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The American Intelligence Tradition

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The United States had a birth unlike many other countries. Born of a revolution based on the values of a representative government, the United States would grow into a global superpower that is currently unrivaled. Because of its current position, the story of how the United States wrestled thirteen colonies away from Great Britain remains quite popular, both in our culture and on college campuses. The colonies defeated a better trained, better funded, professional army that was forging a global empire. Home-field advantage, the surprisingly potent Continental Army, and aid from the French are all widely noted as the tools of American victory. Yet, the above explanation is failing to mention the myriad of things that allowed for the Continental Army to be a strong fighting force. Many things contribute to victory and defeat in war, but one that has stood the test of time will endear itself to all commanders—intelligence.

As it has always been for intelligence, the final intelligence product is never an end-in-itself, but rather a means to an end. Intelligence is only as good as the policy maker reading it. In the hands of the right policy maker—be they President, general, or otherwise—intelligence can sway the course of a battle, even a war. During the American Revolution, both the British and Americans attempted to use intelligence to their advantage. The British had been using their long-standing secret service, which, in practice, fell under the command of the adjunct general. The Americans, however, had to start an intelligence service from nothing. Under the leadership of General George Washington, the Americans would gain success on the battlefield and in the intelligence arena. In the end, the Americans ...

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...itary History, Vol. 26, No. 2 (June/July 2009), 28

Lengel, 28

Lengel, 29

Lengel, 33

Lengel, 33

Lengel, 34

Robert Gates, “Intelligence, Democracy, and Freedom.” Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 2, Freedom and Security (Spring 1992), 236

Gates, 235

Christopher Andrew, “Whitehall, Washington and the Intelligence Services.” International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), Vol. 53, No. 3, (Jul., 1977), 393

Andrew 1977, 400

Lock K. Johnson, “Legislative Reform of Intelligence Policy.” Polity, Vol. 17, No. 3 (Spring, 1985), 551

Johnson, 552

Johnson, 554

Johnson, 556

Christopher Andrew, For the President’s Eyes Only: Secret Intelligence and the American Presidency from Washington to Bush. (New York: Harper Collins Publishers 1995), 251

Andrew 1995, 252

Andrew 1995, 275

Andrew 1995, 415
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