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CIA Monster Handbook – A Bestiary of Cliches

CIA Monster Handbook – A Bestiary of Cliches

On July 29, 2014 the Central Intelligence Agency released and de-classified various records as part of a lawsuit filed by former employee Jeffrey Scudder.  As part of that particular release of documents is a bizarre bestiary titled Bestiary of Intelligence Writing.

The Bestiary was published in 1982 by the CIA’s internal newsletter Studies in Intelligence.  The Bestiary introduced readers to a “collection of strange fauna in a corner of a sub-basement.” The writer—whose identity the Agency redacted—called this zoo of fictional fauna the Bestiary of Intelligence Writing.  One can imagine a bored CIA agent banished to the basement sketching characters to represent the cliches that were repeated over and over.

The Bestiary is a very similar to A Political Bestiary a book by writer James Kilpatrick, former U.S. senator Eugene McCarthy and editorial cartoonist Jeff MacNelly which focuses on American political animals.

The Cliches used in the Bestiary are:

  • Multidisciplinary analysis
  • Viable alternatives
  • Mounting crises
  • Parameters
  • Heightened tensions
  • Dire straights
  • Far-reaching implications
  • Available evidence
  • Foreseeable future
  • Almost inevitable
  • Nonstarter
  • Economic constraints
  • Broad outlines
  • Net effect
  • Overwhelming majority

Foreseeable Future


Overwhelming Majority




Multidisciplinary Analysis


Viable Alternative


Heightened Tensions


Mounting Tensions

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