aside from catching spies, is that at some level the work of everyone engaged in intelligence becomes more difficult due to the compartmentalization, degree of precaution, and breadth of disclosure to security officials. In turn, this makes personnel retention a problem. In addition, stringent counterintelligence regimes inhibit the recruitment of spies in the adversary's camp because of the fear that the agents are enemy personnel deliberately attempting to mislead the side recruiting them. Consequently there is a trade-off between efficiency of intelligence work (with danger of espionage as a result) and tight security (with the consequence of lowered morale and performance from intelligence officers). The United States has not yet been able to solve this equation and has vacillated between extremely permissive and tight regimes.

Leaks of information owing to espionage damage the credibility of intelligence, with both policymakers and the public; relations with cooperating intelligence services (which fear information they share may end up in the hands of enemies); and the cohesion of the intelligence community. Counterintelligence is necessary but poses a continuing dilemma.


A factor in American history since the revolutionary war, the intelligence community that uses the methods here discussed and produces the kinds of data enumerated is necessarily the product of a long evolution. At the time of the Revolution, there was no such thing as the "community" of today; there was not even an organization in the conventional sense. Spying was largely a freelance business. Paul Revere's ride in April 1775 alerting colonists to a British foray from Bostona classic example of warning intelligencewas a personal initiative. For the most part, generals ran spies directly as part of their scout services. This was the relationship between British General Henry Clinton and his agent Major John André, as well as that of George Washington with spies John Honeyman and Joshua Merserau, and scouts like Knowlton's Rangers (Nathan Hale, possibly the best known revolutionary war spy, was a volunteer from that unit.) This approach continued through the Civil War, which saw the beginnings of a distinct intelligence mission. In 18611862 General George S. McClellan relied upon Allan Pinkerton's organization, the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, for both intelligence and counterespionage work. Many of the Pinkerton reports exaggerated Confederate strength, and McClellan's successors terminated the Pinkerton connection, but spying nevertheless became much more systematic. No formal arrangements for spying existed on the Confederate side, but there, too, agents were often used. Scholars of the period have identified more than 4,200 persons who functioned as spies, informants, guides, scouts, and so on. President Abraham Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth, certainly a Confederate sympathizer, may have been a southern agent as well.

After the Civil War the U.S. military began to collect information on foreign militaries more systematically. In 1866 the Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus Fox went to Russia on an official information-gathering mission. In 1882 the Office of Naval Intelligence became the first official U.S. intelligence agency. The army created an information office in 1885 that became the Military Intelligence Division in 1918. World War I stimulated growth of both units, as well as the Cipher Bureau within the State Department on 17 June 1917. The latter contained a code-breaking unit that achieved notoriety (revealed in the 1930s) for unraveling Japanese instructions to their diplomats at the Washington Naval Conference of 19211922, an early illustration of the utility of intelligence. The code-breaking unit was abolished in 1929, but State continued to play a coordinating role among U.S. agencies in the field right through World War II.

The need for coordination grew when President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Federal Bureau of Investigation, previously entirely involved in crime solving, to carry out counterespionage activities in Latin America. Roosevelt also created a propaganda organization with quasi-intelligence functions, the Office of Coordination of Information, in 1941. This soon evolved into a true intelligence organization, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), with propaganda left to the Office of War Information. The OSS developed both analytical and operational sides, greatly benefiting from the pillars of intelligence developed during the war. When the OSS was abolished in 1945, its espionage (and counterespionage) elements went to the War Department, while its analytical unit was absorbed by the State Department, eventually becoming the Bureau of Intelligence and Research that exists today. The other former OSS elements, meanwhile, had a difficult time within the War Department, where OSS counterespionage was seen to be in competition with the army's Counterintelligence Corps, and its espionage nets as having little to contribute.

A far cry from the dreams of former OSS chief General William J. Donovan for a peacetime permanent intelligence service, the postwar situation resulted from decisions by President Harry S. Truman, who was concerned primarily with ending the ravages of war, and not especially fond of Donovan or his ideas. With a growing Cold War in 1946 and later, Truman worried more about intelligence. He approved formation of the National Intelligence Authority in January 1946, under which the former clandestine units from OSS were gathered with the Central Intelligence Group. This order also created the post of director of central intelligence. But the National Intelligence Authority proved to be moribund, and the Central Intelligence Group, of very limited utility, was stymied by the departments of government in competition with it. In 1947, as part of the National Security Act (Public Law 80-253), which also established the Department of Defense and National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency became the legally authorized U.S. foreign intelligence organization. As Truman described his intentions to an aide several years later, he had wanted a unit to take the intelligence flowing to him from "200 different sources" and boil it down to make presentationsexactly the kind of activity at the heart of the intelligence cycle described at the outset of this narrative. Functions of the National Intelligence Authority were taken over by the National Security Council (NSC) while the CIA absorbed the Central Intelligence Group.

