Intelligence Failures: Causes and Contemporary Case Studies

By Kruys, G. P. H. | Strategic Review for Southern Africa, May 2006 | Go to article overview

Intelligence Failures: Causes and Contemporary Case Studies


Kruys, G. P. H., Strategic Review for Southern Africa


ABSTRACT

Intelligence, like warfare, is not a science but an art. If a science at all, it is certainly far from an exact science. It is an intellectual endeavour which requires much training, common sense, experience, team work, technological expertise and the ability to communicate the product to the user, to name but a few of the basic requirements. It also requires intellectual bravery to give the result of the intelligence assessments to the user, without the tendency to be vague, so as to excuse faulty intelligence predictions in the future. It remains a human endeavour prone to mistakes. Intelligence failures are thus to be expected, but good tradecraft, and above all sound analysis, can lead to success. In this article, the concept of intelligence and the underlying reasons for intelligence failures are discussed, and subsequently applied to a number of case studies involving some apparent intelligence failures.

1. INTRODUCTION

The 11 September 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York, the terrorist attack on the Madrid railway system, the London bombings in 2005 and the war in Iraq, have given the success or failure of intelligence communities (ICs) tremendous prominence in the international news media. Public consciousness of intelligence efficiency, or the lack thereof, and its influence on government and security service decision-making, regarding public safety, is on a previously unknown level.

A number of United States (US) and United Kingdom (UK) intelligence commissions have specifically investigated the functioning, efficiency and reasons for intelligence failures of their respective ICs as well as the effectiveness of the co-ordination between Western allied ICs. They were also required to report on the alleged tendencies of the US and UK governments respectively, to place political pressure on their ICs to produce intelligence reports supporting decisions which policy-makers required for political purposes.

2. BACKGROUND OVERVIEW

Referring to the report of 31 March 2005 of the Presidential Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, a Cable News Network (CNN) publication was headed "Report: Iraq intelligence 'dead wrong"'. (1)) The Commission had in its letter to the US President pointed out that it had concluded that the IC had been 'dead wrong' in virtually all its pre-war judgements about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD). (2)) In the body of its report it concluded that no political pressure had been put on intelligence analysts to skew or alter their judgements. At the same time the analysts had not worked in an atmosphere that encouraged scepticism about widely held beliefs. (3))

The former US Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, made a presentation to the United Nations (UN) Security Council in February 2003 offering proof that Iraq had WMD, so making the case for the Coalition's invasion of Iraq in March 2003. In September 2005, however, he was quoted as saying that he was the person who made the presentation, "that it would always be part of his record", and that he regretted ever having made the case for war based on the intelligence provided. He pointed out that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director had not aimed to mislead and that the director had believed the intelligence to be accurate. (4)) This was confirmed by the US Commission's letter to the president regarding intelligence pertaining to WMD, where it is stated that the intelligence presented to the president was what the intelligence professionals had believed, but they were simply wrong. (5))

The US intelligence effort is massive by any standards. It has had numerous successes most of which will be unknown, since they will not draw media attention like failures do, and the IC will tend to keep successful operations and methods classified. For example, the US IC correctly assessed the state of Libya's nuclear and chemical weapons programmes. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Intelligence Failures: Causes and Contemporary Case Studies
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.