252 Items

A battle-scarred home draped with an Israeli flag in Kibbutz Be'eri, an Israeli communal farm on the Gaza border. AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov

AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov

Report - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Challenging Biases and Assumptions in Analysis: Could Israel Have Averted Intelligence Failure?

| April 2024

The human tragedy continuing to unfold in Gaza and Israel reminds us how important it is to get strategic forecasting right. While in no way excusing Hamas’ culpability for 7 October, we also cannot dismiss the fact that the failure to anticipate and prepare for such an attack has had grave consequences for communities on both sides of this conflict, undermined efforts to bring peace and prosperity to the region, and affected global interests through the expansion of the conflict to the Red Sea and potentially beyond. 

A picture of a military man standing with a Ukraine flag

alimyakubov|Adobe Stock

Analysis & Opinions - The Cipher Brief

Ten Answers to Skeptic’s Questions on Ukraine

| Apr. 01, 2024

As I and former colleagues with long experience in Russia speak on the need to support Ukraine, we are repeatedly asked the same skeptical questions. The queries reveal that our assumptions about the facts, nature, and stakes of the war are not universally shared. Here’s my crack at some of the most common questions posed by Ukraine aid skeptics, along with the answers I would offer.

Stacks of boxes in the ballroom of Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla.

U.S. Justice Department/Getty Images

Analysis & Opinions - The Washington Post

Our Job was to Brief Trump on Intelligence. His Job was to Protect the Secrets.

| June 27, 2023

It was the Intelligence Communities job to provide information and the president’s job to use the information to further the nation’s interests and to protect the capabilities that created such advantage. The only duty to national security that Trump retained upon leaving office was the lifelong responsibility not to disclose the information. He’s now being held accountable for his alleged failure to do so, as our system demands.

Report - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Intelligence Community Ethical Practice

| June 2023

This paper provides a framework for a program to advance IC ethics professionalization, to better serve the national interest, avoid ethical lapses or moral pitfalls, and strengthen US national security and the Intelligence Community against the risk of politicization. The program would serve as catalyst for national security intelligence officials to better perceive, reflect on, make judgments about, and potentially act on ethical lapses in the midst, in adjacent units, or higher in the chain of command. The program would provide a means for officials to deliberate on real or hypothetical ethical dilemmas, both as individuals or in groups.

A worker cleans glass panels of the Bank of China headquarters building near a decoration setup for the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Beijing, Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018. Chinese President Xi Jinping will chair the forum held in the capital city from Sept. 3-4, 2023.

AP Photo/Andy Wong


China's 21st Century Aspirational Empire

| May 2023

This paper addresses the question of how the Chinese party-state chooses to exercise its economic, financial, diplomatic, military and soft power in the next 25 years will make a great difference to US national security and foreign policy, and to developments in the rest of the world. The paper makes three key points:

The core argument of this paper is that Beijing will likely aspire to pursue an empire-like position globally, not just seek an Asia-Pacific sphere of influence, and that this aspiration will founder. Achieving an empire-like position is both an imperative and is infeasible. The tensions between goal and reality will likely characterize China’s role in the world in coming decades and will be central to the difficulties of US-China relations. Second, there is heuristic value for US policymakers and analysts to consider a 20-year outlook on the rise of China that encompasses China’s pursuit of a global empire-like position. Third, paying close attention to how Beijing organizes its own government, corporate, and non-governmental organizations to seek an empire-like position will provide important signposts emerging tension and trends.

Chinese paramilitary police and security officers wear face masks to protect against the spread of the new coronavirus as they stand guard outside an entrance to the Forbidden City in Beijing, Friday, May 1, 2020. The Forbidden City reopened beginning on Friday, China's May Day holiday, to limited visitors after being closed to the public for more than three months during the coronavirus outbreak.

AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Affairs

The Bad Advice Plaguing Beijing’s Foreign Policy

| Apr. 27, 2023

The incursion in January of a Chinese spy balloon into U.S. airspace seemed to many observers like a bad miscalculation by Beijing. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had been scheduled to travel to China the following month, but the balloon incident led to the scrapping of the much-anticipated visit. Chinese leader Xi Jinping almost certainly would have preferred to see diplomacy proceed as planned. It is likely that he would not have sanctioned this operation had he known its consequences. If he believed that the United States would simply overlook the incursion, he was clearly mistaken.

Report - Intelligence Project

Report: Marking the CIA’s 75th Anniversary: Reflections on the Past, Visions of the Future

Since its creation in 1947, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been at the heart of supporting United States foreign policy and national security decision-making. From the early days of the Cold War to Russia’s war against Ukraine, the CIA has been a critical instrument of foreign intelligence collection, analysis, and operations. However, the CIA is often misunderstood, as its own work and history, particularly its successes, are rarely seen by the public. To help unpack this storied history, and in honor of the agency’s 75th anniversary, on September 16, 2022, former directors, officers, scholars, students, and the public gathered to discuss the past, present, and future of the agency. 

President Truman signs National Security Act Amendments


Report - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Imagining a New U.S. National Security Act for the 21st Century: Winning Essays

| July 19, 2022

The Intelligence and Applied History Projects hosted a National Security Act Essay Contest in 2022 entitled: “Imagining a New National Security Act for the 21st Century.” The contest sought to generate new ideas for improving the intelligence and national security community in the US based on the dynamic security environment we face in the 21st century. The essay prompt offered a variety of hypothetical scenarios where intelligence failure contributed to catastrophic failure and posed the question: what you would change now to improve the intelligence and national security posture of the US?

The winning essays, from a field of approximately 75 applicants, were authored by (1) Russell Travers, (2) Sophie Faaborg-Andersen, and (3) Marie Couture and Laurie LaPorte. The authors' winning essays appear in this report.