22nd July 2010: Relevant Scholarly Literature for Top Secret America

Dana Priest and William Arkin’s three part Washington Post series Top Secret America has attracted flak from intelligence and security analysts.

Foreign Policy‘s Thomas G. Mahnken replies with a model counter-argument: weak thesis, little context, accurate and misleading data, misses important dimensions, and unawareness of the relevant literature. Mahnken’s final observation is that secrecy is needed in some contexts, and that this view is the very opposite of the current interest in Government 2.0 platforms and data sets, and openly transparent leadership.

Some of the relevant scholarly literature that you may follow-up on. Roberta Wohlsetter‘s study Pearl Harbour: Warning and Decision (Stanford University Press, Stanford CA, 1962) is a classic intelligence post-mortem that also founded an important school of thought on blindside risk and wild cards. Robert Jervis provides a contemporary post-mortem on 1979 Iran and the 2003 Iraq War decision in Why Intelligence Fails: Lessons from the Iranian Revolution and the Iraq War (Cornell University Press, Ithaca NY, 2010). John Mueller‘s Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats and Why We Believe Them (The Free Press, New York, 2006) does for the post-September 11 counterterrorism bubble what Mueller’s earlier critiques did for arms control and post-Cold War security studies. In the flurry of post-September 11 books on intelligence ‘failures’ that already fill an entire bookshelf, two books by University of California (Los Angeles) Associate Professor Amy Zegart are cited: her doctoral dissertation Flawed by Design: The Evolution of the CIA, JCS and NSA (Stanford University Press, Palo Alto CA, 1999) and her follow-up study Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI and the Origins of 9/11 (Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 2009) which has generated a broader debate.