Created: 6/1/1959

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TITLE: Intelligence Gathering In An Unlettered Land

AUTHOR: Prancis Hollyman




A collection ol articles on tho historical, operational, doctrinal, and theoretical aspects ol intelligence.

All statements of fact, opinion or analysis expressed in Studies in Intelligence are those of

the authors They do not necessarily reflect official positions or views of the Central Intelligence Agency or any other US Oovcmment entity, past or present Nothing in ihe contents should be construed ss asserting or implying US Govemmcni endorsement of an article's factual statements and interpretations.


Apologia and challenge for the covert reporterand where learning is an elite privilege, time is cheap, and the dignity

of friendship dear.


Francis Hollyman

If analysts and estimators find their political information on the illiterate countries lacking in depth, confined to thopolicies and evident intriguesew dominantand providing Utile insight into future moves, sub-surface trends, or popular attitudes, the reasons are not far to seek. Our reporters In these countries, both the Foreign Servicewbo maintain correct official contacts and especially the covert reporter whose business It is to probe outside this official sphere, must pit their efforts against formidable obstaclesfrom the peculiarities of an anachronistic society.

merican trying to us**JHp<-ui-

tens as clandestine sources of political information^ujwever well versed In Arabic and well acquainted with the country he may be, has to get through three concentric barriers before he can begin to look for the Information inside- The first Is tbe fact that there are very few native residentsosition to have political information. Second, the odds are all against getting satisfactory covert access to any of those wbo da And third, if you do gain accessotential source, bis patterns of motivation and behavior are such that it requiresskill in an American to get him to produce.

Unschooled Public and Rarefied-r

The first difficulty, theLaw) In ahave useful Information, arises In part from meagerfor education and in part from traditionalparticipation in political and public

are well educated by the standards of their counUjThirhidinc some businessmen and many govenunent functionaries but


An Unlettered land

ew teachers, are still In the dream stage.ery small fraction of one percent of the population can go abroad andetter education than is ofTered by the^JBeleroen-


Even at the elementaryschools tend to

leave large bund spots with regard to political matters.such as geography and world affairs are scarcely touched. It Is not uncommon to findelatively well-educated "asaVawawlV who occupies an important place in commerce or government cannotap, and he may not even be aware that the world Is not flat! With this shocking elementaryhe cannot begin to comprehend or care about more complex or subtle things like the meaning of tbe Iron Curtain or problems springing from Communist imperialism. Thefew who have overcome these educational deficiencies by going abroad are still far from politically sophisticated; they are likely to be swallowed In the sea of ignorance around them, and they have nowhere to torn to get accurate current information.

The newspapers

The public media of Information are weak, and do little to remedy the collossal deficiency ia education. Basictn the form of published surveys, handbooks, lists,statistics, charts, maps,s virtually nonexistent. The official radio and press service, organized efficiently Inyears, has become more effective in preventive control of thought rather than in Informational content. It gives little place for commentary except that promoting governmentand those .slogans of Arab nationalism considered best suited to fliSkrpT new-papers similarly givemall fraction of the news available, and the paucity of published information Is often more striking tn domesticthan on Important international questions

pers are to any case little read; scarcelyhousandnbscxfbeT. But thereon-

An Unlettered Land

slderable amount of radio Listening, and the people havecome to rely on the powerful Egyptian radioource for news. At the height of the Sues crisis nearly all those who had access to radios listened also to at least one Moscowin Arabic dally; and they may now be turning to someto the Bagdad radio

Tbe restrictive character of UiefJJJ| government abets tbe low educational level In severely circumscribing the number of citizensosition to be well Informed about politicalof Interest toreat deal of the most important information on political questions is restricted

isiders,resS^iaveIn entering this charmed circle through personal ability basedood foreign education; this phenomenon Is therather than tbe rule. Other officials of theare generally mere functionaries, lacking access to much information on activities outside their own offices.

Thereendency to keep the most important matters strictly

ersonnel of the nuhlstries from

being well informed. And In matters which do go to aunusual degree of reliance is placed on the spoken word,mission, and the personal memory of tbeFurthermore, even when there are documentsa transaction, they are not likely to be filed in such ato be easily accessible when they are moreewIt Is not unusual for an employee of tho Ministry ofAffairs, for example, to spend hours in anfor some Item, paging through Irrelevant Jumbledor unindexed chronological entries.

Outside the ranks of the government,hrough powerful business or family Interests, baveevenTnV direct access to authentic information on political questions. The general public completely lacks such access, and under present conditions does not concern Itself very seriously about tn#tae*-sv>.v

An Unlettered land

Reaching the Rare Politico

The second major oUfnculty (or the poUUcal reporter isInaccessibility1 of those few*j| HI *bo oreabout political matters. TheTffloxanees toaccess, being in part characteristic of tbe restrictiveand social system of the country, affect all kinds ofbut there are certain complications which makeof the system broader and more serious In the GeldInformation-collecting activities than In the

Ways uf lifeountry likelt !iaTdreach any good potential source some of the time, and hard to reach some of them at any time. The virtual absence of easy social contacts, the lack of suitable public meeting places, the staggering inadequacy of public communications, and thecommonly aroused among native residents by outsiders attempting to move freely amongmake the tasktime-consuming. Hardest to see are tbe persons who are In the highest positions, or whose work does not call for contact with foreigners, or who speak only Arabic; and theof good potential sources are probably In these

The travel habits of practically all important nativethem an elusive quarry for the foreigner, who hasInersons of Interest to us often

alto absent themselves fre-

quently for trips abroad. Tbe religious requirements ofthe month of fasting, and of tbe annual hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca tend to damp down any In formation-collectingfor considerable periods of time. In sum, almost any native source is likely to be out of reach for atew months af the year. In some lnttancea for more than half of each year.

