- Hayden B. PeakeHayden B. PeakeNational Defense Intelligence College
“Counterintelligence” (CI) is a term with multiple meanings—its definitions vary, even when applied to a single nation. Yet it can be understood by identifying the common CI functions in a source. These include: handling double agents, defectors, deception operations, and covert communications; handling and detecting moles or penetrations; and dealing with security threats in general. Antecedent elements of what is today called counterintelligence may be found in various histories of intelligence and warfare. The existence of security services can be traced back to ancient Egypt, Assyria, Persia, Greece, Rome, China, and Muscovy, among others. With the rise of the nation-state, rulers began creating secret political police organizations to safeguard their existence. In the case of the United States, it was not until the Civil War that there was anything like a domestic counterintelligence agency, and even then it was not a statutory organization. After World War I, however, former intelligence officers, agents, defectors, and journalists began publishing accounts of counterintelligence and domestic security operations. These topics were often discussed side-by-side. The number of scholarship on CI grew as World War II and the Cold War followed. In particular, the so-called “Cambridge Five” case—which involved five Cambridge graduates who were recruited as Soviet spies in the 1930s—had generated considerable literature and was furthermore considered an important case study in Western and Soviet intelligence services.