Gregory F. Treverton


Treverton, Gregory F.

1. "Covert Action: From 'Covert' to 'Overt.'" Daedalus 116, no. 2 (Spring 1987): 95-123.

The author sees covert actions increasingly becoming overt, along the lines of aid to the Contras or the Afghani rebels. He doubts that large-scale covert actions will be as frequent as in the past.

2. Covert Action: The Limits of Intervention in the Postwar World. New York: Basic Books, 1987. JK468I6T72 Covert Action: The CIA and the Limits of American Intervention in the Postwar World. New York: I.B. Tauris, 1988.

Clark comment: Treverton's basic conclusion is difficult to argue with: In the 1990s "[m]ajor covert actions will become public -- sooner rather than later, and perhaps even before the operation is over." The question remains, however, just what this means to the future use of covert operations as an instrument of U.S. policy. Petersen's description of this work as the "case against covert action by a Harvard professor who advised the Church Committee" is too narrow a view of Treverton's argument. Nonetheless, the main thrust of the work is cautionary.

Valcourt, IJI&C 5.2, sees the book as "essentially a polemic" that "falls far short" of Loch Johnson's book "in objectively assessing the Church committee's operations." On the other hand, Shultz, IJI&C 3.2, says that Treverton has made an "important and thoughtful contribution" to the debate over the place of covert action in U.S. foreign policy." The book is a "well written and strongly argued defense of his position" that covert action is a "last resort" approach.

3. "Covert Action and Open Society." Foreign Affairs 65, no. 5 (Summer 1987): 995-1014.

4. "Imposing a Standard: Covert Action and American Democracy." Ethics & International Affairs 3 (1989). [Petersen].

[CA/80s & (for Covert Action) Begin][c]

Treverton, Gregory F. "Estimating Beyond the Cold War." Defense Intelligence Journal 3, no. 2 (Fall 1994): 5-20.

Vice Chairman, National Intelligence Council (NIC).


Treverton, Gregory F. "Intelligence: The Achilles Heel of the Bush Doctrine." Arms Control Today 33, no. 6 (Jul.-Aug. 2003): 9-11.[]

The emerging Bush doctrine of national security is "[f]ocused on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction" and "is anticipatory, pre-emptive, and, if need be, unilateral. Yet the emerging doctrine is bedeviled at its core by legitimacy and capacity, including, critically, the capability of U.S. intelligence."


Treverton, Gregory F. Intelligence for an Age of Terror. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

From publisher: "Contents: 1. Introduction; 2. The changed target; 3. The Cold War legacy; 4. The imperative of change; 5. The agenda ahead; 6. The special challenge of analysis; 7. Many customers, too many secrets; 8. Covert action: forward to the past?; 9. Rebuilding the social contract."

Freedman, FA 88.5 (Sep.-Oct. 2009), says that this rises above other works on the topic. The author's "conviction that something should really be done to sort out the intelligence community competes with a wearisome sense that it probably will not happen." For Peake, Studies 53.4 (Dec. 2009), Treverton's "is a top-down examination of the ... current environment, with an agenda for the future. Intelligence officers,... while agreeing with many of the issues raised, may well conclude that proposed changes must first be tempered with a view from the bottom up."

As an avid reader of reviews by Robert D. Chapman, IJI&C 23.2 (Summer 2010), I find that he can be both insightful and annoying, sometimes simultaneously. Here, he is at his best, opening his review of Treverton's book by noting that "[w]hat has happened to American intelligence since ... [9/11] is more incomprehensible to me than analytical geometry." He, then, adds the judgment that "[c]hanging age-old, tested intelligence systems won't change the world. But contemporary leaders in Washington are trying to do that.... Treverton is to be commended for ... revealing what American intelligence really is. [Treverton] points out what needs to be corrected and offers suggestions." Some of those suggestions are good, others less so. Overall, this work "contains much" and "should be read by everyone involved with Intelligence Community transitioning."

