Reconceptualizing National Intelligence

From the Federation of American Scientists:

A new study published by the CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence calls for a fundamental reconceptualization of the process of intelligence analysis in order to overcome the "pathologies" that have rendered it increasingly dysfunctional.

"Curing Analytic Pathologies" (pdf) by Jeffrey R. Cooper has been available up to now in limited circulation in hard copy only. Like several other recent studies critical of U.S. intelligence, it was withheld from the CIA web site. It has now been published on the Federation of American Scientists web site.

It's an interesting report. Unfortunately, the PDF on the website is scanned, so it's hard to copy and paste sections into this blog.

Posted on May 15, 2006 at 7:21 AM • 15 Comments

Comments

KDMay 15, 2006 9:18 AM

If you go to the "Graphics Select Tool" last icon on the right at the top of the PDF, you can cut and paste sections anywhere.

DMay 15, 2006 10:02 AM

I'd have to wite a paper if I was going to respond - that's a lot to process. Suffice it to say "Well, done."

I'm glad this was published.

anonymousMay 15, 2006 11:19 AM

I just sent to schneier@counterpane.com an OCR'd version of this pdf file.

royMay 15, 2006 11:48 AM

Is this anything more than a rationalization after the fact?

When the people in charge demand of their subordinates specific conclusions which are factually wrong, backed by evidence that isn't real, what other results are possible?

Trying to explain what went wrong by looking at reality is not going to be any help, because even if some or all of those problems were fixed, the intelligence community would still have to fail when failure was demanded of them.

royMay 15, 2006 11:48 AM

Is this anything more than a rationalization after the fact?

When the people in charge demand of their subordinates specific conclusions which are factually wrong, backed by evidence that isn't real, what other results are possible?

Trying to explain what went wrong by looking at reality is not going to be any help, because even if some or all of those problems were fixed, the intelligence community would still have to fail when failure was demanded of them.

royMay 15, 2006 11:49 AM

Is this anything more than a rationalization after the fact?

When the people in charge demand of their subordinates specific conclusions which are factually wrong, backed by evidence that isn't real, what other results are possible?

Trying to explain what went wrong by looking at reality is not going to be any help, because even if some or all of those problems were fixed, the intelligence community would still have to fail when failure was demanded of them.

alabamatoyMay 15, 2006 12:44 PM

"the PDF on the website is scanned, so it's hard to copy and paste sections into this blog"

The full-blown version of Acrobat allows OCRing of text, and it seems to work fairly well.

ArchangelMay 15, 2006 12:55 PM

Roy, have you read it? Yes, it's far more than rationalization after the fact. And how do you expect to explain what went wrong by looking at anything other than reality? Real ops don't happen in some imaginary fairy land. Real analysis only sometimes seems like it happened in some imaginary fairy land. But the real failures happened in reality, and only by careful analysis and more careful repair can they be fixed.

Unless you mean to suggest that there isn't anything wrong with the system as it stands? Or that we would be better off without intel entirely?

Ed T.May 15, 2006 2:13 PM

@Roy,

It sounds like you are referring to the system of so-called 'analysis' that existed in the financial and business community around the time of the Enron, WorldCom, and other related business failures. I am not sure that the national intelligence community was behaving in this manner, at least not outside of some of Tom Clancy's novels. If it was in fact the case, then the flaw is truly systemic, as the time period covered administrations that were on both ends of the political spectrum.

In fact, the intelligence-gathering and analysis processes used during the Cold War were entirely appropriate for use against Saddam Hussein's Iraq: they are far less well suited for use against an Al-Quaida or drug cartel or gang.

What I am more concerned about right now is that it appears the bureaucrats within the intelligence community appear to be attempting to influence political decision-making by selective 'leaks' of classified information - this type of behavior is totally UNacceptable, and the government must put a stop to it immediately.

~EdT.

Rob MayfieldMay 15, 2006 4:33 PM

@derf

Unfortunately its classified, so (re)formatting isnt enough. You'd need to call for secure destruction and have the new CIA installed on fresh hardware ;-)

AleMay 16, 2006 7:21 AM

I particularly agree with the author's view that peer-review and cross-checking would be useful for good intelligence. It is not the last word (as academics around the world have found recently - the Hwang Woo-Suk and Jan Hendrik Schön debacles come to mind), but it is helpful to control factual inaccuracies, obviously biased accounts, unfalsifiable claims and results that cannot be reliably reproduced. It is refreshing to hear that even the sppoks have figured out that openness tends to have better results than sectarian obfuscation.

John MooreMay 16, 2006 8:14 AM

While peer review, cross-checking, and a multidisciplinary approach are laudable and should be implemented, such bottom up fixes to the problem will take time to implement and time for their effects to be seen. Seven years to train an expert analyst is something like the time to train an MBA. Guessing that that is a lowball estimate. Doctors and scientists take even longer to train. Also, the author is asking for some sort of institutional knowledge database to be created, the CIA equivalent of the Genbank of NIH. But the main problem with the CIA is that it has devolved from an organization that produces say an expert journal to that of a newspaper in process and product quality due to the Presidential Daily Briefing. Just as TV news organizations cut back their staffs and television news has lost quality steadily since Cronkite retired to render the crap they call TV news now, so too, the CIA has degraded and so has the quality of its product. Possibly, having a Presidential Daily Briefing and then having a Presidential Weekly Intelligence Assessment Review might help the CIA check itself and certainly improve its product. Likely, the CIA will be like NASA (no peer review there either), the management will make the same mistakes even though it says it fixed the problems that led to the previous failures.

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