SPIES COLLECT DATA,
ANALYSTS PROVIDE INSIGHT
IT WOULD BE an exaggeration to describe intelligence analysts as the Rodney Dangerfields of the Intelligence Community, especially so given the esteem and confidence that many have earned from the officials with whom they interact on a regular basis.1 Nevertheless, even officials who respect—if not admire—the work of “their” intelligence analysts often join the chorus of voices seemingly eager to denigrate or dismiss the contributions of analysts in general. In that regard, and perhaps only in that regard, analysts are like members of Congress who are reviled as a group but often well regarded by their own constituents.2 I suspect that the same phenomenon can be found in evaluations of many other professions (for example, auto mechanics or beauticians or whomever is described as terrible in general, although “my” mechanic is thought to be exceptionally good) but confess that I have not attempted to determine if such is really the case.
Such distinctions are understandable; if you think your representative or auto mechanic is terrible, why do you continue to vote for her or to take your car to his shop? Something similar might be at work in the distinction officials make between the positive assessment of their intelligence support team and intelligence analysts in general, but I think more is involved than a simple defense mechanism. Intelligence analysts earn the confidence and respect of those they serve by demonstrating knowledge, utility, and discretion.3 Analysts who do not manifest these characteristics are likely to—and should—be dismissed or ignored by those they “support.” In my experience, that rarely happens. I choose to believe that the reason it happens infrequently is that