The Foreign Broadcast Information Service of the
Central Intelligence Agency exemplifies national intelligence at
its best, informing both senior policy makers and the nation as a whole
with its daily collection, translation, and publication of thousands of
foreign media reports. (Portions of the FBIS product are available
to the public by subscription to the World News Connection of the
National Technical Information Service.)
In Support of FBIS
Federation of American Scientist
Originally known as the Foreign Broadcast Monitoring Service, FBIS was created in 1941 when
...President Roosevelt directed the Secretary of the Treasury to allocate $150,000 for recording, translating,
transcribing, and analyzing certain radio programs broadcast from foreign transmitters-- originally the Axis
Powers' shortwave propaganda broadcasts. These broadcasts were beamed to the U.S. in an effort to influence
public opinion and thereby U.S. policy regarding the war. Not only did FBIS provide literal transcriptions of
the broadcasts, but it performed analysis of them as well—principally trend analysis to discover shifts in
tenor or content which might imply changes in Japanese intentions. In the first such analysis piece produced,
the new monitoring service noted that Tokyo broadcasts had become more "hostile and defiant." While I would not
suggest that this analysis, even in retrospect, could have changed the course of history, it is illustrative of
the power of open source.
J. Niles Riddel
at the First International Symposium "National Security And National Competitiveness: Open Source Solutions
2 December 1992
FBIS was on sale to the public from 1974 until budget cutbacks reduced the scope of the service and ended access beyond the federal government. Coverage was broken up into several geographic/political zones. Each subscription covered one or more zones. Issues of FBIS came in pale pastel stapled booklets each day. The table of contents, printed in single spaced 10 point Courier on mass reproduction quality paper, was divided into several sections covering politics, military, science and technology, etc. Indexes were published regularly. Back in graduate school I was tasked by a quasi-advisor and research partner with basically shredding or photocopying roughly 20 percent of the Mainland Chinese subscription from the 70s to the then present and filing the results in dozens of filing cabinets for later incorporation into our scholarly efforts. The number of trees we killed in the interest of economic, political, and military stability... Sometime in the mid 90s FBIS went online and the paper trail stopped.
A sister publication is JPRS.
The Joint Publications Research Service is a United States government agency established in 1957 which acts
as the centralized translation service for government offices, agencies and departments having need of current
foreign language documentary materials.
The collections include translations of unclassified foreign documents, scholarly works, research reports,
serial publications, and other selected sources, originating in the Soviet Union, Eastern and Western Europe,
Africa, Asia and Latin America. The translated reports cover technical, economic, scientific, political and
After 1996, JPRS and FBIS merged into World News Connection, which is available online. The translations are
compiled from eight world regions: China, Central Eurasia, Asia and the Pacific, Eastern Europe, Latin America,
the Midde East and Africa, South Asia, and Western Europe.
University of Toronto, Robarts Library