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Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI, and the Origins of 9/11 Hardcover – August 26, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0691120218 ISBN-10: 0691120218 Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (August 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691120218
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691120218
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #965,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Co-Winner of the 2008 Louis Brownlow Award, National Academy of Public Administration

"Ever since the end of the cold war, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency, and more than a dozen other intelligence organizations that answer to the president had been struggling to adapt their sources and methods to the new menace. As Amy B. Zegart argues in Spying Blind, they just weren't up to the job.... Zegart, blaming institutional inertia more than individuals, counts more than 20 specific instances where the CIA or the FBI missed chances to stop the 9/11 attacks."--Christopher Dickey, Newsweek

"Don't be fooled by the title of this book. It sounds as if the author is going to tread the same turf as Richard Clarke, Tim Weiner, Bob Woodward and a host of others, including the 9/11 Commission Report, but Amy Zegart in Spying Blind goes several steps beyond her predecessors.... Zegart presents the facts behind this state of affairs in a more scholarly way than we've previously seen, by examining over 300 intelligence reform recommendations and by tracing the history of CIA and FBI counter-terrorism efforts from 1991 to 2001. ... Spying Blind provides a clear and comprehensive overview of a dire situation -- the kind of knowledge that comes in handy when you call or write your congressman or, for that matter, when you vote."--Mary Welp, The Courier-Journal

"Zegart argues that any meaningful improvement in U.S. intelligence coordination and effectiveness will require the president and Congress to take on the Defense Department.... Spying Blind is a thorough examination of those reform failures. In it, Zegart sifts through hundreds of intelligence recommendations...and findings by the 9/11 Commission and congressional committees."--David J. Garrow, Wilson Quarterly

"One of the many strengths of Zegart's book is that she examines not only current problems in the intelligence services but past efforts to correct them."--Simon Chesterman, Survival

"Amy B. Zegart is one of the most talented young scholars in the field of intelligence studies. She has a flair for empirical research. . . . [T]his highly readable and well-documented book is commendable for its exhaustive research and lucid writing style."--Loch K. Johnson, Political Science Quarterly

"This is a well-written and informed book that should become part of the post-9/11 debate on intelligence agencies and their adaptation to the new world that opened up on that day. . . . This is all excellent book, with detailed research, and a highly readable presentation of absorbing analysis."--Alan Warburton, International History Review

"Spying Blind adds a valuable empirical study to the literature on understanding culture and bureaucratic processes in foreign policy decision-making."--Peter Hough, European Legacy

From the Inside Flap

"There is no longer any doubt of the failure of our intelligence agencies in the years following the Cold War. Amy Zegart has examined the reasons for this failure in addition to the well-meaning but mistaken attempts to address the problem. An important book for all those interested in the nation's security."--Thomas H. Kean, chairman of the 9/11 Commission and former governor of New Jersey

"Spying Blind is a timely and sweeping overview of the organizational challenges confronting our intelligence agencies in an age of terrorism. Amy Zegart has written a comprehensive and engaging book that will be of interest to anyone who seeks a better understanding of America's national-security agencies."--Lee Hamilton, president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and former chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

"Amy Zegart has written a pathbreaking book--picking a path through the rubble of countless reform commissions, congressional committees, and expert reports on how to adapt U.S. intelligence infrastructure to a post-Cold War, post-9/11 world. It is essential reading for anyone concerned with the theory or practice of national security in the twenty-first century."--Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University

"Amy Zegart believes, quite rightly, that even six years after the terrorist attacks the government of the United States continues to be plagued by deep-seated institutional deficiencies within the community of intelligence agencies. This outstanding book, clearly written and exhaustively researched, stands as a major contribution to our understanding of why this is the case, and what can be done about it."--Loch K. Johnson, University of Georgia

"Spying Blind is both a clarion call for organizational reform of the intelligence community and a sober warning that effective reforms will not be forthcoming unless Congress also changes the way it manages our intelligence agencies."--Scott D. Sagan, Stanford University

"An outstanding demonstration of how the adaptation failures of the CIA and FBI before and after 9/11 lie in deep-rooted organizational deficiencies and not individuals asleep at the switch."--Graham Allison, Harvard University

"Professor Zegart's work is breathtaking in scope and revolutionary. This is the first effort to put the CIA and other intelligence agencies under the microscope of social science."--Gary Hart, former senator and chairman of the U.S. Commission on National Security in the 21st Century

"This is an excellent book. The writing is gracious and many of the turns of phrase are both eye-catching and very satisfying. The documentation is extensive but straightforward and not cumbersome. The book moves along briskly--a good read. This is not common in the political-science literature and certainly not with a subject matter such as intelligence."--Charles Perrow, author of The Next Catastrophe

"The book's central argument is that the U.S. intelligence agencies did not adapt to the changed world after the cold war and have not shown much sign of adapting even after 9/11. While most academics hedge in language, Zegart's is straightforward. The writing is very clean and readable. The book rests on a lot of research."--Gregory F. Treverton, author of Reshaping National Intelligence for an Age of Information

More About the Author

I grew up in Louisville Kentucky, and have been a political junkie all my life. I spent my childhood tracking election night tallies and writing my Congressman. When I was 13, I saw Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping on television wearing a Texas cowboy hat during his historic trip to the United States. I was instantly enthralled. My mother, an antique dealer who can find anyone and anything, tracked down a local Taiwanese graduate student and convinced her to teach me Mandarin after school. I continued studying Chinese at Andover, majored in East Asian Studies at Harvard, lived in Beijing and Taiwan, and after graduating from college won a Fulbright Scholarship to study the 1989 Chinese democracy movement and Tiananmen tragedy.

