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Once upon a time not so long ago, the study of intelligence fell outside academic or analytical boundaries; it was left to one or two former practitioners with university chairs, the buffs, old spies, journalists, and those who published screeds. The result of these tastes and fashions coupled with the innate secrecy of governments on such matters meant that large areas of history and politics went unreported, unanalyzed, hardly noticed. Intelligence was not a discipline, not attractive to conventional scholars, not integrated into either the university purview or the concerns of the analysts of the great think tanks and consulting firms along the Washington beltway. Intelligence was practiced, not analyzed.
The great and authoritative histories of World War II were written and still to a large extend remain on the shelves without, for example, their authors' realizing that the British government had access to much of the vital German military communications through the Enigma operation. Even the most narrow military history must be adjusted if one set of generals is reading the mail of the other and so too must much of the history of the period. Once definitive, now merely authoritative, a generation of analysis and history must be rewritten. Intelligence can no longer be left to journalists and the authors of spy novels.
Academics for years continued to analyze national security policy with its appealing and congenial strategic implications in innocence of intelligence factors. The scientists were brought aboard strategic analysis in a variety of roles, from the Harvard-MIT Arms Control Seminar to the meetings of Pugwash; books were written, careers were made, reputations were established, but all without reference to the role of intelligence - without even an awareness of the lacunae. Even the arrival of the hard images of the aerial photography and satellite cameras did not really change analysis much. In fact, intelligence in strategic matters, in policy analysis, in real life, along the beltway or at the American Political Science Association meetings, and in the published pages of books and journals remained, with a few honorable exceptions, either too secret or too "popular" - the stuff of thrillers - to count.
All this has changed utterly: Intelligence is a field, a subdiscipline, and a subject for dissertations and conferences; it has engendered a very considerable literature - books, journals, articles, reviews, anthologies, memoirs, and programs - without, of course, being less secret, less popular, or less contentious. The scholarly apparatus included in any serious work on intelligence - the notes and sources and individuals touched, the conferences attended, the letters exchanged displayed - indicates that there is now a community, if not a common communion, of those who specialize in such matters: historians, hard scientists, strategists, sociologists, and all sorts of scholars and investigators, most respectable, a few imposing.
They have been joined by those less-academically trained and those with practical experience. They have established their own world, one that attracts concern and interest elsewhere, inside government and out, in the pages of elite newspapers, with bestsellers and films and memoirs. There is an enormous wealth of material. Books exist on intelligence in every major country, on special operations and ancient practice, on deception and propaganda, on the Bay of Pigs and the penetration of terrorist nets. The British spies - the Five - have inspired nearly as much prose as Marilyn Monroe or the Kennedy clan. For a long time to those with serious minds, and even now for a few, much of this seemed marginal, useful to indicate popular culture or political agendas but not the rigorous analysis an academic discipline requires. In America this is especially the case in the popular mind, in film and thriller, even in political oratory, for the CIA, like the Mafia or the KGB, the Masons or the Communist-Zionist conspiracy, has been presented as the director of events. The CIA, the entire intelligence community - ours, theirs, anyone's - is surrounded by a miasma of romantic myth, misunderstanding, illusion, and projected fantasies; it has become a magnet for the frantic and the self-interested. Even to write on the subject, as now scholars do, is to engender controversy. Few can treat the intelligence community as an aspect of governance or a secret bureaucracy, a means of policy or the descendent of such previous structures. Even …