Amy Zegart

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Zegart, Amy. "American Intelligence -- Still Stupid." Los Angeles Times, 17 Sep. 2006. []

Five years after the 9/11 attacks, "all our worst intelligence deficiencies remain. Intelligence is spread across 16 agencies that operate as warring tribes more than a team. The CIA is in disarray. And the FBI's information technology is stuck in the dark ages. There are more intelligence agencies to coordinate than ever but still no one in firm charge of them all. In 2004, Congress established the post of director of national intelligence. Rather than integrating intelligence, however, the job's creation has triggered huge turf wars. For the last two years, while the office of the intelligence director has been fighting over who briefs the president and who staffs assignments, the Pentagon has quietly expanded its intelligence activities at home and abroad."

In a slick, sarcastic, and accurate turn of phrase that will probably be picked up and used again (perhaps by me), Zegart refers to the CIA as "the agency formerly known as Central."

[CIA/00s/Gen; DNI/06; PostCW/00s/Gen]

Zegart, Amy B. "'CNN with Secrets': 9/11, the CIA, and the Organizational Roots of Failure." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 20, no. 1 (Spring 2007): 18-49.

The author finds the roots of intelligence failure in three organizational deficiencies (attributed primarily to the CIA but extending to the Intelligence Community as well): "(1) structural weaknesses dating back decades that prevented the Intelligence Community (IC) from working as a coherent whole; (2) perverse promotion incentives that rewarded intelligence officials for all the wrong things; and (3) cultural pathologies that led intelligence agencies to resist new technologies, ideas, and tasks."

[CIA/00s/Gen; GenPostcw/00s/Gen]

Zegart, Amy B. "An Empirical Analysis of Failed Intelligence Reforms Before September 11." Political Science Quarterly 121, no. 1 (Spring 2006): 33-60.

Since World War II, some forty separate reports have investigated and examined the performance of U.S. intelligence agencies. "This article seeks to lay the foundations for a more productive examination of intelligence failure by analyzing intelligence adaptation efforts between the Cold War's end and the September 11 attacks.... The heart of the article is an analysis of all the major studies of the U.S. intelligence community and counterterrorism efforts between 1991 and 2001.... [E]vidence strongly suggests that U.S. intelligence agencies failed to prevent the September 11 attacks not because failure was inevitable or because individuals could not conceive of the threat or how to combat it, but because of politics."


Zegart, Amy B. Eyes on Spies: Congress and the United States Intelligence Community. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2011.

Peake, Studies 56.2 (Jun. 2012) and Intelligencer 19.2 (Summer-Fall 2012), sees the author's call for better Congressional oversight of intelligence as "a bold, articulate book," written in "simple declarative sentences." It deserves to be taken seriously. For Nolte, IJI&C 26.2 (Summer 2013), this is a "brief but effective study" that "makes an impressive case for dysfunction." It is "a troubling picture," and provides "Congress watchers ... an important set of benchmarks for future analysis." Carey, AIJ 30.2 (2012), says Zegart's book "functions as a compact series of discrete articles bookended by effective introductions and summaries."


Zegart, Amy B. Flawed By Design: The Evolution of the CIA, JCS, and NSC. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999.

Robert David Steele provides the following comments: "This is a very worthy and thoughtful book. It breaks new ground in understanding the bureaucratic and political realities that surrounded the emergence of the National Security Council, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA was weak by design, strongly opposed by the military services from the beginning. Its covert activities emerged as a Presidential prerogative, unopposed by others in part because it kept CIA from being effective at coordinated analysis, for which it had neither the power nor the talent. Most usefully, the book presents a new institutionalist theory of bureaucracy that gives full weight to the original design, the political players including the bureaucrats themselves, and external events. Unlike domestic agencies that have strong interest groups, open information, legislative domain, and unconnected bureaucracies, the author finds that national security agencies, being characterized by weak interest groups, secrecy, executive domain, and connected bureaucracies, evolve differently from other bureaucracies, and are much harder to reform."

For Richelson, IJI&C 13.4, "Zegart frequently oversimplifies the history and issues involved in ways that lead to questionable judgments on her part.... Oversimplification and a lack of understanding of the issues involved are particularly evident in Dr. Zegart's treatment of the CIA.... Flawed By Design is itself flawed. One [flaw] is inadequate research." Steele (positive) and Richelson (negative) exchange barbs over their conflicting assessments of Zegart's work in "Reader's Forum," IJI&C 14.2.

To Warner, Studies 11 (Fall-Winter 2001), Zegart's "narrative has a shaky grasp of the historical facts of the Agency's origins. Flawed By Design thus builds some worthy insights on a wobbly foundation."

Ratnesar, Washington Monthly, Jan.-Feb. 2000, finds Flawed By Design to be "incisive and revealing." The author "is particularly thorough in describing the bureaucratic horse-trading that preceded the drafting of 1947's National Security Act.... Zegart reserves her harshest judgments for the design of the JCS and the CIA.... The CIA ... was created without the authority to coordinate 'intelligence from the rest of the community....' It was only after ... the Goldwater-Nicholson [sic] Act of 1986 that the JCS evolved into anything other than an ineffective and ultimately dangerous forum for interservice rivalry." The author argues "convincingly ... that U.S. interests have been compromised ... by the institutional design of national security agencies."

[CIA/Overviews; GenPostwar/Orgs/NSC]

Zegart, Amy. "9/11 and the FBI: The Organizational Roots of Failure." Intelligence and National Security 22, no. 2 (Apr. 2007): 165-184.

The author argues the FBI's failures related to 9/11 were the product of three organizational deficiencies: (1) longstanding structural weaknesses; (2) perverse promotion incentives; and (3) internal cultural pathologies. Her conclusion: "Yes, individuals made mistakes, but it was the system that failed us."


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