For several years the CIA grew slowly and gradually acquired missions. Covert operations and political action were added to the agency's basic analytical and espionage functions with the formation of the Office of Policy Coordination by NSC directive in 1948. A 1949 review by a panel of outside consultants found flaws in CIA operations and led to covert action and espionage both being merged in the Directorate of Operations (called the Directorate of Plans until 1973). Agency work interpreting photography led to formation of the National Photographic Interpretation Center in 1953, which the CIA ran on behalf of the entire intelligence community until the 1995 creation of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. The need for development of machine spies obliged the director of central intelligence to conduct certain research programs, such as U-2, SR-71, and CORONA development, directly out of his own office, but this became formalized in 1962 with creation of the Directorate of Science and Technology (called Directorate of Research until 1964). The Directorate of Administration is responsible for support, security, data processing, recruitment, printing, finance, logistics, training, and other functions.

Air Force General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, who played a key role in the elaboration of the original legislation creating the CIA, left intelligence shortly before the actual creation of the agency. President Truman continued to appoint military officers as his directors of central intelligence, with Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter presiding over the CIA's first few years but damaged by a controversy regarding whether the CIA had been surprised by the outbreak of the Korean War or by Chinese intervention in that conflict. Walter Bedell Smith, an army general, instituted important reforms, including strengthening CIA analytical capabilities with the Directorate of Intelligence and the Board of National Estimates. It was Smith who began the practice of assembling the interagency National Intelligence Estimates. Under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, DCI Allen W. Dulles emphasized covert operations and began the U-2 and other scientific development programs. Dulles served on into the administration of President John F. Kennedy, but the CIA's spectacular failure at the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, a covert operations disaster in April 1961, effectively bankrupted his leadership, and he left the CIA that fall.

During the 1950s the U.S. intelligence community as a whole assumed the basic shape it still retained at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Code-breaking branches of the army and navy had contributed greatly to the outcome of World War II, and each of the services had retained its unit subsequently; the air force and marines added their own radio intelligence branches as well. In search of better coordination, the joint Armed Forces Security Agency was created in 1949 but, beset by interservice rivalries, never achieved its intended effect. President Truman replaced this unit with the National Security Agency in 1952. President Eisenhower, concerned with the multiplication of satellite intelligence mechanisms, and with infighting over programs between the CIA and the air force, created the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in 1960 (although its existence remained a secret until 1992). President Kennedy, upset with the tendency of the armed services intelligence branches to promote views favoring their parent services, set up the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in 1961. Armed forces intelligence regenerated over time, and the services always remained crucial in the NSA-and NRO-led activities. Not until 1995, when President William J. Clinton approved formation of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, a merging of offices from the Pentagon, CIA, NRO, and the services, was any new national-level intelligence agency added to the community. All these units are agencies of the Department of Defense. These agencies also operate in some of the most highly technicaland expensiveareas of intelligence work. The result is that the secretary of defense controls the vast majority (8595 percent) of the intelligence budget even while the director of central intelligence carries the official mantle of leadership in the community.

Beginning with John A. McCone, director of central intelligence from November 1961 to April 1964, DCIs have made a more intense effort to lead the community, often through procedures for coordinating among the various agencies, multi-year budget studies, or setting requirements for intelligence collection. These efforts have met with very limited success. The Pentagon's control of a large proportion of appropriated funds has been a key obstacle but not the only one. In the case of the FBI and the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and certain other entities, small elements of large government departments participate in the intelligence community but are responsible to cabinet officials over whom the DCI has no authority. The actual degree to which a director of central intelligence can lead the intelligence community is a recurrent issue in American policy.

