Created: 6/1/1967

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A collodion ol articles on the historical, operational, doctrinal, and theoretical aspects ol Inlelligonco.

All statements of fact, opinion or analysis expressed in Studies in Intelligence are those of (he authors They do not necessarily reflect official positions or views of the Central Intelligence Agency or any other US Government entity, past or present. Nothing in the contenis should be construed as asserting or implying US Government endorsement of an article's factual statements and interpretations.

Atiiecrs of geographic intelligence in action.


In the highlands of North Vietnam the road south to Mu Cia Pass threads its way upstreamarrow, steep-sided valley. To the left rise dog-toothed limestone peaks, to the right is af Bat-topped plateau. Dense tropical rain forest covers the entire area, almost frustrating aerial observation. Tbe road is carved out of the steep hilbidc, for in most places there is not enough room for both road and stream in the constricted bottom of the ravine. At the pass itself there is (ororth Vietnamese army barracks. Beyond the crest of the pass the road descends into Laos and branches eventually into several alternate roads that run southward through the Laos panhandle, where tracks and trails lead back east into Vietnam.

This complex of roads, part of tbe so-called Ho Chi Minh Trail, hasrincipal supply route for the Communist forces in South Vietnam. In6 its most vulnerable section was the stretch of single road through this narrow valley, for at that time there was no feasible alternative nearby. Bombs dropped accurately in the defile could create landslides, blocking the road. Bombs had been dumped on the road network south of the pass but had not impeded the traffic to any significant extent Ineographic intelligence officereport on tbe vulnerability of the valley road to Mu Cia. and'a month later, during the briefingolicy officer, he pointed it out again. Soon tiiereafter the road was bombed and tbewere forced to divert considerable manpower to reopen it. Tlie bombing may or may not have been tbe result of this particular intelhgence tip, but the sequence does illustrate the work of the intelligence geographer.

Problems and Products

Geographic intelligence, as practiced in CIA, is concerned with analyzing the distribution of things on the earth's surface as they relate to the formulation and execution. poUcy. The surface in question, the landscape, is inone ertending upward from


the actual land or water surface (ar enough to Include the (acton of weather and climate that influence man's activities and extending also below the surface as far as man's activities extend. The objects of interest in the landscape may be physical, biological, or cultural, but intelhgence analysis of the landscape would be pointless if man himself were not tlie most important object. The landscape elements chosen for analysis in any particular case are those bearing on the intelligence problem at hand. Our Vietnam specialist knew about the physical landscape along the western border and he knew about the cultural features, the roads and the truck traffic passing over them. Of more importance, he analyzed them in the light of the operational problem: "Here to the north of Mu Cia Pass is the best choke point for interrupting the traffic."

The end product of the geographic analysis isritten text, perhaps accompanied by maps that illustrate or elaborate upon the teat. Or the map may itself be the endlandscape description in representational form, wherein the analysts skill is reflected in the selection of things to be represented, the properof these things, and the relative emphasis given each element within the whole. When foreign maps are used as sources ofthe analyst may have to acquire some special knowledge of the mathematical and cartographic techniques used in preparing them: thus geodesy, gravunetry. and mapping as practiced in foreignfall within the purview of geographic intelligence. Since the landscape in one region of the earth varies from that in others, most intelligence geographers sooner or later become regional specialists.

The problems presented to the intelligence geographer fall into three broad categories. Tho first is characterized by questions of what one can do or seeiven landscape: problems of penetrating into, living in, or retreating from the region; and the identification oftargets. The second category embraces political issuesandscape setting: questions of national sovereignty and international boundaries; national or tribal loyalties of populations: identification, control, or use of natural resources; the potentialegion as related to political choices; and tbe intended useegion by some particular group. The mtew'gence geographer's work th the first category constitutes, inervice to operations and in the second, inervice to policy formulation, although this distinction is not always clear-cut The third category is that of cartographicthe correct identification, classification, and location of objects


fondscope Analysis

and lhe preparation of maps as end products, and these maps mav serve either operational or pohcy support purposes.

