The CIA’s Secret Journal Articles Are Gossipy, Snarky, and No Longer Classified

The CIA declassified a trove of articles from its in-house journal, articles that mock excessive secrecy and bad writing, dish on problematic affairs, and brag about press manipulation.

The CIA has declassified a trove of articles from its in-house journal, Studies in Intelligence. Ostensibly a semi-academic review of spycraft, Studies emerges in the pieces, which date from the 1970s to the 2000s, as so much more, at turns mocking excessive secrecy and bad writing, dishing on problematic affairs, and bragging about press manipulation.

Of course, there is plenty of self-serious material in the journal too, including scholarly reviews, first-person memoirs, interviews and intellectual ruminations on everything from maps to “How We Are Perceived” and “Ethics and Clandestine Collection.”

The CIA posted the hundreds of declassified articles to its FOIA site. Here are a few that caught our eye. (If you see something interesting in the archive, post it in the comments, email it to, or send it securely to me.)

The documents include a 2004 interview with current CIA director John Brennan and a 2000 interview with Michael Hayden, then head of the NSA. “Everything’s secret,” Hayden tells Studies. “I mean, I got an email saying, ‘Merry Christmas.’ It carried a Top Secret NSA classification marking.”

He also describes how the NSA had begun on a media offensive, to “put a human face on the agency:”

An interview with George Tenet, who ran the CIA from 1996-2004, is almost entirely redacted.

Michael Morell, later acting head of the CIA, provides a minute-by-minute account of standing at George W. Bush’s side during the 9/11 attacks. He notes that he and Bush strategist Karl Rove often joked about the president’s daily briefing, for which Morell was then responsible. “You don’t have anything in that briefcase that CNN doesn’t have,” Rove once said to him.

There are detailed historical pieces on the CIA’s operations in Guatemala, and on the CIA’s recruitment on college campuses:

In another article, undated, a CIA man in Havana recounts his time “trying to counter Castro” from 1958 until the 1970s. He had some troubles with an informant…

…and hid radios around the island:

Over the years, various scolds took the agency to task for sloppy grammar and bad writing:

Someone illustrated the intelligence community’s most overused platitudes – “foreseeable future,” “dire straits,” “mounting crises” –with mythical creatures in a 1982 “Bestiary of Intelligence Writing.”

The recent document dump was prompted by a lawsuit from a former CIA employee, Jeffrey Scudder, who has said that his attempt to have these articles released via a Freedom of Information Act request destroyed his career. He was accused of mishandling classified information in making the request, and was fired. The CIA has now released 249 of the 419 documents Scudder requested, according to Secrecy News, which first reported the document release today.

Update: The CIA has previously declassified other articles from Studies in Intelligence, mostly book reviews and essays, which are available here. Some of the documents that the CIA included here had also been published by the National Security Archive and National Security Counselors.

Top photo: Terry Ashe/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

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