Review: Improving Intelligence Analysis: Bridging the Gap between Scholarship and Practice

4 Star, Decision-Making & Decision-Support, Intelligence (Commercial), Intelligence (Government/Secret), Intelligence (Public)
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

Stephen Marrin

4.0 out of 5 stars Analysis in Isolation from Reality, January 6, 2013

This book is insanely expensive. The author of the book has material published online that I recommend be accessed and considered before making any investment here. One starting point is my list to 2011 article and my lengthy comment, easily found by looking for

Stephen Marrin: Evaluating the Quality of Intelligence Analysis: By What (Mis) Measure? With Comment by Robert Steele

This is a book, that like economists trapped on a desert island with a can of food and no can-opener, begin their plan with “assume a can-opener.” Now having said that, I must also give the author credit: this is as good as it gets at the PhD level when writing in isolation from decades of experience. This is the “clean room” version of the craft of analysis.

Here is a short extract from my review of the article that was built into this book:

ROBERT STEELE: Interesting, certainly worth reading, but divorced from the fundamentals and out of touch with the real masters. Any publication that fails to cite Jack Davis, the dean of analytic tradecraft in the English language, is fatally flawed. Of course it would help if one were also in touch with the “new rules for the new craft of intelligence,” but that may be too much to expect from a junior academic with limited real-world analytic experience who seems intent on citing only “approved” sources-a lack of source integrity that is also fatal. The article assumes that the four preconditions for sound analytics exist, and since they do not, at least in the US and UK and most other government intelligence communities, it is necessary to spell them out. Analysts are toads absent the following:

01 All-source collection including open source collection in 183 languages in near real-time-collection that is relevant, timely, and focused, not collection of convenience. It must also comprehend, collect, and present true cost economics with geospatial attributes at every datum point.

02) Back office and desktop analytic tools that integrate in one single open source package the eighteen functionalities identified by Gordon Oehler, Dennis McCormick, Diane Webb, and a handful of others in 1985. This still is not available today-Computer-Aided Tools for the Analysis of Science & Technology (CATALYST).

03) Deep personal knowledge of relevant history, culture, and language(s) pertinent to the matter at hand, and inclusive of a broad globlal multinational, multiagency, multidisciplinary, multidomain information-sharing and sense-making network (M4IS2)-the US security goons are nowhere near being able to comprehend the new security paradigm that demands full-spectrum human intelligence (HUMINT) across all slices, nationalities, and socio-economic ideo-cultural strata; and

04) An analytic model that is holistic, comprehensive, and centered on the public interest, at a minimum integrating the ten high-level threats to humanity, the twelve core policies that must be integrated; and the eight demographic challengers that will define the future with or without the USA. There are at least three models that could be usefully integrated: the revolution model, the expeditionary environment model, and the strategic analytic model.

Somewhat paradoxically, since I emphasize that intelligence (decision-support) is about outputs rather than inputs, it bears mention that the analytic process that produces intelligence is only as good as its inputs, its environment, and its receiving decision-makers. If the receiving decision-maker lacks integrity, then Paul Pillar in Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy: Iraq, 9/11, and Misguided Reform is absolutely right: no amount of intelligence with integrity can overcome policy without integrity, with ONE exception: if the intelligence with integrity is placed immediately and visibly in the public domain.

Jack Davis and his work are easily accessed by searching for the term “analytic tradecraft.” My own work in this area over the past 30 years is easily found online, and catalogued at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog. It merits comment that there are eight “tribes” or communities of intelligence as decision-support, and all of them — a few elements not-withstanding — are incoherent and ineffective: academic, civil society, commerce, government, law enforcement, media, military, and non-governmental/non-profit. The biggest problem we have is the complete fragmentation of all of the disciplines and sub-disciplines; combine that with the iron curtains among the tribes, the bamboo curtains among organizations within each tribe, and the plastic curtains between individuals, and you have a morass that no amount of good “analytics” is going to master.

I strongly recommend the new book by Routledge, Routledge Companion to Intelligence Studies.

Below are nine books I recommend centered on analysis and the pathologies of analysis, all reasonably priced. There is also some good work emerging under the search term “evidence-based”.

Strategic Intelligence and Statecraft: Selected Essays (Brassey’s Intelligence & National Security Library)
Lost Promise
Informing Statecraft
None So Blind: A Personal Account of the Intelligence Failure in Vietnam
Who the Hell Are We Fighting?: The Story of Sam Adams and the Vietnam Intelligence Wars
Analysis Without Paralysis: 12 Tools to Make Better Strategic Decisions (2nd Edition)
Critical Thinking And Intelligence Analysis
Intelligence Analysis: How to Think in Complex Environments (Praeger Security International)

Best wishes to all,
Robert Steele
THE NEW CRAFT OF INTELLIGENCE: Personal, Public, & Political–Citizen’s Action Handbook for Fighting Terrorism, Genocide, Disease, Toxic Bombs, & Corruption

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