Jerry P. Shinley Archive:
Techniques of Domestic Intelligence Collection



Subject: Techniques of Domestic Intelligence Collection
Date: 20 Sep 1999 00:00:00 GMT
Message-ID: <7s5qnu$pm2$>

Techniques of Domestic Intelligence Collection

Anthony F. Czajkowski

Studies in Intelligence, vol 2, no. 1 (Winter 1959)

as reprinted in:

_Inside CIA's private world : declassified articles from the agency's internal journal, 1955-1992_ / edited by H. Bradford Westerfield. New Haven, CT : Yale University Press, c1995, pages 51-8.

       The process of getting intelligence information out of people is normally associated with overseas operations, but it was demonstrated during World War II that this clandestine activity can be usefully supplemented by collection in the analyst's own back yard. Potential sources of intelligence within the United States are myriad. U. S. concerns have been active in various parts of the world for many decades and their records often contain information which a clandestine agent would have little hope of obtaining, especially in war-time. Representatives of industrial plants travel continually and compile expert reports and evaluations on foreign economic and financial affairs. The current increase in East-West contacts has sent thousands of U.S. citizens as travelers to countries of the Soviet Bloc. Scientists and academicians attend international meetings and conferences, where they meet and exchange information with opposite numbers from all parts of the world. Refugees from the Soviet Union and its satellite nations continue to enter the United States for permanent residence.

       For more than ten years the Contact Division of the CIA's Office of Operations, with its network of field offices throughout the country, has been tapping this vast potential of information on behalf of the intelligence community. Since 1948 over forty thousand individuals and companies have supplied information ranging into every field of intelligence. Through this collection operation the community has at its disposal the expert analysis and commentary of the most knowledgeable people in the academic, scientific, professional and industrial fields.

       Getting information from these individuals calls for techniques different from those employed in clandestine collection. The contact specialist, as the domestic field collector is known, has no control over the Source. The Source provides information voluntarily, with no hint of pressure or threat, because he has been convinced that he can be of singular assistance to the U.S. Government; but mere waving of the flag does not automatically produce the cornucopia of intelligence plenty. U.S. citizens, as a rule, know little of intelligence organizations and intelligence needs. A visit to a businessman by a government representative arouses instinctive fear that the company books are about to be examined for tax purposes, that an anti-trust suit is pending, or that an investigation is being conducted against a friend. Academicians and missionaries are apprehensive that their cooperation with U.S. intelligence will become known and hinder their future activity in a foreign area. The alien, wise to the ways of intelligence and security services, distrusts the contact officer (credentials are easily forged, he claims) or fears for the safety of relatives still living behind the Curtain.

       To convert the hesitant businessman or fearful alien into a cooperative Source, the contact officer must have a wide diversity of skills. He must be a salesman, selling his prospect on the importance of the intelligence function; he must be an intelligence officer, knowing the needs and gaps in the community's information; he must play the practical psychologist, handling dissimilar personalities with dexterity; and finally he becomes a skilled reporter, putting the Source's information into a concise and readable intelligence report.

Locating and Contacting the New Source

       Since the contact officer cannot hope to approach all the commercial, banking, educational and scientific institutions, as well as all the aliens, in his area, he must learn to select from among his sources. He obtains leads from trade journals and directories, from established sources, from Agency headquarters, and from other government agencies. Matching these leads against his knowledge of current intelligence requirements, he tries to pinpoint those individuals and companies in his area which have the best potential for filling the requirements.

       Once he decides or is directed by his field chief to "open up" a new company, institution, or individual, his first step is to brief himself on the company and if possible on the individual he is to contact. At the same time he reviews intelligence requirements in the prospective contact's field, making preliminary exploration of its potential for his purposes. He will offer no pretensions to expertise in the Source's field of specialty, but will be able to win confidence and rapport by recognizing the Source's professional interests and understanding his terminology. He cannot walk in cold on a new Source and hope to establish the proper rapport for a continuing contact.

