Spying Blind

The CIA, the FBI, and the Origins of 9/11

In the recently published Spying Blind, Amy Zegart argues that after the Cold War ended, the CIA and FBI failed to adapt to the rise of terrorism. She makes the case by conducting painstaking analysis of more than three hundred intelligence reform recommendations and tracing the history of CIA and FBI counterterrorism efforts from 1991 to 2001. Zegart finds that political leaders were well aware of the emerging terrorist danger and the urgent need for intelligence reform, but failed to achieve the changes they sought. The same forces that have stymied intelligence reform for decades are to blame: resistance inside U.S. intelligence agencies, the rational interests of politicians and career bureaucrats, and core aspects of our democracy such as the fragmented structure of the federal government. Zegart argues that these three systemic adaptation barriers allowed nagging organizational weaknesses to endure--ultimately leading the CIA and FBI to miss twenty-three opportunities to disrupt the 9/11 plot.

Amy Zegart is Associate Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles. She has been featured in The National Journal as one of the most influential experts in U.S. intelligence reform. Zegart served on the Clinton Administration’s National Security Council staff and as a foreign policy advisor to the Bush-Cheney 2000 presidential campaign. Since 9/11, she has testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and has provided training to the Marine Corps and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. She has appeared on CNN, NBC, Fox News Channel, National Public Radio, and has provided analysis for the Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and other print media.

Video of this event, which featured a provocative look at the failures that led to Sept. 11 and a robust Q&A led by Schwartz Senior Fellow Peter Bergen, is available at right. An MP3 audio recording can be downloaded below.

Praise for Spying Blind

Thomas H. Kean, chairman of the 9/11 Commission and former governor of New Jersey: There is no longer any doubt of the failure of our intelligence agencies in the years following the Cold War. Amy Zegart has examined the reasons for this failure in addition to the well-meaning but mistaken attempts to address the problem. An important book for all those interested in the nation's security.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University: Amy Zegart has written a pathbreaking book--picking a path through the rubble of countless reform commissions, congressional committees, and expert reports on how to adapt U.S. intelligence infrastructure to a post-Cold War, post-9/11 world. It is essential reading for anyone concerned with the theory or practice of national security in the twenty-first century.


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  • Amy Zegart
    Associate Professor of Public Policy
    University of California, Los Angeles
    Author, Spying Blind

  • Peter Bergen
    Schwartz Senior Fellow
    New America Foundation
    Author, The Osama Bin Laden I Know