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Securing the State [Hardcover]

David Omand
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

9 July 2010
Governments recognise that national security in the turbulent conditions of the early twenty-first century must centre on the creation of public confidence that normal life can continue even in the face of threats such as terrorism and proliferation, and of natural hazards such as pandemics and climate change. Based on his own experience in government, David Omand argues that while public security is vital for good government, the effects of bad government will result from failure to maintain the right relationship between justice, liberty, privacy, civic harmony and security measures. His book examines in detail how secret intelligence helps governments to deliver security, but also risks raising public concern over its methods. A set of ethical principles is proposed to guide intelligence and security work within the framework of human rights. Securing the State provides a new way of thinking about the cycle of activities that generates secret intelligence, examines the issues that arise from the way that modern intelligence uses technology to access new sources of information, and discusses how the meaning of intelligence can best be elucidated. The limits of intelligence in enabling greater security are explored, especially in guiding government in a world in which we must learn not to be surprised by surprise. Illustrated throughout by historical examples, David Omand provides new perspectives for practitioners and those teaching security and intelligence studies and for a wider readership offers an accessible introduction to pressing issues of public policy.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd (9 July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849040788
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849040785
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 406,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'David Omand's superb book is a reminder of why state security is important. . . Every security practitioner should read this book, which distils so much experience gathered at the sharp end of security. Sir David Omand is undoubtedly one of the most able people to have served in British government since the Second World War.' --Times Literary Supplement

'An invaluable handbook for politicians, intelligence professionals, journalists and anyone else who wants to know what should and should not be done in the name of securing the state in an age of surprise, turbulence and implacably hostile terrorist networks that are more than capable of using the latest technology.' --The Economist

'Few books on national security become instant classics in their field. Sir David Omand's brilliantly insightful and authoritative Securing the State likely will be one of those. It is one of the most important studies on the role intelligence services play in crafting successful counterterrorism measures by governments, the book's primary, although not sole, focus.' --The Washington Times

About the Author

Sir David Omand, GCB, was Intelligence and Security Coordinator in the Cabinet Office from 2002-5, responsible for the counter-terrorism strategy, CONTEST. He was for seven years a member of the Joint Intelligence Committee and has served as Permanent Secretary of the Home Office and the Cabinet Office, and has been Director of GCHQ (the UK signals intelligence agency) and Deputy Under Secretary of State for Defence Policy in the Ministry of Defence. He is now a visiting Professor in the War Studies Department of King's College London and an honorary Fellow of Corpus Christi College, University Cambridge.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
What makes this book so good is that it covers such a vast area of intelligence work and that it is so well written. The author also brings to it his unique experience, as director of the GCHQ etc. Many similar books fall in the trap of saying too little, thus they become dull.

Except for some unnecessary repetitions, a few words missing in sentences and an occasional error this book is exiting to read from the beginning to its end. Some chapters are a bit too short, but then the book itself is long enough.

The book simply explains why we need secret intelligence services. As its starting point it takes the famous Frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti in Palazzo Pubblico in Siena known as "Allegory and Effects of Good and Bad Government". The return to the notion of bad and good government throughout the book is a pedagogical masterwork. Omand shows what needs to be kept hidden and what should be kept open, placing equal responsibility on the shoulders of both intelligence organization and the public. The author does a good job at setting the rules for intelligence work, all well explained with examples. Omand explains what has become different in the world of intelligence since 9/11, how intelligence organizations from around the world have been forced to cooperate, and what can be outsourced and what must be done in-house. The only surprise here is that Omand argues so strongly for private contractors in combat situations. He also suggests that Open Source Search is better left to private actors (P. 311).

