Essential Reading For Intelligence Professionals: A list of texts, books and readings for Intelligence Professionals. Enjoy.
My Top 5:
1. Tiger Trap: Americas Secret War with China by David Wise. FBI Espionage, Counter Intelligence, and Chinese spying! What more could you ask for? I finished this book in about two days and 100% recommend it for anyone interested in the Intelligence Collection processes, Chinese Agent Infiltration, and Chinese influence in America.
2. Structured Analytic Techniques for Intelligence Analysis by Richard J Heuer. If you could only ever buy ONE book on the topic of Intelligence Analysis this would be it! Every decent analyst worth their salt knows the name Richard Heuer (probably best known for his Psychology of Intelligence Analysis – available to download in PDF here). However, for me, this book outlines over 50 analytic tools and technics. For me, this book is the HOLY BIBLE for Intelligence Analysts. Enough said!
3. Handbook of Scientific Methods of Inquiry for Intelligence Analysis by Henry W. Prunckun. I’m love Analytical Tools. In fact. I’m probably an Intelligence technique Junkie – I can’t get enough of them, SWOT, PEST, Pareto Analysis, Brainstorming, Devil’s Advocate, I print these techniques out and put them up in my office (lame I know). But still, I find they help to guide analysis and provide that new or difference ‘lense’ to see infromation differently. Well that’s what Professor Prunckun provides here. All you can eat analytical technics, nom, nom, nom…
4. The Art and Science of Intelligence Analysis by Julian Richards. Is Intelligence Art or Science?? What do you think? Well I’m inclined to believe the discipline is both ‘art’ and ‘science’. Overall, my belief is Intelligence borrows from both disciplines, but I only say that after reading and reviewing these type of Intelligence texts. Recommended for Intelligence and Practitioners alike, for a more in depth summary and review, check out this review by Angela Gendron here.
5. The Art of War by Sun Tzu. The preeminent text on military strategy and one of the most influential books ever written. Its wisdom and teachings are just as relevant today, over 2500 years since the Art of War was first written. If you haven’t read this text, reserve some time on a lazy Sunday afternoon, put the kettle on and settle in. This is essential reading.
- “Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.”
- “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
- “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
Analytical Tools and Tradecraft:
Critical Thinking for Strategic Intelligence by Katherine Hibbs Pherson and Randolph H. Pherson. Organized around twenty key questions that all analysts should ask as they prepare to conduct research, draft papers, and present their analysis. Also includes a set of case studies that the reader can use to reinforce understanding of the key points in the book.
Intelligence Analysis: A Target-Centric Approach by Robert P Clark. An excellent resource for students and potential intelligence analysts. Clark provides and educational and practical text on intelligence analysis and insight into Scenario Planning, Bayesian Analysis, and the proper use of intelligence. There’s a reason this book ranks so highly on Amazon for Intelligence!
Psychology of Intelligence Analysis by Richards Heuer. I mentioned this text above, and in case you missed it – you can download a free PDF copy of this here. Originally written for Intelligence Analysts at the CIA Psychology of Intelligence Analysis is a must read for anyone studying or interested in the theory of Intelligence Analysis. Moreover, this book applies to policy analysts, lawyers, law-enforcement and anyone working in the field of global security analysis. Recommended Reading (and free).
Spies, Spying, Espionage & Counter Intelligence:
By Way of Deception: The Making and Unmaking of a Mossad Officer by Victor Ostrovsky. This book provides an intriguing insight into “the institute” through the authors’ recount of his recruitment, training and career postings in the secretive Israeli Mossad.
Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of Traitor Aldrich Ames and the Men He Betrayed by Sandra Grimes. At the time of his arrest Aldrich Ames had compromised more CIA assets than any other mole in history. Spying for the Russians’ Ames was a CIA Counter-intelligence analyst who turned against the US government and was convicted of espionage in 1994. This book (and later a TV Series – The Assets) was written by Sandra Grimes a member of the CIA team who ultimately exposed Ames.
Spymaster: My Thirty-two Years in Intelligence and Espionage Against the West by Oleg Kalugin. A fascinating story of a KBG Officer who exposed soviet Intelligence tactics and details of his postings as an undercover agent in the United States.
The Great Game: The Myth and Reality of Espionage by Frederick P. Hitz. Sometimes the truth can be stranger than fiction. And often, a good spy novel might be borne from a real life incident. In this book our Author (Hitz) draws on both fact and fiction as he dives into the fascinating world of espionage. Here we get a comparison of fictional spies compared to ‘what actually goes on’ and Hintz sheds light on the real life motivations of some well-known and ‘infamous’ spies.
Why Spy?: Espionage In An Age of Uncertainty by Frederick P. Hitz. The Hitz keep on coming…! Anybody? No? Ok, moving on. This second book by Author Frederick Hitz delves into the murky world of recruiting spies. Want to know what motivates someone to risk their life in the often dangerous world of espionage? Well our author here does a fantastic job of revealing this in detail. Recommended if you’re interested in the CIA, HUMINT and Source Recruitment.
Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism, Jihad & the Middle East:
Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam by Gilles Kepel. A comprehensive text on Islamist History, the author provides a great analysis of the events of the Islamic world from the second half of the 20th century. Although you could call this text a little controversial (not everyone agrees with his analysis), recommended for anyone studying Islamic politics, international relations in the Middle East, Intelligence and Terrorism.
Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 by Steve Coll. A 20 year look into the US relations with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan in the lead up to 11 September 2001. The author chooses to stop here, and instead focus on the complex issues that existed with all these parties in the lead up to this date. He provides a very detailed analysis on CIA activity in Afghanistan (hence the ‘ghost’ part of the title), and discusses American policy on Central Asia. Good for students of Terrorism, Islamic Politics, International Relations in the Middle East and Intelligence Analysts.
Classic Tests, Military History and Intelligence Theory:
On War by Carl von Clausewitz. Its’ a pity Clausewitz never actually got to finish this classic before his death. Published posthumously by his wife, Clausewitz’s writing goes down in history as one of the most important treatises on the relationship between politics and war. Spoiler: according to some strategists Clausewitz general message was “War must never be seen as having any purpose in itself, but should be seen as an instrument of politics.”
The Prince by Machiavelli. Is it better to be feared than loved? You tell me! Welcome to one of the most controversial books ever written – and actually made the Catholic Church’s list of prohibited books. You’ve probably heard quotes from the book at some point in your life – Every time I see this book on my bookshelf I want to re-read it. Despite being over 500 years old, the text deals with the practical realities of getting and holding power.
Intelligence In War by John Keegan. Sometimes Intelligence is the whipping boy of strategy, blamed if things go wrong (re: Intelligence Failures) by ignored when we get it right. In this book, author John Keegan finally acknowledges some split-second decisions made with the aid of timely and accurate intelligence – finally, some recognition. Recommended for military historians and anyone looking for some comprehensive intelligence wins.
Go Spy the Land: Military Intelligence in History by Keith Neilson and B.J.C. Mckercher. Have you ever pondered what role Intelligence played in Military History? This book (a collection of nine essays) span the role of intelligence in military conflict from Ancient Rome, the Spanish Armada and through the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. I wouldn’t say this book is light reading – it should be of interest and recommended to military historians or anyone interested in the role of intelligence in military history.
The Art of Intelligence: Lessons from a Life in CIA’s Clandestine Service by Henry A. Crumpton. In spite of all the bureaucracy, Author Henry Crumpton paints a pretty rosy picture of the US CIA by focusing on the capability, and efforts on the people in the field. Shedding light on the CIAs involvement into Afghanistan (early 2001-2002) through the authors’ eyes this book provides an insight into intelligence and espionage from someone who’s actually been there and can tell the tale.
Critical Thinking to Make you a Better Intelligence Professional (By reading these Books):
The Tet Offensive: Intelligence Failure in War by James Wirtz. Not everyone knows the Tet Offensive was a huge intelligence failure. But they should. What happened? Well, in summary, basically no one believed the North Vietnamese would launch a coordinated attack on the Vietnamese New Year (known and Tet)…but they did. Oops. There’s a lesson about assumptions and testing bias this for all would be Intelligence Analysts, read, learn, & enjoy. Thanks Mr Wirtz.
Intelligence Analysis: How to Think in Complex Environments by Wayne Michael Hall and Gary Citrenbaum. Written by two seasoned Intelligence professionals, this book shows us “how to think” not “what to think” in an age of information overload. In fact, I recently posted an article on these topics (shameless self-promotion here), and feel this text gets to the heart of what Intelligence analysts need to focus on. More information is not always better – it’s what the information means that matters most! If I were running an intelligence course, especially at a tertiary level, this would be required reading.
Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking by M. Neil Browne and Stuart M. Keeley. Question: How do you bridge the gap between accepting information and critically analysing what it means? Answer: With this book! Keeley provides a common sense text for critical thinking and for improving communication. Two skills are paramount to any good intelligence analyst! I would put this book in the recommended reading section for students of intelligence or anyone learning how to become an effective interviewers (eg. Police, journalists and of course Intelligence Officers).
Analyzing Intelligence: Origins, Obstacles, and Innovations by Roger Z. George and James B. Bruce Editors. Einstein said “If you can’t explain it simply, then you don’t understand it well enough.” And our authors do a fantastic job of taking what can be a complex subject and deliver it in a way anyone can understand. Well done. Also, if for no other reason, read this book for its cool title page. Props!
Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. With over 1,963five star reviews, the author clearly knows his content. This book provides an insight into how we think; fast – i.e. automatically, quick and intuitively, and slow; i.e. choice and concentration. For Intelligence analysts an understanding of how we receive, process and analyses information is paramount to be able to spot bias and develop robust assessments. Look, I’m not going to lie – it’s a big book, and there’s a lot there…but you’ll be better for it.
Recommended Fiction, and non-fiction
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Along with 1984, Brave New World is the masthead of dystopian fiction. I originally read this book in School, and loved it – now, I recommended this book (along with 1984, and Animal Farm) as essential reading!
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. As of the time of writing I’ve only just started reading this book. I’m not sure why, but I feel a real pull to read this, perhaps just to reflect – but this text, is a series of personal writings written by Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180 CE) written for his own personal development.
- “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard, accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.”
Two Minute Mysteries by Donald J Sobol – Recommended by Chris W from our Intelligence101 Online Intelligence Training Course, A fun puzzle-solving book involving intrigue and murder-mysteries. You get to play a Sherlock Holmes character while you solve these problems. Great for developing your analytical mind!