“A steady stream of intelligence failures in the 1990s occurred in every facet of CIA activity, from intelligence collection to analysis to counterintelligence to covert action,” writes John Diamond in a new book on “The CIA and the Culture of Failure.”
This is of course well-trodden ground, and the author himself reported many of the underlying episodes for the Associated Press, Chicago Tribune and USA Today.
But Diamond probes beneath the familiar surface of events in an effort to understand the dynamics at work, and to show how individual intelligence failures interacted cumulatively and dialectically to yield the CIA of today.
“The events of the 1990s both stemmed from and led to a steady erosion of intelligence capability, contributing to a series of intelligence lapses and alleged lapses and to a consequent decline of confidence in the intelligence community that left the CIA critically weakened,” he concludes. “These processes fed off and fueled one another, leading to a fatal cycle of error, criticism, overcorrection, distraction, and politicization.”
Diamond writes without identifiable animus towards the CIA, and gives due weight to the agency’s defenders and the critics of its critics. Even on well-rehearsed topics such as the CIA’s failure to anticipate the collapse of the Soviet Union, he adds significant nuance and avoids cliche.
See “The CIA and the Culture of Failure: U.S. Intelligence from the End of the Cold War to the Invasion of Iraq” by John Diamond, Stanford University Press, September 2008.