Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “spies”

National Intelligence – A Consumer’s Guide (2009) Directorate of National Intelligence via FAS

National Intelligence – A Consumer’s Guide (2009) Directorate of National Intelligence via FAS  – http://www.fas.org/irp/dni/consumer.pdf

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • How does the US Government define “Intelligence related to National Security?”
  • What are two databases that the US Intelligence Community admit to having on people?
  • What is MASINT?
  • What are the steps of the intelligence cycle?
  • Where is the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity headquartered?


Intended for Members of Congress, this is an introduction the intelligence process and the US intelligence communities. Notable for having a profile of every US intelligence agency (we publicly admit to) starting on page 21 of the PDF file. Each profile has the agency title, logo, description, statutory components, and mini profiles of subordinate units.

A section of abbreviations and acronyms appears at page 84. This book would be helpful in deciding what spy agency to place your character in.

Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI) publications via Federation of American Scientists

Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI) publications via Federation of American Scientists – http://www.fas.org/irp/dni/

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • As a group, how do members of the Intelligence Community view their jobs?
  • How many former Gitmo detainees have engaged in terrorism after their release?
  • What is the current unclassified intelligence strategy of the United States?


Reverse chronological listing of intelligence publications. May be useful as background material. A few notable publications include:

  • IC Annual Employee Climate Survey (2007)
  • Summary of the Reengagement of Detainees Formerly Held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (2013)
  • The National Intelligence Strategy of the United States of America, August 2009

Center for Cryptologic History

Center for Cryptologic History –https://www.nsa.gov/about/cryptologic-heritage/center-cryptologic-history/

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Where can I find examples of women or African-American cryptographers?
  • What was the role of the NSA during the Cuban Missile Crisis?
  • How did the Soviets use Project GUNMAN to tap into US Embassy typewriters?


At one time it was said that the federal initials NSA stood for No Such Agency. Today the National Security Agency operates the Center for Cryptologic History. This site has a good amount of procedural and biographical data for a writer creating spies or cryptographers.

Some notable parts of the site include:

Historical Publications – A relatively small but useful number of NSA publications ranging from 15 page brochures to full books. Most are available online and the NSA will send you a print copy if you e-mail them. Since the NSA probably already has your e-mail address, don’t be shy about requesting print if that is the format you are comfortable with. The publications fall into the following time periods:

  • Pre-WWII (Prior to 1941)
  • WWII Era (1941-1945)
  • Cold War (1948-1991)
  • Korean War Era (1950-1953)
  • Vietnam War (1954-1975)
  • Miscellaneous

Good sounding titles from this set of publications include:

  • Masked Dispatches: Cryptograms and Cryptology in American History, 1775-1900
  • Listening to the Rumrunners
  • Eavesdropping on Hell: Historical Guide to Western Communications Intelligence and the Holocaust, 1939-1945
  • The Quiet Heroes of the Southwest Pacific Theater: An Oral History of the Men and Women of CBB and FRUMEL
  • A Dangerous Business: The U.S. Navy and National Reconnaissance During the Cold War (Did you know that 90 Navy personnel were killed while doing Cold war recon?)
  • PFC Jay Stoner – A two page story of heroism and sacrifice from the Korean War
  • The Voynich Manuscript – an Elegant Enigma


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.


Intelligence.gov – http://www.intelligence.gov

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What sorts of degrees might a spy or analyst have?
  • What are the basic parts of the intelligence life cycle?
  • What sort of job could a computer science major get with the Defense Intelligence Agency?
  • How might a college student get involved with the Intelligence Community?


General career site for the US Intelligence Community (IC). Provides basic information on the intelligence life cycle, structure of the seventeen agency members of the IC and links to specific job pages. Site is divided into two main sections:  Mission and Careers.

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

Vietnam Studies (series)

Vietnam Studies (series) – http://www.history.army.mil/html/bookshelves/collect/vn-studies.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What was the role of Australians and New Zealanders in the Vietnam War?
  • How did the military blood program work in Vietnam?
  • Where can I find an account of the battles of Prek Klok?
  • What was the role of Army intelligence in Operation Cedar Falls?


Another online bookshelf of Vietnam-related materials from the Center of Military History. From the series introduction at the beginning of each volume:
“At the request of the Chief of Staff, a representative group of senior officers who served in important posts in Vietnam and who still carry a heavy burden of day-to-day responsibilities has prepared a series of monographs. These studies should be of great value in helping the Army develop future operational concepts while at the same time contributing to the historical record and providing the American public with an interim report on the performance of men and officers who have responded, as others have through our history, to exacting and trying demands.
All monographs in the series are based primarily on official records, with additional material from published and unpublished secondary works, from debriefing reports and interviews with key participants, and from the personal experience of the author.”

Notable works in this series are:

  • Allied Participation in Vietnam
  • The Development and Training of the South Vietnamese Army 1950-1972
  • Division-Level Communication 1962-1973
  • Field Artillery, 1954-1973
  • Medical Support of the U.S. Army in Vietnam, 1965-1970
  • The Role of Military Intelligence, 1965-1967
  • U.S. Army Special Forces in Vietnam: 1961-1971

Most of the books in this series are arranged in chronological order and have tables of maps, charts, illustrations and photographs.

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