When I left China, I decided to return to American politics. I got my Ph.D. in political science from Stanford, where I became fascinated by why good organizations do dumb things ' particularly in U.S. foreign policy. Intelligence agencies proved as opaque and interesting as Chinese politics; I've been hooked on researching the CIA ever since.

My professional career has included spending four years at McKinsey & Company (it turns out private sector firms also have plenty of organizational deficiencies), serving on the Clinton Administration's National Security Council staff and as a foreign policy advisor to the Bush 2000 presidential campaign. For the past eight years, I have been a public policy professor at UCLA, where I teach courses on U.S. foreign policy and public management to undergraduates and MPP students. I have written two books and a number of academic articles about the design problems of U.S. national security agencies, have provided training to various government agencies'including the Marine Corps and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence'and serve on the Los Angeles Homeland Security Advisory Council.

When I am not digging through declassified documents, I am a minivan-driving soccer mom. My three kids, husband, and I live in chaos in Los Angeles, California.

Customer Reviews

Although I thought this book a good effort, it did not really live up to my hopes.
M. J. Steinberg
As someone with nearly 20 years experience in the Intelligence Community (IC) as an analyst, I found Amy Zegart's book to be an outstanding read.
Well Zegart is a very careful scholar who has done an excellent job documenting her findings.
Retired Reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Retired Reader on August 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The central premise of this remarkable book is that the intelligence failures that are associated with 9/11 and the failure of intelligence reform are both symptomatic of profound internal organizational flaws in CIA and the FBI (and by extension the other National Intelligence principals NSA, NGA, and DIA). The sub-premise is that both agencies were unable to adapt to the realities of a Post-Cold War world. This is a controversial premise because the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) generally denies that 9/11 was an intelligence failure and claims to have implemented major reforms. Zegart makes a persuasive argument that her premise is correct.

Social scientist that she is, Zegart constructs a model to guide her analysis of both institutions. This model is based on what she identifies as three organizational characteristics common to both CIA and the FBI: structural fragmentation; dysfunctional cultural norms; and perverse incentive systems. She applies this model to both the institutions failure to adapt to 21st Century challenges and their failure to provide warning of the dreadful attacks of 9/11. Indeed Zegart notes that based on this model the intelligence record of both agencies wasn't very good during the Cold War either.

In the course of developing her case Zegart provides the reader with a number of really useful concepts such as "change is not adaptation" and "rational boundaries." Although somewhat outside of the parameters of her model, Zegart also makes clear that the Defense Department and its allies in the congress also has contributed a good deal to failure of intelligence reform. Like her earlier book "Flawed by Design" Zegart has provided another perceptive and discouraging analysis of the U.S. national Security system.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By maskirovka VINE VOICE on August 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
As someone with nearly 20 years experience in the Intelligence Community (IC) as an analyst, I found Amy Zegart's book to be an outstanding read. So many, many things in it rang very true for me about the problems of the IC. I think the bottom line is that while individuals make mistakes, those individuals stand on the "shoulders" of organizational culture and bureaucratic politics. There are a number of things that Zegart explores that strike a painful chord with me:

1. The fact with a few honorable exceptions, the IC agencies routinely sacrifice strategic analysis to the gods of current intelligence. I have concluded that any analyst who wishes to work long-range analytical projects is well-advised to find himself or herself an office where such current intelligence requirements are not levied.

2. Fundamental reform of the IC is not going to take place unless leaders within it are committed to it and are helped from without by the Congress and the President.

3. Simply by virtue of its ninety year history as a law enforcement agency and its success in being one, the FBI is not going to be able to transform itself into an intelligence agency focused on preemption of terrorist attacks (as opposed to investigating them after the fact).

4. The bureaucratic culture of the IC still does not encourage collaboration and sharing between individual agencies (and sometimes, even within agencies).

I could go on, but I probably would wind up depressing myself. My only criticism of Zegart's book is that when lamenting the fact that the CIA was never able to penetrate the leadership of al-Qaeda, she doesn't seem to appreciate the consequences of the US having an agent who is a member of a terrorist organization.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Douglas Orton on September 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Hopefully Dr. Zegart will be at the National Book Festival in DC on Saturday, September 29, 2007, so we can start a career-long conversation on her work . . . but in case she isn't . . . Here's one complaint, from a mostly satisfied reader:

It has proven very difficult for the political science community to understand the organization theory community. Graham Allison tried in 1971, by contrasting the rational actor hyper-rational "Model I" (this porridge is too cold, Papa Bear), with the counterrational complex organizational processes "Model II" (this porridge is too hot, Mama Bear), before retreating to the safety of "pulling-and-hauling" of the political scientists in the bureaucratic politics "Model III" (this porridge is just right, Baby Bear). Even with Philip Zelikow's help in the 1999 second edition, the complex organizational processes chapter didn't progress very far.

Meanwhile, though, in business schools around the world, Model II has been off to the races: Herbert Simon, James March, and Karl Weick lead a revolution that has gone so far into the science fiction future that Dr. Zegart's colleague at UCLA, Bill McKelvey, has become the Yoda of complexity theory in complex organizations. (Amy, Bill; Bill, Amy -- geez, why didn't you guys talk before this?) Dr. Zegart recognizes that businesses are under pressure to be high-performing systems, or they die; she recognizes that political systems are not under the same pressures; but she does not then draw the obvious conclusion that organization theorists in business schools know more about organization theory than political scientists in schools of government will ever be able to capture.

I remember spending a long afternoon at a UC-Riverside classroom in summer of 2004 transcribing Dr.
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