OVERVIEWS

United States

1990s

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Knott, Stephen F. Secret and Sanctioned: Covert Operations and the American Presidency. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Clark comment: The focus of this work is the use by U.S. presidents of covert operations in approximately the first 100 years (1776-1882) of American history. However, the presidents who served between 1849 and 1861 are not covered. Knott finds that covert operations did not begin with the Cold War, but rather date back to the Founders. The author concludes with a section on modern-day dilemmas surrounding covert activities, and argues that it is the President who is best situated to decide on whether to pursue the covert option in U.S. foreign policy.

Secret and Sanctioned was named one of the "Outstanding Academic Books of 1996," by the editors of Choice, the publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries. Rozell, Choice, Jan. 1997, comments that Knott's "most valuable and well-documented insight is that covert activity has its roots in the origins of the republic, not in the Cold War.... Bolstered by meticulous research, this book stands as an effective challenge to the 'imperial presidency' thesis."

Jeffreys-Jones, I&NS 12.4, concedes that Knott has established that "covert operations are not an invention of the post-World War II 'imperial presidency.'" Nevertheless, the author has failed "to consult adequately the published historical literature," especially "some of the most significant works on the American Constitution," in his arguments regarding the intent of the Founders.

For Cohen, FA 75.5 (Sep.-Oct. 1996), part of the book "is an interesting if fairly conventional account" of covert actions from Washington through Lincoln; the remainder is "a polemic against congressional micromanagement ... of the intelligence community." This latter part is "a rehash of old debates," and the author's "preoccupation with the controversies of the present mars the book's treatment of the past." Nevertheless, the first six chapters represent "a useful account of successful cloak-and-dagger work that predates this century." Similarly, Johnson, APSR 91.1, suggests that "[d]espite the commendable value of his historical research, Knott is on less firm ground when he turns to the modern era."

Kruh, Cryptologia 21.1, calls Secret and Sanctioned an "outstanding study" that "provides an excellent review of the country's early covert operations." Shryock, WIR 16.2, says that Knott's "account is revelatory, provocative, often fascinating, and ... topical." But, as a whole, the book "more closely resembles a polemic than ... a scholarly treatise." In the end, he fails to offer "practicable solutions to existing difficulties."

To Warren, CIRA Newsletter 22.3, Knott "has produced a work that resoundingly justifies from a historical perspective the use of covert actions as a weapon in the President's foreign policy arsenal.... Nevertheless, the strength of Knott's argument is undercut by his failure to recognize that ... past results are no indication of future performance." Hulnick, IJI&C 11.3, calls this work "a valuable addition to the intelligence literature..., because of what it tells about intelligence history, the proclivities of early presidents, and the roots of many of the squabbles regarding intelligence management today."

Koch, Scott A., and Brian D. Fila. "Our First Line of Defense": Presidential Reflections on U.S. Intelligence. Washington, DC: Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, 1996.

This is a selection of Presidential remarks on intelligence, including statements by Washington, Polk, Wilson, FDR, and all the presidents since.

Laqueur, Walter A. A World of Secrets: The Uses and Limits of Intelligence. New York: Basic Books, 1985. [pb] The Uses and Limits of Intelligence. With a new Introduction by the author. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1993. JK1525I6L37

According to Jervis, IJI&C 1.1, Laqueur is "primarily concerned with the quantity of American political intelligence and the influence of this analysis on foreign policy.... On many issues, [he] applies large doses of common sense and moderation to questions on which these qualities are all too often lacking." The "weaknesses" are that he tries to cover many topics but "does not go into detail on any of them.... [M]any of the prescriptions are trite.... [Laqueur] argues that intelligence generally has less political influence on policy than is commonly assumed."

Wark, I&NS 3.1, notes that "the central thrust of the work is prescriptive. It aims to tell the reader .. how to think about improvements in intelligence performance.... Laqueur stresses the fundamental importance of improving human skills as the key to intelligence success (or at least the minimization of intelligence failures)." When put alongside the evidence presented, Laqueur's "argument takes on a sometimes superficial and elusive quality."

For Stanley, MI 23.4, Laqueur supplies "a good review of intelligence support to decisionmakers" and of "intelligence success and failures from an academic and strategic intelligence perspective." Beyond that, however, there is "very little" here that offers insight for today's intelligence professionals. Lowenthal believes the work is "[e]specially useful for its discussion of the intellectual problems posed by intelligence analysis."

Lehman, John. Making War: The 200-Year-Old Battle Between the President and Congress Over How America Goes to War. New York: Scribner's, 1992.

MI 20.2: Lehman "draws on historical examples dating from Barbary Coast Pirates to Desert Storm. [His] research is exceptional, and the footnotes provide many valuable resources."

Treverton, FA 71 (Summer 1992), says that "[t]his engaging essay, part memoir, begins with Desert Storm and ends with Panama, with constitutional theory and history in between. Lehman ... is wise enough to recognize that the Constitution hardly settled the tussle over war powers.... He is also honest enough to admit that while he favors a strong president in principle, he tends, like most of us, to look more favorably on Congress. Lehman emphasizes the leverage of congressional investigation..., and he concludes that Congress' power of the purse has been roughly the check on executive discretion that the Founding Fathers had in mind."

Lowenthal, Mark M., with a Foreword by David Kahn. U.S. Intelligence: Evolution and Anatomy. 2d ed. Published with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C., "The Washington Papers Series/157." Westport, CT: Praeger, 1992.

Clark Comment: Back last century, I used this concise overview of the development and organization of the U.S. intelligence community as one of the texts in "POLS 320: National Security Issues," Muskingum University. At the time, when looking for a "nuts-and- bolts," organization-oriented text for an intelligence course, the choice was between Lowenthal and Jeffrey Richelson's The U.S. Intelligence Community (3d ed., 1995). The former provides a better outline for teaching, but the latter is richer in detail.

Sharman, NSLR 15.8, sees this as "two books ... within the same binder." One is a "history of the American intelligence community since World War II," and the other is a description of "the roles of the various intelligence offices and agencies, as well as oversight bodies in the legislative and executive branches." The author "served in [INR] ... and his historical and descriptive discussions occasionally betray a State Department bias. The favoritism is minimal, however."

For Surveillant 2.6, Lowenthal's work is a "concise guide to the changes [in the intelligence community] especially for the layperson.... Overall it is a good primer well balanced and documented with good primary and secondary sources." Ford, FILS 11.5, says the book is "to be commended"; it is a "useful source book" and an "easily digested overview of U.S. intelligence."

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