INTELLIGENCE REFORM

2000s

Generally

O - P

Odom, William E. Fixing Intelligence for a More Secure America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003. 2d ed. 2004.

Lichtblau, NYT, 16 Mar. 2003, finds that "Odom's important and thought-provoking book ... offers a cogent if sometimes labored primer on how the intelligence community works (and doesn't work) and why its labyrinth of competing agencies has impeded the flow of information within the government.... Much of the problem, he argues, can be traced to the dual hats worn by the head of the C.I.A.... [He] demands wholesale changes.... Make the director of the C.I.A. into the czar of the nation's intelligence industry.... Rename and restructure the C.I.A. to distance it from its record of embarrassments.... And strip the F.B.I. of its role as the nation's chief spy catcher." Odom "teases readers with insightful glimpses into the problems in the intelligence community without providing many of the necessary details to bolster his case.... [H]e relies too often on bureaucratic doublespeak and charts to make his point."

According to Adams, Washington Post, 6 Apr. 2003, "Odom produces a detailed reform proposal that is also born out of decades of puzzling out intelligence conundrums." Similarly, Freedman, FA 82.3 (May-Jun. 2003), calls this "a forcefully and cogently argued book. It is a necessary read for anyone concerned about the future of intelligence." On the other hand, Hanyok, I&NS 20.2 (Jun. 2005), says that Odom "makes some useful observations and suggestions for reform of US intelligence. Unfortunately, much of the fabric of the book's arguments is sewn with assertions based on little evidence and is rent by numerous errors of fact and history."

Peake, Studies 48.2 (2004), says that the problems Odom seeks to correct are largely operational, but he "does not show how restructuring would fix the operational problems that were, for the most part, due to poor performance all around, not the organizational structure in the units involved." Wirtz, IJI&C 17.2, finds this a "highly accessible discussion of reforming intelligence." However, "the organizational structure outlined by Odom, which is intended to produce conformity when challenged by adversity, is not likely to be the best way to foster innovative thinking." Also, "nothing in the historical record suggests that military organizations are any less likely to be surprised than are their civilian counterparts."

For Marrin, PSQ 119.2 (Summer 2004), the author's "structural reform proposals boldly challenge conventional intelligence community management thinking, but the potential effects that the reforms might have on the intelligence community's effectiveness are impossible to evaluate because he does not address organizational processes." Therefore, "Odom's assessment is incomplete." Wales, H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews, Nov. 2003 [http://www.h-net.org], comments that the author's occasional bouts of institutional favoritism are ... unfortunate, and constitute the only serious flaws in an otherwise superb book."

Pounder, Air & Space Power Journal 18.4 (Winter 2004), says the author "presents a clear and concise plan for intelligence reform, built around a 'national manager' concept for the intelligence community as a whole, as well as its major disciplines." However, Odom's "book glosses over the bottom-line question: will [his proposed] reorganization actually 'fix' the problems plaguing our intelligence system, or simply lead to more empire building inside the beltway?"

Pillar, Paul R. "Intelligent Design? The Unending Saga of Intelligence Reform." Foreign Affairs 87, no. 2 (Mar.-Apr. 2008): 138-144.

The author, NIO for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, reviews Weiner, Legacy of Ashes (2007); Zegart, Spying Blind (2007); and Betts, Enemies of Intelligence (2007). In the process, however, Pillar has much to say about intelligence reform and the intelligence business. One, among many, telling observation is that "reforms that pander to psychological needs and political agendas encourage changes that are more disruptive than productive." This article should be mandatory reading for those who cry incessantly for intelligence reform.

Posner, Richard A. Countering Terrorism: Blurred Focus, Halting Steps. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007.

Peake, Studies 52.1 (Mar. 2008) and Intelligencer 16.1 (Spring 2008), finds that the author "is convinced that creating a new MI5-like organization with only a security and counterintelligence mission is necessary to achieve effective domestic counterterrorism efforts." However, Posner does not consider "the level of personal and organizational disruption that creating another new intelligence organization would entail and the time required for it to become proficient." This work merits "very serious consideration."

Posner, Richard A. Preventing Surprise Attacks: Intelligence Reform in the Wake of 9/11. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005.

Peake, Studies 49.4 (2005), comments that "[b]eyond the thoughtful analysis and practical suggestions," this book "makes a fine text for a course on national intelligence. It covers the basic topics, is thoroughly documented with open sources ... and is short enough to please any student." This is "[a] very valuable addition to the literature." For DKR, AFIO WIN 16-05 (19 Apr. 2005), the author has presented "[a] shrewd and challenging appraisal of what effective reform requires." Posner believes that "by creating a DNI, and so adding one more rung to the ladder of command, less information will reach the top than before."

