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Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA Hardcover – January 28, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (January 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0742551105
  • ISBN-13: 978-0742551107
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,119,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A senior fellow at the Center for International Policy with 24 years of experience as an analyst at the CIA, author Goodman (Bush League Diplomacy) declares that without efforts to improve the country's intelligence community, particularly the CIA, "we can expect more terrorist attacks without warning." Goodman distinguishes early on the CIA's "proper" function-clandestine intelligence collection-from covert actions like the overthrow of popularly elected leaders that, though tactical successes, have led to false hubris and ruinous foreign policy decisions; in particular, he convincingly attributes the present debacle in Iran to 1953 policies in serious need of revision. Much of the book deals with "the perils of politicization" in the CIA, from the Vietnam war to the present, including the "extreme... kind of pressure placed on the intelligence community" by administrations like Nixon's and Reagan's, that latter of whom exaggerated the threat of a crumbling Soviet Union in order to keep military expenditures high. Concluding with the community's failure to predict 9/11 and the flawed intelligence on pre-invasion Iraq, he castigates the CIA's "seeming inability" to tell the truth to those in power, "which finds the Agency without a moral compass." This is an important and eye-opening account for policy makers and concerned citizens alike.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


In Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA, former intelligence official Melvin Goodman chronicles how politicization and lack of vision can undercut and ultimately destroy from within an institution as vital to our nation's security as the CIA. Importantly, however, Goodman's thoroughly researched and lucidly written book does far more than recount past problems at the Agency. The most important aspect of Failure of Intelligence is that it looks beyond the past and the present to the future; and in so doing, offers sound and practical advice on how problems such as we've witnessed in the past can be remedied and avoided in the years ahead. (Bob Barr, former Member of Congress (1995-2003) and CIA official (1971-1978))

This book is required reading for those who wish to understand how the C.I.A. failed to provide strategic warning of the 9-11 attacks and allowed itself to be used by the Bush administration to justify the invasion of Iraq, and what must be done to avoid such disasters in the future. (Lawrence Korb, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress)

Melvin Goodman provides a disturbing portrait of the collapse of the Central Intelligence Agency. His insider's look at an organization in decline is a must read by anyone, whether government official or ordinary citizen, who has taken false comfort in the notion of an American intelligence service securing the realm through timely analysis and effective covert action. The reality, an overly politicized agency where ego runs amok, is enough to send shivers down the spine of those who remain cognizant of the fact that there remain serious threats to legitimate American national security interests that must be accurately identified in advance if sound policy remedies are to be had. The CIA portrayed by Mr. Goodman has not only failed to perform this mission in the past, but remains incapable of accomplishing this critical task today. If ever there was a case for fundamental reformation of America's intelligence services, Goodman's Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA is it. (Scott Ritter)

In this study, Mel Goodman tells us that of the misunderstandings, mistakes, and misapplications of American intelligence and force that we've seen since 9/11 are nothing new — our CIA has been at it since the early days of the Cold War. But Goodman also tells us, with fresh information and insight, about the CIA's successes in those years and, most importantly, he names names again and again. His purpose is not payback, or 'Gotcha,' but to right a dangerous wrong. (Seymour M. Hersh)

Mel Goodman's career in intelligence has positioned him perfectly to document the Failure of Intelligence, as he has in this critical, timely book. Mel Goodman thoroughly details the Bush administration's lies and manipulations in the lead up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, as only a CIA insider could. As the lame duck Bush Administration beats the drum for war with Iran, Mel Goodman's Failure of Intelligence is essential reading. (Amy Goodman, Executive Producer and Host, Democracy Now!)

This is an important and eye-opening account for policy makers and concerned citizens alike. (Publishers Weekly, Starred Review 2008-03-01)

Impressive detail. (Consortium News 2008-04-01)

In Failure of Intelligence: The Decline of the CIA, one of the agency's prickliest and most highly regarded analysts, Melvin A. Goodman, has given us an insider autopsy....What is most valuable here is the amassing of insider details. (Bookforum 2008-09-01)

More About the Author

Melvin A. Goodman: senior fellow at Center for International Policy in Washington, DC.....adjunct professor of government at Johns Hopkins University....former analyst with CIA; former professor at National War College; former analyst at State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research; former US of six books on international security, including The Wars of Eduard Shevardnadze; the Failure of Intelligence: Decline and Fall of the CIA; Phantom Missile Defense: American's Pursuit of the Star Wars Fantasy; and Bush League well as the forthcoming National Insecurity: The Costs of American Militarism (City Lights Publisher, 2012).

