Loch Johnson

A - C


Johnson, Loch K. "Accountability and America's Secret Foreign Policy: Keeping a Legislative Eye on the Central Intelligence Agency." Foreign Policy Analysis 1, no. 1 (Mar. 2005): 99-120.

From Abstract: Intelligence oversight since 1975 has mostly been "a story of discontinuous motivation, ad hoc responses to scandals, and reliance on the initiative of just a few members of Congress -- mainly the occasional dedicated committee chair -- to carry the burden.... [A]bsent still is a comprehensive approach to intelligence review that mobilizes most, if not all, of the members of the House and Senate standing committees on intelligence toward a systematic plan" of day-to-day oversight, without waiting for fire alarms.


Johnson, Loch K. America's Secret Power: The CIA in a Democratic Society. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. 1991. [pb]

Clark comment: Much has happened in the world of intelligence since Loch Johnson brought out America's Secret Power. However, the book remains solid for the period it covers (from the CIA's creation in 1947 through the 1987 Iran-Contra hearings). Well into the 1990s, it could still serve as the text for an introductory political science course on national security policy. Johnson's balanced approach may not please those who would prefer more pointed (sensational?) criticism, but his judgments rarely exceed the reach of his research.

Surveillant 1.6 sees Johnson providing a "study of the balance between the genuine needs of national security and the protection of individual liberties." America's Secret Power "examines the CIA and its relations with other American institutions including Congress and the White House." Johnson is "critical of the CIA's use of journalists and academics to gather intelligence"; and he "reveals how the best intelligence reports can be distorted or ignored, and how covert action can spin out of control."

According to the FA 68.5 (Sep.-Oct. 1988) reviewer, the book "is imbued throughout with good sense about how secret intelligence and democratic society can be made to coexist." Jackson, I&NS 5.3, refers to Johnson's "thoroughness and grasp of detail" and his "scholarly and straightforward approach." Nevertheless, the author "could dig deeper" in looking at the relationships within the intelligence world.

Mulcahy, IJI&C 4.1 calls America's Secret Power a "magisterial study" with "wide appeal to both practitioners and students." Johnson exercises "balanced judgment" and provides "meticulous documentation." The book is "definitive in its intellectual rigor and informed judgment." Johnson is the "rightful heir to the mantle of Harry Howe Ransom as the premier scholar of American intelligence policy."

Theoharis, PSQ 105.1, writes that the book is a "fairly comprehensive survey" of the CIA's history but "offers little new information." Only with regard to the Iran-Contra hearings does Johnson go beyond the documentary record of the congressional committees of 1975-1976. On the other hand, Goodman, APSR 84.4, asserts that Johnson has broken "new theoretical ground for students of both national security and the ethics of foreign policy.... The chapters on covert action operations and executive and legislative oversight are particularly good and well documented."


Johnson, Loch K. "Analysis for a New Age." Intelligence and National Security 11, no. 4 (Oct. 1996): 657-671.

Working from his base on the staff of the Commission on the Roles and Capabilities of the U.S. Intelligence Community (the "Aspin-Brown Commission"), Johnson reviews the state of U.S. intelligence analysis and offers his thoughts on how it might be made better. He argues that intelligence analysis must be "consumer-driven"; that is, analysts "must design the intelligence product to suit the informational -- though certainly not the political -- needs of the consumer." He also urges more attention to "marketing" of its product on the part of the Intelligence Community.

[Analysis/Gen; Reform/90s]

Johnson, Loch K. "The Aspin-Brown Intelligence Inquiry: Behind the Closed Doors of a Blue Ribbon Commission." Studies in Intelligence 48, no. 3 (2004): 1-20.

The Aspin-Brown commission "fell short of achieving the all-source integration of intelligence that some reformers ... hoped to see.... Still, the commission did shift the debate among national security experts toward considering that point-of-view more seriously. The groundwork done by the Aspin-Brown commission, along with the terrorist attacks of 9/11, made it more palatable for PFIAB under Scowcroft's leadership in 2002 and the Kean panel in 2004 to advance the cause of a stronger DCI and a more cohesive Intelligence Community. President Truman's elusive goal of a genuinely central intelligence is, thus, nearer at hand than ever before."