       No security clearance is required for initial contact with a U.S. citizen. The existence of the Central Intelligence organization and its general purposes are public knowledge, and no classified information is discussed in the initial interview. Contact with an alien, on the other hand, must first be cleared with the FBI as a matter of internal security.

       In approaching a new company or institution, the contact officer always goes to the top man, to the president, the chairman of the board, or whoever determines broad policy for the company. Once cooperation is obtained at the highest level, it is assured at all subordinate levels. The president will not ordinarily have the information intelligence is seeking, but he will designate the official in the company who does have it and who will be the future contact. If a subordinate is contacted first, experience has shown, an embarrassing situation can arise when the president inquires why his company is being "penetrated" by the U.S. Government.

       To interview the executive an appointment is of course necessary, and executives have secretaries whose function it is to keep unwelcome visitors away and screen calls to the "boss." The secretary wants to know who is calling and why. The contact officer gives her his name and identifies himself as a representative of the federal Government who wishes to speak to her boss on a confidential matter. Few secretaries dare to block such a call except in companies which have frequent contact with government agencies. The persistently inquisitive secretary is told that the caller will explain his purpose fully to the boss.

       Once he has been put through to the executive, the contact officer identifies himself more fully by revealing his association with U.S. intelligence or, if pressed, with CIA. He outlines briefly why he desires a personal interview. Most individuals, when first approached, associate a government official with one of the enforcement agencies, and the contact man therefore seeks an early appointment.

The First Interview

       The contact officer's objective is to convert the prospect into a continuing and cooperative Source, he must take especial care to make the best initial impression. Temperaments and social customs vary in different parts of the country, the officer must comport himself according to the Source's taste. Whereas a ten-gallon hat and a string tie may be acceptable in Texas or in Arizona, they cause raised eyebrows in Boston and New York. It has become axiomatic that the contact man should dress as conservatively as the most conservative of his contacts for that day. Religious or fraternal pins are better not worn. In calling on a missionary or religious source discussion of religion is avoided. The intelligence officer cannot allow himself the liberty of drawing racial, color, or religious lines.

       When, promptly at the time of his appointment, the contact officer arrives and is ushered into the Source's office, he immediately shows his credentials and underscores his association with CIA to emphasis that he does not represent the FBI or any other federal agency. The Source is naturally curious about the visit, and may even have been troubled since the first phone call. The officer tries to put him at ease immediately. The approach will vary, depending on the circumstance, on the personality of the Source, and even on the area.


       Whatever approach he uses, the contact man must accomplish three things during his initial visit - explain his intelligence mission, assess the potential of the company for his purposes, and show the Source how his company can be of assistance to the cause of national security.

       Private citizens have varying amounts of knowledge about intelligence, and the first task is to orient the Source on Central Intelligence purposes and is place in the federal Government. The contact officer brings out the Director's advisory function to the National Security Council headed by the President, stressing how necessary it is for policy makers to be well informed on conditions and events throughout the world. He also explains that he represents all the intelligence agencies in the Government, so that needless duplication in visits by other intelligence representatives can be avoided. The Source can contribute to the welfare of the country, he says, by making available whatever information on foreign plants, research and development, or other matters he may possess or acquire.

       The assessment of the company's potential then follows naturally. The Source is usually willing to cooperate but may fail to see how any information he has will be of value to the intelligence effort. The contact man then introduces questions on the company's foreign branches or affiliates, the extent of its foreign business, and the degree to which the home office is kept aware of conditions in areas in which the company operates.

       At this point the Source may become apprehensive that any information he provides may boomerang against his interests, through punitive action by another federal agency, through revelations of proprietary information to a competitor, or through embarrassment in his future dealings with foreign companies or governments. The contact man convincingly reassures him that a guiding principle of all relations is Source protection. The name of the Source is never connected with his information. Nor is data provided by a Source ever turned over to another federal agency for any regulatory or punitive action. Information given by the Source is circulated only in intelligence channels within the United States, and the Source need not have any apprehension that his name or his information will get into unauthorized hands. His cooperation with intelligence, as well as the information provided by him, is kept classified.

