A satellite image produced by the commercial space imagery firm DigitalGlobe shows construction of possible radar tower facilities in the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea, February 2016
CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative / DigitalGlobe / via Reuters

For nearly three-quarters of a century, the United States intelligence community has supplied American military and political leaders with information and analysis intended to help them make better decisions about critical national security concerns. During the Cold War—when the United States and the Soviet Union went to extraordinary lengths to reveal as little as possible about themselves and learn as much as possible about each other—the most valuable information was inevitably secret information. The spy planes, listening posts, and other “sources and methods” that were contrived to extract this information were expensive to develop and maintain, and the

Finish reading this article for free.

Enter your email and we'll send a paywall-free link directly to your inbox.

In addition to your unlocked article, you will receive our flagship weekly newsletter Foreign Affairs This Week, as well as occasional updates and offers from Foreign Affairs. You can unsubscribe at any time. For more information, visit our user agreement and privacy policy.


Get unlimited access to all Foreign Affairs. Subscribe now.

Are you already a subscriber? Sign in.