See L. Britt Snider,. "Commentary: A Different Angle on the Aspin-Brown Commission," Studies in Intelligence 49, no. 1 (2005).


Johnson, Loch K. Bombs, Bugs, Drugs, and Thugs: Intelligence and America's Quest for Security. New York and London: New York University Press, 2000. 2002. [pb]

For Chapman, IJI&C 15.1, this work "is often puzzling"; but, "all things considered, there is much of value" here. "[A]nyone concerned about the current state of the American intelligence services should read it." The author "exposes many significant problems threatening the U.S. security system." Turner, IJI&C 15.2, says that this is "a neat, insightful, and readable volume written by an eminently qualified and knowledgeable expert in the field." Although the title might imply a wider subject area, the CIA is the real centerpiece in the author's study. Johnson's "principal message is that U.S. Intelligence needs to focus less on gadgets and more on Human Intelligence."

[CIA/00s/Gen; Overviews/U.S./00s; Reform/00s/Gen]

Johnson, Loch K. "Bricks and Mortar for a Theory of Intelligence." Comparative Strategy 22 (Jan.-Mar. 2003): 1-28.


Johnson, Loch K. "The Case of the Missing Spymaster." The Forum 7, no. 4 (2009). [http://www.bepress.com/forum/vol7/iss4/art4]

From "Abstract": "From the early to the most recent efforts to improve U.S. security intelligence, reformers have tried to overcome the pronounced centrifugal forces that have plagued the integration and coherent management of the nation's secret agencies. This article explores why these reforms have consistently failed."


Johnson, Loch K. "A Centralized Intelligence System: Truman's Dream Deferred." American Intelligence Journal 23 (2005): 6-15.

What Truman was shooting for in 1947 and did not get -- a centralized intelligence system -- again became the target (as it had multiple times in the interim) for the 9/11 Commission. The author believes that it will take more than the 2004 intelligence reform act to turn the DNI into a leader with full authority to manage the Intelligence Community.


Johnson, Loch K. "The Church Committee Investigation of 1975 and the Evolution of Modern Intelligence Accountability." Intelligence and National Security 23, no. 2 (Apr. 2008): 198-225.

This article proves to be both interesting and useful. As the author acknowledges, it only scatches the surface of the analysis to be done on how Congress has responded to the changed landscape left behind by the committee's work. Nonetheless, it is well worth a read. Johnson's "central thesis is that the Church Committee substantially strengthened the opportunities for lawmakers to keep tabs on America's hidden government, but that the level of rigor displayed by intelligence overseers in Congress has fallen below the expectations of the Committee's reformers in 1975."


Johnson, Loch K. "Congressional Supervision of America's Secret Agencies: The Experience and Legacy of the Church Committee." Public Administration Review 64, no. 1 (Jan.-Feb. 2004): 3-14.

[CIA/70s/Investigations; Oversight/00s]

Johnson, Loch K. "Controlling the CIA: A Critique of Current Safeguards." Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 12, no. 2 (Spring 1989): 371-396.

[Oversight/To90s; Overviews/Legal]

Johnson, Loch K. "Controlling the Quiet Option." Foreign Policy 39 (Summer 1980): 143-153.

A former member of the Church Committee staff, and proponent of stronger oversight, looks at the covert action oversight legislation passed in 1980.


Johnson, Loch K. "A Conversation with Former DCI William E. Colby: Spymaster during the 'Year of the Intelligence Wars.'" Intelligence and National Security 22, no. 2 (Apr. 2007): 250-269.

This "previously unpublished interview ... was conducted in 1991." It is well worth reading.

[CIA/DCIs/Colby; Oversight/90s]

Johnson, Loch K. "Covert Action and Accountability: Decision-Making for America's Secret Foreign Policy." International Studies Quarterly 33 (Mar. 1989): 81-109.

This article looks broadly at the use of covert action, but gives particular attention to the decisionmaking process.



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