An Intelligence Professional’s Reading List

An Intelligence Professional’s Reading List

James King

Every few years many senior military leaders publish a reading list.  These lists generally contain works on history and leadership with a sprinkling of business management.  Books that either personally shaped their development as leaders or are a good read for someone’s professional development.  While these lists are great as a primer on leadership very few focus on the Intelligence profession. 

What follows is an attempt to fill that knowledge gap.  This reading list is comprised of recommendations from members of the INTELST forum, a group of almost 4000 current and former Military Intelligence professionals.  The books identified below helped to shape these professionals into expert intelligence analysts.  These books cover a wide range of topics, from intelligence operations, to military history, leadership, sociology and psychology.  While the list is comprised of mostly non-fiction there are a few fiction books.  One of these fiction books, Ghost Fleet, was nominated more than any other book on the list. 

T. Kessara Eldridge – President Virtual Intelligence Agency (VIA) Consulting

Fixing Intelligence by William E. Odom

Former director of the National Security Agency provides insights on how intelligence operations need to adapt to be more effective in the post 9/11 age.

The Venona Secrets: Exposing Soviet Espionage and America’s Traitors by Herbert Romerstein and Eric Breindel

Based on analysis of Soviet communications in the 1940s, this book describes how Soviet spies were able to get American nuclear secrets.

Secret Agencies: U.S. Intelligence in a Hostile World by Loch K. Johnson

A potential companion book to General Odom’s.  This book examines how U.S. intelligence agencies have changed since the Cold War.

Counterterrorism: Bridging Operations & Theory by Robert J. Bunker

A compilation of essays on counterterrorism strategies by the Terrorism Research Center.

Major Kevin Halleran – U.S. Army North G2X

Psychology of Intelligence Analysis by Richards J. Heuer

Originally published in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s for internal use within the CIA, Heurer compiled information on how people make judgements tied to improper analysis and how not to fall into cognitive traps.  His book is a must have on any reading list on intelligence. 

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets

Two books in Taleb’s series on the subjects of things that happen in the world that on first look seem to happen unpredictably but if you look deeper clues that predict these events can be found.

Dr. James B. Ellsworth C.P.T. Ph.D. – Retired Senior Executive, Army Intelligence, longtime War College professor, and Charter Life Member, MI Corps Association

Paradoxes of Strategic Intelligence Essays in Honor of Michael I. Handel edited by Richard K. Betts and Thomas G. Mahnken

A collection of essays on surprise and deception and how that effects intelligence analysis.

Intelligence and the National Security Strategist: Enduring Issues and Challenges edited by Roger Z. George and Robert D. Kline

A collection of essays on the study of intelligence.

Handbook of Warning Intelligence: Assessing the Threat to National Security by Cynthia Grabo

A recently declassified book written in 1968 on the fundamentals of intelligence analysis. Garbo provides insights that are as true today as they were almost 50 years ago.

War, Strategy and Intelligence by Michael I. Handel

A collection of essays on intelligence operations at the strategic level focusing on the impacts of technology and other aspects on intelligence analysis. 

Lieutenant Colonel (R) Collin Agee former MNF-I Deputy J2

Ghost Fleet by P.W. Singer and August Cole

The best fictional depiction of a future conflict since Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising.  An analysist will be hard pressed to provide indications and warnings if they don’t know what a future conflict might look like.

Wired for War by P.W. Singer

Technology is changing war an analyst needs to know how to provide insights on future conflicts.

Future Crimes by Marc Goodman

With the rise in cyber-attacks by countries like Russia and North Korea an understanding future technology is important to an intelligence professional.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Written in the 1930s this book takes a fictional look at a bleak future world where technology is more harm than help.  A story that is even more relevant now than when it was written.

1984 by George Orwell

Another fictional look into the future and how a small insurgency fought the power elite. 

The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012 by MG (R) Charles J. Dunlap Jr.   

Written by MG Dunlap when he was a student at the National War College, this novella depiction of successful military coup in the in United States. 

Daniel Pass – Adjunct Professor – Pacific Lutheran University

Spymaster: My Thirty-two Years in Intelligence and Espionage Against the West by Oleg Kalugin

A memoir of a Cold War KGB General who oversaw spies that worked in the United States.

Codes Ciphers and other Cryptic and Clandestine Communications by Fred B. Wrixon

A history of secret codes, writings, and ciphers and how they were broken.

Mark Haselden – Principal Systems Engineer, DHS Intelligence and Analysis, Collection Division

Leaders and Intelligence by Michael I Handel

Intelligence and Military Operations by Michael I Handel

Two additional books by Michael I Handel on Military Intelligence Operations

Intelligence Power in Peace and War by Michael Herman

Authored by a former British intelligence officer this book provides an understanding in to UK and US intelligence analytical frameworks.