       Conversely, the Source is requested to treat the contact as classified and not to reveal to anyone the purpose of the visit. It is pointed out that the need for security is mutual. Further, since this confidential contact may be followed by other visits in which classified requirements may be used, biographic information on the Source for security reasons is requested. Ordinarily, if the contact officer has laid the proper basis for a continuing contact with the Source, whether the top executive or one of his subordinates, he has no difficulty in securing biographic data.

       The officer cannot rely on his memory to retain the information divulged during the interview. He inquires whether the Source has any objection to note-taking - an inquiry which is generally academic, for it adds to the Source's feeling that he is doing something important if his words are taken down. On biographic and technical data note-taking is naturally a matter of course.

       The length of the interview is governed by the time available to the Source and the contact officer's estimate of the Source's inteeligence potential. The experienced contact man can assess the company's potential in a short time, and if his assessment is negative he arranges for a graceful exit as soon as possible. If he believes the company does have access to useful information, he explores the possibilities as completely as time and circumstances allow. In this case, the length of interview must be gauged by the Source's attitude and his appointment book. It sometimes happens, on the other hand, the Source has time on his hands and relishes having the ear of a government representative into which to pour all his ideas on what he thinks is "wrong with Washington." Here the contact officer politely steers the conversation to the purpose of his visit, creating the impression that he himself is a busy man.

       The first interview is terminated with the understanding that the officer will probably return to explore the company's information further. If a return is actually contemplated, he leaves a personal card which bears his name, his field office's post-office box number, and his (unlisted) office telephone number. The name of the Agency does not appear on this card. About a week or ten days later he writes the Source to thank him for his cooperation, mentioning that he is looking forward to another visit. The letter serves to remind the Source of inteeligence interests and gives him again the officer's name and phone numbers should he have misplaced the calling-card.

       After the initial interview the contact officer must estimate the future usefulness of the Source and his company. Should he follow up or not? If after consultation with his field office chief he decides that the company has insufficient potential to warrant further expenditure of time and effort, he sends a complete account of his visit, plus the biographic data he has obtained on the Source, to Division Headquarters, with a notation that further contact is not contemplated. A copy is of course retained in the field office, for the guidance of other contact officers who may some day obtain a lead on the same company. If, on the other hand, he decides that the company and the Source can and will supply intelligence information of value, he submits to Headquarters not only an account of his visit but also a request for security clearance on the individuals with whom he will be dealing. The secretary, if she is witting to the intelligence contact, may also have to be cleared.

Continuing Contact

       How often a contact officer calls on a company depends on several factors - the amount and type of information it has available, its distance from his field office, his own work-load, the Source's own preferences and schedule. If the contact officer has determined that a company has information periodically, he makes it a point to pay it several visits a year, even though each visit may not produce intelligence. An ideal Source is one who has been "trained" to such a point that he will telephone when he has information of interest or when a company official has returned from a trip abroad. But the contact man is well aware that a company official thinks in terms of his own daily business needs and tends to forget intelligence needs. Like the salesman, the contact specialist must periodically revive interest in his product.

       Subsequent visits to a company are relatively easy to handle. In a large company the contact officer utilizes as principal Source the person designated by the president, but also continually attempts to become acquainted with the head of every department in which foreign intelligence may be found. This intelligence may take the form of reports from managers of overseas branches or affiliates, contacts or negotiations with foreign companies or countries, or interviews with returning officials. Travelers abroad are an important font of intelligence and the officer tries to arrange for regular immediate notification when such travel takes place.

