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recent terrorist attacks in London, the issue of homeland security is
once again at the forefront of political agendas on both sides of the
Atlantic. The United
States of America, of course, has been addressing the matter since 11
September 2001 through a variety of commissions, reforms and
legislation, including the
Patriot Act. The
partial restructuring of the American intelligence community with the
creation of the Directorate of National Intelligence and the
Department of Homeland Security suggests the need for a systematic and
academic look at the nature and merit of these changes.
Unfortunately, Arthur S. Hulnick’s Keeping
Us Safe is not that book.
Hulnick, an associate professor of international relations at
Boston University, is not simply presenting the perspective of a
detached outsider on the role of intelligence within homeland
security. He is a former
member of the Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA) and, as a legal requirement, the manuscript had to be
vetted by the CIA before it could be published.
Not surprisingly, the CIA required no changes since this book
is a generalized account of the topic, primarily drawn from secondary
sources, which offers few insights.
This is a
conservative book. It is
not conservative in the way the term is now used in “inside
the Beltway” political discourse in the United States.
Instead, it is conservative because of Hulnick’s consistent
desire to engage only the micro questions surrounding the practice of
intelligence while consistently defending the system as a whole.
He makes it clear in the book’s preface that he does not find
common cause with those who criticize the apparently thin-skinned
Unfortunately, the Independent Commission [the 9/11 Commission] let it be known—even before its final report was released—that it would assign blame for what went wrong on 9/11, but this could be very destructive. Those who take the brunt of the criticism cannot be expected to resume their tasks with increased vigor and enthusiasm. (xiii)
sense this study lacks imagination.
There is little attempt to broach broader aspects surrounding
the use of intelligence by states in general or by American
administrations in particular. Instead,
Hulnick consistently defends American state agencies against their
critics, while underplaying their missteps, such as the cases of
“blowback” generated by actions of the CIA.
Thus, for example, he discusses the ouster of Manuel
Noriega from Panama without mentioning he was at one time in the pay
of the CIA. Nor does
he find space to mention the extent of the
decades of criminality as practiced by the Federal Bureau of
Investigation under J. Edgar Hoover.
Some of his
other interpretations are questionable.
He writes that Jimmy Carter politicized the position of
Director of Central Intelligence when his new administration failed to
H.W. Bush as DCI. Hulnick’s
point ignores the fact that it was the appointment of Bush, a senior
member of the Republican Party, by Gerald Ford that represented the
first major step toward the politicization of the position of the head
of the CIA. Equally, he underplays the more important example of the politicization
of intelligence implicit in the Team A-Team B “competitive
analysis” exercise that occurred in the 1970s.
Its linkage to the politicisation of intelligence surrounding
the invasion of Iraq, with the involvement of Paul Wolfowitz in both
exercises, is ignored.
One of the
book’s other major weaknesses is that, despite having only been
published in 2004, it is already dated.
In his introduction Hulnick recognizes this danger but opted to
publish it anyway. Reading
it now and not finding any mention of the Abu
Ghraib prison scandal or the subsequent revelations of abuses and
questionable interrogation techniques employed by American soldiers
makes it difficult to read Hulnick’s brief description of the topic.
A similar point applies to his discussion about whether the
creation of a director of National Intelligence would be a useful
reform to the structure of the American intelligence system, a now
largely irrelevant debate since
the current Bush administration has done just that.
Equally problematic is the source material being used by Hulnick. There is little evidence of wider research beyond work by journalists, including some, such as Steve Emerson, with questionable track records. The nature of that source material suggests a book written quickly to cash in on a topic sexed up by current events. This is not to suggest that Hulnick’s book completely lacks merit. It does offer a useful and generally dispassionate overview of the American intelligence community as it pertains to homeland security. Unfortunately, that approach only emphasizes how much more imaginative and substantive this study could have been.