Summary : « Strategic intelligence and american statecraft »

5 février, 2015 | Commentaires fermés sur Summary : « Strategic intelligence and american statecraft »

In this inflammatory european environment of old and new threats, I suggest to read the book « Sharpening strategic intelligence » from R. Russell, 2007, Cambridge University Press, in order to focus on what is important when a political leader is concerned by National security. I provide a summary of the first chapter, « Strategic intelligence and american statecraft », to set the conceptual framework and the issues for intelligence community.


Since its creation by the National Security Act in 1947, the CIA had been the lead agency for providing strategic intelligence to the president in his role as commander in chief.

The CIA has two components, a Directorate of Operations (DO) charged with conducting espionage against US adversaries and a Directorate of Intelligence (DI) responsible for informations analysis.

Taxpayers pay $44 billion/year to the intelligence community to support the President. In 1998 it was $27 ! The intelligence community is about 100 000 people, 17 000 are working for the CIA. However, it faced two major failures, to warn of the 9/11 attacks and the misleading assessment in 2002 iraqi WMD programs.

 What is strategic intelligence ?

 Strategic intelligence is information, both from public and closed sources combined with analysis that is pertinent to presidential decision making in evaluating threats against US interests and in guiding the commander in chief’s use of power against adversaries.  It is information and analysis to the President to protect the Nation.

The core challenge of intelligence process is the acquisition of secrets and the analysis of mysteries.

  • Secrets provide the analyst with information about foreign governments or groups intentions.
  • Mysteries are conjecture about the future in strategic affairs It concerns the result of strategic interaction between foreign leaders and their adversaries.


Secrets are DO business, mysteries are the DI challenges.

Statecarft is an art of coping with an adversarial environment in which actions generate reactions in unpredictable ways. It is an art of relating means to ends, among them wars and power instruments. Capacity for analysis integrated political, economic and military judgement to produce informed decisions on the responsible use of force may lead to success. On the contrary, poor intelligence frequently contributes to policy failure.

 The CIA was distracted by the mystique of covert actions

 Covert actions are designed to influence affairs abroad while hiding the hand of the US. It includes such activities as news paper articles abroad to support friendly politicians or technical expertise to support for paramilitary operations.

CIA history in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s gave a mythic reputation throughout Latin America and the Middle East as an instrument with which the US could depose government it disliked.

However, according to R. Gates, over 95% of the intelligence budget is devoted to the collections and analysis of information. Only 3% of the CIA’s people are involved in covert action. The purpose of the CIA is not covert operations success, but intelligence analysis quality for the President.

 Reflecting on the CIA’s strategic intelligence for US statecraft

 The legislations created the CIA to be a central point for the collection and analysis of intelligence gathered throughout various agencies including the US Army and the Department of State. The CIA was by design a first among equals headed by the DCI who served as the head of both the CIA and the entire intelligence community. It is also the President’s principal advisor on intelligence.

 The business of intelligence is to produce high quality understanding of the world using all sources.

The Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) is the primary means for the CIA to serve the President with strategic intelligence. The PDB is around twenty pages. The CIA take back any questions for new intelligence collection. The PDB in essence was the vehicle for the CIA to nurture a running strategic dialogue with the Commander in Chief. The role of most intelligence is to contribute to decision maker’s general enlightment, intelligence producers are in the business of educating their masters.

 The 9/11 and Iraq war watersheds

 The CIA helps to reduce uncertainty of international security issues. The inability of human beings to predict the futur readily and consistently is a fact of life. So, intelligence failure is inevitable : failure to learn, failure to anticipate, failure to adapt. When all three kinds of failure occurred together, catastroph result as 9/11 or iraqi’s WMD. It is a natural result given the central role of intelligence. The role of strategic intelligence in the foreign policy decision making process at the highest echelons of government.

As a consequence, the CIA lost its unique access to the President. The DNI no longer delivers a CIA produced PDB but a collection of intelligence reports produced from agencies throughout the intelligence community.

 Diagnosis the origins of strategic intelligence failures

 What went wrong with US strategic intelligence ? The diagnosis followed logically from the role of intelligence. It is a major failure, the CIA failed on its core missions.

Although the recruiting and running of spies to steal secrets from foreign governments has always been a core mission of the CIA to help narrow the range of ambiguity for the President in his policy deliberations, the CIA has systematically failed to deliver the spies needed to reveal the plans and intentions of american adversaries.

In addition, the CIA failed to recruit high caliber political analysts for answering the mysteries of strategic affairs for the President.

To go further, an interview of R. Baer :

the You Tube version :