Last week, a Chinese surveillance balloon floating over the United States set off a political firestorm in Washington. It also offered a glimpse into the secret world of intelligence gathering, where countries are racing to harness new technologies that will help them gain a competitive edge. But these same new technologies are making spycraft, especially the collection of human intelligence, far more challenging.
To adapt to these changes, Amy Zegart, a Stanford professor and the author of the book "Spies, Lies, and Algorithms," believes the U.S. government should overhaul the way the intelligence community is organized. In a new essay for Foreign Affairs, she argues that a new intelligence agency dedicated to open-source intelligence is needed if the United States is going to keep up. If not, she writes, “a culture of secrecy will continue to strangle the adoption of cutting-edge technical tools from the commercial sector.”
We discuss how human intelligence collection is becoming more dangerous, what the war in Ukraine has revealed about the intelligence world, and the risks and opportunities of open-source intelligence.
Sources for this episode
“Open Secrets” by Amy Zegart”
“Spies Like Us” by Amy Zegart
“Intelligence Isn’t Just for Governments Anymore” by Amy Zegart
“Spies, Lies, and Algorithms” by Amy Zegart and Michael Morell
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“The Foreign Affairs Interview” is produced by Kate Brannen, Julia Fleming-Dresser, and Molly McAnany; original music by Robin Hilton. Special thanks to Grace Finlayson, Nora Revenaugh, Caitlin Joseph, Asher Ross, Gabrielle Sierra, and Markus Zakaria.