CIA Style Guide: Using Good Grammar to Describe Despotism

By:  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
CIA Style Guide: Using Good Grammar to Describe Despotism

An intelligence agency style guide reveals the attitude toward freedom of its authors.

When explaining how and why they violate constitutional protections of fundamental rights, leaders of the federal intelligence apparatus insist it be done with style.

National Security Counselors, an organization devoted to the lawful acquisition from the federal government of material related to national security matters and the distribution of those documents to the public, obtained a copy of the Directorate of Intelligence’s Style Manual & Writers Guide for Intelligence Publications. Although the document was released last year, it was first posted to social media only recently.

In this guidebook, CIA chiefs set out the writing standards it expects agents and analysts to follow.

While the CIA is infamous for twisting the truth and encouraging others to do likewise, it imposes strict rules of plain speaking (or writing) in reports sent to its “customers": operations officers and lawmakers.

The foreword to the style guide begins, explaining, “Good intelligence depends in large measure on clear, concise writing. The information CIA gathers and the analysis it produces mean little if we cannot convey them effectively.”

Among the minutiae, CIA spooks are told to use “crisp and pungent” language “devoid of jargon.” 

Furthermore, they should not use unapproved titles, and should use a lower case “w” when mentioning the “undeclared” Vietnam war.

In order to understand the bent of the minds that authored the CIA style guide, the blog Quartz has posted a few of the more noteworthy rules and approved definitions listed in the manual. Some of the sample sentences and phrases used in the book are chilling and reveal, albeit unintentionally, the attitude of those currently involved in the support of the regime at home and the toppling of others abroad. Here are a few favorites:

Click here to read the entire article.

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