Review: Securing the State

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

David Omand

5.0 out of 5 stars THE Best Book by a Professional — All Text, Some Gaps, February 2, 2013

I recommend this book along with another I just reviewed, by Alfred Rolington long-term CEO of Janes, Strategic Intelligence for the 21st Century: The Mosaic Method.

This is a master work, and Retired Reader (retired NSA pioneer Richard Wright, who contributes to Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog) beat me to it. He is a reviewer worthy of being followed.

The author is as erudite as Alfred Rolington, and the book is completely different, one reason I recommend both books. The first, by Rolington, is a primer, and recommended for students. This book is for professionals, and could well be a primary text for properly managed mid-career courses where officers should be forced to reflect deeply on why their profession exists and how to better engage in that profession.

I am loading a few graphics from my briefing this past week to the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB) in Washington, D.C. as they illustrate some of the points I am going to make about where this book falls short. No critical comment lessens the value of the work as a whole. If I had to pick a dozen people to guide me in managing a new global intelligence agency tomorrow, the author of this book would be one of the first to be called.

The primary short-fall in this book is the author's no doubt judicious but still mis-leading avoidance of any criticism of his policy and political consumers. The UK's blind support of US lies leading to Iraq was not helpful. Nor is the reality that secret intelligence is safely ignored, and that intelligence has nothing at all to do with how the total budget of the nation is applied. Paul Pillar makes the point very ably in Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy: Iraq, 9/11, and Misguided Reform. This book also does not address the fact that the City of London and the LIBOR scandal and the elite pedophile rings that in turn bless many other crimes against humanity, are outside the mandate of the secret world. I believe the 21st century is going to be about the juxtaposition of open source intelligence broadly shared, and absolutely ruthless ultra-secret counterintelligence that flushes the wicked from our own house.

The second shortfall of this book is its assumption, common among intelligence professionals, that intelligence is a government prerogative and comprised mainly of secrecy for policy. Related, not worthy of separation, is the book's disingeneous portrayal of terrorism as “the” threat against which “resilience” must be nurtured, while more and more surveillance must be undertaken. Terrorism is a tactic, not a threat, and what the US and UK do to others in the way of proliferation, trade in women and especially children, environmental degradation, disease including vaccines that contain hidden sterilization measures, and on and on and on, is vastly more threatening to humanity than a few pissed off Islamics, many of them, such as the retarded teen-ager in California, false-flag terrorists created to keep the insecurity of the public alive. I am quite sure the author is fully conscious of what the real threats are — starting with poverty among the people and corruption among the peers — and the book is not to be dismissed for this, but because it is such an important work, I feel it essential to draw this line in the sand. Until intelligence can provide decision support for ALL, and until counter-intelligence can keep the mandarins HONEST, it will be a below the stairs housekeeping function, not a principal at the high table.

Having said all that, I love this book. As a fan of poet-warrior-scholar Ralph Peters, see for instance Lines of Fire: A Renegade Writes on Strategy, Intelligence, and Security [ LINES OF FIRE: A RENEGADE WRITES ON STRATEGY, INTELLIGENCE, AND SECURITY BY Peters, Ralph ( Author ) Sep-19-2011, and as a deep admirer of how Winston Churchull put his speeches together in poetic form, I am absolutely charmed by the poetry in this book.

This is a deep book, full of nuances (e.g. degrees of truth), and one of the most important values of this book is its defense of Human Intelligence (HUMINT), or in the author's terms, “single-source reporting.” He is correct. The US and UK have gone nuts on technical collection, mostly because it is a fantastic way to waste huge quantities of money that generate 5% kick-backs for Congress in the USA. Never mind that this collected information is not processed, not made sense of. Never mind that it is not done in all 183 languages that matter, 33 of them critical, including twelve dialects of Arabic. I share the author's appreciation for HUMINT done right, and only lament that the US is incapable of getting it right. (Side Note: Churchill drew a laugh when he told Pariament “The Americans always do the right thing, they just try everything else first.” What Churchill missed is that the Americans are absolute geniuses at thinking up new things to do wrong.] The US intelligence “system” is a $75 billion a year money pit that produces, according to General Tony Zinni, USMC (Ret), “at best” 4% of what a major consumers needs, to which I would add “and nothing at all for everyone else.”

There is a strong measure of ethical purity running through the book, of civic duty, and I cannot help but feel that the author has another great 20 years ahead of him, this time doing what he does best in a larger global context, using predominantly open sources, and being utterly committed to the PUBLIC service rather than the pro forma service to the mandarins.

He ends with an all too brief call for harnessing all the talent that is truncated (he is speaking of a joint intelligence college, not an eight tribes network (my eight tribes, illustrated in the image under the book cover above, include academia, civil society, commerce, government, law enforcement, media, military, and non-government/non-profit) and for learning from history. He also has a chapter on intelligence design that I could easily discuss for a week, for now let me just suggest my current papers found by searching for the phrase 21st Century Public Intelligence 3.1.

I've decided to keep this book. After I donated my entire library to George Mason University during my brief tenure with the United Nations, I have traveled light and donate all books to the local library after reading and reviewing. This one I must keep. Put as directly as possible, I believe the author to be something of a genius at the professional of intelligence, but he has been playing with only a portion of the deck, the secret government half. I'd like to think more about how to apply that genius to the whole deck.

Those interested in most of my other reviews of books on intelligence can find them by searching for the phrase Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Intelligence (Most) and also at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog, use the middle column to browse my latest reviews not in this list, look for the categories (and number of review):

Intelligence (Collective & Quantum) (110)
Intelligence (Commercial) (85)
Intelligence (Extra-Terrestrial) (20)
Intelligence (Government/Secret) (374)
Intelligence (Public) (290)
Intelligence (Spiritual) (4)
Intelligence (Wealth of Networks) (76)

I have not done justice to this book, but over time may circle back and augment this review. Certainly I hope to meet the author one day and talk about what a multinational station in each region should look like, and how one might create a Centre for Public Intelligence in each district. There is so much yet to be done.

With best wishes to all,
Robert David STEELE Vivas
2000 ON INTELLIGENCE: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World

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