Intelligence gathering and analysis have long played a critical role in national security efforts. Historically, and with good reason, the extent, reach, and effect of intelligence activities have remained in the shadows, escaping the notice of many in government, as well as the attention of the American public. In the age of the twenty-four hour news cycle, though, this situation is beginning to change: rare since Edward Snowden’s revelations about what our intelligence services have been up to, both domestically and abroad, has been the week in which some intelligence-related activity has not made headlines.
In light of the Snowden revelations and other reports about the intelligence activities in which the United States is engaged, some historical context may be useful—both to assuage our fears and to manage our expectations. For every generation mistakenly supposes that the startling events of its time are the worst ever to have occurred, only to be confronted with historical antecedents that give us some perspective on modern events and offer lessons that may help us address their consequences.
Read more from the most recent On Remand article, a book review of Kenneth A. Daigler’s Spies, Patriots, and Traitors: American Intelligence in the Revolutionary War entitled Game of Spies by Professor Lawrence Friedman here.