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Professor Samuel Rascoff’s Presidential Intelligence reflects both the conceptual and research strengths of the author, which are formidable, and the practical difficulties of intelligence reform, which are no less so. Rascoff is certainly right that to be effective – in the still-unfolding constitutional environment that must contend with terror groups armed with unprecedented weapons and communications technology – the intelligence community (IC) must act within the law and the rules governing that community must be reformed to make this possible. He is inclined to believe that the answer lies in heightened presidential management. I’m not so sure. The actual presidential control over the vast intelligence apparatus is much more extensive than Presidential Intelligence acknowledges, although it is so secreted in the daily flow of tasking, decisionmaking, and after-action reporting that few outside a very limited number of White House offices can actually know and appreciate its extent. I am very doubtful that the mistakes attributed to the zeal of the IC were committed without direction from the most senior officials in the Bush and Obama Administrations. Moreover, Rascoff’s proposals to enhance presidential control may well be eclipsed by the recent announcements made by Director John Brennan about the reorganization of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) because Brennan’s proposals go to the real problem with the intelligence agencies of the United States.


Law | Military, War, and Peace | President/Executive Department