The strongest part of the book is in my opinion how Omand professionalizes the profession. This view is best summoned up in the sentence "The Intelligence Community is a Knowledge Industry" (P. 294).
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Securing the State 5 Aug 2010
Format:Hardcover
A book aimed at the specialist and those who work in government but is extremely interesting and valuable for someone interested in the secret world, managing crises along with the process of government and regulation in this difficult area. Explanations are given about the collection of secret information, its analyses and circulation to the end user. Given the role of the author in government and the security agencies much of what he writes is reassuring.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Securing the State 20 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Brilliant in analysis. Thorough in coverage. This man knows his subject well. A must for all University deoartments in International Relations.
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1 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible book by Sir David Omand. 24 Mar 2013
Format:Paperback
The book Securing the State by Sir David Omand is rubbish. Sir David Bruce Omand GCB talks about how Governments recognise that national security in the turbulent conditions of the early twenty-first century must centre on the creation of public confidence that normal life can continue even in the face of threats such as terrorism and proliferation, and of natural hazards such as pandemics and climate change.

David Omand's book does not clearly demonstrates a highly sophisticated, critical and thorough understanding of the
topic. Provides clear evidence of originality and independence of thought and clearly
demonstrates exceptional ability to develop a highly systematic and logical or insightful
argument, solution or evaluation.

Securing the state by David Omand does not show an exceptionally high level of
clarity, focus and cogency in communication.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligence for the 21st Century 9 Sep 2010
By Retired Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This remarkable book is really a very lucid and original explanation of the relationship of intelligence to national security and its important sub-set homeland security. It usefully defines the basic purpose of intelligence as "to improve the quality of decision making by reducing ignorance." According to Sir David intelligence really has three primary uses: 1) to provide situational awareness, that is to provide information on a developing or continuing situation that is not obvious to relevant decision makers; 2) to provide explanations of events to relevant decision makers; and 3) to provide predictions of potential actions and events prior to their occurring to decision makers. Using this as a basis, he then proceeds to examine the role that intelligence has within the national security establishment. This as it turns out is a complicated relationship involving tactical, operational, strategic and strategic intelligence.
Although the focus of the book is on intelligence it by necessity must also dissect and analyze concepts of national security. Therefore the reader will find carefully thought out discussions of what constitutes national security and such important security topics as resilience. Because the book is focused on intelligence, Sir David also has some very well informed sections on intelligence tradecraft including analytic pitfalls. He also has an accurate understanding of the so-called intelligence cycle and clearly explains how it really works.
The book is a bit weak in the realm of intelligence collection, but this is because this is a very sensitive area and Sir David was clearly trying to avoid stepping on toes. On the other hand he has a brilliant section on the importance of open (publicly available) intelligence.
All in all this is one of the most complete and well crafted books on both intelligence and national security that has been published since 9/11. It is well worth a read and maybe even a reread.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books on Intelligence written in a long time 13 Oct 2010
By Silen Klaus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
What makes this book so good is that it covers such a vast area of intelligence work and that it is so well written. The author also brings to it his unique experience, as director of the GCHQ etc. Many similar books fall in the trap of saying too little, thus they become dull.

Except for some unnecessary repetitions, a few words missing in sentences and an occasional error this book is exiting to read from the beginning to its end. Some chapters are a bit too short, but then the book itself is long enough.

The book simply explains why we need secret intelligence services. As its starting point it takes the famous Frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti in Palazzo Pubblico in Siena known as "Allegory and Effects of Good and Bad Government". The return to the notion of bad and good government throughout the book is a pedagogical masterwork. Omand shows what needs to be kept hidden and what should be kept open, placing equal responsibility on the shoulders of both intelligence organization and the public. The author does a good job at setting the rules for intelligence work, all well explained with examples. Omand explains what has become different in the world of intelligence since 9/11, how intelligence organizations from around the world have been forced to cooperate, and what can be outsourced and what must be done in-house. The only surprise here is that Omand argues so strongly for private contractors in combat situations. He also suggests that Open Source Search is better left to private actors (P. 311).

The strongest part of the book is in my opinion how Omand professionalizes the profession. This view is best summoned up in the sentence "The Intelligence Community is a Knowledge Industry" (P. 294). He then goes on to explain how this should be done, first of all by looking at the Intelligence profession more strictly as a producer of material for making decisions. The focus should be on objectivity, the truth, on risk management and intelligence analysis. In particular I enjoyed the discussion of different biases (group thinking, mirror-imaging etc). At the end the author sees the professions job as one of reducing ignorance, at the end to increase the public good.

