National Intelligence Surveys

After Christmas, I came across a series of documents, the Joint Army Navy Intelligence Studies (JANIS). I published a spreadsheet of that document set, and will also post about it at a later date with a bit more context. (Update: JANIS post now up.)

On Twitter, that triggered a question by Mark Stout, an intelligence historian and a former intelligence analyst with the State Department and the CIA, as he was wondering whether National Intelligence Surveys (NIS) had been declassified and released. In part, this blog post is a longer answer to that question, while also sharing the spoils in general.

I hadn’t come across the NIS document set previously, but on a quick search found a group of three documents from 1974:

This gives some clues to the structure of these documents. They are split into multiple sections, covering various aspects of the target countries.

But what exactly is the purpose of these documents? Helpfully, there’s an instruction guide describing the program and the products, as it was intended in 1951. To quote the document:

The NIS is a concise digest of basic intelligence required by the Depart of Defense for strategic planning and high level operation planning, and by the Department of State for use in formulating and executing U.S. foreign policy. It also serves other Government agencies which require it for the accomplishment of their missions.

Each country is also assigned a NIS number, which seem to have persisted through the life of the program. Documentary evidence suggests the NIS program was terminated in 1973. A near-complete list of NIS numbers can be found from the standard instruction document linked previously.  These can be helpful if you’re hunting for more NIS products for specific countries from the archive.

Scanning a bit deeper into the CIA archive today, I hit what seemed like the mother lode of NIS products. The spreadsheet embedded below contains today’s findings, but the list is probably not yet a complete representation of everything that may still be hiding at the bottom of the archives without proper metadata. I also haven’t gone through each of the links individually to confirm they link the full product and not just a cover page or such.

Will keep exploring this further when time permits. In a later post, I’ll come back to the NIS precursors, the JANIS products from 1940s. (Update: JANIS post now up.)

Update, January 7th: Mark Stout reached out with additional information on the NIS program. In 2014, CIA responded to a FOIA request for “National Intelligence Survey Program, 1948-1968“, a publication in the History Series of the Directorate of Intelligence. The historical account covers the origins back to the JANIS program, up to the program status in 1968. One interesting detail is that the history mentions the founding of the NIS Basic Intelligence Factbook, which went on to become the CIA Factbook that is still in existence.

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