War, Resistance and Intelligence: Essays in Honour of M.R.D. Foot by Dr K.G. Robertson

A collection of 17 essays on SOE in World War II written as a way to honor Professor M.R.D. Foot who has been recognized as a leading authority on the subject.

Most Secret War by R.V. Jones

Written by a member of the British Air Ministry’s Intelligence section during World War II, it’s an inside look on British intelligence operations during the war.

KGB: the Inside Story of Its Foreign Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev by Christopher Andrew

For the President’s Eyes Only: Secret Intelligence and American Presidency from Washington to Bush by Christopher Andrew

The Mitrokhin Archive by Christopher Andrew

Just three of many offerings from Christopher Andrew one of the more prolific authors on the subject of intelligence particularly the KGB and Soviet operations.

The CIA Under Harry Truman by Michael Warner

A collection of declassified documents on the birth of the CIA during President Truman’s administration.

Venona: Soviet Espionage and the American Response 1939-1957 edited by Robert Louis Benson and Michael Warner

Warner and Benson, former Intelligence officers, provide an inside account of the successful breaking of KGB codes during the Cold War.

Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Webb – EUCOM J2X, Intelligence Oversight

Ghost Wars by Steve Coll

Steve Coll explains the events leading up to September 11 2001 and how the CIA’s involvement against the Soviets in Afghanistan effected future events.

Charlie Wilson’s War by George Crile

The history of the United States’ involvement in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation.  A good companion read to Ghost Wars.

The Bear Went Over the Mountain by Lester W. Grau

 The Other Side of the Mountain by Lester W. Grau

The Russian/Afghan war from the perspective of both sides of the fight

Major Shad Lancaster – USAOG

How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything by Rosa Brooks

An insider’s examination of the role of the military in today’s world.

Captain Ivan Ong – S2 351st ASB

Intelligence in War by John Keegan

John Keegan takes an in-depth look at how intelligence in wartime has changed throughout history

S-2 In Action by Shipley Thomas

Thomas provides a look at an S2’s roles and responsibilities in an infantry battalion during World War I

Former Army Officer Anne Jones

The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot by Blaine Harden

The true story of a North Korean pilot who stole a MiG-15 during the Korean War and handed it over to the Americans.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 (R) David Slyman

The Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole who Infiltrated the CIA by Joby Warrick

The story of Jordanian al-Qaeda operative Humam Khalil al-Balawi who killed seven CIA operatives in Afghanistan

Christopher Hilliard – Instructor at the US Army Intelligence Center of Excellence

The Ugly American by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick

The story of Homer Atkins who’s lack of cultural understanding and arrogance destroys American foreign policy efforts.

Influence: Science and Practice by Robert B. Cialdini

Discussion on the scientific research on how to be a more effective influencer.

Swords Around a Throne by John R. Elting

An in-depth examination of Napoleon’s Grand Army.

The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal and the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic by Robert L. O’Connell

An in-depth analysis of Carthage’s victory over Rome at Cannae in 216 B.C.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 (R) Wally Price

Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision by Roberta Wohlstetter

Ms. Wohlstetters' book examines the intelligence collected, analyzed, and disseminated (and not disseminated) prior to the Japanese attack in 1941.

The Tet Offensive: Intelligence Failure in War by James J. Wirtz

Mr. Wirtz, examined the intelligence production, conclusions and operations in MACV leading up to the combined VC/NVA offensive in 1968.

The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency by Matthew M. Aid

Mr. Aid chronicles the origins and evolution of NSA from its military predecessor organizations to operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

An Anonymous Former Brigade S2

Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer

No other work describes the left/right limits within the Army profession of ethics and morality. Key plot points evolve around intelligence and the commander's decision based on that intelligence, whether for good or bad.

The Men, The Mission, and Me: Lessons from a Former Delta Force Commander by Peter Blaber

This book is a strong proponent of open source methods, the need to share, and winning the decision-making cycle at the tactical level.

Silence was a Weapon by Stuart A. Herrington

This book describes COL Herrington's work as an intelligence adviser to a South Vietnamese unit at the provincial level.

Front-line Intelligence by Steadman Chandler

Much of the processes/systems described by Chandler in running a BN/BDE S2 were pertinent in WWII, as well as during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Team Yankee by Harold Coyle

A good work depicting the combined arms team in high-intensity combat arms operations at either the company/team or battalion/squadron/taskforce level respectively.

Lieutenant Colonel (R) Stephen H. Franke – Former US Army Middle East Foreign Area Officer

The Blind Leading the Blind: Soviet Advisors, Counter-Insurgency and Nation-Building in Afghanistan

An in-depth analysis of Soviet advisors and counterinsurgency operations during their occupation of Afghanistan.

