Richard A. Posner


Posner, Richard A. Countering Terrorism: Blurred Focus, Halting Steps. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007.

Peake, Studies 52.1 (Mar. 2008) and Intelligencer 16.1 (Spring 2008), finds that the author "is convinced that creating a new MI5-like organization with only a security and counterintelligence mission is necessary to achieve effective domestic counterterrorism efforts." However, Posner does not consider "the level of personal and organizational disruption that creating another new intelligence organization would entail and the time required for it to become proficient." This work merits "very serious consideration."

[FBI/00s/Gen; FBI/DomSec/00s; Reform/00s/Gen; Terrorism/00s/Gen]

Posner, Richard A. "The Danger in 'Fixing' the CIA." Hoover Digest 2005 No. 3 (Summer). ["This essay appeared in the Los Angeles Times on May 24, 2005."] []

"[T]he intelligence system cannot be fixed like a broken watch (although it can be improved) because the conditions that cause it to fail are inherent in the nature of intelligence.... To think that changes in organization, practices, and personnel can make intelligence a fail-safe enterprise is a dangerous illusion, encouraging under-investment in other, often more costly, means of defense."

[CIA/00s/05; Reform/00s/05]

Posner, Richard A. "Our Domestic Intelligence Crisis." Washington Post, 21 Dec. 2005, A31. []

In this OpEd piece Judge Posner, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, comments that the domestic surveillance activities of Defense Department components, such as, NSA and the Counterintelligence Field Activity "are criticized as grave threats to civil liberties. They are not. Their significance is in flagging the existence of gaps in our defenses against terrorism. The Defense Department is rushing to fill those gaps, though there may be better ways....

"The Pentagon's rush to fill gaps in domestic intelligence reflects the disarray in this vital yet neglected area of national security. The principal domestic intelligence agency is the FBI, but it is primarily a criminal investigation agency that has been struggling, so far with limited success, to transform itself." The United States has" no official with sole and comprehensive responsibility for domestic intelligence. It is no surprise that gaps in domestic intelligence are being filled by ad hoc initiatives."

[FBI/DomSec/00s; MI/00s/05]

Posner, Richard A. Preventing Surprise Attacks: Intelligence Reform in the Wake of 9/11. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005.

Peake, Studies 49.4 (2005), comments that "[b]eyond the thoughtful analysis and practical suggestions," this book "makes a fine text for a course on national intelligence. It covers the basic topics, is thoroughly documented with open sources ... and is short enough to please any student." This is "[a] very valuable addition to the literature." For DKR, AFIO WIN 16-05 (19 Apr. 2005), the author has presented "[a] shrewd and challenging appraisal of what effective reform requires." Posner believes that "by creating a DNI, and so adding one more rung to the ladder of command, less information will reach the top than before."

To Bruns, DIJ 16.1 (2007), Posner's work is "much more thoughtfully and elegantly argued" than the 9/11 Commission report. In addition, the author "convincingly argues that the report's conclusions are not well supported." Winn, Parameters, Summer 2006, calls this "a rewarding read that is worth re-reading." The author "draws into question both the soundness of the [9/11] commission's analysis and the Intelligence Reform Act itself -- the implication being that 'the organization' was to blame for the faulty analysis." Posner's "concern is that a top-heavy, Rube Goldberg-style reorganization may increase rather than reduce the dangers that face us."

Lowenthal, IAFIE News 1, no. 2 (Winter 2008), notes that the author's premise "is simple: the 9/11 Report singled out management flaws as enabling the attack on the U.S. to take place; why then, does the same Report conclude that organizational change is necessary? Posner explores this divide ... by carefully reviewing the various themes believed to have enabled the attacks ... and juxtaposing them" against the Report's recommendations, "primarily the creation of a DNI. He concludes that these organizational changes represent flawed logic."

[Analysis/Warning; Reform/04/Act & 00s/Gen]

Posner, Richard A. 

1. Remaking Domestic Intelligence. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2005.

From publisher: The author "reveals all the dangerous weaknesses undermining our domestic intelligence in the United States and offers a new solution: a domestic intelligence agency modeled on the ... Canadian Security Intelligence Service.... He also shows how a new U.S. domestic intelligence agency might offer additional advantages over our current structure even in terms of civil liberties."