McCone and his successors, notably Richard Helms (19661973) and Williams E. Colby (19731975), faced the major task of integrating the new intelligence technologies into the old framework. Satellites, sophisticated electronic emissions receivers and recording devices, underwater receivers, airborne interception mechanisms, computer data handling and image interpretation, and many other innovations transformed the intelligence business during the 1960s and 1970s. In particular, the sheer volume of information collected that was deemed to have intelligence value grew astronomically. Finished intelligence reports that used all the new information were a great improvement over earlier products, as exemplified by the way the missile gap dispute was resolved through the advent of satellite photography. But management of the new mechanisms, scientific research and development for intelligence purposes, funding these expensive systems, and finding ways to use the information without compromising the security of intelligence collection all posed problems for community leaders. These issues recur as new generations of intelligence technology reach the hands of operators.

The opposite side of the same coin is the need for old-fashioned spies, "human intelligence." The machines gather vast amounts of information whose importance is difficult to gauge. The inside information given by agents is often a key to interpretation. This issue became salient during the 1970s, and virtually every policy review of intelligence since then has upheld the need for more human intelligence sources. In response to the felt need, the CIA redoubled efforts to recruit agents. During the Cold War the agency enjoyed considerable success; in the Vietnam War and against China spying proved more difficult. On terrorism and drug trafficking, key intelligence questions of the 1990s and the twenty-first century, the need for spies was still acute. At the same time evolving human rights and moral standards make unacceptable the recruitment of agents whose character would have been ignored in an earlier age. There will be continuing tension between different aspects of agency interest in human intelligence.

A thorny issue that has also recurred for U.S. policymakers is the degree to which intelligence does, or should, directly impact on U.S. foreign policy. The ideal concept has been that intelligence speaks truth to power; that is, secret information to policymakers informs decisions that are made on the basis of this private knowledge. In theory, the information is disinterested and devoid of private agendas; in practice this is often not the case, even for simple intelligence analysis. One reason alone justifies the existence of the CIA, despite the many objections made about it: this organization provides presidents and their top officials with a source of information independent of the government departments responsible for actions. Military intelligence traditionally takes the most dire view of the threat, thus justifying large defense budgets and weapons purchases to counter that threat. In war, military intelligence reports most optimistically on the results of operations. In the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and the Kosovo War (1999), military intelligence estimates of the effectiveness of bombing in every case had to be revised downward after they were made. During the Vietnam War, there were notorious controversies between the military, both air force and DIA, and the CIA over the degree of success obtained in bombing North Vietnam. For its part, State Department intelligence sees possibilities for negotiation where none may exist. Here, too, the CIA can play a cautionary role.

However, the pure archetype of intelligence theory is difficult to achieve in fact. Directors of central intelligence can be, and have been, asked for their opinions on policy subjects. The mere act of a president putting his DCI on the spot by asking an opinion takes the CIA (and the intelligence community more broadly) out of the role of neutral arbiter and inserts it into the policy process as an interested player. Declassified records of the National Security Council, which are currently available for a period spanning the 1940s through the 1970s, show DCIs Allen Dulles, John A. McCone, Richard Helms, William Colby, and George H. W. Bush all commenting on policy, not merely intelligence matters. When more documents covering these and later periods become available, they will undoubtedly demonstrate the same pattern for other DCIs. It is the president's prerogative to solicit advice from anyone, not excepting intelligence officials, but this adds to the difficulty of preserving separation between intelligence and policy roles.

Another facet of the problem of preserving a separation in roles arises from the DCI's responsibility to protect intelligence sources and methods. That statutory responsibility may conflict with policy in ways we are not aware of today. Desire to protect an intelligence source may lead a director to furnish disguised or watered-down information that presents less than a full picture. Conversely, full disclosure may result in compromise of sources. For example, it has been reported that during the Carter administration, a leak from an NSC staffer led the Soviet Union to arrest aircraft designer Adolf Tolkachev, who had been one of the CIA's most valuable sources. Directors of central intelligence must be aware of the dangers that lie at the nexus of policy and intelligence.

