In early November, the Central Intelligence Agency’s Information Management Services (IMS) declassified and released more than 200 documents highlighting intelligence the CIA provided to the Reagan Administration on key Soviet issues. The documents covered:
- high-level arms control summits between former US President Reagan and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev,
- Soviet attempts to revamp an increasingly inefficient and failing economic system, and
- evidence of widening fissures in a Soviet society which was becoming increasingly difficult for Party leaders to control.
Highlights of the collection include video briefings** produced by the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence on such topics as the Soviet space program, the Andropov succession, the Chernobyl disaster, and the Soviet media portrait of America. These briefings represent the first time the Agency used videos on a regular basis to deliver intelligence to policymakers. The entire collection marks the first substantial release of such historical material.
To help put this material into perspective, the released documents include non-CIA material from the Reagan Library archives, such as minutes from relevant National Security Council and National Security Planning Group meetings on key US-Soviet issues, as well as copies of select National Security Decision Directives (NSDDs).
The CIA’s Historical Collections Division of IMS also released a complementary publication, Ronald Reagan, Intelligence, and the End of the Cold War [PDF9.0MB*], which includes:
- three essays,
- samples of the FOIA documents, and
- a DVD that contains all the declassified documents and videos.
Among the essay’s key conclusions:
(1) President Reagan, contrary to urban legend, was an avid reader of intelligence products.
(2) The documentary record indicates the CIA and the Intelligence Community did not “miss” the collapse of the Soviet Union—but that belief persists because of the writings of a few individuals who are often cited by pundits.
(3) Intelligence is about creating and adjusting stories; questions not asked or stories not imagined by policy are not likely to be developed by intelligence. Perfect accuracy should not be expected from intelligence when oftentimes policymaker focus is not in the right place and the right questions are not asked.
To highlight the release of the documents and the publication, IMS, in partnership with the Reagan Library and the Center for the Study of Intelligence, hosted a symposium on Ronald Reagan, Intelligence, and the End of the Cold War. The event, held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, on November 2, attracted an estimated 1,000 attendees.
The program included presentations by a number of distinguished speakers and panelists, including Reagan adviser Ken Adelman, former KGB Major General Oleg Kalugin, and CIA Deputy Director for Intelligence for Analytic Programs Peter Clement. The speakers offered their insights on the declassified documents.
For additional information on the symposium and the declassified document collection, please visit the Historical Collections Publications page.
Related Stories and Links: