Volume 51, No. 2 (June 2007)

Strategic Counterintelligence: What Is It, and What Should We Do About It?

By Michelle Van Cleave

Ever since Sherman Kent’s signature work was published, strategic intelligence has been the subject of literature, study, and practice, and, although an author in the pages of this issue of Studies will disagree, the subject has come to occupy a well-established place as a core intelligence product line and mission. 1

CIA historian Don Steury has written:

In thinking about intelligence, Sherman Kent began with an understanding of national power that was well within the mainstream of contemporary American strategic thought. Kent’s contribution was to apply thinking about strategy and national power to an ordered conception of intelligence analysis as an intellectual discipline.

By contrast, “strategic counterintelligence” remains a relatively undeveloped concept, in theory or implementation. Isn’t this curious? For if strategic intelligence takes as its touchstone the whole of state interests and the sources of state power, then understanding the purpose and manner in which other states use their intelligence resources to gain advantage and mastering the capability to counter them would seem to be the other side of the strategic intelligence coin.

Yet to the extent strategic counterintelligence (CI) is addressed within CI or intelligence circles, it is controversial, poorly understood, and even more poorly executed because it does not fit comfortably within the existing architecture and approach to counterintelligence as it has developed within the United States.