To Bruns, DIJ 16.1 (2007), Posner's work is "much more thoughtfully and elegantly argued" than the 9/11 Commission report. In addition, the author "convincingly argues that the report's conclusions are not well supported." Winn, Parameters, Summer 2006, calls this "a rewarding read that is worth re-reading." The author "draws into question both the soundness of the [9/11] commission's analysis and the Intelligence Reform Act itself -- the implication being that 'the organization' was to blame for the faulty analysis." Posner's "concern is that a top-heavy, Rube Goldberg-style reorganization may increase rather than reduce the dangers that face us."

Lowenthal, IAFIE News 1, no. 2 (Winter 2008), notes that the author's premise "is simple: the 9/11 Report singled out management flaws as enabling the attack on the U.S. to take place; why then, does the same Report conclude that organizational change is necessary? Posner explores this divide ... by carefully reviewing the various themes believed to have enabled the attacks ... and juxtaposing them" against the Report's recommendations, "primarily the creation of a DNI. He concludes that these organizational changes represent flawed logic."

Posner, Richard A. Uncertain Shield: The U.S. Intelligence System in the Throes of Reform. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006.

Clark comment: It is not necessary to agree with every conclusion that Judge Posner reaches in Uncertain Shield to appreciate and respect the intellectual vigor behind his analysis. He sweeps widely across multiple disciplines -- from organizational theory, to economics, to mathematics, to constitutional analysis -- to show how wrong the 9/11 and WMD commissions were in their analyses and conclusions and how wrongheaded the rush to pass the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 really was.

Moskowitz, Studies 50.3 (Sep. 2006), says that the author "brings a fresh and welcome perspective to hoary intelligence issues,... but it is [his] intelligence and common sense that keeps you reading." Posner's "book is full of telling judgments about the process, the people, and the sheer ignorance that brought us the reorganization of the Intelligence Community in 2005."

For Reveron, DIJ 15.1 (2006), much of Posner's criticism of the FBI is flawed and/or out of date. The reviewer argues that Posner's research "better reflects the pre-9/11 or Louis Freeh FBI than today's FBI.... Things have been changing at the FBI, and Posner does not capture these changes in his critique."

Richelson, IJI&C 20.2 (Summer 2007), seems to feel that the author has failed to develop fully too many of the cases he presents to buttress his arguments. However, Posner presents "a challenging look at the problems facing U.S. intelligence ... without a simple reliance on conventional wisdom and preconceived notions about how to deal with those problems."

Another IJI&C reviewer, Chapman, IJI&C 20.2 (Summer 2007), sees Uncertain Shield as "a wild ride." The reviewer sides with Posner in his defense of the CIA on the 9/11 issue, but believes "Posner's defense of the pre-Iraq war intelligence ... flies against the wind." Chapman finds the idea of a possible domestic intelligence agency "a slippery road to travel." And putting such an agency under the Department of Homeland Security, as Posner suggests, would be "one more agency under" a DHS "that's [already] so obese it can't move."

Lowenthal, IAFIE News 1, no. 2 (Winter 2008), calls this "a guide on 'how to' appraise what is happening, make a prognosis on where the process is going, consider various aspects that might be encountered along the way, and offer constructive well poised input." At times, however, the work "suffers from bouts of convolutions -- undoubtedly reflective of the difficulties in analyzing 'how to' do something."

Powers, Thomas. Intelligence Wars: American Secret History from Hitler to Al-Qaeda. New York: New York Review, 2003.

According to Adams, Washington Post, 6 Apr. 2003, this book "collects 24 reviews ... of more than 60 intelligence books. These discerning essays span 25 years and provide a revealing history of the victories, defeats and ambiguities of Cold War and post-Cold War intelligence gathering."

Peake, Studies 47.3, notes that "[m]any of the important books on intelligence are reviewed with Powers' characteristic thoughtful eloquence.  In fact, one learns as much about his views on the intelligence matters of the day as about the books he reviews.  And while he is addicted to the theory that the 'government is addicted to secrecy,' he nevertheless manages to accomplish his intent to 'convey . . . what the intelligence business is like, and how the Americans have gone about it.'" Nevertheless, "Powers' ... judgments were not always right at the time, and unfortunately he has not updated the major errors in light of the new material available."

For Haines, Diplomatic History 28.3, some of Powers' essays by their very nature "are beginning to show their age"; nevertheless, "most remain fresh and relevant.... Powers concludes that the outcome of the Cold War depended heavily on the CIA's work,... NRO's satellites, and NSA's Sigint capabilities." Prados, I&NS 18.4, calls Intelligence Wars "a fascinating trip down memory lane, through a whole swath of memorable works of history, peppered with useful observations on the craft both yesterday and today."

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