While intelligence is mostly known for its classified nature, a good portion of intelligence work is conducted using open source methods. OSINT, or open-source intelligence as it is referred to, is a valuable tool critical to any bit of analysis. A responsible intelligence analyst always takes into consideration the OSINT available. While it cannot (or should not) be used to reveal the sources and methods behind sensitive intelligence collection techniques, OSINT often provides the context, perspective, and background information the analyst needs in order to make an accurate intelligence assessment.

On that note, the Central Intelligence Agency maintains a website, available to the public, that provides a myriad of great info for any readers interested in learning more about intelligence, becoming an intelligence officer, or learning how intelligence has played a role in determining our foreign policy since the time of George Washington: Consider it your open source gateway to all the context, perspective, and background information you need to build an accurate picture of the craft of intelligence.

As with anything else in life, there is often far too much to do and not enough time to do it. The same applies to the amount of reading material on this list. Regardless, the CIA’s Suggested Reading List, under Intelligence Literature, is a valuable resource not to be overlooked. It contains an extensive list of intelligence literature that provides “a wide spectrum of views on intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency… [covering] history, technology, opinion, and… key personalities associated with intelligence.”

A few topics of interest the list covers include:

  • World War II and before
  • the CIA and the days of the OSS
  • Biographies and memoirs of CIA officers
  • Espionage
  • Counterintelligence operations
  • Covert action operations
  • Analysis
  • the War on Terror

Suggested Reading List

From this list, I have only read about nine of the selections (after ingesting countless reports for a living you can only take so much more reading). A few good titles that I have enjoyed (not exclusively from CIA’s list) are below, with links to Amazon that provide more info on the books themselves. I also provided some commentary for the works I felt were the most fundamental to understanding intelligence.

The Craft of Intelligence, by Allen Dulles

Probably the most fundamental work on intelligence as a craft. The book is very well structured and provides a great foundation for the understanding of intelligence. Parts of it are a bit dry, but finishing it gives readers all the info they need to press into more complex intelligence operations, disciplines, and analysis. Definitely an intel “classic.”