2. Remaking Domestic Intelligence. Hoover Institution Weekly Essays. 16 Jun. 2005. [Downloadable PDF file at: -- no longer an active link 8/22/12]

"This is a special web-only essay that takes up where Posner's Hoover Studies book, Preventing Surprise Attacks: Intelligence Reform in the Wake of 9/11, leaves off."

From Abstract: "The magnitude of the terrorist threat..., coupled with the lack of coordination among our domestic intelligence agencies and the failure of the lead agency, the FBI, to develop an adequate domestic intelligence capability, argues compellingly for reform. Because the FBI's failure is systemic, being rooted in the incompatibility of criminal law enforcement (the FBI's principal mission) with national-security intelligence, the reform must have a structural dimension. The WMD (Robb-Silberman) Commission's proposal ... is to create a domestic intelligence agency within the FBI by fusion of its three units that at present share intelligence responsibility. Such a fusion may or not be a good idea; but clearly it is not enough. The Director of National Intelligence should take the coordination and command of domestic intelligence firmly into his hands by appointing a deputy for domestic intelligence, while the President should by executive order create outside of (but not in derogation of) the FBI a domestic intelligence agency, modeled on such foreign agencies as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, that would have no law enforcement functions. The agency could be lodged in the Department of Homeland Security."

Clark comment: As much as I admire the clarity of Judge Posner's reasoning (especially his critique of the 9/11 Commission's work), the very thought of lodging another agency in the DHS gives me cold shivers.

[FBI/00s/Gen; FBI/DomSec/00s; Reform/00s/05/Gen]

Posner, Richard A. Uncertain Shield: The U.S. Intelligence System in the Throes of Reform. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006.

Clark comment: It is not necessary to agree with every conclusion that Judge Posner reaches in Uncertain Shield to appreciate and respect the intellectual vigor behind his analysis. He sweeps widely across multiple disciplines -- from organizational theory, to economics, to mathematics, to constitutional analysis -- to show how wrong the 9/11 and WMD commissions were in their analyses and conclusions and how wrongheaded the rush to pass the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 really was.

Moskowitz, Studies 50.3 (Sep. 2006), says that the author "brings a fresh and welcome perspective to hoary intelligence issues,... but it is [his] intelligence and common sense that keeps you reading." Posner's "book is full of telling judgments about the process, the people, and the sheer ignorance that brought us the reorganization of the Intelligence Community in 2005."

For Reveron, DIJ 15.1 (2006), much of Posner's criticism of the FBI is flawed and/or out of date. The reviewer argues that Posner's research "better reflects the pre-9/11 or Louis Freeh FBI than today's FBI.... Things have been changing at the FBI, and Posner does not capture these changes in his critique."

Richelson, IJI&C 20.2 (Summer 2007), seems to feel that the author has failed to develop fully too many of the cases he presents to buttress his arguments. However, Posner presents "a challenging look at the problems facing U.S. intelligence ... without a simple reliance on conventional wisdom and preconceived notions about how to deal with those problems."

Another IJI&C reviewer, Chapman, IJI&C 20.2 (Summer 2007), sees Uncertain Shield as "a wild ride." The reviewer sides with Posner in his defense of the CIA on the 9/11 issue, but believes "Posner's defense of the pre-Iraq war intelligence ... flies against the wind." Chapman finds the idea of a possible domestic intelligence agency "a slippery road to travel." And putting such an agency under the Department of Homeland Security, as Posner suggests, would be "one more agency under" a DHS "that's [already] so obese it can't move."

Lowenthal, IAFIE News 1, no. 2 (Winter 2008), calls this "a guide on 'how to' appraise what is happening, make a prognosis on where the process is going, consider various aspects that might be encountered along the way, and offer constructive well poised input." At times, however, the work "suffers from bouts of convolutions -- undoubtedly reflective of the difficulties in analyzing 'how to' do something."

[GenPostCW/00s/Gen; Reform/00s/Gen]

Posner, Richard A. "We Need Our Own MI5." Washington Post, 15 Aug. 2006, A13. []

Judge Posner's argument is clearly stated in the title to this Op-ed piece. The United States lacks "a counterpart to MI5. This is a serious gap in our defenses. Primary responsibility for national security intelligence has been given to the FBI. The bureau is a criminal investigation agency. Its orientation is toward arrest and prosecution rather than toward the patient gathering of intelligence with a view to understanding and penetrating a terrorist network."

[FBI/00s; FBI/DomSec/00s; Reform/00s/06/Gen]

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