Human Intelligence, Counterterrorism, and National Leadership: A Practical Guide

By Gary Berntsen; Reviewed by Col. Britt Mallow (Ret.)

***** Human Intelligence, Counterterrorism, and National Leadership: A Practical Guide. By Gary Berntsen. Potomac Books,; 110 pages; $15.96.

Retired CIA Officer Gary Berntsen has prepared an insightful guide to the realm of intelligence and counterterrorism that is both useful and easy to read. His experience as a professional in the complex U.S. intelligence community over many years has qualified him to present a clear and honest appraisal of the political and operational terrain that shapes today’s fight against global terrorists and the security challenges we all face. Billed as a “guide for an incoming president and White House staff,” this book better suits a more intermediate audience and would certainly be of use to security practitioners.

The book covers the basics of the intelligence business, from how our intelligence agencies are organized to how covert action works. Chapters on counterterrorism and catastrophic-event response are particularly valuable for the security professional, and the author’s description of tactical response to hostage situations is an excellent summary of what one needs to know. At the end of each chapter, the author summarizes “Critical Points.” This is particularly useful to the reader.

Berntsen includes commentary on various aspects of these issues, including the need for national leaders to understand the role of clandestine services and covert action, and the need for solid language and cultural training for military and intelligence officers. Berntsen suggests that the military stay out of the human intelligence business and that the CIA continue to expand its paramilitary role.

However, this suggestion seems to reveal more of his personal bias than historical or strategic perspective.

This book is a fair summary of issues relating to intelligence, counterterrorism, and response. It certainly provides some interesting perspective and opinion on policy. It is not, however, a primer worthy of new presidents or senior staff. This would be a good read for security professionals at the intermediate level.

Reviewer: Col. Britt Mallow (Retired) is a counterterrorism and security practitioner with more than 34 years of experience. He is an associate department head at the MITRE Corporation and the chair of the ASIS Council on Global Terrorism, Political Instability, and International Crime.



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