Why Secret Intelligence Fails

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In the aftermath of 9/11 Why Secret Intelligence Fails is even more important to consider: it pinpoints problems in intelligence routines and information analysis and its chapters on analytic snafus and changing intelligence focus and priorities are particularly revealing."

"Clear, accurate, easily understandable, and should serve as a top-rate text. Highly recommended."

"Michael Turner is one of the nation’s premier experts on intelligence, and this latest book of his is not to be missed. The study is thoughtful and provocative. . . . His examination of how things sometimes go wrong in the analysis of world events, and what might be done to improve the chances of getting things right, is a valuable contribution to the study of intelligence."

"Turner has created a conceptual framework for understanding the arcane intelligence profession, its successes, and its failures. He explains the role intelligence plays in government and how intelligence can be both used and abused. This book ought to be required reading, not only for students of intelligence but for intelligence professionals as well."

"Why Secret Intelligence Fails is both a splendid primer for those with limited knowledge of the U.S. intelligence community and a professional’s examination of the numerous bureaucratic impediments to effective collaboration among the various agencies. His suggestions for implementing necessary changes are certain to generate debate among those who know the field well."

"Turner’s book offers a lively introduction to the U.S. intelligence community and an insider’s perspective on the challenges analysts face as they prepare secret intelligence for policymakers."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781574888904
  • Publisher: Potomac Books
  • Publication date: 1/31/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

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.
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Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
Chapter 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 Comparison
Chapter 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
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
Covert Action
Inflection Points
Chapter 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?
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