This essay will analyze the key factors that may lead the intelligence failures to occur. Through discovering various materials, I find out that the failures are commonly caused by a combination of internal and external errors. Before discussing some reasons for the error, we need to understand the nature of intelligence work. The work is an outcome of team effort, as it consist a series of human endeavours, therefore it cannot be completely accurate. In fact, the intelligence failure could cause an intelligence agency or government to carry out operations that are counterproductive and improper to its own interest.
Arguably saying, the worst intelligence failure is a chain of errors that could convert a fiasco to a global crisis. The detailed analysis will be illustrated in the following cases. A: The Bay of Pigs In 1961, The Bay of Pigs project, CIA sponsored Cuban exiles to topple the administration of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. After finish the training in Guatemala, the exile army begin their invasion at the Bay of Pigs. As we already know, the outcome was unsuccessful because the exiles were defeated within three days and about 1500 of them were captured.
The failure had a negative impact on the Kennedy administration, as they were defeated and brother of the president John F. Kennedy had to sign an agreement to pay 53 million dollar worth of food and medicine in exchange of the imprisoned Cuban exiles. The aftermath of the incident was catastrophic which brought several negative effects upon the administration, the chief of CIA resigned and Kennedy’s faith in CIA had declined. Moreover, this incident directly triggered the Cuba missile crisis in 1962. The entire operation was considered as one of the greatest intelligence failure in the US history. Trumbull, H pg154) Internal Errors Underestimation: The CIA completely underestimated the political and military power of Castro’s regime. As before the invasion, CIA made an assessment on Castro’s regime as being weakened, which led to the assumption of Castro’s limited supporters could privilege the invasion. Based on such prediction, CIA thought that Cuban anti-Castro underground would quickly assemble and fight against Castro’s regime after the Cuban exiles ashore the Bay of Pigs. However, there was no popular uprising from the Cuban people. This assumption was a total misperception.
Later on the classified documents revealed that above 90% of the Cuban people were actually like Castro. (Wyden. P pg93) The failure to maintain of secrecy: Base on the characters of intelligence, the secrecy is needed for any intelligence work. It is important to understand that before the implementation of any intelligence conduct, no relevant information should be revealed to the public. (Born, H. , & Caparini, M pg37) As we can see from the Bay of Pigs, although CIA tried to keep the project covert, the project itself still became a common knowledge in Miami.
Due to the number of Cuban exiles training in Guatemala were too large, geographically close to Cuba. It was impossible to maintain at low exposure, and the operation itself was too large and noisy. As a result, Castro had already been altered before the invasion. Meanwhile the exile brigades were spotted by the local Cuban militias at the first day of landing. (Wyden. P pg173) Administrative problem: As the frictions between the communist worlds were getting intense, and the United States was not able to support Castro’s political ideology.
In order to overthrown Castro’s regime, the plan to train Cuban exiles for an invasion of Cuba was established in early 1960, within the Eisenhower administration. The new president John F. Kennedy received the brief on this plan from CIA during his inauguration. Despite the efforts of maintaining the invasion plans as it was originally planned. I tend to believe that the detail and time line for the plan was actually diverted due to new administration taking place. The evidences show that JFK had been persuaded several times by CIA for executing this plan.
Moreover, it was affirmed that the Castro regime would grow stronger rather than weaker when the time goes by. (Wyden. P pg 104) Therefore, The Kennedy administration might have missed the best time to attack. B: The failure of atomic intelligence After the Second World War, spying on soviet atomic weapons was at the top priority for the western intelligence. However, American and British did not have any agents inside the Soviet Union, or in other cases they did not know how or where to penetrate. (ALDRICH, R J pg218 ) Based on the record, they did even know where the Russians were developing their atomic infrastructure.
The assumption was that Russians might explode their first new clear bomb in 1954. Whereas, the assumption had miscalculated for 5 years, in 1949, Russian had already tested their first atomic bomb. This event shattered the whole western world, shortly after the nuclear arms race began. External Errors Lack of intelligence resources: In this case, the western intelligence had failed to surveillance the soviets atomic program. Due to they did not have the sufficient personnel to penetrate inside Russian nuclear facilities. ALDRICH, R J pg222 ) The best they can do was protecting their own nuclear secrets from the soviets intelligence. The lack of resources is a popular reason that why intelligence fail. Overestimation: This could be the most common error that leads to the intelligence failure. As during the Long Cold War period in which the almost all the intelligence agencies were consistently exaggerating the power and quantity of their new clear weapons. The estimation of the “missile gap” between United States and Soviet Union were largely diverted from the real data. ALDRICH, R J pg371) This error induces the famous “new clear arms race” which was counterproductive to both countries. In conclusion, any human conducts could cause errors to happen. In other words, the intelligence work is highly involved with the human efforts. Therefore the failure is unavoidable. For the intelligence agencies around the world, maintaining a minimum amount of errors in the conduct is the key. By understanding the intelligence is not error free might help to perfect the work to achieve success.