Preventing Catastrophe: The Use and Misuse of Intelligence in Efforts to Halt the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

By Thomas Graham Jr.; Keith A. Hansen | Go to book overview

4 Intelligence Community–
Policymaker Relations:
Playing as a Team?

Good national security policy depends on good intelligence in support of policy deliberations and implementation. But it also requires policymakers who know how to use intelligence properly without misusing or compromising it. When the intelligence-policymaker relationship works well, the chances of having good policy decisions are greatly increased. When that relationship is less than optimum, which can happen for a variety of reasons, policy is likely to suffer. (Mark Lowenthal's Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy provides a concise discussion of this important relationship; see chapter 9 therein.)

Unfortunately, the role that intelligence should play and the contribution that it can make to national security policy are not well understood by the general public (and at times even by some policymakers). Given Hollywood's portrayals of intelligence activities and frequent press coverage of “intelligence failures,” confusion and misinformation abound on the nature of intelligence and its legitimate role in supporting policymakers. Even the distinction between intelligence and policy is generally not understood. The extent to which the intelligence-policymaker relationship is misunderstood or otherwise perverted can affect popular perceptions of US intelligence capabilities, and it can affect the success of US policy, including efforts to limit the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.


The US National Security Community

The US national security apparatus consists of three major players: policymakers (executive branch), the Intelligence Community, and Congress. Defining and promoting US national security policy is the prerogative of the president and his National Security Council (NSC). Although Congress pays close attention and frequently questions administration officials, it is the role of the

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