Spies, Lies, and Algorithms: The History and Future of American Intelligence

Amy Zegart

Stanford University

March 16, 2022 12:05PM E40-496 & Virtual


Zegart examines the past, present, and future of American espionage, focusing on how emerging technologies are radically challenging every aspect of the intelligence enterprise. In this talk, Zegart will share her findings about nuclear threat detection. Thanks to Internet connectivity, automated analytics like machine learning, and the proliferation of commercial satellites, nuclear intelligence isn't just for superpower governments anymore. A vibrant emerging ecosystem of nongovernmental individuals and organizations is using open-source intelligence to track illicit nuclear activities. The book assesses the characteristics, benefits, and risks of this democratization of intelligence for threat detection and crisis management.


Dr. Amy Zegart is the Morris Arnold and Nona Jean Cox Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and Professor of Political Science (by courtesy) at Stanford University. She is also a Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Chair of Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence and International Security Steering Committee, and a contributing writer at The Atlantic. She specializes in U.S. intelligence, emerging technologies and national security, grand strategy, and global political risk management. The author of five books, Zegart’s award-winning research includes the leading academic study of intelligence failures before 9/11 — Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI, and the Origins of 9/11 (Princeton 2007). Her forthcoming book, Spies, Lies, and Algorithms (Princeton 2022) examines technological challenges to American intelligence. Zegart’s research has been published in The AtlanticForeign Affairs, The New York TimesWashington PostWall Street Journal, and elsewhere. She has served on the NSC staff, advised senior officials about intelligence and foreign policy, and most recently served as a commissioner on the 2020 CSIS Technology and Intelligence Task Force. She received an A.B. in East Asian studies magna cum laude from Harvard University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University.