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22 February 2008

Obsolete intelligence professional skills

One of the newer of the memetic ideas sweeping through the blogsphere is the recent trend towards listing those obsolete skills of yesteryear which were once considered basic aspects of professional life, yet now are dead in the face of technological and social change. There is even a new wiki set up to catalogue them.

We have briefly been considering those which apply to the intelligence community. Of course, in a profession as conservative as ours, many of the skills which were initially considered for our own list are actually still frequently taught within the community on the off chance they might be employed at some point. And given the far flung enterprise of the Long War, many once obsolete skills are actually being used out in the field, whether out of simple expediency or out of a lack of any alternatives.

Thus inclusion of a skill as obsolete on our list does not necessarily mean it is without any further value. However, we might venture to say that it might not be the first skill we seek to inculcate in basic professional coursework, despite many models which currently seek to teach new analysts as if they too were undergoing the chronological developments of the profession’s technological support.

  • Hand stenciling network analysis link charts
  • Annotating developed imagery prints by hand
  • Developing handheld imagery in a darkroom
  • Loading and unloading imagery satellite film canisters
  • Maintaining card indexes
  • Carbon paper copying
  • Conducting pigeon reconnaissance operations
  • Transmitting morse code
  • Operating hand crank cipher machines
  • Memorizing poem codes
  • Sending coded postal letters
  • Telexing cables
  • Changing the road signs outside of headquarters building
  • Inking overhead transparencies
  • Delivering pneumatic tube memos

Submissions from our readers are welcome. Several that might have made our list, such as operating reconnaissance balloons, servicing dead drops, or donkey riding, have enjoyed a recent renaissance due to new developments in the contemporary environment. Such items are still welcome as submissions in their own right.

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