Optraltonal Support: By Region

Support for eperatioos may take the form of general descriptive studies for entire countries or large regions, or it may consist of detailed studies of small areas or selected landscape elements. Perhaps the Oealkuown general descriptive studies covering entire countries are the geographic sections of the National Intelligence Surveys. The purpose of these is to evaluate the landscape from the standpoint of conventional muitary operations. Several other series of country or regional studies evaluate ft for purposes of unconventional warfare, paramilitary operations, and dandestine operations.

uarter century of war, cold war, and counter insurgency itecessary to view the landscapeair portion ol the world from the standpoint of the downed airman or the covert agent. These men need to know how to travel cross-country on foot interrilory, living out of doors if necessary, and avoiding or hmiting any contact with the rscpulatioo. They need to know the answers to such questions as:

What is the best route on foot through the mountains? Where are the lowlands too boggy to travel? What plant and ariimal life will furnish subsistence? What plants are potsonosu, what anirnab dangerous? How deep is the snow, and how long does it cover the ground? What populated places should he avoided3 What popsilation groups are bhely to be friendly to the illegal traveller* Howan dress and act to be inconspicuousrowd? What isolated hill areas or deep forests should be chosen for hiding out? How efficient arc the security forces in the area?

A series of country ot regional Evasion Geographies was produced by CIA geographers ino provide basic tnformalion of this type for air crews. This early series has been updated orin recent yearsew series of Escape and Survival reports designed for pic mission briefing of either air crews or surfrddtrators.

Another series of country studies in which geographers have been heavily involved. Handbooks for Special Operations, treat elements of the landscape and related factors to be consider to1 in planning and

appraising the feasibility of cotinterinsurgency, civic action, andoperations, primardy in ihe underdevelopedoint product of several CIA components, each study treats in considerable detail the following subjects: physical geography, population, including ethnic and tribal groups; sociological factors such as housing,and health; politics and government; economy; transportation arKl tele-communications; possible operational targets, security forces; and survival factors.


In contrast to the broad, sweeping view of the landscape .in these studies is the close-up picture of selected areas often required hiof cUndcstine operations. Those pbnrung the infiltration or exfil-tration of agents have needed studies of routes for covert cross-country movementoast orelected pointorder, In tho earlier years of the Iron Curtain, border-crossing studies were prepared that described the fences, watchlowcrs, and border security forces as well as the terrain, land use, and settlement patterns in boundary areas of East European countries. Support to paramilitary operations has included the description of transportation or industrial targetsto sabotage aod the selection of drop zones, hide-out areas, and routes byeam could reach the targets.

The intelligence geographer is often required to provide an area description in support of an intelligence collection cRortarticular target. Typically the targetilitary/industrial complex in an urban area. An analysis must be made of the urban areahole, its size and functionrade, transportation, and mdiistrial center, as well as of the target complexproduct orits over-all importance in the urban scene, its physical location, and the names of the streets leading to it. Information on travel by bus, train, ornumbers, times of arrival and departure, stopping points, andgiven. Observation points from which the target installation may be viewed are usually designated. Security measures around the target are indicated. Quite often the study also includes an inventory of other points of operational interest in the city or surroundingstations, army barracks,stations, government or party headquarters, hoteb, cafes, public monuments, and tourist attractions. In short, the studyichclin guide for the gatherer of inteQigence. If the gatherer is an electronic device insteadan, its case officer will need information on the environment in which it is to operate, including such factors

as climate, ocean currents, high points and depressions on the land surface, and the rock structure of the site.

Identifying forgets

The geographic intelligence officer is often called upon for assistance in determining the identity or location of intelligence targets. Some-rimes it mayuestion of predicting the location of an instalLition in advance of its construction, as it was with the Soviet and Chinese Communist missile test sites. When the Soviet Union embarked on Its ICBM and IRBM development programs in the mid-ISO's, the need to locate the test sites aod ranges became urgent. Byassumed criteria for site selection the rwsittons of future sites were predicted with reasonable accuracy.

hen Kapustin Yar was the only identified missile (estreliminary geographic report suggested three other potential sites andore eUborate study was preparedsing criteria for selection laid down by the Cuided Missile Intelligence Committee. CMIC specified that: ICBM test ranges would have toautical miles in length and IBBM rangesiles; the hazard to population would be highadius ofiles of the launch site andiles of the impact area; terrain flat enough for an airfield and monitoring instruments at each end of the range would be necessary; the range head must beailroad and accessible to shipments of missiles, component parts, and fuel supplies; to avoid foreign detection the sites uould probably have toiles (later changediles) bom unfriendlyater supply sufficient0 persons employed at the range head would be necessary; and severe chmatic extremes would have lo be avoided. Using these criteria, the analysts selected four possible ICBM launch areas in addition to Kapustin Yar, two of which proved to be reasonably close to locations later identified as ICBM test grounds. They also suggested the possibility of an IRBM range extending southeast from Kapustin Yar to the vicinity of the Chinese border; this had the orientation ultimately confirmed in the somewhat shorter KapustinShagan ranges.

In selecting possible missile test sites in China,t was assumed that the Chinese Corrunuriists would not be capable of producing an ICBM in tbe near future and would concentrate on missiles in thend intermediate-range categories.

' Later, with the wdurtoo of "artrowutics'* in its charter, to become

tondscope Anolysis

Otherwise lhe criteria for selection were much lhe same as In (he USSR. The China report limited the area of probable missileto the arid, sparsely populated zone south of tbe Mongolia-China border, extending from the eastern edge of Inner Mongolia westward to the USSR-China border. Within this zoneossible test sites and ranges were selected, six of which were judged suitable only for missiles of no moreile range. The Chinesemissile program is still in the carry stages of development, but the location of the one test site thus farpredicted with almost pinpoint accuracy In8

Target identification arjd locationifferent type was required during the Cuban missile crisisnce the Soviet missiles in Cuba had been identified by air photography and collateralthe prospect arose that missiles and other hardware might be hidden from observation in some of the island's numerous caves. CIA geographers identified and inventoriedaves of such potential use andile of data cards on them to the intelhgence community,

Policy Support: Peoples and Boundaries

The subject matter of landscape analyses done in support of policy formulation is almost as varied as the problems. policy decisions. Some of the most long-standing and recurrent themes are those concerning boundaries and national. government interest in these matters dates from the foundation of the republic. Our early concern with determining the boundaries of our own country was followed by interest in helping solve Latin American boundary disputes. During Worldhe group of scholars known as the Inquiry studied ethnic and nationality distributions in Europeto firing new boundaries in the postwarimilar studies were made by geographers and others in the State Department for the treaties foUowing World War U. In tlie postwar period the United States has of necessity been concerned with some of the boundary disputes inherited by newly Independent states and with the tribal, Unguistic, and reUgious diversities that cause internal strains

'Set up in latea the IrutMUve of Colonelouse, this ponn worked until the end8 at the American Ceogmphual Society in New York. ACS President Isaiah Bowman, who later became president of the John* Hopkins University, was ItsSecretary. Its imncrpal member, went on to serve as advisors to the VS. delegation at the Part peace conference.

in (So underdeveloped countries. Even in Eastern Europe, where boundary disputes are quiescent, resurgent nationalism has again brought tbe problem of minorities to the fore.

The intelligence geographer's contribution to the illumination of ethnic problems is ulustrated by the case of Cyprus, where Creeks and Turks until recent years lived intenningledairly uniform thrcc-to-one proportion over most parts of the island. When the tension between the two ethnic groups erupted in bloodshed in3, rnediators were trying to bringettlement, inlcl-Ugcnce geographers were asked to evaluate several ranposals.partition schemes were'considered from the standpoint of how much of the population would have to be relocated, the amount and quality of agricultural land that would have to be exchanged, and the possibility of an equitable distribution of mineral and water resources. Proposals that Crcece annex Cyprus and cede to Turkey portions of Western Thrace or some of the Aegean Islands were also evaluated. The still unsettled conflict has broughtigher concentration of the Turkish Cypriots in several places on the island.

