The Three Tensions of Investigating Intelligence Failures

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper offers a framework for analyzing governmental inquiries into intelligence failures. The paper argues that all investigations face three inherent tensions over their timing, purpose, and process. The benefits and disadvantages of conducting inquiries immediately after the intelligence failure or years later, engaging in investigations designed to ascribe blame or find solutions to endemic intelligence problems, and conducting adversarial, legal-style investigations or collaborative inquiries, are all discussed. In many cases, but not always, the two first tensions are exacerbated by the politicization of the inquiry. Using examples from governmental inquiries around the world, the paper investigates each tension and offers some strategies for mitigating them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)598-618
Number of pages21
JournalIntelligence and National Security
Issue number4
StatePublished - 6 Jun 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Political Science and International Relations


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