Sunday, November 29, 2009

Intelligence Failures and Civilian Contractors

As part of the research for my third novel, I have been reading Edwin Fishel's The Secret War for the Union. It is a book about the role that intelligence gathering played in the outcome of the Civil War.

In the initial parts of the book, Fischel makes a persuasive case that an intelligence failure contributed to the Union defeat at First Bull Run. A spy attached to General Patterson's Federal army in the Shenandoah Valley learned that Joseph Johnston's army in the same region had left its positions to reinforce General Beauregard's forces at Manassas. Patterson failed to pass on the information in time to help General Irvin McDowell, commander of the Union Army at Manassas. The information that McDowell did have about Johnston's approaching army was not processed by his staff because he had no intelligence officer. In the end, Johnston's reinforcements played a decisive role in defeating Union forces at First Manassas. Even in the Civil War, intelligence failures played an important role in victory and defeat.

The Civil War also gave us among the first civilian contractors in our history. Allan Pinkerton, the Scottish-born head of a Chicago-based detective agency, was hired by George McClellan to do counterintelligence in Washington, DC and to spy on the Confederacy. Pinkerton arrested Rose Greenhow, the Confederate spy in Washington and sent agents to Richmond. However, he remained a civilian and never acquired a military commission. Though Fishel doesn't give him the label, Pinkerton was a civilian contractor. The CIA after 9/11 was not the first to subcontract its work to outside civilians.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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