The need for information on the high, rugged border area in dispute between India and Communist China was the occasioncries of analytical reportshis is one of the Tew remaining border regions of the world where over extended areas no boundary acceptable to both parties concerned has ever been defined by treaty and demarcated on the ground. The geographic reportsthe physical character of the area, the inhabilanls,military dispositions, and the overlapping claims of the two contestants. They pointed up the lacklear-cut case for cither party in most of the disputes.

US. success in working with the Mco tribes of Laos in counter-insurgencyew years ago stimulated interest in theof making similar use of minority groups elsewhere. Awas laid on the geographersurvey of those parts of the world where tribes with paramilitary potential might be found.eneral survey, studies on various tribal groups in Southeast Asia and Iran were undertaken in greater depth. Information was supplied on the culture and economy of each tribe, tbe terrain of its home base and areas of migration, its power structure and the relations among its subgroups, Hs relations with tbe central government, and itsas an ally or enemy.

A somewhat different type of studyocal population, undertaken to help dctcTTTuhc the advisabilitypecial intelligence collection

activity,ollation of data on guerrilla activity and Communist zones of influence in Colombia. These zones are generally in the wilder, more in accessible parts of the country, where the population is poverty-stricken and dependentubsistence agriculture The report detailed conditions and current guerrilla activities in the different areas.

Intelligence geographers haveew etcasions been asked to evaluate areas proposed for relocation of refugees After the Bight of anti-Castro Cubans to florida thereroposal dot some of them be reseftled in the Bahama Islands. The requested geograptiicstudyloomy picture of the possibilities: the Bahamian economy could notignificant number of refugees, tbe cultural differences between Cubans and Bahamians would make integration difficult, Bahamian labor unions would object to the competition, the cxbting racial differences in the Bahamas would be exacerbated. The resctdement idea was soon dropped.

International rivalry over utilizationatural resource isthe subject of analysis of policy purposes. One such report reviewed the conflicting plans of Israel, Jordan, and Syria for using the waters of the Jordan River.

An Eye on lhe Soviets

The developing Antarctic landscape bas been watched continuously forecade because of uncertainty about the ultimate intentions of the Soviet Union in the. and other Western officials interested in Antarctica were concerned inest the USSRlaim to sovereignty on the continent and establish apresence (here. In7 an intelligence geographer, reviewing the establishment of Soviet stations in Antarctica and Soviet plans tohe International Ceophysical Year, came to the conclusion that the USSR's irriniediafe intentions were more id-eotiEc than military, although the scientific findings could eventually improve Soviet military capabilities in Antarctica, and that the Soviets would probably exploit their activities tooice in anyof territorial claims. He correctly forecast that they would continue and expand their efforts after the termination of the ICYnd he advocated an exchange. anil Soviet scientificat their respective stations on the continent to forestall any attempts by the USSR to conceal its activities or findings.

This idea of mutual inspection was embodied in the twelve-nation Antarctic Treatybich placed tbe question of territorial claims

in abeyance and emphasized scientific endeavor. It provided for the exchange of observers among tbe stations of all the participating countries- Since tbe treaty came into force, geographic analysis has continued to follow Soviet activities as revealed by. observers and Other sources and to suggest further objectives ofrogram, Continued monitoring of the Soviet scientific program in Antarctica should shed light on Soviet future intentions, especially on the sensitive question of mineral csploitation, and provide afor measuring the USSR's compliance with its treaty obligation to share its findings with tbe world scientific community.

Soviet compliance with

course, in regard to other treaties or proposed treaties, for example tbe proposed ban on underground nuclear testing.reaty prohibiting such testing is ever concluded, or even in the absence ofreaty, it becomes of importance to inquire which parts of the USSR might be used for clandestine underground tests. To assist this inquiry- an analysis was made of the geographic conditions affecting underground testing. It was pointed out that along the mountain rim bordering the country on the southwest and south there are salt deposits, ca*.es. and deep minesone of high seismic activity. Large underground cavities are therefore located or could be constructed here for nudcar explosions that could be passed off as natural seismic disturbances.

Another problem, that of air access to West Berlin, became acute2 when Soviet planes began to harass Berlin-bound Western aircraft. It appeared that the Russians were attempting to whittle away Western rights in tbe air corridors over East Cermany and were laying the groundwork for giving the East Germans control of theeographic memorandum produced at the request of the interagency Berlin Task Force reviewed the legal and historical basis for Western rights to air access and discussed the means available to the Soviets and East Germans to interfere with theater memorandum presented the same type of information for rail,and canal access routes.

