3.5 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

The image we have of spies has long been tarnished by Bond. It is not a glamourous job and often involves long hours watching and waiting for a target or asset to make a move. For those that collates the information gather from signals intelligence or actual observations have to try and place the pieces together is some semblance of order. This is not particularly easy, especially when you don’t know what the full picture is nor do you know if the snippet of information in front of you actually relates to the task in hand.

Somehow they manage to pull together a picture of what is happening. So how do they do it? One of the methods that they use is the SEES model

Situational Awareness
Strategic Notice

The first part is gaining a fuller understanding as you are able to of what is happening. The second part is a deep understanding as to why it is happening and the various motivations behind any parties involved. From that, you need to assess different scenarios of what might happen if events unfold in particular ways. The final element is the assessment of any issues that might affect the item under consideration, including events that might be considered as outliers at the moment.

Even though these four stages sound fairly simple, they can absorb a lot of time and effort and things still get missed. It is also important to think of all possible outcomes as the assumptions that are made are often not bold enough. In this book, Omand takes us through the process behind this system in ten lessons and provides lots of examples of how he used these techniques in his time in government and as the director of GCHQ.

It is very detailed, which is kind of what I would expect from someone of his calibre and experience in the role. There are some really useful lessons in here, especially the final lesson on digital subversion and sedition and that seeing is not always believing, especially with the sophisticated. Parts of the book did feel like there were more of a memoir of his time in various government departments and was loosely linked to the lesson being discussed. That was a minor detail though, there are lots of details to take away here and use.

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