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Studies in Intelligence Celebrates 60th Birthday

When the first edition of Studies in Intelligence rolled off the presses this month in 1955, the young CIA—it had just celebrated its eighth birthday—was engaged operationally around the world to protect or advance US interests in the Cold War against communism. At home, its intelligence analysts and their processes were maturing, as they sought to describe and understand the threats the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, North Vietnam and others posed to US interests. At the same time, the US government was in the process of developing advanced reconnaissance tools, with the CIA leading the initiative to create aircraft, such as the U-2 and A-12 OXCART, and satellites, like CORONA, to photograph strategic installations in hostile locations.

As the CIA’s responsibilities and reach expanded, so did the need to acquire, train, and nurture a professional workforce capable of taking on the difficult operational, analytical, and technical tasks the US government had placed before it. In 1955 no manual existed for this purpose. There was no foundational literature that represented the learning and views of professionals engaged in intelligence work.

In a 2005 article celebrating the 50th anniversary of Studies, CIA historian Nicholas Dujmovic explained that senior CIA officers, most notably the director of the Office of National Estimates, Sherman Kent, proposed during 1953–54 the creation of a journal, Studies in Intelligence. Along with the journal, which was first published soon after in September 1955, Kent proposed the creation of a center for the study of intelligence. Twenty years later, Kent’s final vision came true, with the creation of the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence in 1974.

Sherman_Kent.jpg
Sherman Kent
That first issue of Studies—which is available in the National Archives—was pretty slim. It contained an introduction by the CIA’s Director of Training, Kent’s essay outlining his hopes for the journal, and a short preview of what its editors expected in the following issues.

As modest as this beginning was, the journal gradually and steadily built a foundation of literature that included articles about the profession from many angles: some examined then current analytical and operational practices; others were written to advocate the adoption of specific practices; and, as the CIA aged, articles began to appear describing historical events. Occasionally, humorous articles like the one about CIA’s “canoe-pool (vice car-pool) would appear within its pages. [PDF 447KB]

Since Studies early issues, in which a handful of well-established CIA professionals reflected on their work, more than a thousand intelligence professionals, academics, students, and policymakers have contributed around 1,500 articles—classified and unclassified—including stories about operations, analysis, collection, and emerging technology and methods. They have captured the history of the intelligence profession, documented lessons of the past, and critiqued a multitude of books on the field. They have been accomplishing what Sherman Kent in 1955 saw as essential for the profession when he wrote:

The most important service that intelligence literature can perform is the permanent recording of our new ideas and experiences.

The literature in Studies has not only advanced the profession and influenced the way in which the Intelligence Community accomplishes its mission, it has furthered public understanding of this often misunderstood, stigmatized, and glamorized world for nearly 25 years through the journal’s unclassified editions and on-line postings on cia.gov. In addition, through various scheduled releases and Freedom of Information requests, a large volume of the classified literature has also become available to the public. In 2013 and 2014, for example, more than 240 previously classified or unpublicized Studies articles—more than 2,400 pages in all—become publicly available for the first time.

To learn more about Studies in Intelligence, see: Fifty Years of Studies in Intelligence – Building an “Intelligence Literature.” Dujmovic’s description of the journal’s history and its spirit is still perfectly fitting 10 years later.


Posted: Sep 23, 2015 01:10 PM
Last Updated: Sep 23, 2015 01:10 PM