The InteBigence Map

For areas as thoroughly closed to Western intelligence as the interior of the USSR and Communist China, the analyst of the landscapeajor contribution by simply giving the correct identity of objects and their location in relation to other objects. This is the purpose of the map program producing the Special Intelligence Graphic (AMS Map. Undertaken jointly by CIA and the Defense De-

partmcnl, the program is designed to produce up-to-date detailed

! maps that summarize available information on objects of military and inteUigence significance. The sheets of the overall scries are at the

'. but larger-scale sheets are produced for areas of special interest. Overercent of the USSR is covered at present, along with small portions of China. Complete coverage of the two countries1 is planned. The intelligence targets covered in the Soviet Union to date include ICBM facilities, space probesurface-to-air missile launch complexes, urbancom-

| plexes, naval facilities, nuclear energy complexes, and biological-

chemical warfare test areas.

Source Problems

Anyone who undertakes to writeandscape should ideally have had some on-the-spot experience with it, but this ideal is not *always attainable, rge areas of the world, deluding countries that are of. intelligence interest, are closed to the intelligence geographer. It would be asarityS. geographic intelligence analyst to visit Kapustin Yar or Magadan as. j current intelligence analyst to interview Premier Kosygin. If his > country of prime interest isenied area, the intelligence gcog-I rapher may have lived or travelled in it before joining the intelligence | fraternity, or he may make short area familiarization trips on tbe I job, or he may spend some time in areas analogous lo denied areas 1 (the tundra of the Canadian Northwestamily resemblance to the tundra of Siberia). These experiences are of course quite useful. One intelligence geographer, for instance, travelled along the buck roads of the southern Sudan near tbe Congo border during an area famuiarization trip, taking many pictures and making detailed notes. Later, when arms were being supplied to warring factions in the Congo by way of the Sudan, the information he had acquired became highly pertinent for finished intelligence production. By and large, however, the intelligence geographer's job has to be doneesk some thousands of miles from the area about which he presumes to be an expert.

The indirect sources of information available to him are nevertheless increasing in volume and to some exteot improving in quality. In addition to classified raw intelligence reports, unclassified printed material is growing in quantity even for the closed areas. Aerial photography, which servesegreeubstitute for and anof on-the-ground observation, has always been relied upon

lone/scope Analysis

heavily. In the nearew group of techniques for remote sensing of the environment may become important for geographicAirborne infrared imagery is already proving its word,upplement to aerial photography, enabling the analyst to detect nighttime, and some invisible daytime, phenomena on tlieevices for measuring radiation in yet other portions of the spectrum, as in tbe ultraviolet and the radar bands, arc also being developed. Although of increasing value for the earth sciences, includingthese techniques need further testing and critical examination before their value for intelligence is assessed.

The increasing mass of data becoming available through old and new techniques may rum out tourse ratherlearing unless it can be properly manipulated and analyzed. The problem of orderly storage and retrieval of the incoming information has yet to be solved. For the increasingly refined photography and for the products of remote sensing, moreover, correct models of "gro-nd truth" will have to be devised before interpretations can be made with confidence. Sophisticated techniques and source materials may aid in interpretation, but in the ruture, as In the past. Use chief reliance will have to be placed on the talent, training, experience, and even intuition of the individual geographic intelligence officerorrect understanding of the landscape.

From the foregoing it should be evident that the analyst ofd-scape docs not dealet of intelligence problems exclusively his own. He looks at many of the same problems lhat confront the case officer, tbe analyst of current events, the economic analyst, the national estimator, or the scientific/technical analyst, but he looks at themifferent viewpoint. If any essential elements ol the problem relate to the distribution of things on the eartli,rist for the intelligence geographer although other analysts may be dealing with other aspects of the problem. He relies heavily onarticular set of toolsarticular set of techniques is not hit hallmark, ihe earth-related view is hb unique contribution to intelligence analysis.

'See die second article in (his issue.

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