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On Intelligence: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World Hardcover – November 22, 2001

4.7 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Robert Steele storms into the core of intelligence issues without fear. The scope of his work is impressive and whether you agree with him or not, you cannot ignore what he says. The book is an important addition to the literature on intelligence. --The Honorable Richard Kerr
Former Deputy Director of Central Intelligence

From the Back Cover

The Honorable John A. Bohn
Former CEO, Moody's Investors Service, Former President, Export-Import Bank

Peter Drucker told us in 1998 that the next information revolution for business will be in the exploitation of external information. This book is an essential reference because it defines how government, business, and the academy can finally share intelligence without being tainted by espionage or handicapped by secrecy.

Rear Admiral Dr. Sigurd Hess, German Navy (Retired)
Former Chief of Staff, Allied Command Baltic Approaches

As NATO, its Partnership for Peace and the European Defense and Security Initiative devise new models for meeting their future intelligence needs, this book ought to be considered and discussed. Robert Steele's vision for the future of intelligence is clearly "internationalist" in nature. It focuses on regional partnerships between governmental and non-governmental organizations and on the value of open source intelligence collection. European Institutions should seize the opportunity to be the first to succeed in implementing this new model.

Ralph Peters, author of
Fighting for the Future: Will America Triumph?

Robert Steele is as consistently fascinating as he is consistently right; his insights on intelligence have always been at least a decade ahead of the establishment.

Commodore Patrick Tyrrell, OBE, Royal Navy

Over a broad canvas reflecting the changing nature of information and information technologies, Robert Steele lays the foundation for the future of e-intelligence.

John G. Heidenrich, author on genocide prevention

Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo, East Timor--genocide has become a feature of the post-Cold War world. Robert Steele's book shows how genocide and other global problems can be effectively monitored without shortchanging traditional national security. This book is invaluable to both humanitarians and national security experts.

Major General Oleg Kalugin, KGB (Retired)
Former Elected Deputy to the Russian Parliament

All intelligence services--as well as non-governmental organizations and non-state actors--will benefit from a study of this book. Robert Steele goes well beyond the original visions of the best of the former Directors of Central Intelligence, and has crafted a brilliant, sensible, and honorable future for the intelligence profession.

Bruce Sterling, Author of Hacker Crackdown : Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier

Robert Steele is about 100 times as smart and 10,000 times as dangerous as the best of the hackers, for he is successfully hacking the most challenging of bureaucracies, the U.S. intelligence community, and doing it for the right reasons. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 495 pages
  • Publisher: OSS International Press (November 22, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0971566100
  • ISBN-13: 978-0971566101
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,076,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ralph H. Peters on April 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book should appeal to a variety of readers, from intelligence professionals, to strategists, to legislators and decision-makers, and, finally, to interested lay readers. Steele consistently has been well ahead of the pack in his appreciation of everything from open-source research to the implications of technology. While it is fashionable to belittle "inside the Beltway" experience, in this case the author's understanding of government, allied with his past military experience, makes his work practical and immediately applicable, rather than one more pipe dream from a campus ivory tower. Steele's thinking is always provocative and his work thrills with its insights and ideas. While such a book may not be as easy as a fictional thriller read on the metro, the author manages to make very complex concepts digestible to all. In the end, the quality of thought makes this far more exciting than any Clancy novel--at least for me as a former intelligence officer with extensive field experience. A solid, rewarding book from a very alert mind.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very difficult review for me to write. I want all those in positions where they can have some effect on American Intelligence gathering and analysis to read this book, but the book's organization and construction will ensure that won't happen. Hence the four star rating.

The book (the Oct 2001 edition) looks to be the author's collection of lecture notes or lecture passouts organized in one or two hour presentations. They are full of one-liners and short paragraphs making sweeping statements, and I wanted space below them to write my comments and questions. Perhaps they are indeed lecture passouts that formerly contained those spaces in which listeners could jot notes on the author's detail comments and examples supporting those statements. Without such support, there is simply far too much to be taken on faith for the author's ideas to be accepted or implemented.

A simple example should suffice to make this point: Steele says on page 6: "Today there is insufficient emphasis on defining and meeting the intelligence needs of overt civilian agencies, law enforcement activities, and contingency military forces." OK, what would be sufficient? What are we doing wrong today (examples would be nice), and what agencies are doing such? What emphasis do we currently have, and how can that be morphed into something meeting the author's definition (unstated) of necessary and sufficient emphasis? What are we spending today on activities that must be de-emphasized or eliminated, and how much will it cost to achieve the proper necessary and sufficient emphasis? Without this level of detail, the author's statement is simply a platitude that will be roundly ignored by those agencies and personnel who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.
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By A Customer on January 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The author of this book has produced one of the very best and most interesting books to date on intelligence reform and transformation. It is extremely well written and provokingly thoughtful on many critical issues as we decide what we want from our Intelligence Community in the 21st Century and how we want to achieve those results. His economic, business and organizational logic is right on track for a wide range of relevant and timely topics. One is amazed at how much detail the author provided without getting the reader "lost in the trees with no sense of the forest". His reference approach is also outstanding in two regards: (1) he carefully documents the source of many of the great authors and thinkers and practitioners sited, and (2) he gives the reader access to a much broader set of view points (some of which no doubt conflict with his own views). Whether you agree with all of Steele's ideas or not is irrelevant. This is just excellent stuff and should be required reading for all members and staff of all of the Congressional oversight committees as well as the various commissions that review aspects of one sort or another of our national intelligence community. Beyond that it will undoubtedly be of interest to anyone who is concerned about the role of Intelligence in National Security.
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Format: Hardcover
For over a decade, Steele has been trying to draw attention to the fact that intelligence needs in the post-Cold-War era require different strategy, organization and tactics. This book is a useful summary of his views.
One point of emphasis is "open source" intelligence--the information that is available from sources outside of the secret intelligence community. Steele argues that the institutional secretiveness of the FBI and CIA is a hindrance rather than a help.
Another point of emphasis is language translation. A further point of emphasis is the fact that threats no longer exclusively take the form of powerful nation-states. I wish that the book focused more specifically on Islamic terrorism, since the other potential threats seem more remote at the moment.
Yet another point of emphasis is database integration. Writing this review in the aftermath of the DC sniper investigation, this seems to be an important point. Before the suspects drove to Maryland, they were involved in a murder in Alabama at which one of them left a fingerprint. Had the Alabama police been able to access a national database, they would have been able to identify the murderer and perhaps apprehend him. Instead, the fingerprint was matched only after a dozen more murders and after the suspects themselves told police to connect the dots to Alabama.
Lack of database integration kills.
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