The Craft of Intelligence

Title:                  The Craft of Intelligence

Author:                 Allen W. Dulles

Dulles, Allen W. (2006). The Craft of Intelligence: America’s Legendary Spy Master on the Fundamentals of Intelligence Gathering for a Free World. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press

LCCN:    2006283612

UB270 .D8 2006


Date Updated:  September 29, 2016

If the experts could point to any single book as a starting point for understanding the subject of intelligence from the late twentieth century to today, that single book would be Allen W. Dulles’s The Craft of Intelligence. This classic of spycraft is based on Allen Dulles’s incomparable experience as a diplomat, international lawyer, and America’s premier intelligence officer. Dulles was a high-ranking officer of the CIA’s predecessor-the Office of Strategic Services-and was present at the inception of the CIA, where he served eight of his ten years there as director. Here he sums up what he learned about intelligence from nearly a half-century of experience in foreign affairs.

In World War II his OSS agents penetrated the German Foreign Office, worked with the anti-Nazi underground resistance, and established contacts that brought about the Nazi military surrender in North Italy. Under his direction the CIA developed both a dedicated corps of specialists and a whole range of new intelligence devices, from the U-2 high-altitude photographic plane to minute electronic listening and transmitting equipment.

Dulles reveals much about how intelligence is collected and processed, and how the resulting estimates contribute to the formation of national policy. He discusses methods of surveillance, and the usefulness of defectors from hostile nations. His knowledge of Soviet espionage techniques is unrivaled, and he explains how the Soviet State Security Service recruited operatives and planted “illegals” in foreign countries. He spells out not only the techniques of modern espionage but also the philosophy and role of intelligence in a free society threatened by global conspiracies.

Dulles also addresses the Bay of Pigs incident, denying that the 1961 invasion was based on a CIA estimate that a popular Cuban uprising would ensue. This account is enlivened with a wealth of personal anecdotes. It is a book for readers who seek wider understanding of the contribution of intelligence to our national security.

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

The paperback edition (New York: New American Library [Signet], 1965) contained some additional information, particularly on certain cases that had surfaced in the press after the first edition. Dulles, the head of CIA for eight years, wrote this book to “tell what properly can be told about intelligence as a vital element.” After touching briefly on a bit of intelligence history, the work describes and explores aspects of intelligence: requirements, collection, processing, analysis, and production. Dulles also touches on counterintelligence, deception, technical collection, and planning and has much on tradecraft. The book, which has been called a primer on intelligence, is a veritable storehouse on the philosophy of intelligence and on Dulles’ general approach to it, which became part of the makeup of CIA under him; thus it provides the feel and sound of CIA of the Dulles era. Dulles also discusses the Communist intelligence services, the Communist subversive threat, specific cases, the role of intelligence in the United States and in any democratic society, problems of secrecy, and the selection of CIA personnel.

Beyond its importance as the intelligence philosophy of one of the famous figures of modern intelligence and of one of the principal services, this work is a realistic picture of intelligence, and it contains items of interest and significance. Dulles says that U.S. intelligence was on top of British, French, and Israeli plans on the Suez invasion of 1956 and on Sputnik; he viewed the acquisition of the 1956 Khrushchev speech as one of his major coups. There is the admission that in his years of CIA service, the problem of leaks of sensitive U.S. information (other than by hostile agents) was never reduced. We learn of Woodrow Wilson’s concern with this same problem and of a 1915 memorandum by him on the means of safeguarding important diplomatic secrets. There is a discussion on deception and Soviet disinformation. There are discussions of technical collection, making Dulles, according to Blackstock and Schaf’s bibliography, Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage and Covert Operations[2], one of the first officials of the intelligence community to expose details of collection by technical sensors. He mentions the methods of Soviet illegals and the problems they pose. Note his inclusion of Civil War stories in the historical section; by the time of his later Great True Spy Stories[3], he had learned not to trust many of these. His chapter on the evolution of U.S. intelligence lacks an important ingredient-the tradition of the use of presidential agents. Later information has made his account of Cicero and the Berlin Tunnel operations dated, as is the story of the Lisbon operation by OSS to acquire enemy codes. Dulles’ treatment of the bomber and missile gap intelligence estimates will not satisfy .everyone. Bowie of Harvard, also formerly of CIA, observed that Dulles was excited most by espionage and consequently did not treat analysis and the relationship of intelligence to policymaking fully.

Dulles used this work to answer and counter criticisms of CIA that had begun to increase after the U-2 and Bay of Pigs incidents, and his defense should be measured against later criticisms and the findings stemming from congressional and executive investigations. Powers, who wrote The Man Who Kept the Secrets[4], could be representative of those not satisfied in 1979 with some of the explanations. He judged the entire book as “an effort to obscure the importance of political action in intelligence” and said CIA was “never more meddlesome than during his [Dulles’s] tenure as DCI.”

Minor matters that are still debated or questioned include the incomplete account of why Colonel Wagner was unacceptable to the U.S. Army hierarchy in 1898, the labeling of Colonel Myasoedov as definitely an agent of the Germans, and the stated consequences of Colonel Redl’s treason on the early battles in the east in World War I. Blackstock and Schaf [referenced n. 2 above] who were in U.S. military intelligence, referred to this book as an example of institutional bias found in intelligence literature.

This is a review by the Defense Intelligence School.[5]

The former Director of Central Intelligence (1953-1961), after touching on some of the early history of intelligence, examines many aspects of intelligence requirements, collection, and production, describes the Communist intelligence services, and explores the uses of intelligence. With the authority of his own experience, he expounds the role of central intelligence and the Intelligence Community in the U.S. Government, up until the time he left office. (It should be noted that the paperback edition of this work has a little added material, particularly as to specific cases).

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[6]

For its time a rare insight into the philosophy and doctrine of strategic intelligence by the director of the CIA during the period 1953-61. The process of intelligence is described from the development of the requirements of U.S. decision makers through information collection and analysis. The useful bibliography of twenty-one titles is devoted mainly to books on espionage and covert political operations. Dulles was one of the first officials of the intelligence community to expose details of the collection of foreign intelligence information by means of technical sensors. A solid contribution to the basic literature on intelligence and its contribution to national security.


Since the role of the CIA in counterintelligence is primarily one of counterespionage outside the continental limits of the United States, it is this forward line of defense against espionage that Dulles emphasizes in chapter 9 of this work. Of considerable interest are the descriptions of radio direction finding as a means of detecting clandestine agent transmitters during World War II. In chapter 16 Dulles laments the ease with which information is obtained in the United States and the problems this poses to security agencies.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[8]

In this chapter the former director of Central Intelligence describes early programs for monitoring Soviet nuclear tests, compares aerial photography end human espionage agents as sources of technical information, discusses the use of audio surveillance as an aid to espionage, end provides some examples of communications intelligence.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 168-170

[2] Blackstock, Paul W.(1978) and Schaf, Frank L. Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co. See below.

[3] Dulles, Allen W., ed. (1968). Great True Spy Stories. New York: Harper & Row

[4] Powers, Thomas (1979). The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA. New York: Alfred A. Knopf

[5] Defense Intelligence School (1981). Bibliography of Intelligence Literature: A Critical And Annotated Bibliography of Open-Source Literature (7th ed, rev.). Washington, D.C. : Defense Intelligence School, p. 22

[6] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., pp. 14-15

[7] Blackstock, loc. cit., p. 75

[8] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p.


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12 Responses to The Craft of Intelligence

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