CIA, Foreign Broadcast Information Service
█ MARTIN J. MANNING
The Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) is the pre-eminent collector of open source information for the United States government; it collects, translates, and disseminates foreign open source material for U.S. Government use. It started as the Foreign Broadcast Monitoring Service (FBMS), established in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by a presidential [Franklin D. Roosevelt] directive on February 26, 1941, to monitor, record, transcribe, and analyze foreign broadcasts. The FBMS was organized after assistant secretary of state Breckinridge Long became concerned about the possible loss of diplomatic reporting and other information if the war in Europe caused American embassies to close. Long suggested radio as a supplemental source of intelligence and looked to the FCC, which regulated domestic radio, as the best source to further monitor foreign broadcasts.
The FBMS was changed to the Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service by FCC order on July 28, 1942. Its principal activities included translations of monitored foreign broadcasts; transmission of telegrams and cablegrams to government agencies concerned with war propaganda; and the preparation of daily reports by the Far Eastern, Latin American, and European Sections, with weekly reviews of official foreign broadcasts and radio reports on the Far East. The FBMS's first director, 1941–1943, Harold N. Graves, Jr., directed the FBMS's predecessor, Princeton Listening Center, which was launched in November 1939 at Princeton University with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation. It was the U.S. pioneer in the systematic monitoring, translation, and analysis of broadcasts from Berlin, London, Paris, Rome, and Moscow. One journalist described the FBMS as the "greatest collection of individualists, international rolling stones, and slightly batty geniuses ever gathered together in one organization."
The FBIS's first analytic report, released on December 6, 1941, warned of Tokyo's increasingly belligerent tone. The next day, the Japanese attacked the U.S. Navy fleet at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, initiating the U.S. entry into World War II. The FBIS became responsible for providing opensource intelligence (OSINT) as its part of the military and civilian wartime intelligence effort. On January 14, 1943, FBIS issued its first special report on Nazi propaganda, prepared by the Analysis Directorate's German Section. FBIS maintained a special telephone connection to the White House, and on September 10, 1943, when Hitler went on the air in reaction to Italy's surrender, eager listeners on the line included British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, U.S. Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, and Roosevelt's advisor Harry Hopkins.
After World War II, the FBIS was transferred to the Military Intelligence Division, War Department General Staff, by order of the secretary of war in January 1946, pursuant to an agreement between the FCC and the War Department. The first issue of the Daily Report was published the same month. After a period, as part of the Central Intelligence Group (CIG), National Intelligence Authority, the FBIS became part of the newly created Central Intelligence Agency (1947) and negotiated with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to divide monitoring responsibilities of most of the world's pertinent news broadcasts of interest to intelligence analysts.
As of 2003, the FBIS continues to monitor, translate, and republish selected foreign radio and television broadcasts, newspaper articles, government news agency releases, and political speeches. The selection of items to be included has been determined by the needs of its primary users, officials of the U.S. government. Political, military, economic, and environmental topics are the major emphases. The translations have been published as quickly as possible, usually within a few days of original publication, in a series of daily reports. Since 1996, the service has been available online through a Worldwide Web site known as the World News Connection and through its website: < http://www.fbis.gov .
Foreign newscasts, as well as documentaries and investigative news programs, are the mainstay of the FBIS global television collection. The material FBIS disseminates is known as "FBIS Reporting" and is assumed to be copyrighted by the foreign originator. Contractual and copyright obligations requires that the information be restricted to official U.S. government use.
From its first, unprepossessing headquarters at 316 F Street, NE, in downtown Washington, the FBIS now resides in more lavish buildings in Reston, Virginia, where it operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology.
█ FURTHER READING:
Graves, Harold N. On the Short Wave. New York: Foreign Policy Association, 1941.
Mercado, Stephen C. "FBIS against the Axis, 1941–1945: Open-Source Intelligence from the Airwaves." Studies in Intelligence no. 11 (Fall-Winter 2001): 33–43.
National Technical Information Service, Department of Commerce. "World News Connection" 2002. < http://wnc.fedworld.gov/ > (March 20, 2003).