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Technology and the intelligence community : challenges and advances for the 21st century
Kosal M., Springer International Publishing, New York, NY, 2018. 287 pp.  Type: Book (978-3-319752-31-0)
Date Reviewed: Feb 19 2019

If you have no background in the US intelligence community and your interests include the history, ethics, and organizational dynamics of intelligence agencies, you will find this book interesting. Technical intelligence began as a supplement to human intelligence (HUMINT), but ultimately became a key enabler of operational intelligence as well as an important part of all portions of the cycle of intelligence (direct, collect, process, analyze, disseminate, improve). The book explains how people and technology have become intertwined and discusses cases where too heavy a reliance on technology led to intelligence failures (for example, were weapons of mass destruction present in Iraq?). It applies ethical frameworks effectively in analyzing reactions to global surveillance disclosures.

The editor organizes the 14 chapters into history starting with World War II, the growing role of some specific technologies in the intelligence cycle, and what the authors consider future trends. There are good references with each chapter, but they do not thoroughly cover key applicable unclassified technologies. To do so might disclose classified information by implication. For a much better discussion of the disciplines of intelligence, I highly recommend the Association of Former Intelligence Officers’ guide [1].

If you are a technologist, this is not the book for you. The treatment of recent technologies is shallow and often off the mark, for example:

(1) The discussion of overhead surveillance technologies (for example, aerial drones and aircraft) is technically superficial, but provides interesting history of how two crashes--a U-2 over the USSR and an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) over Iran--affected the evolution of new technologies. But there is no coverage of the Treaty on Open Skies, which allows scheduled, unarmed overflights by intelligence collection aircraft over the territories of the 34 party states (including the US and Russia).

(2) There is a good discussion of the legal issues arising from wiretapping disclosures in the US, but the treatment of the technologies involved (for example, metadata and entity resolution) is superficial.

(3) There is little concerning signals intelligence (SIGINT) or measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT). Each of these disciplines plays a key role in counter-proliferation efforts and in supporting military and intelligence operations.

(4) The chapter on strategic (offensive) cyber discusses well-known attacks (Stuxnet and Flame), but ignores the role that very similar cyber technologies play every day in the passive collection of intelligence where they are behind recent data breaches. These collect (that is, steal) corporate and/or customer information for sale to criminals or exploitation by foreign intelligence services.

Other weaknesses include:

(1) There is no index, severely hampering the usefulness of the material.

(2) All contributors except one are affiliated with a single organization (Georgia Institute of Technology). This results in a limited perspective.

(3) The book focuses on just a few technologies identified as “emerging intelligence analysis techniques.” Open-source intelligence, big data science, and situational awareness in megacities are each covered by a full chapter. None deserve this much coverage since they are all well-known technologies that apply in many endeavors. The book lacks the depth to specialize their application to intelligence.

(4) There is little information on geospatial technology and its key role in identifying, tracking, and locating targets and detecting changes in fabricated or natural entities.

(5) There is no treatment of the exponentially increasing role that information gathered using advanced technologies by commercial entities (for example, Hawkeye360, Maxar Technologies, and Planet) plays. Today, commercial geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) products cover the entire surface of the earth daily using sensors in various domains (for example, electro-optical, radio frequency, and radar) at useful resolution.

Reviewer:  George S. Carson Review #: CR146439 (1905-0167)
1) Oleson, P. C. (Ed.) AFIO’s guide to the study of intelligence. Association of Former Intelligence Officers, Falls Church, VA, 2016.
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