Arabian Knight: Colonel Bill Eddy USMC and the Rise of American Power in the Middle East by Thomas W. Lippman

The background and work of the 12 Apostles and their clandestine network as well as COL Eddy's later involvement in promoting US interests and increased presence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Lieutenant Colonel James B. Cogbill – Deputy G2, XVIII Airborne Corps

Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War by Fred Kaplan

The recent history of cyber warfare, from the founding of ARPANET in 1967, to more current events like the North Korean hacking of Sony Pictures, the Snowden leaks, and Russian denial of service attacks in Estonia and Georgia.

Ted Baggson – Global Security Intelligence Manager at The Macquarie Group

Conflict Analysis:  Understanding Causes, Unlocking Solutions by Matthew Levinger

An in-depth look at the causes of conflict.

Sensemaking: A Structure for an Intelligence Revolution by David T. Moore

Part of the A. Denis Clift series on the intelligence profession.

Red Team:  How to Succeed by Thinking like the Enemy by Micah Zenko

An in-depth analysis of Red Teams and their ability to affect change within an organization.

Knowing One's Enemies:  Intelligence Assessments before the Two World Wars by Ernest R. May

Sixteen essays on the intelligence assessments of the countries involved in World War II.

The Spycatcher Omnibus: the Spy and Counter-Spy Adventures of Lt. Col Oreste Pinto by Oreste Pento

The Counterintelligence exploits of Lt. Col Oreste Pinto a Dutch intelligence expert that worked for the British prior to and during World War II.

Chris Hamilton – Former Senior Analyst COMSOCEUR

American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964 by William Manchester

Biography of one the Army’s most controversial general officers.

From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia by Pankaj Mishra

An in-depth look at the people who have shaped the rise of China, India and the Muslim World

KGB: The Inside Story of its Foreign Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev by Christopher Andrew

The history of the KGB from its origins during the Russian Revolution to up to 1990.

The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq by Emma Sky

An insider’s view of decisions that influenced the Iraq war

Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick

History of the rise of ISIS through accounts from CIA and Jordanian sources

The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014 by Carlotta Gall

Written from the perspective of someone that has spent over 25 years covering events in Afghanistan.  Gall provides a look at both the war broadly and personally.

The Game of the Foxes by Ladislas Farafo

A detailed account of German intelligence operations during World War II

The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us about Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate by Robert D. Kaplan

Kaplan explores how terrain and climate effect global and regional conflicts.

Lieutenant Colonel Jim Doty – Professor of Military Science, University of Texas at Arlington

War comes to Long An by Jeffrey Race

A study of the insurgency and counterinsurgency efforts in the Vietnam conflict at a provincial level.

Sharpening the Combat Edge: The Use of Analysis to Reinforce Military Judgement by LTG Julian J. Ewell and MG Ira A. Hunt

A study of the US Army’s 9th Infantry Division operations in Vietnam from 1968-70 and why their operations were effective, focusing on the use of analysis in those operations.

Combat Intelligence by Colonel Edwin E. Schwien

Written prior to WWII, argues for Intel officers to brief threat capabilities instead of intentions.

War from the Ground up: Twenty-First Century Combat as Politics by Emile Simpson

A British infantry officer’s firsthand account of war in Afghanistan.

Fulton Wilcox – Colts Neck Solutions LLC

Why Strategic Intelligence Analysis has Limited Influence on American Foreign Policy by Stephen Marrin

The article attempts to explain why senior policy makers so often disregard good intelligence.

Major James King – Executive Officer 312th Military Intelligence Battalion

G2: Intelligence for Patton by Brigadier General Oscar W. Koch

Memoir of Oscar Koch General Patton’s G2 during World War II who was one of the only people to see the indicators of the German offensive that became the Battle of the Bulge.

The Lost Battle of Tet: The Breakout of 2/12th Cavalry at Hue by Charles A. Krohn

Written from the perspective of the battalion S2.  Krohn provides insights into what went wrong and what lessons were learned after his battalion was surrounded during the Tet offensive.

Disciples: The World War II Missions of the CIA Directors Who Fought for Wild Bill Donavan by Douglas Waller

Four future directors of the CIA, Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, William Colby, and William Casey all worked for OSS director William Donavan during World War II.

This Kind of War by T.R. Fehrendbach

Past is prologue as tensions continue to rise on the peninsula it’s a good idea to look back at how the first Korean War was fought.

Presidents’ Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations from World War II through the Persian Gulf by John Prados

John Prados looks at intelligence operations from the inception of the CIA through Desert Storm.

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