Spinning Intelligence

Why Intelligence Needs the Media, Why the Media Needs Intelligence

Edited by

Michael S. Goodman


Robert Dover

Part of the Intelligence and Security Series

Bibliographic Details
Spinning Intelligence Paperback
September 2009£17.99
Out of stock
Request Press Review Copy
Request Inspection Copy

Throughout the twentieth century, especially during wartime and the Cold War, intelligence agents routinely used the media to publish and broadcast material that would deceive external enemies, thwart domestic subversion or simply to change the way readers thought about fascism or communism. Today stories are chanelled to journalists in order to promote a news agenda deemed favourable to MI5, MI6 or to the CIA, or to ‘spin’ the coverage of key issues. Investigative reporters often have a more adversarial relationship with the security services, seeing them as over-mighty agents of the state who should be subjected to forensic scrutiny of what they get up too – allegedly for the public good. The furore over ‘rendition’ of terrorist suspects by the CIA and the complicity of British agencies in this process is but one example of journalists uncovering practices that the intelligence community would rather have kept secret.

The contributors to this book, drawn from former intelligence officers, the media and academia, explore this intriguing and often fraught contest, shedding light on many hitherto unknown aspects of the intriguing and symbiotic relationship between the ‘second oldest profession’ and the print and broadcast media.

Speaking from the perspective of the journalist are Chapman Pincher and Gordon Corera (Security Editor, BBC), whose essays trace the evolving relationship between news media outlets and the government, especially with regards to advances in technology. Reporting from the perspective of the political institution are Sir David Omand, Nick Wilkinson, Michael Goodman, and Anthony Campbell, who explain governmental oversight of intelligence agencies, the operation of clandestine information units, and the laws that govern the control of information. Richard Aldrich investigates the exploitation of the globalized media by intelligence agencies; Scott Lucas and Steve Hewitt tackle the CIA’s use of open sources for intelligence purposes; and, Wyn Bowen examines the real-world use of open source intelligence in rolling back Libya’s nuclear program. Robert Dover and Pierre Lethier explore the depiction of intelligence in popular culture, a practice that helped create rendition and facilitate torture, and condition our responses to both. In the final essay, Patrick Porter focuses on cultural representations of the war on terror.


Michael S. Goodman is senior lecturer in intelligence studies at King's College, University of London, and author of Spying on the Nuclear Bear: Anglo-American Intelligence and the Soviet Bomb.

Robert Dover is lecturer in international relations at Loughborough University and the author of The Europeanization of British Defense Policy, 1997-2005.


‘The fullest and most perceptive study I have read of the intelligence-media relationship and its significance for politicians, the public, and democracy itself’. — Michael Herman, founder-director of the Oxford Intelligence Group

Spinning Intelligence is a timely, informative, and fascinating study that breaks new ground in its range and in the quality of its individual contributions’. — Mark Phythian, University of Leicester

Spinning Intelligence explores the four-way relationship between the agencies, media, public and ‘the other’—the enemy of the day. A […] book on a subject of great importance but on which there has been relatively little published academic reflection’. — Peter Gill, University of Salford

‘Not everything we learn about intelligence from the media is true, but some of it is. If you want to know why this is so and also where links between government, intelligence, and the press can potentially work against the public interest, you should read this book. Robert Dover and Michael S. Goodman’s well-chosen team of academics, journalists, and government insiders provides an exceptionally stimulating commentary on a crucial and important relationship that bridges (as the editors put it) “the gap between the unknown and the known.”‘ — Keith Jeffrey, Queen’s University Belfast

‘The media’s role as a check on the abuse of secret power is little understood but of enormous importance for those who value the safeguarding of civil liberties in the world’s democratic cultures. This splendid volume does much to clarify the relationship between intelligence services and the journalists who report on their activities. A must read for all friends of an open society.’ — Loch K. Johnson, University of Georgia, and senior editor, Intelligence and National Security