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How Does The CIA Define Intelligence?

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How Does The CIA Define Intelligence?

The Central Intelligence Agency has been something of an enigma for United States foreign policy for many decades. I’ve previously discussed some of the CIA’s recent efforts to privatize Intelligence work.

However, if you really want to know how does the CIA define intelligence, you have to understand the foundation of the organization and the long history of how it attempted to influence foreign nations since then.

In effect, the CIA was born from the Office of Strategic Services, the active Foreign Intelligence organization critically necessary during the major world conflict of World War II. Once the War ended, the Intelligence organization found itself without a real mission – and the O.S.S. was officially terminated in 1945.

However, despite the fact that most government leaders considered the intelligence organization as a “necessary evil” during such a terrible conflict against such a ruthless dictator – the majority also considered such a “foreign intelligence” organization as unnecessary during peacetime.

In fact, when the C.I.A. was eventually founded upon the same basic principles as the O.S.S., the State Department, the F.B.I. and even the Department of Defense all attempted to stifle the growth of this new organization specializing in covert foreign intelligence.

cia foreign intelligence

What Intelligence Measures are Appropriate and Ethical?

Considering the idea of intentionally influencing foreign matters around the world, one needs to observe events during America’s own internal conflict during the mid 1800’s – the American Civil War.

Prior to 1862, the Civil war had nothing to do with slavery. The Southern States were simply fighting to split from the Union. In fact, the southern political structure more closely matched the Aristocracies of Europe, while Northern Democracy was still a concept that European nations did not believe would be effective or successful.

Outright war between the Union and England almost broke out in 1861 when Captain Charles Wilkes stopped and searched the British mail steamer, Trent, suspecting that Southern commissioners were aboard – attempting to reach Europe to request assistance in the Southern war effort. Wilkes captured the two – James Mason and John Slidell – on November 8, 1861 and imprisoned the two at Fort Warren in Boston Harbor. The British loaded up eleven thousand troops upon a war fleet and sailed toward the American mainland for war. Before they reached land, the North offered an apology and surrendered both prisoners.

Aside from this incident, where the British almost openly went to war with the North – not a single European Nation interfered outright with the internal American conflict. Support for either side was limited to the normal, non-preferential sale of arms to both the North and the South. No nation attempted to destroy the American Democracy by supporting the southern uprising.

cia foreign intelligence

How Does the CIA Define Intelligence by Contrast

Tibet is a perfect example of U.S. Intelligence efforts to subvert foreign political power by interfering in the internal affairs of foreign nations. Since the 1940’s, the CIA has never been averse to using drugs and sex to manipulate foreign powers, or to giving away U.S. military hardware and weaponry to support a particular civil uprising.

From the 1950’s through the 1980’s, the CIA’s primary focus across the world was to counter Communism anywhere is surfaced in the world.

In 1956, the Tibetan people rose up against communist China. The C.I.A. trained a small “special forces” team of six Tibetans in areas of demolition, small weapons handling and even Sabotage. The training took place at Saipan Island in preparation for a CIA operation called “Saint Circus.” The United States consistently approached the Dalai-Lama to team up with the U.S. government to publicly support the uprising. In 1958, CIA agents outright asked the Dalai Lama to publicly request U.S. help for the Chushi Gangdrug tribal alliance.

Meanwhile, the CIA actually brought Tibetan guerillas to Camp Hale and Butts Field Air Force Base in Colorado and trained them in military warfare tactics. Over seven years, the CIA trained over 200 Tibetan rebels. The Dalai-Lama consistently refused U.S. intervention in order to avoid outright war with China. Despite his efforts, the tribal National Volunteer Defense Army entered into war with China on March 10, 1959.

During the conflict that lasted just about a year, the U.S. covertly dropped 362 tons of military supplies – and “guerilla warfare specialists” – into Tibet to support the uprising against Communist China. Eventually, the Tibetan forces were militarily overpowered and the Tibetan government was forced into exile in India.

The CIA has conducted itself similarly throughout the rest of the world, particularly in the Middle East, for many decades. During a 1993 New York Times interview, the Dalai Lama reflected upon the similarities between himself and Saddam Hussein in how and when the West chose to support or condemn particular leaders.

Q: I understand that you were very angry during the 1990 gulf war, as angry as you’ve ever been.

A: Angry? No. But one thing, when people started blaming Saddam Hussein, then my heart went out to him.

Q: To Saddam Hussein?

A: Yes. Because this blaming everything on him — it’s unfair. He may be a bad man, but without his army, he cannot act as aggressively as he does. And his army, without weapons, cannot do anything. And these weapons were not produced in Iraq itself. Who supplied them? Western nations! So one day something happened and they blamed everything on him — without acknowledging their own contributions. That’s wrong.

Final Words

While it’s easy for Westerners to justify the often-unethical activities of the CIA in interfering with foreign affairs, U.S. citizens should also ask whether it would have been okay if Britain or France had covertly shipped many tons of military supplies and offered military training to Confederate forces. Would it have been okay if foreign powers, through covert means, completely altered the outcome of the American Civil War and ultimately changed the course of history?

The final question for U.S. citizens is this – is the C.I.A. even relevant any longer today, and is its mission and activities reflective of the core values and principles of America?


1993 New York Times Interview – by Claudia Dreifus
1998 New York Times World News Brief
– “How CIA helped Dalai Lama to end up in exile“,

Originally published on

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