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Changes in mission, scope, organization, resources and technology to address perceived national security concerns in the early Cold War era
US Intelligence community has experienced several advances since the 1950's and 1960's eras after the end of the Second World War and the coming of the Cold War. Covert Operations became the mostly widely used mode of intelligence gathering not only in the US intelligence community but other major intelligence agencies opposed to its economic policies. Due to the ever increasing threat of nuclear proliferation from non-allies of the United States in the post World War 3 era, a case in point being the shipment of nuclear missile launchers and nuclear missiles into Cuba by the Soviet Union in the "Cuban missile crisis" period, a position too close to the American soil several urgent intelligence gathering were necessary to ensure safety in the United States. Covert operations involving use of US Air force U-2 flights which provided a high level aerial survey to assess the nuclear threat posed by Cuba. Other modes of intelligence gathering including the use of reports by covert agents and wire tapping were also employed though they were not a match for the U-2 method of intelligence gathering.
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1. Covert Action Successes of The 1950's and 1960's and its rapid expansion
The cold war basically lasted from the 1940's to the 1980's, so the 1950's and 1960's was a period literally of the middle of the Cold War. There appeared to be an apparent failure of intelligence analysis as a method of intelligence gathering, and the growing need for more intelligence as necessitated by the Vietnam War and the need to know better the activities countries principally opposed to the US in the Cold War. All these factors played a big role in the revolution of the intelligence community towards more effective methods of intelligence gathering. Analytic intelligence was suddenly becoming less and less irrelevant both politically and structurally. The growing popularity of covert action as a mode of intelligence gathering, coupled by the ever increasing need for more intelligence saw the rapid growth of covert action as a method of intelligence gathering in the United States. It was never imaginable before that intelligence gathering would so rapidly drift towards the covert action methods.
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HUMINT sources played a critical role in notifying the American intelligence agencies of the ongoing Soviet Union activities in the eastern side of Cuba. The provide information on the shipment of Soviet missiles and the ongoing activities to make them operational and therefore possible for them to be launched in to the US. This form also played a key role when weather conditions could not allow for the effective use of intelligence gathering by the CIA's U-2 spy planes which were also in use during the period.
Covert action in the Cold War period showed several remarkable successes that helped in negotiating peace even with adversaries previously strongly opposed to any form of diplomatic solutions. During the "Cuban missile crisis" of 1962 it was possible for the US then under the leadership of President Kennedy for the US to come to peaceful end to a very real threat of missile originated from the Soviet Union being launched from Cuba a country with very close proximity to the American land. Though President Kennedy had to later withdraw the non-invasion pledge of Cuba due to its adamancy to allow for the on-site inspections, the Soviets under Khrushchev were able to reach a settlement with the US which involved the withdrawal of the missiles together with its launch equipment from Cuba and the destruction of the missile sites. This was a major and historic success of the use of covert operation by the US which leads to a diplomatic resolution to a brewing armed conflict between the US and the Soviet Union.
2. Technological Advances in 1950's and Growth in use of Non-HUMINT sources of intelligence
HUMINT derived from the words HUMan INTelligence was a common made of intelligence gathering especially in the World War 2 period and before the 1950's Cold War era. Basically this method of intelligence gathering involved mainly use of spies who would secretly gather information and pass it on to contacts without raising the least bit of suspicion from the enemy. The level of discretion involved basically meant that the information might not be delivered on time as the enemies would sometimes keep watch of espionage suspects. Some were unfortunate to be found out and usually paid for it with their lives
The 1950's saw the need for the development of more technologically advanced ways of intelligence gathering that were faster more reliable and detectable than the traditional HUMINT sources of intelligence. Colonel Penkovsy's capture and murder in October of 1962 is one such example. Having being a source of incredible amounts of information for the US and the British his execution by the Soviets in prison was a blow for the intelligence community in US and Great Britain. Though his work in the intelligence was invaluable and practically swayed the course of the Cold war his discovery of being a spy could have meant possible loss of channels of information gathering and present even a harder time in tying to gather intelligence through similar means.
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It was therefore necessary for the development of non-HUMINT methods of intelligence gathering thus the revolutionary drift towards more technologically advanced methods of doing the same. This period of technological intelligence gathering saw the emergence of several methods of collecting intelligence that employed less and less humans as the primary mode of collecting intelligence. Use of aerial reconnaissance, tapping information and presently the use of space age technology to collect intelligence have gradually made technology the primary mode of collecting intelligence information for several intelligence agencies both in the US and even abroad.
3. Beginning of decline in HUMINT in favor of national technical means as primary intelligence gathering method
HUMINT intelligence gathering has continued to see a constant decline since during in the 1970's after controversial government activities were exposed to the public and technology has swiftly moved in to fill the gap created in the intelligence gathering section of the IC.
