Profiles in Intelligence: an Interview With Professor Loch K Johnson
Loch K. Johnson is a leading figure and one of the most familiar names in the study of intelligence. He is one of its pioneers and key thinkers. Over some 40 years, his academic career developed in parallel with the field of Intelligence Studies, a field he has done much to shape. His work has influenced generations of students, academics, and practitioners.
His first book on intelligence, A Season of Inquiry: The Senate Intelligence Investigation, was published in 1985, by which time he had already published several important articles, including the ‘Seven Sins of Strategic Intelligence’ in World Affairs in 1983. As with A Season of Inquiry, a number of these early articles focused on two aspects of intelligence that would come to form a particular focus of his writing: oversight & accountability and covert action. Loch’s contribution to thinking about these topics has been enormous. It is simply not possible to study either of them without referring to his work. In recent years, he has produced magisterial studies of each, which represent the culmination of a career devoted to observing and analysing them; Spy Watching: Intelligence Accountability in the United States (2018), and The Third Option: Covert Action and American Foreign Policy (2022).
However, the contribution of Loch Johnson’s published output to the study of intelligence is much broader than this. For this reason, the bibliography of his books, journal articles, and book chapters on intelligence that follows the interview here represents an invaluable resource, providing details of the approximately 30 books, 100 journal articles, and 50 book chapters on intelligence that he has produced to date (although even this does not include other forms of output, such as his contributions to government publications or newspaper commentaries).
This body of work also includes landmark contributions to thinking about intelligence theory, and publications that situate the study of intelligence within the broader study of US foreign policy. Indeed, through the emphasis Loch gave to intelligence in books, such as America as a World Power, the way he explained intelligence in books, such as Bombs, Bugs, Drugs, and Thugs, and situated it within the wider American political culture in books like America’s Secret Power, he has done much to increase recognition of the centrality of intelligence to teaching and thinking about foreign policy and politics more generally, and provided resources via which this could be taken forward.
His body of work also includes the series of handbooks and multi-volume reference works on intelligence that he has edited for Routledge, Praeger and Oxford University Press. However, Loch’s most significant editorial contribution to the development and shaping of Intelligence Studies is to be found in his role as editor of this journal from 2001 to 2019, a lengthy period that amounted to over half its existence at the time he stepped down as editor, and one of the experiences he reflects on in the interview below.
In setting out Loch’s contribution to Intelligence Studies, it would be remiss of me not to mention the enormous contribution he made as a teacher and PhD supervisor over the 40 years he spent at the University of Georgia, in relation to which he received numerous awards. Amongst other awards, he was the recipient in 2014 of the International Studies Association’s Intelligence Studies Section Distinguished Scholar Award.
In this interview, Loch discusses an academic career devoted to the study of intelligence and how his interest in this area developed, including the formative influence of his work in Congress in the 1970s for both the Church Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI). He also reflects on a range of issues, including the tensions that can exist around the practice of intelligence in a democratic context and the nature and development of Intelligence Studies. What follows is the edited transcript of the interview, conducted remotely during June–July 2022, to which Loch has added references in endnotes. The interview is followed by a bibliography of his publications dealing with intelligence in book, journal article, and book chapter form. A number of these are referred to in the interview.