Understanding Intelligence in the Twenty-First Century: Journeys in Shadows

Understanding Intelligence in the Twenty-First Century: Journeys in Shadows

Understanding Intelligence in the Twenty-First Century: Journeys in Shadows

Understanding Intelligence in the Twenty-First Century: Journeys in Shadows


Over the past few decades, international history and security have been significantly influenced by greater understanding of the role of intelligence in national security and foreign policy-making.

In Britain, much of the work has developed in the subdiscipline of international history with its methodological predisposition towards archive-based research. Advances in archival disclosure, accelerated by the end of the Cold War, as well as by the changing attitudes of official secrecy and the work of the intelligence services, have further facilitated research, understanding and debate. Recent controversies, including claims of politicisation of intelligence historiography, have added additional public saliency to long-standing academic disputes. The events of September 11 and their aftermath have shown the value and limits of secret intelligence and generated fresh controversies for proponents and critics.

This book examines critically the development of intelligence studies and assesses its contribution to the study of international relations. It draws upon the viewpoints of leading academics, journalists and former practitioners, to explore the way the subject is studied, for what purposes and with what consequences.


Peter Hennessy

By the time you read this sentence, this book will itself have acquired the status of a historical artefact and one which teeters on the brim of being a primary source in its own right. For in intelligence terms, it is a piece of especially high-definition photo reconnaissance of the state of the craft in the fast-moving world between 9/11 and the 2003 war on Iraq. The Gregynog weekend in November 2002, during which many of these chapters were first presented, rippled with anticipation and anxiety about what was to come - anxiety because of real concerns, which we ventilated collectively, about the misuse of the intelligence process in Washington as part of making the politicians' case for a war of exemplary pre-emption in the Middle East that would topple Saddam Hussein.

As I write this foreword, the UK intelligence community is in a comparable dock. Sir Michael Quinlan, the former Whitehall permanent secretary who conducted an enquiry for the Prime Minister, John Major, in 1994 into the purposes of the British secret services, has captured succinctly the seriousness and centrality of the point at issue as his friend, Lord Butler of Brockwell, the former Cabinet Secretary, sets out at the request of Prime Minister Tony Blair to investigate those very UK intelligence processes and outputs in the run-up to the War on Iraq. The Whitehall Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) system, Quinlan writes,

is internationally admired as a major British strength, but its integrity and prestige are at risk if it is used not just for guidance before policy decisions but for public presentation after them. We must not slide towards the selectivity and advocacy which, in a different institutional environment, occasionally corrupts the use of intelligence in the United States.

For older Whitehall hands, it is unbelievable that JIC assessments should see the light of day within weeks of drafting and that they should be used to buttress a government's arguments for going to war.

This very volume and its contents would cause comparably a sharp inhalation of breath on the part of some of the big figures of intelligence history past. It is, for example, only 20 years since Professor Sir Harry Hinsley took myself and Chris Andrew aside (separately) and warned us that if we went on writing as we did (me in the Times; Chris in journals and between hardcovers) we would risk

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