Omand also suggests how to tackle future challenges, like new technology, the abundance of OSINT and how to work in interactive networks. More importantly he uses his experience to tell others how to give advice, that is, how to present intelligence to decision makers. In so doing he effectively discusses the difference between policy and intelligence facts.

Furthermore he wants to educate the public, telling them what they can and cannot expect from the services, summed up in the phrase "living with and not being surprised by surprise". We are also given some interesting tit-bits, like that it is estimated that 60% of the President's Daily brief content does not appear in the Media (P. 193). He also promises the reader that the UK Intelligence branches, unlike certain others, does not carry out extra-judicial targeted killings.

Omand acknowledges the importance of reaching out to the Academic Community (p. 295) and welcomes a UK Intelligence academy. He seems to want a joint intelligence organization, but know that the political leaders will not buy it, afraid that too much influence will end on too few hands. The most problematic suggestion in the book may be the argument for more Pre-emptive Secret Intelligence (PROINT), indicating further and extended loss of privacy. It is a difficult idea to sell to the public in this new social contract. Let us snoop more into your personal affairs and you will be safer. The alternative is of course less security, that is, more "intelligence gaps".

Dr. Klaus Solberg Söilen
5.0 out of 5 stars THE Best Book by a Professional -- All Text, Some Gaps 2 Feb 2013
By Robert David STEELE Vivas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I recommend this book along with another I just reviewed, by Alfred Rolington long-term CEO of Janes, Strategic Intelligence for the 21st Century: The Mosaic Method.

This is a master work, and Retired Reader (retired NSA pioneer Richard Wright, who contributes to Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog) beat me to it. He is a reviewer worthy of being followed.

The author is as erudite as Alfred Rolington, and the book is completely different, one reason I recommend both books. The first, by Rolington, is a primer, and recommended for students. This book is for professionals, and could well be a primary text for properly managed mid-career courses where officers should be forced to reflect deeply on why their profession exists and how to better engage in that profession.

I am loading a few graphics from my briefing this past week to the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB) in Washington, D.C. as they illustrate some of the points I am going to make about where this book falls short. No critical comment lessens the value of the work as a whole. If I had to pick a dozen people to guide me in managing a new global intelligence agency tomorrow, the author of this book would be one of the first to be called.

The primary short-fall in this book is the author's no doubt judicious but still mis-leading avoidance of any criticism of his policy and political consumers. The UK's blind support of US lies leading to Iraq was not helpful. Nor is the reality that secret intelligence is safely ignored, and that intelligence has nothing at all to do with how the total budget of the nation is applied. Paul Pillar makes the point very ably in Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy: Iraq, 9/11, and Misguided Reform. This book also does not address the fact that the City of London and the LIBOR scandal and the elite pedophile rings that in turn bless many other crimes against humanity, are outside the mandate of the secret world. I believe the 21st century is going to be about the juxtaposition of open source intelligence broadly shared, and absolutely ruthless ultra-secret counterintelligence that flushes the wicked from our own house.

The second shortfall of this book is its assumption, common among intelligence professionals, that intelligence is a government prerogative and comprised mainly of secrecy for policy. Related, not worthy of separation, is the book's disingeneous portrayal of terrorism as "the" threat against which "resilience" must be nurtured, while more and more surveillance must be undertaken. Terrorism is a tactic, not a threat, and what the US and UK do to others in the way of proliferation, trade in women and especially children, environmental degradation, disease including vaccines that contain hidden sterilization measures, and on and on and on, is vastly more threatening to humanity than a few pissed off Islamics, many of them, such as the retarded teen-ager in California, false-flag terrorists created to keep the insecurity of the public alive. I am quite sure the author is fully conscious of what the real threats are -- starting with poverty among the people and corruption among the peers -- and the book is not to be dismissed for this, but because it is such an important work, I feel it essential to draw this line in the sand. Until intelligence can provide decision support for ALL, and until counter-intelligence can keep the mandarins HONEST, it will be a below the stairs housekeeping function, not a principal at the high table.

