Why Secret Intelligence Fails


Why Secret Intelligence Fails

Michael A. Turner

224 pages


January 2005


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August 2006


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eBook (PDF)
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July 2011


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About the Book

Michael Turner argues that the root causes of failures in American intelligence can be found in the way it is organized and in the intelligence process itself. Intelligence that has gone awry affects national decision making and, ultimately, American national security. Intelligence officials are reluctant to talk about intelligence successes, claiming “the secret of our success is the secret of our success.” But these officials also shy away from talking about failures, largely because doing so would expose the failings of American intelligence and have an impact on policy consumers who may become more reluctant to accept and act on the intelligence they receive.

Rather than focusing on case studies, the book takes a holistic approach, beginning with structural issues and all dysfunctions that emanate from them. Turner explores each step of the intelligence cycle—priority setting, intelligence collection, analysis, production, and dissemination—to identify the “inflection points” within each stage that contribute to intelligence failures. Finally, he examines a variety of plans that, if implemented, would reduce the likelihood of intelligence failures.

While examining the causes of intelligence failures, Turner also explores intelligence as a critical governmental activity, making the book an excellent primer on secret intelligence. Turner writes in jargon-free prose for the informed reader interested in foreign policy and national security policy matters and brings enough depth to his subject that even experts will find this a must-read.

Author Bio

Michael A. Turner is the Cannon Professor of International Affairs at Alliant International University. He is a fifteen-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency, where he worked in various analytical and staff positions. Dr. Turner also served on several rotational assignments on Capitol Hill and at the Department of State and Department of Defense. He has published widely and lectures on national security, intelligence issues, and Aegean and Middle Eastern politics. He lives in San Diego.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements PrefaceList of AbbreviationsChapter One – The Uncertainty Principle What Is Intelligence?Utility of Intelligence The Intelligence Cycle The Plan Chapter Two – Intelligence, American Style Historical Reflections The Intelligence Community The Ineffectual DCI The New Counterterrorism Focus Chapter Three – Pitfalls of American Style Intelligence The Intelligence Ethos Bureaucratic Pathologies Communication Problems Inflection Points Chapter Four – The Foreign Experience The British Model The Israeli Model The South African Model The French Model Points of ComparisonChapter Five – Requirements And Priorities Shoddy, Hyped, and False Intelligence How Is It Done? The Policy Environment Intelligence Community Dynamics The Analyst/Collector Environment Inflection Points Chapter Six – Perils of Intelligence Collection Collection Disciplines ORCON The Classification System An Ounce of Prevention Inflection Points Chapter Seven – Analytic Snafus The World of the Analyst The Estimative Process Politicized Intelligence Cognitive Issues Inflection Points Chapter Eight – Getting Intelligence to the Right People Producing Intelligence Disseminating Intelligence Using Intelligence Inflection Points Chapter Nine – Contributing Factors Counterintelligence Covert Action Inflection PointsChapter Ten – Toward Smarter Intelligence The Tragedy of Unrealistic Expectations Provide Strong leadership With Unity of Command Refine the Fusion Center Concept Integrate Domestic with Foreign Intelligence Promote Total Information Awareness Improve Analytic Tradecraft The Future of Warning? Glossary