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The gradual decrease in funding by the government of this branch of the covert operation has also been a major contributor to its fairly controversial decline as it is considerably a less expensive form of covert intelligence gathering.
National technical means of intelligence gathering employs the use of several technological methods to aid in the gathering of information for the IC. Technology use in the intelligence gathering community has seen significant growth since the start of the decline of the HUMINT method of information gathering. Satellite and space-age technology is now considered one of the major ways of collecting intelligence information through covert action. Though more expensive its benefits of being more effective surrounded by current technology advancements which can be replicated in the IC, technological intelligence information gathering continues to grow and be used every single day.
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4. The "Missile Gap" Controversy and IC's Role in the issue
The US intelligence community in the 1960s came up with an interesting claim arising from its intelligence on the nature of the operational missiles it owned compared to those owned by the Soviets.
The "Missile Gap" controversy arose in the 1950's from United States intelligence claims that the Soviet owned a greater number of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles(ICBMs) which were operational than the United States had thus the "Missile Gap".
The perceived threat of this gap was that it was such a serious threat that the President Dwight. D Eisenhower administration believed that the American strategic forces could be eliminated in a single attack. The Soviets were however oblivious to this.
The fears of the elimination of American strategic forces otherwise known as the deterrence gap were dispelled on the fact that the forces were too numerous and varied to be disabled by a single attack.
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Counter claims had it that after the becoming the American president he came to realize that the missile gap actually never existed and that the US was actually significantly ahead of their Soviet counterparts in the deployment of the ballistic missiles.
The IC in the US had a lot to do with these opposing claims. Air Force analysts were of the opinion that the Soviet Union had hundreds of ICBMs; the CIA however claimed that the Soviet had less than a dozen ICBMs later confirmed to be merely four of them. CIA's U-2 spy planes apparently did not cover the whole of the Soviet Union in their information gathering hence there was need for a better analysis of the ICBMs situation in the Soviet Union.
5. Analytic challenges of the Soviet bomber and missile capabilities
Despite the steady growth of the Soviet missile technology various setbacks were in store for the ever advancing industry of this form of weapon development. The threat of American intelligence on the growth of its bomber and missile capabilities cannot be overlooked. It posed and still does pose a major challenge for the Soviet nuclear development plans. American spy agencies uncovered that the claims on missile and bomber gaps with the Soviet Union were mere fabrications meant to create tension in the US due to the imminent threat of attack by the Soviets using their satellite missile control technology. U-2 spy planes in the Soviet Union provided information on the real situation concerning the Soviet bomb and missile capabilities but their continued use would have been a serious risk to the exposure of the American aerial reconnaissance covert operations.
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6. Emergence of Vietnam Order of Battle dispute
In 1967, a dispute in the US IC involving US intelligence arose pertaining to the strength of the South Vietnamese forces.
Enemy Order of Battle, a comprehensive intelligence report on enemy forces and their strength in Vietnam lead to a long dispute between the CIA and the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) intelligence. CIA's officer Sam Adams alleged that there was a "conspiracy by the highest levels of American military intelligence" to deter increase in the estimates of enemy strength which contributed to surprise attacks and major military setbacks as witnessed in the Tot offensive of 1968 which claimed several American casualties.
MACV intelligence had apparently deliberately underestimated the strength of the South Vietnamese forces to keep the American public optimistic about the outcome of the war.
The debate was highly debated and exposed even in the media and even the courts were involved in resolving the dispute. Congressional hearings also took place to help resolve the matter.
7. The principal spies of 1950's and 1960's and technical means of spying at the time
The predominant method of spying during the period was the HUMINT which relied heavily on spies in the enemy countries who gathered intelligence on behalf of various governments. It is worth noting that the spies were cleverly disguised in that they were sometimes passing intelligence on to another country from their own. This was mostly in the case where they were dissatisfied by the way their countries were run and were helping fight unfavorable political and diplomatic situations in their home country. Though there may be other reasons people became spies such as out of their own pride these spies played a major role in the 1950's and 1960's era of intelligence gartering. Colonel Penkovsky, an American spy stationed in the Soviet Union provided loads and loads of information to the Americans. He established contact with a British businessman and was later able to meet both the British and American intelligence officers to pass valuable information in his trips to London. The information included rolls of film, photographs and secret papers beside the several hours he talked to the intelligence officers from both the CIA and the M16. HUMINT reports were also critical in alerting the Americans on the highly suspicious Soviet activities in western Cuba in 1962 Cuban missile crisis and were critical in averting possible attacks on the Americans and the eventual withdrawal of the Soviet missiles and launchers and the destruction of the sites. The sources were especially critical since the poor weather was unfavorable for survey of the Cuban land by the U-2 spy planes.