Having said all that, I love this book. As a fan of poet-warrior-scholar Ralph Peters, see for instance Lines of Fire: A Renegade Writes on Strategy, Intelligence, and Security [ LINES OF FIRE: A RENEGADE WRITES ON STRATEGY, INTELLIGENCE, AND SECURITY BY Peters, Ralph ( Author ) Sep-19-2011, and as a deep admirer of how Winston Churchull put his speeches together in poetic form, I am absolutely charmed by the poetry in this book.

This is a deep book, full of nuances (e.g. degrees of truth), and one of the most important values of this book is its defense of Human Intelligence (HUMINT), or in the author's terms, "single-source reporting." He is correct. The US and UK have gone nuts on technical collection, mostly because it is a fantastic way to waste huge quantities of money that generate 5% kick-backs for Congress in the USA. Never mind that this collected information is not processed, not made sense of. Never mind that it is not done in all 183 languages that matter, 33 of them critical, including twelve dialects of Arabic. I share the author's appreciation for HUMINT done right, and only lament that the US is incapable of getting it right. (Side Note: Churchill drew a laugh when he told Pariament "The Americans always do the right thing, they just try everything else first." What Churchill missed is that the Americans are absolute geniuses at thinking up new things to do wrong.] The US intelligence "system" is a $75 billion a year money pit that produces, according to General Tony Zinni, USMC (Ret), "at best" 4% of what a major consumers needs, to which I would add "and nothing at all for everyone else."

There is a strong measure of ethical purity running through the book, of civic duty, and I cannot help but feel that the author has another great 20 years ahead of him, this time doing what he does best in a larger global context, using predominantly open sources, and being utterly committed to the PUBLIC service rather than the pro forma service to the mandarins.

He ends with an all too brief call for harnessing all the talent that is truncated (he is speaking of a joint intelligence college, not an eight tribes network (my eight tribes, illustrated in the image under the book cover above, include academia, civil society, commerce, government, law enforcement, media, military, and non-government/non-profit) and for learning from history. He also has a chapter on intelligence design that I could easily discuss for a week, for now let me just suggest my current papers found by searching for the phrase 21st Century Public Intelligence 3.1.

I've decided to keep this book. After I donated my entire library to George Mason University during my brief tenure with the United Nations, I have traveled light and donate all books to the local library after reading and reviewing. This one I must keep. Put as directly as possible, I believe the author to be something of a genius at the professional of intelligence, but he has been playing with only a portion of the deck, the secret government half. I'd like to think more about how to apply that genius to the whole deck.

Those interested in most of my other reviews of books on intelligence can find them by searching for the phrase Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Intelligence (Most) and also at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog, use the middle column to browse my latest reviews not in this list, look for the categories (and number of review):

Intelligence (Collective & Quantum) (110)
Intelligence (Commercial) (85)
Intelligence (Extra-Terrestrial) (20)
Intelligence (Government/Secret) (374)
Intelligence (Public) (290)
Intelligence (Spiritual) (4)
Intelligence (Wealth of Networks) (76)

I have not done justice to this book, but over time may circle back and augment this review. Certainly I hope to meet the author one day and talk about what a multinational station in each region should look like, and how one might create a Centre for Public Intelligence in each district. There is so much yet to be done.

With best wishes to all,
Robert David STEELE Vivas
2000 ON INTELLIGENCE: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World
1 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mahan Abedin 15 Sep 2010
By Pax Romana - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Reviewed by Mahan Abedin

Three chapters in particular should be read very carefully as they are a masterful exposition of the entire intelligence process. The Intelligence Cycle (chapter 5, pp 113-137) describes the demands and pressures that create the need for secret intelligence activity, as well the processes and dynamics which characterize that activity. Elucidation (chapter 6, pp 139-169) explains the analytical techniques that are used to validate secret intelligence and moreover the effort that is required to marry-up different strands of secret information.

Furthermore, it explains in great detail the difficulties involved in forming overall intelligence assessments, the core product which is delivered to policy-makers and other customers. Analysts and policymakers: Idealists and Realists (chapter 7, pp 171-208) is a shrewd discussion on the intricate and sometimes difficult relationship between the intelligence and policy making communities. Omand draws on his own extensive experience as well as a wide range of academic literature (from psychology to military doctrines) to illuminate these specialized domains
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