       When the contact officer learns that a cleared company official is about to travel on company business abroad, he is faced with the often difficult question of whether to brief him, that is to instruct him beforehand in specific intelligence interests in the areas to be visited. The decision to brief, involving security and psychological hazards, is an infrequent one. Sometimes the business traveler is outraged at an attempt to recruit him as a "spy." But if the officer has worked with a Source for some time, considers him reliable, and is confident he will not interpret the briefing as a mandate to engage in cloak-and-dagger activity, then he requests the entire intelligence community, through his headquarters channels, to provide questions for which the Source may be able to obtain the answers. If he decides that a specific outlining of intelligence gaps is not desirable, he reminds the prospective traveler of the general needs of the community and suggests that whatever is of interest to him as a specialist in his field will be of interest to intelligence as well. in either case the Source must be discreet enough - and not all business travelers have been - to avoid advertising abroad that he is out to get "inside dope for the CIA."

       After the traveler has returned, the contact officer seeks an interview as soon as mutually convenient. If there was a briefing, the same questions may be used in debriefing. If the Source was not specifically primed with requirements for the trip, community requirements may be obtained for the debriefing. Formal requirements, however, are only guides to the interview rather than limitations on it. The contact officer tries to get as much detail as possible on all items of interest the Source may have encountered. Since a detailed interview takes time and the returned traveler is generally preoccupied with business matters that have piled up during his absence, a copy of the trip report which he will usually write for his company may be helpful. This report, however, will deal exclusively with his company's business, and interviews will still be necessary to explore any other subjects or areas on which the Source may be competent to report.

       Mechanical aids are occasionally used to expedite the interview process. Although the modern business man is well acquainted with the tape recorder or dictaphone and generally has no objection to their use, the contact man makes it a point to get permission for them. Some Sources, suggesting that an outline of the type of information desired be left with them, offer to dictate the answers as time permits into a tape recorder. Under this procedure the Source must be reminded to specify which questions he is answering and to spell out proper names.

       Intelligence collected is not limited to the spoken and written word, but often includes maps, flow charts, photographs, graphics, floor plans, etc. These items are of most use to intelligence analysts when they are obtained for permanent retention, preferably in the original copy; but the Source usually has only a few copies and may balk at providing any for retention. Here the persuasiveness of the contact man must again prove itself. If he cannot talk the Source out of a copy, he tries at least to obtain the item on loan for 30 days so he can send it to Washington for reproduction.

       Intelligence collection is essentially a one-way street, with the Sources giving and the collector receiving, but occasionally a Source requests reciprocity. The contact officer does have such unclassified items as the FBI's [FBIS?] daily report on foreign broadcasts and translations of Soviet scientific abstracts at his disposal for distribution to selected Sources, and this quid pro quo helps to cement a cordial relationship. A greater strain on the relationship with a firm occurs when the Source requests specific information in return. A company may be opening a new branch overseas and desire information as to whether its proposed indigenous branch manager is pro-Communist or unreliable in some other way. Or a firm may request assistance in arranging for the immigration of a skilled worker. Such requests are especially embarrassing when they come from a company which has been thoroughly cooperative and which may itself have provided covert support to the Agency. The contact man extricates himself from such situations by referring the requester whenever possible to the appropriate federal agency. If that does not work, he agrees to take the matter up with his Washington headquarters and throws on Washington the blame for the inability to comply with the company's request.

       The many foreign specialists who visit U.S. firms and institutions also have information of intelligence interest. These, however, the collector cannot talk to directly; intelligence policy forbids interviewing aliens in the United States on temporary visits. If time and occasion permit, the contact officer enlists the aid of an established Source within the firm visited to act as a cut-out or middleman. He briefs the cut-out on intelligence interests and encourages him to intertwine intelligence questions into his conversations with the visitor. The cut-out is also in good position to assess the visitor's technical competence and personal idiosyncrasies. Interviewing through an cut-out, even more than interviewing through an interpreter, is less satisfactory than a direct encounter, but is preferable to creating an impression that visitors are invited to the United States only for intelligence exploitation.


Jerry Shinley

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