Customer Reviews

All of these books, without an exception, belong to the trashcan of history.
S. Gonzalez
His insight and critique of foreign policies, on both sides of the aisle, are astute and well presented.
Doc Josh
This is a book that ought to guide any effort to reform the U.S. Intelligence System.
Retired Reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Carlos D. Luria on June 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As a 30 year veteran of CIA's clandestine service. I agree with much of what Mel Goodman has to say about the Agency: the intrusion of political bias into the analytical process, the substitution of tactical for the more insightful strategic intelligence, and the loss of objectivity, when the military - a major consumer of the product - also becomes. its principal collector. President Eisenhower warned us about the military-industrial complex, and his warning bears repeating: Crises make for good business and create high-paying jobs. When CIA's agents discovered that the missile gap was a myth, and later, that the Soviet Union was a knight dying in its armor, a great many defense contractors and their congressman became very nervous. Production lines were threatened; layoffs would surely follow, and pressure was applied to suppress or to ridicule such reporting. When the Director of Central Intelligence. "...serves at the pleasure of the president," his agency becomes particularly vulnerable to such pressures.

Like so many other critiques of CIA, however, Mel Goodman's book fails to identify a major contributor to CIA's erratic performance -- our Casanova-like approach to intelligence collection.. We turn it on when a crisis arises, but shut it down as soon as the crisis is over. With so many unmet societal requirements, why waste money on something no longer needed, particularly when it employs tactics that so blatantly offend core values of a Democratic society?

The antipathy is understandable, but its effects are devastating. Every time we close down coverage of a target, the best & brightest hands melt away.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Retired Reader on March 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an astonishingly well balanced book that while deeply critical of CIA and its senior management also credits its strengths and successes. The author, Melvin Goodman, spent some 34 years as an analyst within the Directorate of Intelligence (DI) of CIA. His principal criticism is that CIA directors in collusion with the executive branch have routinely politicized not merely intelligence products, but the very processes of research and analysis basic to intelligence production. He further argues that most intelligence `failures' can be traced to the practice of far too many at CIA to distort the intelligence process to support policy decisions and even to suppress sound, contrary intelligence. He also sees the growing `militarization' of the U.S. Intelligence System as further evidence that the Intelligence Community (IC) is moving from producing objective and accurate intelligence to producing intelligence that supports the ideologies and prejudices of its masters.

Goodman supports his argument with a remarkably detailed chronicle of CIA intelligence production over the last 35 years. This chronology emphasizes those instances where political pressure and the need to support a particular point of view took precedence over the need to produce accurate intelligence. Also, although he doesn't say so directly, he demonstrates the truth that intelligence is only as good as the system it serves. Unlike so many books on intelligence, this book actually identifies both the good guys and the bad .guys of CIA over the years. In particular he has a fascinating analysis of CIA Directors from Bill Casey (1980-1986) onward that is quite devastating.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By B. Benton on May 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Goodman's book offers a valuable angle on how and why the CIA failed to know about Soviet nuclear testing, failed to foresee the collapse of the USSR, and how it regularly buried intel at odds with White House policy (glasnost, Vietnam, China, Iran, Iraq, the list goes on and on). In all this Goodman conveys much needed background on the miserable CIA failure concerning events leading up to--and including--9/11.

But, apparently, due to its hurried publication, it is annoyingly repetitive, filled with typos, and, overall, very poorly edited. Chapter and section headings have no particular or useful meaning.

That said, Goodman presents the last 40 years of CIA bumbling in the context of the political ideologues, bureaucratic incompetence, and abuse of executive power under Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and the Bushes. He gleefully and repeatedly skewers current Sec. of Defence Robert Gates and his rise as William Casey's Cold War Flunkie, Team-Player, and Yes-Man.

Perhaps because Goodman resigned in the early 1990s, or perhaps because of legalistic or ideological limitations on his part, this book places little emphasis on the increased reliance of U.S. intelligence services upon foreign governments, the outsourcing of intel to Israel, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, to name a few, and even to private firms, each with its own agenda. Providing the basic outlines of this particular trend would be the icing on the cake, but in the intelligence world which Goodman-As-Author inhabits, he is content with something less ambitious. (For more on CIA failures and fiddling, without the office infighting and I-told-you-so's, see Joseph Trento's
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