Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “cia”

Intelligence Literature Suggested Reading List (CIA)

Intelligence Literature Suggested Reading List (CIA) – https://www.cia.gov/library/intelligence-literature/index.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Where can I find spy biographies?
  • What can I find perspectives on the relationship between analysis and policy?
  • Where can I learn more about spy satellites?


If you want to immerse yourself in intelligence reading so your character can be a more believable spy, why not learn from pros? This CIA annotated reading list offers works in the following areas:

  • World War II & Before
  • CIA & OSS History
  • Biographies & Memoirs (CIA Careers)
  • Women in Intelligence
  • Espionage
  • Operations: Counterintelligence (CI)
  • Operations: Covert Action (CA)
  • Analysis
  • Technology
  • War on Terrorism
  • General Interest
  • Reference

If a book is available from the CIA’s website, it will be linked. For the other titles, I would suggest searching worldcat.org to locate a copy. You might need to use interlibrary loan if the item is not available at your local library.

Story Idea:

One book from the “Women in Intelligence” section really called out to me as a potential source of material:

A Life In Secrets: The Story of Vera Atkins and the Lost Agents of SOE by Sarah Helm London: Little Brown, 2005 – In the “man’s world” of WWII European intelligence, Atkins rose quickly to a key position in Britain’s Special; Operations Executive (SOE) selecting agents and sending them to Europe. After the war she went searching for those who hadn’t returned. This book tells her story.  – Find in a library.

CIA Studies in Intelligence

CIA Studies in Intelligence  – https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/index.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Where can I learn about Soviet defectors from Gorbachev’s Russia?
  • Where I can learn more about the Chinese intelligence services?
  • What did Ernest Hemmingway do for American intelligence during World War II?
  • How do CIA staff go about determining a state’s instability?


Declassifed articles on a wide range of current and historical intelligence topics. Articles from 2011 included:

  • The Evolution of US Army HUMINT: Intelligence Operations in the Korean War by John P. Finnegan
  • Cultural Topography: A New Research Tool for Intelligence Analysis by Jeannie Johnson and Matthew Berrett
  • What I Learned in 40 Years of Doing Intelligence Analysis for US Foreign Policymakers by Martin Petersen

May be useful in building characters or back story. According to the CIA page on copyright, you ought to be able to use quotes from the articles without copyright worries:

Unless a copyright is indicated, information on the Central Intelligence Agency Web site is in the public domain and may be reproduced, published or otherwise used without the Central Intelligence Agency’s permission. We request only that the Central Intelligence Agency be cited as the source of the information and that any photo credits or bylines be similarly credited to the photographer or author or Central Intelligence Agency, as appropriate.

If a copyright is indicated on a photo, graphic, or any other material, permission to copy these materials must be obtained from the original source.

Some of Mr. Petersen’s material sounded like it could be useful in the mouth of a veteran intelligence operative explaining the facts of life to a new colleague.

CIA Application Process

CIA Application Process – https://www.cia.gov/careers/application-process/index.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What is the CIA’s policy on drug use?
  • How does the CIA weigh past behavior?
  • What is the purpose of a background check?


Overview of the steps and conditions of seeking employment with the CIA.

CIA Analyst Positions [Intelligence Analysts]

CIA Analyst Positions – https://www.cia.gov/careers/opportunities/analytical/view-jobs.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What sort of degree might a analytic methodologist have?
  • How could an economic analyst be helpful in locating weapons of mass destruction?
  • What are the duties of an open source analyst?
  • What targets are target analysts expected to find?


Brief description of job duties, minimum qualifications and application procedures for the following types of positions:

  • Analytic Methodologist
  • Counterintelligence Threat Analyst
  • Counterterrorism Analyst
  • Data Scientist
  • Economic Analyst
  • Intelligence Collection Analyst
  • Leadership Analyst
  • Military Analyst
  • Open Source Officer
  • Political Analyst
  • Science, Technology & Weapons Analyst
  • Targeting Analyst

Clandestine Service [i.e. Secret Agent] (CIA)

Clandestine Service [i.e. Secret Agent] (CIA) – https://www.cia.gov/careers/opportunities/clandestine/view-jobs.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Would a CIA field agent have had a C average in college?
  • What are the duties of a CIA Operations Officer?
  • What type of military experience is required of a Paramilitary Operations Officer?
  • What languages are currently being sought in a NCS Language Officer?


Brief description of duties and training requirements for the following type of CIA clandestine service positions:

Field agents

  • Core Collector
  • Core Collector/Operations Officer
  • Core Collector/Collection Management Officer
  • Paramilitary Operations Officer/Specialized Skills Officer (can also be office based)

Headquarters staff

  • Staff Operations Officer
  • Specialized Skills Officer – Targeting
  • NCS Language Officer

Prisoner Abuse: Patterns from the Past [Torture]

Prisoner Abuse: Patterns from the Past – http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB122/index.htm

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Is hypnosis a useful interrogation technique?
  • How did the US officially view the use of pain?
  • Where can I find an “interrogator’s check list?”


You may have read about the “CIA torture manuals” from the 1960s and 1980s. This site offers access to two of these:

The KUBARK manual is interesting for its discussion of hypnosis as one non-coercive technique. This section starts at page 95. Another interesting item is the “Interrogator’s Check List” found on pages 105-109 of the manual. There are 50 items to this checklist and about a half dozen items were blanked out.

Skimming through the manual there are no horrifying stories, just sometimes creepy straightforward recommendations about sleep deprivation, pain (or threat thereof) or drugs.

The CIA Human Resource Exploitation Manual is a Reagan era document used to train Latin American military intelligence officers. The introductory material appears to give mixed messages – Torture never really works, but the French shut down an Algerian terrorist group within months with it. There is some hand redaction on the manuals that suggests opposition to torture was weaker in the original edition.

Writers will find these manuals helpful in “setting the scene” for interrogation and torture scenes, military interrogation rooms and possibly in depicting the mindset of the interrogating party’s command structure.
In addition to these manuals, the site also offers some investigatory reports which resulted in some changes to official US interrogation techniques that remained in force before a return to KUBARK style techniques at Abu Gharib in Iraq.

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