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Uncertain Shield: The U.S. Intelligence System in the Throes of Reform (Hoover Studies in Politics, Economics, and Society) Hardcover


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Uncertain Shield: The U.S. Intelligence System in the Throes of Reform (Hoover Studies in Politics, Economics, and Society) + Enemies of Intelligence: Knowledge and Power in American National Security + Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy
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Product Details

  • Series: Hoover Studies in Politics, Economics, and Society
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; 1 edition (March 23, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074255127X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0742551275
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,627,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Crisply written, knowledgeable, and cant-free, [Posner's] Uncertain Shield: The U.S. Intelligence System in the Throes of Reform combines common sense and the more uncommon insights of 'organizational theory' to describe the way intelligence works—and sometimes doesn't. (James Murphy Times Literary Supplement)

Posner's continued study of reforms in our Intelligence structure since 9/11 is illuminating and constructive. Uncertain Shield makes a major contribution to the debate over how best to insure America's security. (Henry A. Kissinger)

If anyone wants to understand why the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004 is largely misguided and what steps might actually improve the Intelligence Community’s performance, Judge Posner’s Uncertain Shield is required reading. A first-rate analysis of an arcane and difficult subject. (William E. Odom, Lieutenant General, USA, Retired, and former Director of the National Security Agency)

Relentlessly lucid and insightful, Uncertain Shield is easily the best contemporary analysis of the U.S. Intelligence community available. Judge Posner's book should be read by all who are concerned with state of America's intelligence community, and his advice should be heeded by all who are responsible for it. (Richard A. Falkenrath, The Brookings Institution, and former White House Deputy Homeland Security Advisor)

There he goes again: Irrepressible Judge Richard Posner’s lambasting of the Bush administration’s intelligence reorganization is getting a lot of attention, including at the CIA, which invited the chief of the 7th Circuit to lead a seminar on his latest book, Uncertain Shield: The U.S. Intelligence System in the Throes of Reform. (Jeff Stein, National Security Editor, CQ Staff)

As Judge Posner demonstrates - in an arresting book that is effective because the analyst is an authoritative but agenda-free outsider whose writing style is crystal-clear and whose principal tool is sober analysis - this caution-to-the-wind approach to something as imperative to our security as competent intelligence has potentially left us even more vulnerable to attack than we were before September 11. (Andrew C. McCarthy The New York Sun)

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 Preventing Surprise Attacks (2005), Public Intellectuals (2002), Breaking the Deadlock (2001), and An Affair of State (1999). He lives in Chicago, Illinois.

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.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Retired Reader on May 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book has a good deal to recommend it. Perhaps its highest virtue is that its author Judge Richard A. Posner is not an intelligence professional or even a groupie of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC). As a result, Posner is unusually objective in his analysis of the IC and the two reports which have precipitated its so called reformation. Another commendable virtue of the book is that Posner writes in clear jargon free prose and expresses himself with great accuracy.

He does a great service by providing the reader with a careful analysis of both the 9/11 Commission Report and the WMD Report which were the catalysts for the congressionally mandated reforms in the IC, particularly the creation of the Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI). Posner applies impressive logic to the task and reveals a host of short comings and failings in both reports. The center piece of this book, however, is his reiteration of an argument he made in a previous book, "Remaking Domestic Intelligence" in which he makes a strong case for a domestic intelligence agency independent of the FBI. This indeed is a book clear of the vague musings and fuzzy recommendations so often found in books on reforming the IC.

Yet this reviewer must fault one of Posner's premises on which his argument is built, namely that, "intelligence is inherently and incurably mistake prone" (P. 208) and therefore the criticisms of IC found in both the (/11 and WMD reports are unfair and inappropriate. No one will dispute that producing accurate intelligence is a dicey business. It is nonetheless a leap of logic to extrapolate from this that the IC, and especially the CIA, is blameless in regards to the 9/11 catastrophe and the Iraqi WMD fiasco.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jay E. Hasselschwert on May 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Why can't there be more books like this one? This slim volume contains more insight than many books three times its size. "Uncertain Shield" is a follow-up to Posner's previous book "Surprise Attacks", and while either book can stand on its own, I recommend reading both. Surprise Attacks addressed the deficiencies in the 9/11 Commission's recommendation, and the resulting flaws in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act. In "Uncertain Shield," Posner extends his critique to include the recommendations of the WMD Commission.

One of Posner's major arguments in "Uncertain Shield" is that that WMD Commission's recommendations actually contradicted its own observations. The intelligence community's inability to accurately determine Saddam Hussein's WMD capabilities was a problem of "groupthink" - always a potential problem in any intelligence system, but one exacerbated with greater centralization. Oddly, the WMD Commission, nevertheless, recommended even greater centralization.

Posner argues that the approach for both the 9/11 and the WMD Commission was to assumed that intelligence was broken without determining the limitations inherit in the business of intelligence. He criticizes both commissions for rushing to recommend reorganization of the intelligence community without examining the unintended consequences of that reorganization. Drawing on established organizational theory, Posner shows us some of those consequences. For example, both commissions failed to distinguish coordination from command, advocating a top heavy organization, far removed from the subtle indicators that intelligence depends on for accurate prediction.

Posner is critical of the WMD Commission for making recommendations base only on shallow analysis.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Omer Belsky on November 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
One of the striking arguments in Richard Posner's study of US Intelligence Reform is that the US's intelligence post 9/11 is probably less effective then it was pre 9/11. The 9/11 commission report's recommendations hurt the US by making its intelligent forces more centralized and bureaucratic.

"Uncertain Shield" is one of three books about US Intelligence and counter terrorist activities written by Judge Richard A. Posner. Posner, a Judge on the Federal Court of Appeals for the 7th circuit, has the work pace of a machine: aside from being a judge, he's a lecturer in Chicago Law School, a leading scholar of Law and Economics, who regularly produces tombs on subjects from Aging and Anti Trust to Sex and Utilitarianism, a frequent contributor to periodicals, both popular and scholarly, and a blogger.

Whatever topic Posner tackles, he always brings his great analytic powers and wordcrafting gifts to it. In previous books of his I have read, Posner took on fascinating topics and made unputtdownable books of them; Here his topic is not obviously intriguing, but the result is compelling and insightful.

Posner asserts that US Intelligence should not be faulted for the failures of 9/11 and the Iraqi WMD affair. Intelligence is an inherently difficult field, and that a high rate of failure should be expected. Preventing Terrorist attack is particularly difficult because of the plurality of possible targets - with limited resources, strengthening the defense of one target means weakening that of another.

Posner's case about the unpreventability of 9/11 seems sound, but I think he's on looser footing when arguing the same regarding the WMD debacle.
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