Enemies of Intelligence

Enemies of Intelligence: Knowledge and Power in American National Security

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 264
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Enemies of Intelligence
    Book Description:

    The tragic events of September 11, 2001, and the false assessment of Saddam Hussein's weapons arsenal were terrible reminders that good information is essential to national security. These failures convinced the American public that their intelligence system was broken and prompted a radical reorganization of agencies and personnel, but as Richard K. Betts argues in this book, critics and politicians have severely underestimated the obstacles to true reform.

    One of the nation's foremost political scientists, Betts draws on three decades of work within the U.S. intelligence community to illuminate the paradoxes and problems that frustrate the intelligence process. Unlike America's efforts to improve its defenses against natural disasters, strengthening its strategic assessment capabilities means outwitting crafty enemies who operate beyond U.S. borders. It also requires looking within to the organizational and political dynamics of collecting information and determining its implications for policy.

    Combining academic research with personal experience, Betts outlines strategies for better intelligence gathering and assessment. He describes how fixing one malfunction can create another; in what ways expertise can be both a vital tool and a source of error and misjudgment; the pitfalls of always striving for accuracy in intelligence, which in some cases can render it worthless; the danger, though unavoidable, of "politicizing" intelligence; and the issue of secrecy-when it is excessive, when it is insufficient, and how limiting privacy can in fact protect civil liberties.

    Betts argues that when it comes to intelligence, citizens and politicians should focus less on consistent solutions and more on achieving a delicate balance between conflicting requirements. He also emphasizes the substantial success of the intelligence community, despite its well-publicized blunders, and highlights elements of the intelligence process that need preservation and protection. Many reformers are quick to respond to scandals and failures without detailed, historical knowledge of how the system works. Grounding his arguments in extensive theory and policy analysis, Betts takes a comprehensive and realistic look at how knowledge and power can work together to face the intelligence challenges of the twenty-first century.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51113-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xviii)
    Richard K. Betts
    (pp. 1-18)

    Whatever the foreign policy of the world’s leading power should be, it should not be ignorant. Power without knowledge is useless at best, dangerous at worst. Government should know as much as possible about threats and opportunities and in time to do something about them. The intelligence function—the collection, correlation, analysis, and dissemination of relevant information—is integral to national security. Yet Americans seldom think about this until the intelligence system stumbles badly. Then they resolve to shake it up, set it right, and prevent another disaster. These efforts always focus on finding out who or what was responsible...

  5. 2 PERMANENT ENEMIES: Why Intelligence Failures Are Inevitable
    (pp. 19-52)

    Military disasters befall some states, no matter how informed their leaders are, because their capabilities are deficient. Weakness, not choice, is their primary problem. Powerful nations are not immune to calamity either because their leaders may misperceive threats or miscalculate responses. Information, understanding, and judgment are larger parts of the strategic challenge for countries such as the United States. Optimal decisions in defense policy therefore depend on the use of strategic intelligence: the acquisition, analysis, and appreciation of relevant data.

    In the best-known cases of intelligence failure, the most crucial mistakes have sometimes been made by the collectors of raw...

  6. 3 THEORY TRAPS: Expertise as an Enemy
    (pp. 53-65)

    Intelligence can’t live with theory and can’t live without it. This is the fundamental problem in using analysis to anticipate threats, to prompt a response from policymakers, and to avoid surprise. Theories are necessary for judging the meaning of data, but they are also the source of mistaken judgments of evidence. The obvious source of this problem is the imperfection of all theories about social phenomena. A less obvious source is that theories that are ideal for some analytical functions turn out to be dangerous for others. In fact, theories that are normally best because they have a good track...

  7. 4 INCORRUPTIBILITY OR INFLUENCE? Costs and Benefits of Politicization
    (pp. 66-103)

    Why should taxpayers spend their money on intelligence? Because the public servants who make and implement policy should be informed. Intelligence serves policy. The basic responsibility of intelligence professionals is to find the truth about what goes on in the important byways of the world, and why and how it does, and to communicate that truth to policymakers, letting the chips fall where they may. For policymakers, however, knowing the truth is a means, not an end—a means to getting the right things done. What the right things are depends less on what is than on what should be,...

  8. 5 TWO FACES OF FAILURE: September 11 and Iraq’s Missing WMD
    (pp. 104-123)

    Al Qaeda’s surprise attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were a second Pearl Harbor for the United States. The shocks jolted Americans out of the complacency about national security that they had enjoyed during the dozen years after the Cold War and launched them into a worldwide war against terrorists. When this was followed by the failure to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD) after the invasion of Iraq, recriminations over the intelligence failures provoked the most radical reorganization of the intelligence system since the post–Pearl Harbor National Security Act. In the first case, the intelligence...

  9. 6 AN INTELLIGENCE REFORMATION? Two Faces of Reorganization
    (pp. 124-158)

    As the dust from the collapsed Twin Towers was still settling, the charges began to fly. CIA was asleep at the switch! The intelligence system is broken! Reorganize top to bottom! The new conventional wisdom was typified in the New York Times: “What will the nation’s intelligence services have to change to fight this war? The short answer is: almost everything.”¹ Less than two years later, the mistaken estimate that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq possessed stocks of chemical and biological weapons reinforced that public consensus about the U.S. intelligence system: drastic change must be overdue.

    The failures not only made clear...

  10. 7 WHOSE KNOWLEDGE OF WHOM? The Conflict of Secrets
    (pp. 159-182)

    Secrecy is the enemy of knowledge. That does not make it bad, since knowledge is not always good. Whether it is good or bad depends on who has it. It is good if we know things that others are trying to hide and bad if they know things we want to hide. In popular political debate we usually think of lines being drawn between those who favor secrecy and those who oppose it, but this dichotomy obscures the depth of the problem. Everyone favors secrecy and everyone opposes it, depending on whose secrets are at issue.

    In the politics of...

  11. 8 ENEMIES AT BAY: Successful Intelligence
    (pp. 183-194)

    Pessimism about how much to expect from intelligence is widespread among those who have studied the history of strategic surprise. Dismal expectations, however, are not accepted by most political leaders, strategists, or normal citizens who demand better. This is as it should be, lest pessimism abet lethargy in efforts to improve performance. After September 11, 2001, change in the intelligence system became politically imperative, although there was no consensus about what the content of the change should be. The dominant sentiment was for more integration to ensure coordination of effort, since coordination had faltered at some crucial points before Al...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 195-228)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 229-246)