Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, INTERNATIONAL STUDIES ( (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2017. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 24 May 2018

Summary and Keywords

“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.

Keywords: counterintelligence, security services, police organizations, intelligence services, domestic security, counterintelligence literature, security threats

Access to the complete content on Oxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.