An Un/enVed lond

These difficulties are particularly trying when we areinitial contact with new potCDtlal sources^We sometimes have to wait for months' because they are notlace where we can see them and there Is no other means of initialthat carries any hope ot secrecy. The choice of possible native sources Is so narrow and the ways of access to them are so extremely few that almost any effort to find and develop new clandestine sources Is vulnerable to detection by friend and foe alike- There Is almostrolongedof intense awkardness and insecurity in the preliminaries to initial clandestine contact.

Psycho-Cultural Characteristics

Characteristic peculiarities of attitude, motivation,hird major difficulty to the use of native sources for political infoi mation Theyonsiderableeven to the overt reporter, but to clandestineactivities they also make it much harder tothe personal reliabilityotentialo nothere primarily to the obvious peculiarities of outlook caused by limited education, religiousocial customs,to political and public life, and the thought patternsanguage so unlike our own. Peculiarities of this kind, readily identifiable, can be anticipated and partly compensated for In our training and preparation for the work.

More difficult to handle are other, subtler peculiarities, ones which would probably not be very apparent if we ourselves did not have definite expectationsehavior which fits our requirements in those whom we want to use as sources.faawaaajpwsaj thc peculiarities lie In our expectations, not In the attitudes and motivations fundamental to his way of life.

One of these Is his sense ofractical one fromIf Impractical from oars. For turn,out ahead, contiguous and real Be seldom,feels the pressure of time. The conceptiscal yearforeign to him, eithereasure of time or as acontrolling expenditures. The notion of "production" ofInformation to certain quantitiesertainpuzzle him. He does not have our sensechedule,eadline,rogram. Nothing can be done to make

worket rate of speed, let alone


An Unfettered1 Land

Another of these subtler peculiarities is his sense of purpose, which bears little obvious resemblance to ours. Aside from wanting toroper Arabood Muslim, he has no strong aims or convictions- His experience Is too little, his Ignorance too great, tooundation for opposition to Communist Imperialism as his motive force. Be has no strong sense of socio-political responsibility, no felt need for thinking, forolitical choice. The idea of subscribing to aideological program or doctrine, except as it incorporates his irnmediate Arab interests. Is beyond him. He does not like to generalize about the world, because all he knows is his home, the marketplace, the desert, and the edge of the sea. Very often his attitude Is that of the merchant, even If he Is notin commerce. His alms and desires are very simple ones, and he does not want to change them.

ThetHHHBoften reacts in ways that surprise those who do not EowTrm. or fails to react in the ways they expect. He Is essentially gentle, not belligerent. At the height of6 Suez crisis he hoped for nothing more than an Immediate end to the fighting; he could not comprehend the international forces at work, and he was afraid. He respects force partly because It is simple and within bis comprehension. Although he is often distrustful of British diplomacy, he understands and makes allowancerank statement that such-and-such Is In the British interest and British policy Is plannedHe rather distrusts the profession of loftyasis for policy on the part of any government, partly because the principle may be too complicated or too different from bis own way of thinking, partly because he does hisas Itterms of Interest, notHe likes the material things which the western world may have made available to him to make life more pleasant, but if he baa been abroad be generally returns happily home, not very much impressed by other aspects of western civilization.

Relying largely on oral iv>rnmitnif Hmi he tends to simplify and omit when be has to deal with complicated matters. He cannot easily distinguish fact from rumor. He is not good at making an estimateituation, or even at Judging the state of public opinion, because he Is not used to thinking along these lines.ew situation develops, be does not fail to react, but his reactions are simple and direct, based on his

An Unlettered Land

immediate Interest. An observer or overt collectorong period of living among these people and learning to think In their way to acquire tbe trutinctiv? appreciation that will makeensitive reporter.

The covert reporter has the further problem of assessing the Individualotential agent, and then of maintaining his motivation and his productioniandcs-tine collector of information, it Is hard forijflworkethodical way, because method Is no^Jartofhis make-up. He rarely If ever has the spirit of fightingause; but on the other hand, even If he is venal, he will do very little to accomplish things he does not believe in. Hebe ordered bluntly, because he cherishes the little niceties In personal dealings which are his way. Hereat deal of orientation and encouragement. What he usually prises most In this activity is an abiding personal relationship that gives him understanding, dignity, and friendship.

These, then, are the awesome obstacles to politicala country where

andful of worthwhile sources of Information, wheremake this handful difficult to reach and confidentialalmost Impossible, and where the cultural differences that wall off westerners go down to the very roots of motivation and thinking. These obstacles have been described withreferencejtsyout the situation there is not unlike thatcore of equally Important other countries where the people are unfamiliar with the written word,and imprecise with tbe spoken, and profoundly different in their way of life

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