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Sharpening Strategic Intelligence: Why the CIA Gets it Wrong and What Needs to be Done to Get it Right

Sharpening Strategic Intelligence: Why the CIA Gets it Wrong and What Needs to be Done to Get it Right

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By (author) Richard L. Russell

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  • Publisher: CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
  • Format: Paperback | 228 pages
  • Dimensions: 152mm x 226mm x 15mm | 363g
  • Publication date: 1 May 2007
  • Publication City/Country: Cambridge
  • ISBN 10: 0521702372
  • ISBN 13: 9780521702379
  • Edition: 1
  • Edition statement: New.
  • Sales rank: 1,288,760

Product description

This book critically examines the weaknesses of American intelligence led by the Central Intelligence Agency in informing presidential decision making on issues of war and peace. It evaluates the CIA's strategic intelligence performance during the Cold War and post-Cold War periods as a foundation for examining the root causes of intelligence failures surrounding the September 11th attacks and assessments of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs in the run up to the Iraq War. The book probes these intelligence failures, which lie in the CIA's poor human intelligence collection and analysis practices. The book argues that none of the post-9/11 intelligence reforms have squarely addressed these root causes of strategic intelligence failure and it recommends measures for redressing these dangerous vulnerabilities in American security.

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Author information

Richard L. Russell is Professor of National Security Affairs at the National Defense University's Near East and South Asia Center for Strategic Studies. He also holds academic appointments as Adjunct Associate Professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University and Research Associate in the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University. Russell is the author of Weapons Proliferation and War in the Greater Middle East: Strategic Contest and George F. Kennan's Strategic Thought: The Making of an American Political Realist. He previously served seventeen years as a political-military analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency, where he analyzed security issues in the Middle East and Europe. He received numerous CIA Exceptional Performance Awards, two of which were for his work during the Gulf War and the Kosovo War. Russell has been interviewed on National Public Radio, ABC News, and CNN and his analysis has appeared in leading publications to include the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, The New Republic, The Weekly Standard, USA Today, and US News and World Report. He holds a PhD in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia and is a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Review quote

"Here is a study of the CIA and its weakness that is both hard-hitting and well-informed. More in sorrow than in anger Richard Russell lays out the flaws in intelligence collection and analysis and points the way to improvements. Even if policy-makers do not respond, readers will learn a great deal." Robert Jervis, Adlai E. Stevenson Professor of Political Science, Columbia University "An impressively comprehensive, insightful, and revealing examination of why the CIA has made major intelligence mistakes in recent years and what might be done to lessen the chances of failure in the future. Richard Russell knows this subject inside-out, writes lucidly, and skillfully captures the strengths and the weaknesses of contemporary American intelligence capabilities." Loch K. Johnson, Regents Professor, University of Georgia and editor, INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY "Professor Russell has written a book that should be read by both those who are dismayed by the CIA"s dismal performance over the last two decades and those who are now trying to rebuild the Agency. Those who have been dismayed will certainly, after reading this book, understand why it has failed so often and will understand that the accountability for that failure begins at the very core of the institution itself. On the other hand, those who believe, and I count myself in this group, that an effective, strategically focused intelligence system is an absolute requirement for the survival in the dangerous and chaotic world in which we now find ourselves will come away from this book humbled by the immense task at hand. Simply rearranging the reporting arrangements of the various parts of the system and appointing a czar will have no real effect - except to delude those who have not read this book into believing that something meaningful has been done. Drawing on his own 17 year experience in the CIA and an exceptional ability to speak directly and with candor, Professor Russell has written a book that should be on the top of the reading list of those who aspire to power and will have to listen to the "truth" that comes from the current dysfunctional intelligence system. It also should find an avid readership among all those who worry that the United States is steaming into the eyes of multiple storms without any capability of discerning a strategic course that will avoid the certainty of disaster. For those who believe that US foreign policy has become all to ready to fall back on unilateral and even preemptive military force, this book provide the answer as to why this is so - we have lost our strategic intelligence capability and with it the capacity to be smart. We are left with only our military power and the loss and destruction that results." David Kay, Senior Research Fellow, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies "Richard Russell offers a compelling critique of enduring weaknesses in US intelligence. With a focus on the Central Intelligence Agency, he calmly dissects the most significant issue: why does intelligence get it wrong on the big picture, the mysteries of strategic shifts in geopolitics and the fortunes of nations? Russell brings all the right stuff - 17 years as a CIA analyst, fine academic credentials, deep knowledge of how policy and intelligence relate to each other, and a healthy disdain for the rule-bound culture of big bureaucracies." Ellen Laipson, President and CEO, Stimson Center and former Vice Chairman of the National Intelligence Council "Russell's overall diagnosis is damning, and the recommendations he makes are solid ones..." The American Interest "There is no critique more damning than that of a disillusioned insider. Russell, an award-winning intelligence analyst with 17 years of experience in the CIA,...takes a sober look at the intelligence community--in particular, the CIA--to show why failures of strategic intelligence have become the norm. He finds the problems extend far back into the Cold War and have not been corrected by the most recent round of 'reforms.' The author describes a system that rewards those who collect minutiae, but discourages anyone from looking at the big picture. He finds too many layers of management, weak professional training, and 'bureaucratic rot.' The book contains practical suggestions for improvement. This is a book that should be read by anyone who wants to know what is wrong with the system today, and what it would take to fix it." D. McIntosh, Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, Choice "...it is a brutally candid critique of the bureaucratic and operational problems in the CIA and the Intelligence Community...Russell outlines the fundamental changes required to produce accurate and timely intelligence and, incidentally, to keep others from quitting as he did...for the intelligence professional and the decision makers, it is a book worthy of close and serious scrutiny." Hayden B. Peake, Studies in Intelligence "Sharpening Strategic Intelligence is a cut above other books by former officials, and offers much-needed insight into the CIA's history and current challenges." Amy B. Zegart, Political Science Quarterly "In this book, Dr. Russell methodically integrates official reports and the observations of intelligence and national security professionals to make a compelling argument in support of his central thesis that the CIA's seemingly intractable flaws have resulted in a 'systemic failure to deliver firstrate human intelligence and analysis to the commander in chief.'" American Intelligence Journal

Table of contents

1. Strategic intelligence and American statecraft; 2. Debunking Cold War myths; 3. Stumbling after the Cold War; 4. Blundering in the 'War on Terror'; 5. Spies who do not deliver; 6. Analysts who are not experts; 7. Facing future strategic intelligence challenges.