Analyzing Intelligence: Origins, Obstacles, and Innovations

Analyzing Intelligence: Origins, Obstacles, and Innovations

Analyzing Intelligence: Origins, Obstacles, and Innovations

Analyzing Intelligence: Origins, Obstacles, and Innovations


Drawing on the individual and collective experience of recognized intelligence experts and scholars in the field, Analyzing Intelligence provides the first comprehensive assessment of the state of intelligence analysis since 9/11. Its in-depth and balanced evaluation of more than fifty years of U. S. analysis includes a critique of why it has under-performed at times. It provides insights regarding the enduring obstacles as well as new challenges of analysis in the post-9/11 world, and suggests innovative ideas for improved analytical methods, training, and structured approaches.

The book's six sections present a coherent plan for improving analysis. Early chapters examine how intelligence analysis has evolved since its origins in the mid-20th century, focusing on traditions, culture, successes, and failures. The middle sections examine how analysis supports the most senior national security and military policymakers and strategists, and how analysts must deal with the perennial challenges of collection, politicization, analytical bias, knowledge building and denial and deception. The final sections of the book propose new ways to address enduring issues in warning analysis, methodology (or "analytical tradecraft") and emerging analytic issues like homeland defense. The book suggests new forms of analytic collaboration in a global intelligence environment, and imperatives for the development of a new profession of intelligence analysis.

Analyzing Intelligence is written for the national security expert who needs to understand the role of intelligence and its strengths and weaknesses. Practicing and future analysts will also find that its attention to the enduring challenges provides useful lessons-learned to guide their own efforts. The innovations section will provoke senior intelligence managers to consider major changes in the way analysis is currently organized and conducted, and the way that analysts are trained and perform.


This book presents an exposition and critique of U.S. intelligence analysis. A single author could not have written it as authoritatively or completely. When we decided to produce this kind of volume on intelligence analysis, we made two critical decisions at the outset: first, to commission new chapters, because what we were seeking was simply not available in the current literature; and second, to recruit the most qualified experts to write these original contributions. We also sought to bring these fresh perspectives together in a way that would yield a whole that is truly greater than the sum of its parts. We hope we have succeeded in these daunting collaborative tasks.

Collaboration is more than cooperation toward a common goal. For this project it has been a career-long sharing of ideas on how to make intelligence analysis a true profession. In a sense, it took more than two decades of contact between the editors to produce this volume, as we constantly crossed paths in our professional lives. Both of us studied international relations theory and political science before joining the intelligence community. Our analytic careers both began at the National Intelligence Council and converged again at the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA's) Directorate of Intelligence, Office of European Analysis. In these rather different organizations, we became well acquainted with how intelligence analysis is conducted at both the intelligence community and agency levels. Here we were first exposed to the talents of such phenomenal analysts as Hal Ford, a vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council and mentor of national intelligence estimates writers like ourselves. And we also encountered Jack Davis, at the time a national intelligence officer and later a career-long developer and teacher of tradecraft. Later, we were again privileged to serve at the National Intelligence Council, drafting and managing national intelligence estimates, where we were able to see the impressive skills of some of the best analysts in the U.S. government—and some of the frailties of the estimating process.

In these assignments and others, we had our share of triumphs and setbacks, along the way observing how intelligence analysis works in practice and how it might be made to work better. Seasoned by firsthand contact with intelligence at both its best and worst, we could not avoid developing ideas regarding how to improve analysis.

These combined experiences have taught us to be humble but also to be more demanding of intelligence. We came to believe that “lessons learned” must be shared with others; otherwise, changes in the analytic habits of others will not . . .

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