U.S. Intelligence and the Confrontation in Poland, 1980-1981

Despite the U.S. government's sophisticated intelligence capabilities, policy makers repeatedly seemed to be caught off guard when major crises took place during the Cold War. Were these surprises the result of inadequate information, or rather the use made of the information available? In seeking an answer to this question, former CIA analyst Douglas MacEachin carefully examines the crisis in Poland during 1980-81 to determine what information the U. Les mer
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Despite the U.S. government's sophisticated intelligence capabilities, policy makers repeatedly seemed to be caught off guard when major crises took place during the Cold War. Were these surprises the result of inadequate information, or rather the use made of the information available? In seeking an answer to this question, former CIA analyst Douglas MacEachin carefully examines the crisis in Poland during 1980-81 to determine what information the U.S. government had about Soviet preparations for military intervention and the Polish regime's plans for martial law, and what prevented that information from being effectively employed

Drawing on his experience in intelligence reporting at the time, as well as on recently declassified U.S. documents and materials from Soviet, Polish, and other Eastern European archives, MacEachin contrasts what was known then with what is known now, and seeks to explain why, despite the evidence available to them, U.S. policy makers did not take the threat of a crackdown seriously enough to prevent it.

It was the mind-set of those who processed the information, not the lack or accuracy of information, that was the fundamental problem, MacEachin argues. By highlighting this cognitive obstacle, his analysis points the way toward developing practices to overcome it in the future.

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