Review: Reforming Intelligence – Obstacles to Democratic Control and Effectiveness

4 Star, Intelligence (Government/Secret)
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

Thomas Bruneau and Steven Boraz

4.0 out of 5 stars Useful on the 30% That is Old Think — Oblivious to Evolution & Nuance, January 25, 2014

Although this book is seven years old, as the world confronts the twin debacles of CIA rendition & torture combined with drone assassinations of thousands (only 2% of whom could be construed somewhat legitimate targets) and NSA’s mass surveillance combined with its financial and cyber subversion of most other foreign intelligence services, I thought it important to buy and review this book.

It emerged from the Center for Civil-Military Relations (CCMR) at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in the USA.

It losed one star on page one, the opening chapter by Bruneau & Boraz:

QUOTE: “Clearly, the problem in studying the IC [Intelligence Community] is due to the essential fundamental requirement for secrecy.”

While that is conventional wisdom at its best, that is also precisely NOT the problem. The problem is much better stated in considering how far removed all those pretending to study intelligence are from the following quote out of Strategic Intelligence and Statecraft: Selected Essays (Brassey’s Intelligence & National Security Library)

QUOTE: (There is a need) to recognize that just as the essence of knowledge is not as split up into academic disciplines as it is in our academic universe, so can intelligence not be set apart from statecraft and society, or subdivided into elements…such as analysis and estimates, counterintelligence, clandestine collection, covert action, and so forth. Rather … intelligence is a scheme of things entire. (Bozeman 1998: 177)

Intelligence is about decision-support, the outputs, not about the secrecy of the sources and methods or inputs. In that context, this book is immature — it is still stuck in the first and second eras of the evolving craft of intelligence (secret war and strategic analysis) and completely unwitting of the third era of national intelligence, the era of the Smart Nation. For a far superior book that is very current with both reality and the prospects for evolution see Routledge Companion to Intelligence Studies.

The book gains a star back for a really excellent selection of chapters by varied authors intelligence in new democracies, and particulrtly Argentina, Philippines, Romania, Russia, South Africa, and Taiwan. For another book, very unusual for addressing intelligence in countries other than those belonging to the UN Security Council, see Intelligence Elsewhere: Spies and Espionage Outside the Anglosphere.

The book loses the gained star for its failure to actually do original research across the published literature outside of the self-citing cabal, and for having a mediocre index. Many names and terms in the notes are not included in the index, which is a shame, because in many of these chapter, the notes are at least as valuable as the chapter that frames them.

The book also suffers from the common academic acceptance of intelligence “effectiveness” as being centered on what the intelligence community claims to do and for whom it claims to do it. There is no independent framework such as others including myself have devised (search for < Graphic: Evaluating Intelligence (Decision-Support) – Four Aspects 1.1 > that actually evaluates these claims agains the strategic, operational, tactical, and technical needs of all of the Cabinet Departments and the nation at large (search for < Graphic: Eight Tribes >.

The book concludes usefully, with the editors offering six extracted lessons or prescriptions for achieving greater success in future intersections of intelligence and democracy. Each is discussed in turn:

1. Raise public interest and pressure
2. Increase civilian awareness and competence (this refers to executive consumers of intelligence)
3. Institutionalize processes that support transparency and effectiveness
4. Foster in society and within the intelligence community a political culture that supports the need for intelligence and encourages trust
5. Professionalize the intelligence services (presumably this is an antidote to the politicization of intelligence, George “Slam Dunk” Tenet and Mike “Screw the Constitution” Hayden joining Keith Alexander in travesties considered by many to be treason, but the mass of the IC is in fact professional, they are just badly led).

I am glad to have the book in my library, and hopeful that one day these authors will embrace the larger vision for intelligence that Ada Bozeman and I share, intelligence as decision support, as the melding of education, intelligence, and research in which every citizens is a collector, producer, and consumer of intelligence (search for < Graphic: Nine HUMINT/OSINT Circles >).

To see the bulk of my many reviews at Amazon on intelligence as a discipline, search for < Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Intelligence (Most) >. My more critical comments on the persistence mind-set this book represents have been published by Reality Sandwich as < Rethinking National Intelligence — Seven False Premises Blocking Intelligence Reform >.

Best wishes to all,
Robert David STEELE Vivas
INTELLIGENCE for EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity & Sustainability