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Preventing Surprise Attacks: Intelligence Reform in the Wake of 9/11 (Hoover Studies in Politics, Economics, and Society) Hardcover – March 22, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

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Richard Posner has tackled head on―and found dangerously flawed―the new law on our national intelligence system. His combination of scholarship, realism about the impossibility of preventing surprise attacks such as that on 9/11, and highlighting of the perils of centralizing intelligence authority, makes this an important and most timely book. Ambiguities in the law leave scope for interpretation by the Executive branch and Posner's trenchant analysis points the way to averting some of the worst hazards. (Henry Rowen, senior fellow of the Hoover Institution; former chairman of the National Intelligence Council, 1981-1983)

A bold new work that is a welcome antidote to the commission fatigue that is settling over Washington. Posner's demystification of the 9/11 commission and of the role of the September 11 families . . . is timely and pertinent. You can't read this book and come away believing that Congress has fixed the problem. (Jim Hoagland, columnist, Washington Post)

"Preventing Surprise Attacks" provides a... useful and contrarian view of the commision report. (Eric Lichtblau The New York Times)

Posner trenchantly takes to task the grandstanding 9/11 commission. The picture painted by this useful book is pessimistic but not dire. Preempting another 9/11 would be difficult. But, as Posner argues, to the limited extent intelligence structure many factor in, the new legislation has enough play in the joints to allow competent actors to operate. (Andrew McCarthy New York Post)

In this concise book, Posner...critically unravels the foundations of the 9/11 Commission report and shows defects in..the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004....substantially enhances the public debate about intelligence reform." (Steven Puro, St. Library Journal)

It's fitting that Posner sits on the federal bench, where the Constitution guarantees jurists life tenure, and a salary that can never be reduced. A critic this honest, piercing, and unforgiving would otherwise have a short tenure in Washington, D.C. (David White American Enterprise)

A rewarding read that is worth re-reading. (Parameters)

About the Author

Richard A. Posner is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. He is the author of hundreds of articles and nearly four dozen books, including An Affair of State: The Investigation, Impeachment, and Trial of President Clinton (1999); Breaking the Deadlock: The 2000 Election, The Constitution, and the Courts (2001); Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline (2002); and Catastrophe: Risk and Response (2004).
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Product Details

  • Series: Hoover Studies in Politics, Economics, and Society
  • Hardcover: 226 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (March 22, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074254947X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0742549470
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.7 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,591,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard A. Posner is a judge of the U.S. Court Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. He is the author of numerous books, including Overcoming Law, a New York Times Book Review editors' choices for best book of 1995 and An Affair of State: The Investigation, Impeachment, and Trial of President Clinton, one of Times' choices for Best Book of the Year in 1999 and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist, 2000.

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Format: Hardcover
Richard Posner's book will be of great interest to anyone concerned about the rapid changes now taking place in the US intelligence community. This book is a must for anyone who wants to understand the function and organization of intelligence. Posner's arguments are so clear and compelling that you will find yourself saying "Ah-ha!" after almost every chapter.

Specifically, Posner takes on the "The 9/11 Commission Report," for offering an organizational solution for a managerial failure. He shows how the Commission's organizational line and block solution led to the enactment of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act. He shows how this happened with little or no debate about the Commission's recommendations.

Posner explains why surprise attacks happen, and how little the organization of an intelligence apparatus has to do with it. For example, the Arab nations surprised Israel in the Yom Kipur War. An Israel commission determined, after the fact, that the reason for the surprise was lack of decentralization in its intelligence services. The 9/11 Commission, on the other hand, determine the surprise of 9/11 was due to not enough centralization. The fact that there are divergent views on this matter is not surprising. What is surprising is that the 9/11 Commission failed to even investigate them.

As Posner explains, surprise attacks happen, because the adversary does something that is essentially stupid and self-defeating. Often, the surprise attack is a miscalculation, not just for the attacked, but for the attacker as well. This makes anticipation of such attacks particularly challenging.
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Judge Posner is not intelligence professional but he is certainly one of the most thoughtful of outside critics, with a legal, academic, and organizational-economic point of view that is helpful.

This, his first of two books disagreeing with the 9-11 Commission focus on centralization, has a number of nuggets worthy of study, but this book is largely oblivious to the many recommendations of both insiders and outsiders who can be considered "iconoclastic." Judge Posner is an insider, and he draws primarily from "establishment" sources.

He states, I believe correctly, that the Intelligence Reform Act was a "backward step" and provides very professional and detailed support for his view.

The biggest mistake in his view was the refusal to remove intelligence from the FBI culture and create a separate domestic intelligence agency (note: since the Department of Homeland Security has steadfastly refused to do its assigned job of integrating intelligence in support of its mission, Judge Posner can be said to be totally correct in this view).

He posits a fork in the road for the Director of National Intelligence, between engaging in substance and managing the larger enterprise, and appears oblivious to the fact that the Vice President has ordered the DNI to distance himself from the three national agencies captured by the Department of Defense, which are "hands off" in all practical terms.

Judge Posner is at his most articulate and most pointed when he says that the Intelligence Reform Act is a placebo, misleading the public into thinking something has been done, and preventing or lessening focus on other needed defenses including border security, deterrence, and hardening of potential targets.
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An excellent buy. Book was in good condition, and was shipped in a timely manner.
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