Securing the State

Part of the Intelligence and Security series
July 2010 9781849041881 368pp
EU Customers


Governments recognise that national security in the turbulent conditions of the early twenty-first century must centre on the creation of public confidence that normal life can continue even in the face of threats such as terrorism and proliferation, and of natural hazards such as pandemics and climate change.

Based on his own experience in government, David Omand argues that while public security is vital for good government, the effects of bad government will result from failure to maintain the right relationship between justice, liberty, privacy, civic harmony and security measures. His book examines in detail how secret intelligence helps governments to deliver security, but also risks raising public concern over its methods. A set of ethical principles is proposed to guide intelligence and security work within the framework of human rights.

Securing the State provides a new way of thinking about the cycle of activities that generates secret intelligence, examines the issues that arise from the way that modern intelligence uses technology to access new sources of information, and discusses how the meaning of intelligence can best be elucidated. The limits of intelligence in enabling greater security are explored, especially in guiding government in a world in which we must learn not to be surprised by surprise. Illustrated throughout by historical examples, David Omand provides new perspectives for practitioners and those teaching security and intelligence studies and for a wider readership offers an accessible introduction to pressing issues of public policy.


‘An invaluable handbook for politicians, intelligence professionals, journalists and anyone else who wants to know what should and should not be done in the name of securing the state in an age of surprise, turbulence and implacably hostile terrorist networks that are more than capable of using the latest technology’ — The Economist

‘Few books on national security become instant classics in their field. Sir David Omand’s brilliantly insightful and authoritative Securing the State will be one of those. It is one of the most important studies on the role intelligence services play in crafting successful counterterrorism measures by governments, the book’s primary, although not sole, focus.’ — The Washington Times

‘David Omand’s superb book is a reminder of why state security is important. …  Every security practitioner should read this book, which distils so much experience gathered at the sharp end of security. Sir David Omand is undoubtedly one of the most able people to have served in British government since the Second World War.’ — Times Literary Supplement

‘This book is overdue. Omand evidences how much learning is necessary to keep the concepts of resilience and security fit for ethical purposes. Scholars and practitioners have much to do and learn, whilst time is not necessarily on anyone’s side. The challenge for citizens and leadership cannot be overstated. There is much to gain and a great deal to lose by not learning faster’ — Dr. John Reid. Chair of the Institute of Security and Resilience Studies, University College London, and former UK Home Secretary and Defence Secretary

‘We live today in a complex, unstable and interconnected world which requires expert navigation if it is to be understood. David Omand’s career in, and commitment to, the security of the British citizen is beyond peer and here, in a highly readable form, is simply the best available guide to the current challenges to our safety and what needs to be done to mitigate them.’ — Rt Hon Lord Robertson of Port Ellen KT GCMG, former Secretary of State for Defence and Secretary General of NATO

‘A thoughtful, exceptionally well-informed book. Essential reading for anyone seriously interested in the role of intelligence in modern government.’ — Sir John Scarlett, Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) 2004-2009

‘9/11 and subsequent events demonstrate the enhanced power of small groups of terrorists to inflict destruction on society. At the same time new technology has given law enforcement agencies more instruments of surveillance and detection. Sir David Omand has been at the centre of these developments and his compelling book sets out clearly the parameters of a modern equation between public protection and individual liberty, which should be of concern to all thinking people.’ — Rt Hon Lord Butler of Brockwell KG, GCB, CVO

‘Anyone considering the complexities of security and intelligence work in the twenty-first century will find David Omand’s masterly analysis stimulating and thought-provoking.’ — Eliza Manningham-Buller, Director General of the Security Service (MI5) from 2002-7

‘An impressive exposition of the intelligence process.’ — Mahan Abedin, Asia Times

‘Destined to become a classic text with important lessons likely to be valid for generations to come.’ — Nigel Inkster, Survival

‘A thought-provoking look at intelligence community challenges.’ — Mario A. Possamai, Security Management

‘Everyone should read this book. … It is a practical guide at a time when all of us are subject to what seems like a permanent state of threat to our personal and national security. … The authority of Securing the State is impressive. It is written by a man whose credentials are unmatched in British public life on this subject … Securing the State is essential reading’ — Diplomacy & Statecraft


Sir David Omand, GCB, was Intelligence and Security Coordinator in the Cabinet Office from 2002-5, responsible for the counter-terrorism strategy, CONTEST. He was for seven years a member of the Joint Intelligence Committee and has served as Permanent Secretary of the Home Office and the Cabinet Office, and has been Director of GCHQ (the UK signals intelligence agency) and Deputy Under Secretary of State for Defence Policy in the Ministry of Defence. He is now a visiting Professor in the War Studies Department of King's College London and an honorary Fellow of Corpus Christi College, University Cambridge.

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