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Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) was an open source intelligence component of the Central Intelligence Agency's Directorate of Science and Technology. It monitored, translated, and disseminated within the U.S. government openly available news and information from media sources outside the United States. Its headquarters was in Rosslyn, Virginia , later Reston, Virginia , and it maintained approximately 20 monitoring stations worldwide. In November 2005, it was announced that FBIS would become the newly formed Open Source Center, tasked with the collection and analysis of freely available intelligence.
In February 1941, President Roosevelt directed that $150,000 be allocated for creation of the Foreign Broadcast Monitoring Service (FBMS) under the authority of the Federal Communications Commission. The mandate of the FBMS was to record, translate, transcribe and analyze shortwave propaganda radio programs that were being beamed at the United States by the Axis powers. Its first monitoring station was established in October 1941 in Portland, Oregon.
With the end of World War II, the FBMS was transferred to the Department of the Army. Like many other wartime organizations, the FBMS was threatened with disbandment. The possibility of its disbandment was roundly criticized in many different quarters, which helped ensure its survival.
Upon the passing of the National Security Act of 1947, the FBMS was renamed the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) as a part of the CIA. Its original mission revolved around radio and press agency monitoring. In 1967, the Service's mission was expanded to cover foreign mass media transmitted by radio, television, and print. In 2007, Readex announced its plans to create a digital edition entitled Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Daily Reports, 1941–1996.
FBIS had approximately 20 stations, commonly called bureaus, that were located around the world. These stations operated as an adjunct of a U.S. embassy/consulate or military command. Bureaus opened and closed at various times depending on the world situation and local circumstances. These stations were not covert and operated with the consent of the host government. In addition, a few of the bureaus were located on territory belonging to or administered by the US such as Key West, Florida, Bahia Sucia, Puerto Rico, the Panama Canal Zone, etc. The personnel in the stations were both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals who were responsible for the collection, translation, and dissemination of foreign open source material. Depending on location, and the availability of print media, these personnel may have been responsible for translation of more than one language. It should also be noted that because of the large number print/radio/TV/satellite sources worldwide FBIS did not collect all open source material, but only those sources that met the requirements of the Intelligence Community.
Besides the translations done overseas a large volume of less-time sensitive material was sent to FBIS headquarters in Rosslyn and Reston where a more detailed translation could take place.
Not only were translations provided by in-house FBIS personnel, but approximately 700 independent contractors were also employed.
Material provided by FBIS was disseminated to over 700 recipients in not only in the U.S. Intelligence Community, but also a large number of government, diplomatic and military organizations.
The material provided by the FBIS, although it comes from openly available, public radio and TV broadcasts, is not made freely available to the American people.
The Federation of American Scientists launched a successful campaign in 1997 to save FBIS from planned budget cuts.
Larry Wu-Tai Chin worked for FBIS from 1952 to 1981 and sold classified documents to China.
Office of National Assessments Open Source Unit, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.