Historical Dictionary of Intelligence Failures

Title:                      Historical Dictionary of Intelligence Failures

Author:                 Glenmore Trenear-Harvey

Trenear-Harvey, Glenmore S. (2015). Historical Dictionary of Intelligence Failures. Lanham, MD: Roman & Littlefield

LCCN:    2014020909

JF1525.I6 T735 2015 Alc


Date Posted:      August 31, 2015

Compiled and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake.[1]

American readers may well expect this book to discuss some familiar events, such as the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen penetrations, or the Cambridge Five, and even the more recent Manning and Snowden cases. But they would be wrong, according to British author Glenmore Trenear-Harvey, because of his definition of failure. He draws a distinction between intelligence—what we would call the intelligence product—and security. For example, he characterizes the failure to recognize Kim Philby and George Blake as KGB penetrations ofMI6 as “appalling breaches of security,” not intelligence failures. (p. 1) Trenear-Harvey extends this thinking to all other penetrations and unsuccessful covert actions, thus excluding them from this book.

Most of the failures he does include are those based on faulty conclusions drawn from sound data, failure to disseminate intelligence properly, or failure to connect the dots. The prelude to the 2003 Iraq war (p. 11) and the use of Ryszard Kuklinski’s Polish intelligence (p. 176) are offered as examples of the former and pre-9/11 analyses are illustrative of the latter. For some entries, however, the reason for inclusion is not obvious, the XX Committee being an example. (p. 253) Additionally, the author does not state the criteria for selecting cases that fall within his definition, the preponderance of which involve the CIA.

Like all books in the Historical Intelligence Dictionary series, the publisher declines to allow sources and most often (as in this case), indices, In some respects, this substantially reduces the books’ scholarly value, though when used as starting points these books can spark solid research habits.

However one defines intelligence failure, the examples Trenear-Harvey has included give a clear exposition of the situation and, since some are seldom found elsewhere, they are worth serious attention.

[1] Hayden Peake, “Intelligence Officer Bookshelf,” The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Stuidies (21, 2, Spring/Summer 2015, p. 117)Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of his reviews cited have appeared in recent unclassified editions of ClA’s Studies in Intelligence. These and many other reviews and articles may be found online at http://www.cia.gov

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