George Washington and CIPosted: July 1, 2014
July 1, 2014
I just finished reading a very interesting book, Spies, Patriots and Traitors. It is a history of American intelligence in the American Revolutionary war, written by a retired career CIA operations officer who also holds two university degrees in history.
For those in competitive intelligence, it is an interesting read on the operation of military and governmental intelligence before the electronic age. Kenneth Daigler, the author, develops a couple of interesting points that bear repeating to those of us in the CI community.
- The first is on the ever-present problem of the “fundamental disconnect”, that is where the person providing the intelligence and the person using the intelligence are separate, something even those who produce CI for ourselves experience The book is replete with examples supporting Daigler’s observation that “perhaps the greatest irony intelligence history of the [Revolutionary] war is that while British intelligence activities were highly successful in collecting information regarding American-French plans and intentions…, British failure to use information effectively in its policy formation and implementation negated most of its value.” (Page 81)
- The second often contributes to the first: the “issue of decision-makers allowing preconceived views to stand even in the face of contradicting information” (page 246).
- The book is also replete with illustrations of a problem those who work with CI as both the producer and consumer often face: a “duality of responsibility [that] periodically creates tensions that caused one of [Washington’s] roles to suffer at the expense of the other.” (Page 243)
The book is a great read on the American Revolution, particularly if, like me, you are not well versed in its details, as well as its geographic and political sweep. And for those of us in CI, it serves as a source of object lessons in how to do things well, and what mistakes to avoid.
 Kenneth A. Daigler, Spies, Patriots, and Traitors. Georgetown University Press, 2014, 317 pages, $29.95.