Pearl Harbor and American Intelligence Culture: Cultural Symbols in American Intelligence Discourse Communities, Meta-Theoretical Lenses and Multi-Perspective Approaches

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Copeland, Lesley Claire




Ideas of the world persist long beyond the contexts that gave rise to them. In intelligence, as in strategic culture, these persisting ideas form a culture which shapes the intelligence system. Persisting ideas can come to form part of a national culture that ultimately shapes the actors, interests, and decision-making of intelligence stakeholders. This thesis illuminates how specific American cultural symbols influence and reflect U.S. intelligence ideas, discourses, policies, and practices, thereby contributing to a distinctly “U.S. intelligence culture.” As a result, this dissertation demonstrates that national cultural symbols are not epiphenomenal: These symbols tangibly influence the thought and action of diverse audiences both within and outside the formal U.S. intelligence community. Through an analysis of national and institutional definitions, norms, narratives, and warrants, the contours of a uniquely American intelligence culture emerge. A test case of how Pearl Harbor functions as a powerful cultural symbol among intelligence discourse communities illustrates national culture’s influence vis-à-vis policy decisions, intelligence reform, institutional openness, and intelligence education. Ultimately, this dissertation’s meta-theoretical lens and multi-perspective approach productively bring together conceptual resources from the fields of Intelligence Studies, Strategic Studies, and International Relations contributing to the development of “intelligence culture” as a theoretically sound and useful approach to studying intelligence-related phenomena.


Intellegence service
Political science




Carleton University

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Political Science

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Theses and Dissertations

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