Friday, July 13, 2007

Amy Zegart

Amy Zegart is an Associate Professor at UCLA's School of Public Affairs, where she teaches courses in U.S. foreign policy and public management, and the author of the forthcoming Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI, and the Origins of 9/11.

Earlier this week I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
Right now, I am carting around Tim Weiner's tome, Legacy of Ashes, which just came out. It is a scholarly masterpiece and in my view will be the definitive history of the CIA. Weiner, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist from the New York Times, makes use of thousands of pages of recently declassified documents and on the record interviews with scores of intelligence officials. This is no small feat; relatively few insiders criticize the CIA out loud, and fewer still are willing to be named. Though I have some bones to pick with him (he tends to see individuals and their personalities as pivotal; I find them largely irrelevant), the book is richly researched and wickedly written. My favorite line so far is Weiner's description of Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter, the 3rd director of the burgeoning CIA: "He exuded insignificance."

The next two books on my to-read list are far afield from the CIA: Jerome Groopman's How Doctors Think -- which examines the psychology of medical judgment errors -- and Walter Isaacson's biography of Einstein. I desperately avoided science as a child, but am fascinated by how scientists invent, think, and recover from failures.

Sad to say I steer clear of the fiction section of the book store entirely, and always have.
Amy Zegart has been featured by The National Journal as one of the ten most influential experts in intelligence reform.

She worked on the Clinton Administration's National Security Council staff in 1993, served as a foreign policy advisor to the Bush-Cheney 2000 presidential campaign, and has testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Her research focuses on the design problems of U.S. national security agencies. She received a Ph.D. in Political Science from Stanford University, where she studied under Condoleezza Rice. Her first book, Flawed By Design: The Evolution of the CIA, JCS and NSC (Stanford University Press, 1999), won the highest national dissertation award in Political Science and has become standard reading for several U.S. military and intelligence training programs.

Read more about her forthcoming book Spying Blind at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue