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The Covert Colour Line: The Racialised Politics of Western State Intelligence By Oliver Kearns Cover Image

The Covert Colour Line: The Racialised Politics of Western State Intelligence (Paperback)

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What if the biggest failures of intelligence are not the factual errors, but the inbuilt biases that shape what type of information is deemed useful?’--Lisa Stampnitzky, author of Disciplining Terror 

‘Ground-breaking ... Decodes declassified documents showing the racialized assumptions underlying the use and abuse of intelligence in contemporary Western politics. A must-read’--Elisabeth Schweiger, Lecturer, University of York

‘Your jaw will drop and your heart will break. We urgently need this reckoning with the role of race-thinking in international politics. Lives depend on it’--Gargi Bhattacharyya, co-author of Empire’s Endgame

Repeated intelligence failures in Iraq, Libya, the Middle East, and North Africa have left many critics searching for a smoking gun. Amidst questions of who misread – or manipulated – the intel, a fundamental truth goes unaddressed: Western intelligence is not designed to understand the world. In fact, it cannot.

In The Covert Colour Line, Oliver Kearns shows how catastrophic mistakes made by British and US intelligence services since 9/11 are underpinned by racist assumptions forged in the crucible of the Cold War-era colonial retreat. Understanding this historical context is vital to explaining why anglophone state intelligence cannot grasp the motives of ‘adversaries.'

Offering a new way of seeing how intelligence contributes to world inequalities and drawing on a wealth of recently declassified materials, Kearns argues that delusional ideas of ‘the non-West’ fundamentally shaped the intelligence assessments underpinning the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent interventions.

Oliver Kearns is a research fellow with SPIN, the Secrecy Power and Ignorance Network, at the University of Bristol.

Oliver Kearns is a research fellow with SPIN, the Secrecy Power and Ignorance Network, at the University of Bristol, UK. He studies how state secrecy, from drone strikes to spy radio frequencies, shapes the legitimation of violence. He also writes experimental electronic music.
Product Details ISBN: 9780745347301
ISBN-10: 0745347304
Publisher: Pluto Press
Publication Date: April 20th, 2023
Pages: 272
Language: English
'Raises a fascinating question: what if the biggest failures of intelligence are not the factual errors, but the inbuilt biases that shape what types of information is deemed useful, or even legible, to the state?'
Lisa Stampnitzky, lecturer of Politics at the University of Sheffield, UK, and author of Disciplining Terror: How Experts Invented “Terrorism

'A ground-breaking contribution to the field. Elegantly written, the book decodes a plethora of declassified documents showing the racialised assumptions underlying the use and abuse of intelligence in contemporary Western politics. This is a must-read for anyone interested in democratic politics, recent armed conflicts in the Middle East or asymmetrical global power relations.'
Dr. Elisabeth Schweiger, lecturer, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of York, UK

'Your jaw will drop and your heart will break. We urgently need this reckoning with the role of race-thinking in international politics. Lives depend on it.'
Gargi Bhattacharyya

'A ground-breaking analysis revealing how Western intelligence failures are not isolated incidents but symptomatic of a racialised imagination of other societies as 'ignorant, emotional, and illogical', ultimately threatening peace and maintaining inequality. Essential reading for anyone interested in how intelligence is made, (mis)used and underpins international relations'
Owen David Thomas, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, University of Exeter and founding member of the Secrecy Power and Ignorance Network (SPIN)