Two Short but Excellent Books on Intelligence

In the midst of so many “breaking” geopolitical events, I wanted to take a moment to recommend two recently-published books on Intelligence.  Both are quick reads, and neither seems to be getting the sort of attention I think they deserve.

The first book deals with the recent past, and is called The Snowden Operation: Inside the West’s Greatest Intelligence Disaster.  The author is Edward Lucas, who as a senior editor at the Economist brings thirty years’ of experience in Russian and European affairs to bear on what Snowden did and how the Affair as a whole should be approached.  Just seventy-six pages long, it’s a “Kindle Short”, so it will set you back about one US dollar.  Stop talking about Snowden, the NSA, privacy, and civil liberties until you have read it.

Stop talking about Snowden until you read this

Stop talking about Snowden until you read this.

My other recommendation is only ninety-eight pages long, and deals with the relatively distant past.  It’s James Jesus Angleton:  Was He Right? , by the famous journalist and author Edward Jay Epstein.  Angleton, of course, was the now much-ridiculed head of CIA counterintelligence from 1954 until 1975.  To Angleton’s foes (and as portrayed in a much recent fiction), he was the CIA’s secret Captain Ahab, paralyzing the Agency in pursuit of his own Great White Whale, non-existent Soviet moles.  I recommend that you read Epstein’s little book and judge for yourself if that thought-cliché is fair, illuminating or useful.    You may find yourself wondering if you understand as much as you think you do about the Cold War.  That doubt, in turn, may make you view the present with different eyes.

Are you SURE?

Are you SURE you know what you know?

If you want to go deeper into the possibilities that Epstein raises, I recommend a book by the recently departed Tennet H. Bagley:   Spy Wars: Moles, Mysteries, and Deadly Games.

I would welcome your comments on any volume mentioned here (or anywhere else on this blog).

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Why Intelligence Fails – Video Available

Last month Milo Jones spoke about the core ideas of Constructing Cassandra at the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC, under the heading “Why Intelligence Fails”.

He was joined by Dr. Mark Lowenthal, the former Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for Analysis and Production and former Vice Chairman for Evaluation on the National Intelligence Council (also distinguished for being a past winner of the US game show Jeopardy “Tournament of Champions”).

A video of the event is available here.  If you like the video, please “Like it” on YouTube.

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Constructing Cassandra in paperback

If you were waiting for the paperback edition of Constructing Cassandra to order your copy, now’s your chance:  Amazon is accepting pre-orders for $26.96 here.

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Review in the Army War College journal Parameters

Capture 1Constructing Cassandra was reviewed in the the Winter 2013-14 issue of Parameters, the official journal of the US Army War College.

The review concludes “Jones and Silberzahn have crafted an insightful masterpiece to frame the true nature of the CIA. The depth to which their arguments are presented clearly shows the dangers a tight knit intelligence society may have when analyzing intelligence reports. Their purpose is not to craft lofty goals the agency will never reach but rather to examine the reasons why the agency failed in the past. I recommend this book to anyone with a passion in understanding the analytical framework of the CIA and who seeks to comprehend the theoretical approach, through the uses of organizational theory, in uncovering its internal mysteries.”

Parameters

 

Our article in Revue Défense Nationale

If you read French, a summary of the main ideas in Constructing Cassandra has just appeared in Revue Défense Nationale (issue 767).   See the article “Incertitude et surprise stratégique : les leçons des échecs de la CIA” beginning on page 114.

Revue Defense Nationale issue 767

Meeting of the Oxford University Strategic Studies Group

Tonight at 8:30 PM, Milo will lead a discussion about strategic surprise and Constructing Cassandra at a meeting of the Oxford University Strategic Studies Group.  The meeting will be in the Old Library of All Souls College, and all discussions will be conducted under Chatham House rules.

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The MOOC Disruption is Only Beginning. What I Learned Creating my First MOOC

Milo and I have already discussed sources of disruption in this blog (see for instance Milo’s Start with Geostrategy, or call it Tactics), and we’ve particularly discussed the role of technology as a  source of disruption. But it is one thing is to describe disruption, and another to experience it.  In that context, I created and ran a MOOC (an online course) on entrepreneurship last November, and thought I’d share the results of this effort for two reasons. First, because MOOCs are poised to disrupt education and second, because there’s been some controversy about them. So let’s go through my experience and see what it tells us.

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