Capshaw, Joint Force Quarterly 59 (4th Quarter, Oct. 2010), views this as "an invaluable contribution to the discussion of the role of intelligence in the age of terror." The author "asks urgent questions about what needs to be changed to respond to a fundamentally different threat." For Gill, Perspectives on Politics 8.3 (Sep. 2010), "this is a thoughtful review" about "fixing" intelligence. Treverton offers "an invaluable perspective on an issue where fear has too often trumped analysis." Zimmerman, AIJ 28.2 (2010), sees this as "an outstanding read" that "deftly enumerates many of the challenges" faced by secret organizations in an open society.

To Daugherty, I&NS 27.3 (Jun. 2012), "[t]his is a thoughtful and thought-provoking volume that presumes the reader already possesses some degree of knowledge about intelligence and national security policy developments.... [R]eaders expecting a simplified overview of these issues neeed look elsewhere..... At times, though, the work veers into the world of the philosophical and theoretical, which upon occasion tends to obscure rather than enlighten."


Treverton, Gregory F. "Intelligence and the 'Market State.'" Studies in Intelligence 10 (Winter-Spring 2001): 69-76.

Treverton sees the role of the nation-state changing, with the change in the role of the private sector being even more dramatic. Intelligence will need to share information with and be open to information from non-governmental entities.


Treverton, Gregory F. "Intelligence: Welcome to the American Government." In A Question of Balance: The President, the Congress and Foreign Policy, ed. Thomas E. Mann, 70-108. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1990.


Treverton, Gregory F. Reshaping National Intelligence for an Age of Information. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 2003. [pb]

Berkowitz, IJI&C 15.1, notes that the author believes that "U.S. intelligence needs to make radical changes.... [T]he essence of Treverton's many arguments [is]: Focus government intelligence collection efforts on those targets only government agencies can penetrate."

[Overviews/U.S./00s; Reform/00s/Gen]

Treverton, Gregory F. "Terrorism, Intelligence and Law Enforcement: Learning the Right Lessons." Intelligence and National Security 18, no. 4 (Winter 2003): 121-140.

This is a balanced discussion of the differences between intelligence and law enforcement, and of the changes emerging in the way in which these two disciplines are viewed since 11 September 2001. Treverton does not offer up trite answers to the dilemma of finding the right balance between security and privacy, but seeks to clarify the questions we need to be asking.

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

Treverton, Gregory F., and Wilhelm Agrell, eds. National Intelligence Systems: Current Research and Future Prospects. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

According to Peake, Studies 54.4 (Dec. 2010), the contributors to this volume include both academics and former professional intelligence officers from a number of Western countries. "They have made a thoughtful contribution that illustrates the extent to which intelligence in international relations today has changed." Lamanna, I&NS 26.4 (Aug. 2011), sees this as "an excellent collection of essays."


Treverton, Gregory F., and C. Bryan Gabbard. Assessing the Tradecraft of Intelligence Analysis. Santa Monica, CA: Intelligence Policy Center, National Security Research Division, RAND, 2008. []

This study argues that in the Intelligence Community "every agency has a separate set of research priorities and product lines.... [N]one of the agencies knows much of what its colleagues do, still less works with them consistently in testing and validating analytic techniques or in training analysts.... [W]e concluded that the establishment of a research agenda and a training and education curriculum with a Community-wide perspective is critical to future analytic tradecraft.... Our research also identified shortfalls in analytic capabilities, methodologies, and skills, and it recommends actions to take to address these gaps as well as a strategy for meeting future challenges."


Treverton, Gregory F., Seth G. Jones, Steven Boraz, and Philip Lipscy. Toward a Theory of Intelligence: Workshop Report. Santa Monica, CA: Rand, 2006.

Report from one-day workshop held in Washington, DC, in June 2005. There are numerous interesting summaries of presentations here.


Treverton, Gregory F., and Peter A. Wilson. "True Intelligence Reform Is Cultural, Not Just Organizational Chart Shift." Christian Science Monitor, 13 Jan. 2005. []

"The intelligence reform bill should be viewed as the necessary first step, but hardly as sufficient. This next phase will require leaders in the intelligence, national security, and law enforcement communities willing to take risks. Most important, Congress needs to be convinced that what it has done so far is just the beginning."


Treverton, Gregory F., and Wilhelm Agrell, eds. National Intelligence Systems: Current Research and Future Prospects. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

From publisher: This work "explores intelligence from an intellectual perspective, not an organizational one."


Return to Trev-Trz