Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “World of Espionage”

National Intelligence University Recommended Readings list

National Intelligence University Recommended Readings list – http://ni-u.edu/wp/recommended-readings/

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Where can I find a book on the psychology of intelligence analysis?
  • Where can I find a general overview of the art of intelligence?
  • What are some biases in estimating the probability of a given event?


This is the list of books that are recommended to members of the US intelligence community prior to taking advanced classes in intelligence.
The list is divided into several sections: National Guidance; Intelligence Art, Practice and Strategy; Global Strategic Environment; Research and Writing.

Some of the readings are freely available online. Others would probably be available at your local library or through interlibrary loan.

This list has a good amount of material that would be familiar to your American spy character.


Intelligence Community Legal Reference Book Directorate of National Intelligence via Federation of American Scientists

Intelligence Community Legal Reference Book Directorate of National Intelligence via FAS – http://www.fas.org/irp/dni/legal-2009.pdf

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What are guidelines for reports of possible criminal activity involving foreign intelligence sources?
  • What sorts of activities should be reported to the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board?
  • What are the provisions of the Military Commissions Act of 2006?


Compilation of laws related to intelligence activities. Among other law, it includes the full text of the USA PATRIOT Act and a number of Executive Orders. Helpful for coming up with charges to throw at characters. Also for theoretical constraints on intelligence activities.

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.

Educing Information via Federation of American Scientists

Educing Information via FAS – http://www.fas.org/irp/dni/educing.pdf

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Are professionals really able to tell when someone is lying better than an average person?
  • Why are verbal cues probably more reliable than non-verbal cues in detecting deception?
  • How can building rapport with an interrogation subject help in obtaining information?


This National Defense Intelligence College publication is a compilation of ten articles on interrogation methods and their efficacy. Here are a few:

  • Approaching Truth: Behavioral Science Lessons on Educing Information from Human Sources by Randy Borum.
  • Research on Detection of Deception: What We Know vs. What We Think We Know by Gary Hazlett
  • KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation Review: Observations of an Interrogator – Lessons Learned and Avenues for Further Research by Steven M. Kleinman
  • Custodial Interrogations: What We Know, What We Do, and What We Can Learn from Law Enforcement Experiences by Ariel Neuman and Daniel Salinas-Serrano

The beginning of the book also has a brief history of modern interrogation methods, starting with the Korean War.

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.

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.

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