Rethinking Intelligence: Reforms for a Failing System

The U.S. intelligence enterprise is in crisis: NSA spying; CIA torture; waste, fraud, and abuse in the military; foreign policy in disarray; intelligence failures in Egypt, Libya, Syria, and the Ukraine; terrorists slipping through FBI dragnets. Despite heavy news coverage, reform efforts have been slow, incremental, and ineffectual, raising questions as to whether Congress and the courts remain effective checks against abuse.

Brennan Center fellow Michael German, a former FBI Special Agent, interviews former government officials, academics, and advocates who have challenged conventional wisdom about the effectiveness of U.S. intelligence, national defense, and homeland security policies. Their expert analysis lays the groundwork for a more intelligent and robust intelligence enterprise.



Follow the project on Twitter @RethinkIntel and see our recent work and appearances here.


What is “intelligence?” What do we expect to gain from it? How do we measure its success or failure? Understanding the scope of U.S. Intelligence demonstrates the need for effective controls.

This project was designed to broaden the national conversation about intelligence reform, draw attention to flaws in national security, and create a path forward for informed policy reforms.

Examining how U.S. intelligence programs are corrupted through poor practices, poor processes, and poor policy choices will inform policy reforms that lead to stronger, more effective intelligence practices.

Michael German is a 16-year veteran of the FBI and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. Mr. German left the FBI in 2004 after reporting continuing deficiencies in FBI counterterrorism operations to Congress.


A Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts convened a hearing on the use of the term “radical Islam” in government documents and combating terrorism strategies.

Current oversight mechanisms for U.S. Intelligence simply don't work. There are reforms, however, that can help re-establish public confidence in U.S. intelligence agencies, keep our nation safe, and protect Americans' civil liberties.

Learn more about the intelligence experts featured throughout this project.

A comprehensive list of additional resources, reads and references.