SpyCast 4.16.24
Ep 629 | 4.16.24

“The Foundations of American Intelligence in WWI” – with Mark Stout

Show Notes


Mark Stout (X; LinkedIn) joins Andrew (XLinkedIn) to discuss his new book, World War I and the Foundations of American Intelligence. Mark Stout is a former intelligence analyst and former SPY Historian. 

What You’ll Learn


  • The first American intelligence “agencies”
  • Codebreaking during WWI
  • The American Protective League and spy paranoia 
  • WWI’s effect on American culture and politics


  • Challenging common historical thought 
  • Studying the “forgotten” wars 

And much, much more …

Episode Notes

This week on SpyCast, Andrew was joined by Mark Stout to discuss his new book, World War I and the Foundations of American Intelligence. Mark has served as an intelligence analyst for both the CIA and the US Department of State and was previously a Senior Lecturer and the Program Director for the MA in Global Security Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Common historical thought places the genesis of formalized intelligence during the Second World War, but Mark argues otherwise. In fact, he says, World War I proved that intelligence was an indispensable asset to nations during both war and peace. Tune in to learn more about the little-known American intelligence history of the Great War. 


Before “Freedom Fries,” there was Liberty Cabbage. German-Americans during WWI faced extreme xenophobia – Not even German food could escape the spy paranoia and scrutiny. In newspapers and grocery stores across the country, sauerkraut became “Liberty Cabbage,” hamburgers became “Liberty Steak,” and frankfurters became “Liberty Sausage.” 

Quotes of the Week

“[After World War I] there will never be a time again when the United States won't have squadrons in the Army Air Corps, later the U. S. Air Force, and similarly the Navy. We would never again be without aerial reconnaissance squadrons. There would never again be a time when the United States didn't have at least one code-breaking organization.” – Mark Stout.



*Spotlight Resource* 

  • World War I and the Foundations of American Intelligence, Mark Stout (University Press of Kansas, 2023) 


*Beginner Resources*



  • Manipulating the Masses: Woodrow Wilson and the Birth of American Propaganda, J. M. Hamilton (LSU Press, 2020)
  • Codes, Ciphers and Spies: Tales of Military Intelligence in World War I, J. F. Dooley (Copernicus, 2016)
  • The Zimmermann Telegram: Intelligence, Diplomacy, and America's Entry into World War I, T. Boghardt (Naval Institute Press, 2012) 



Primary Sources 

*Wildcard Resource*

  • 12 Step Method to Reveal Secret Writing (ca. 1913-1924) 
  • Germany was particularly fond of invisible ink as a tactic of spycraft during World War I. If you came across a document suspected of secret writing, you might use these 12 steps to reveal the hidden message …