A further aspect to the policy-intelligence conundrum is that the CIA, and the intelligence community more broadly, do have certain policy interests. In particular, these arise when intelligence engages in covert operations. Political action in western Europe during the Truman administration; paramilitary operations in the Far East, South Asia, and Latin America during the Eisenhower administration; and paramilitary actions in Nicaragua, Angola, Cambodia, Mozambique, and Afghanistan during the Reagan administration all represented real U.S. foreign policy initiatives in which the CIA was a principal player. To say that agency advice to a president can be divorced from policy interests in such cases is wishful thinking. It is also nugatory to argue that such covert operations are small items that can safely be ignored within the confines of a larger global policy. The Kennedy administration's failure with the CIA invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 had major impact on Kennedy's predispositions in many policy areas. The Iran-Contra affair during the Reagan administration triggered a near-constitutional crisis in the United States. Another Reagan-era covert operation, the CIA paramilitary action in Afghanistan, encouraged the development of, and provided weapons and training to, fundamentalist Islamic guerrillas who transformed themselves into anti-U.S. terrorists in the years after the war. As of 2001, Islamic terror was construed to be one of the top national security threats to the United States. Programmatic interests in supportive capabilities, such as military special forces, intelligence satellites and booster rockets, information and propaganda resources, and so on, are clearly also areas where intelligence has an actual policy stake. In short, the separation of intelligence from policy has always been imperfect and waxes and wanes depending on the president, his policy proclivities, and the constellation of senior officials surrounding the chief executive.


Intelligence can have great value in foreign policy and national security, but good intelligence is difficult to come by. Among the leading foreign policy dilemmas posed by intelligence is the need to frame relations with nations as affected by certain aspects of the spy business. The desire to maintain ground bases for certain technical collection means, or for covert operations, may drive decisions on economic and military assistance. General bilateral relations can be affected by nations' spying against one another, particularly when major agents are caught and revealed or ships and aircraft crash or are captured. A desire to recruit agents may dictate waiver of human rights concerns that should be upheld, with the consequent danger of difficulties should such relationships surface. The desire to preserve a stream of intelligence sharing may be threatened by friendly nations spying on one another, or by fears of secret information leaking to third countries. In addition, bilateral relations can be directly affected by intelligence covert operations, while the general image of the United States in the world can be influenced by impressions of how ready the United States may be to resort to covert operations.

In theory, intelligence represents a disinterested purveyor of unbiased information to the president and other leaders. This ideal remains an ideal because presidents are peoplethey ask for help and advice, recommendations on anything from policy to politics. Directors of central intelligence can be pulled into the policy fray even if they would prefer to avoid it. In addition, the notion that intelligence does not have any real policy interests of its own is flawed, for directors of central intelligence may also be drawn into policy issues due to their responsibility to protect sources and methods. The policy versus intelligence question remains a live issue in America.

Finally, there are issues that may require policy decisions that are directly intelligence matters. Most obvious is the budgethow much should the nation pay for intelligence, and are the data worth the outlays? Related budgetary issues include the distribution of funds among technical collectors, agents, development programs, analysts, support functions, and the rest. Information issues include the emphasis to be placed upon current reporting versus that devoted to long-range prediction. Also vital is the packaging of intelligencewhat kinds of reports of what types are the most useful? An information issue that persists is the relative emphasis to be given to secret, as opposed to open source, information. Then there is the technical issue of the tension between the need for high-security counterintelligence and the desire for the most efficient intelligence community. At the apex is the community role of the director of central intelligencehow much leadership can or should the director exercise, and can or should Department of Defense and other players in the intelligence field be brought under the director's authority?

These are not the only recurring issues regarding intelligence and American foreign policy, but they are among the most salient. Each of the issues is relevant to structuring intelligence to best support American policy. All of the issues can confidently be expected to arise in the future, whatever their status may be in the present context. For this reason alone, they should be carefully considered.


Andrew, Christopher. For the President's Eyes Only: Secret Intelligence and the American Presidency from Washington to Bush. New York, 1995.

Bamford, James. Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency from the Cold War Through the Dawn of a New Century. New York, 2001.

Brugioni, Dino A. Eyeball to Eyeball: The Inside Story of the Cuban Missile Crisis. New York, 1991.

Gates, Robert M. From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War. New York, 1996.

Kent, Sherman. Strategic Intelligence for American World Policy. Princeton, N.J., 1949.

Peebles, Curtis. The Corona Project: America's First Spy Satellites. Annapolis, Md., 1997.

Prados, John. The Soviet Estimate: U.S. Intelligence Analysis and Soviet Strategic Forces. Princeton, N.J., 1986.

. President's Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations from World War II Through the Persian Gulf War. Chicago, 1996.

Richelson, Jeffrey T. The U.S. Intelligence Community. 4th ed. Boulder, Colo., 1999.

See also Cold War Evolution and Interpretations; Cold Warriors; Covert Operations; Decision Making; Presidential Power; Propaganda; Terrorism and Counterterrorism .

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Intelligence and Counterintelligence