MI6 and the Machinery of Spying

MI6 and the Machinery of Spying

MI6 and the Machinery of Spying

MI6 and the Machinery of Spying


Davies traces the development of the internal structure of the British secret intelligence service and reveals the agency's close institutional links to its consumers in Whitehall and Downing Street. He presents a detailed response to assertions that the SIS was chronically badly managed.


The last 25 years have seen 'intelligence studies' develop as a serious academic subject, but it is still finding its way. It has good historical and analytic literature, but there are many gaps, particularly over the secret intelligence agencies. There is little understanding of what makes them tick and how we should appraise them. So it is timely that Philip Davies now offers us a new lens upon them when intelligence reform is in the air and understanding of them is much needed.

I commend his book at two levels. At one, he uses publicly available material and confidential interviews to provide the most comprehensive account yet available of the Security Intelligence Service's internal organization: a research achievement in itself. And he does this without hazarding the Service's sources and methods, or sensitive details of its operational successes and failures.

At the second level he brings his social science training to interpret what he has found. It is part of the stock-in-trade of 'organization and management' studies that an organization's structure casts light upon its assumptions about objectives, priorities, challenges and responses. Properly looked at, wiring diagrams reflect organizational culture. But intelligence has not been examined in this way in the past, and Philip Davies now shows us that even Britain's most secretive agency can get the treatment - and with profit. His conclusions will come as a surprise to the reader who comes with preconceptions about 'proper' intelligence organization and how the SIS has measured up to it historically.

This is important not only in its own right, but also for demonstrating how effectively the study of intelligence can be linked with serious work on organization and management elsewhere. 'Intelligence studies', like its subject, risks becoming too inward-looking. Here we have a significant move towards developing closer links with other academic disciples, for benefit all round.

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