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It was very good, but is not current (review of the fourth edition)
on November 8, 2005
This one was a great reference up to 10 September 2001. Then everything changed and much of what is in this book is out of date. To be fair though, there is stll considerable value here, but that value puts it into the 'buy a used one' category (but hey, that slightly dog-eared, somewhat out of date, reference work on the shelf behind your desk gives you that 'old hand' 'been there, done that' credibility, so this isn't all bad.)
What's good about this one:
-The description of the intelligence cycle.
-The discussions of challenges facing the U.S. intelligence community post Cold War (but pre-9/11; belay that, many of the issues addressed are still challenges that have not been resolved, just set to one side in the pursuit of the global war on terror).
-The description and discussion of the processes and policies surrounding the intelligence cycle.
-It is a good reference work for tracing the establishment of several of the agencies.
What's not so good about this:
-The world changed two years after this book's publication in 1999. And all the shortcomings of this book stem from this. The description of the strategic organization of the U.S. military is not accurate. The Dept. of Homeland Security is not mentioned. The National Intelligence Director is not mentioned. Bin Laden and Al Qaeda aren't mentioned. The patriot act isn't here. The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency is here under its old name, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. And so forth...
-There have been some bigger changes that are mostly technology driven. At the time this book was written, the idea that one could get 1 meter resolution satellite imagery for free (though a little dated) was pretty shocking for most folks, but if you go to Google maps right now...
Over all, 'The U.S. Intelligence Community' is out of date for descriptions of the current establishment and much of the technology, but is pretty darn good for processes and some of the big concepts. Caveat lector: be mindful that technology changes constantly, and what's in this book was declassified, hence even further out of date than the copyright date would indicate.
Post Script: Thank you, W. Blair for pointing out that there is a newer edition. This review only applies to the fourth, not fifth and current edition. Darn you, W. Blair, for forcing my hand to get the new edition 8-)
E. M. Van Court