HOW SPIES THINK: Ten lessons in intelligence.

AuthorRolfe, Jim

ANTHONY SMITH HOW SPIES THINK: Ten lessons in intelligence

Author: David Omand

Published by: Penguin UK, London, 2021, 368pp, $48.

David Omand began his official career in the United Kingdom's signals intelligence agency, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), and worked through a series of positions in that agency and the British Ministry of Defence as, variously, principal private secretary to the secretary of state for defence during the Falklands conflict, UK defence counsellor to NATO, based in Brussels, deputy under-secretary of state for policy in the Ministry of Defence and director GCHQ. From there he was appointed as permanent secretary at the Home Office and then permanent secretary in the Cabinet Office and the United Kingdom's first security and intelligence co-ordinator. Omand retired from official life in 2005.

Following his official career, Omand reinvented himself as a scholar. He has held teaching and research positions in London and Paris and has published a number of significant books before this one. Most notably, these include Securing the State (Oxford University Press, 2010) on the relationship between intelligence and security and, with co-author Mark Phythian, Principled Spying: The Ethics of Secret Intelligence (Georgetown University Press, 2018) on the ethics of the intelligence world.

This preamble is by way of saying that Omand is well worth reading when he talks about the intersections of intelligence and policy, which to a large extent is what this book is about.

Omand derives ten lessons that intelligence analysts should be paying heed to when they practice their craft. And intelligence analysts in this sense are anyone, including politicians, who use intelligence to derive conclusions or to make policy decisions.

The lessons are themselves divided into three groups: 'ordering our thoughts'; 'checking our reasoning'; and 'making intelligent use of intelligence'. Within those groups, the lessons begin at the need for situational awareness, context in other words, and work through ways of organising our information, of understanding our own obsessions, prejudices and perceptions and the ways they might mislead us, and how we can best use intelligence through the development of strong relationships and partnerships (the Five Eyes relationship gets many mentions as being particularly valuable to all the partners). He concludes the lessons with thoughts on how we need to be able to deal with the digital...

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