“Intelligence tradecraft” applies to each element of the intelligence cycle and is distinct for each of the eight tribes of intelligence. It also varies depending on the threat target and the policy objective.
Each of the above can be further distinguished at the four different levels of effort (strategic, operatonal, tactical, technical — the threat changes depending on the level of analysis, neither CIA nor DIA have figured that out yet — nor do they care). Each of the above also changes dramatically depending on the specific coiuntry and region — US “assumptions,” for example with respect to politics, culture, economics, and technology — are retarded when it comes to deep analysis of African and Asian countries. The US also does not factor in the reality of how others perceive the US, or the reality that three quarters of the economy is not traditional financial, but rather System D, barter, or via other metrics including kinship. In collection the US secret world collects everything that can be collected digitally (like the drunk looking for his keys under the light instead of where he lost them), processes almost nothing, and confuses powerpoint slides and slick glossies with thinking.
Believe it or not, there is no “Standard Operating Procedure” for anything the US secret world does, the military field manual not withstanding. There may be other communities that are more structured toward metrics and prescribed outcomes, but the intelligence craft is very immature or more to the point, does not mature rapidly — most are still in the first era of secret warfare with impunity or the second era of strategic analytics that can safely be ignored because of their ineptitude.
Believe it or not, there are no “handbooks” for each of the above functions, tribes, threats, or policy domains. There is no living directory of the top experts across all boundaries on each target or topic.
Believe it or not — at least in the US secret intelligence community — no one is held accountable for responsible holistic attention to detail or the creation of ethical evidence-based decision-support. The “system” is all about spending money (inputs) rather than outputs, and this is in part because the political system has no interest in intelligence as a foundation for making decisions, only as a public crutch for justifying decisions made on the basis of ideology or financial corruption.
Believe it or not — at least in the US secret intelligence community — no one is held accountable for failing to be clandestine or covert. Working out of official installations, or using non-official cover that is laughably light (a few stellar exceptions not-withstanding), secrecy is used to baffle US oversight elements, not to actually hide from those being ostensibly surveilled, penetrated, and analyzed.
Finally, Ada Bozeman, Russell Ackoff, and Robert Steele make these three points:
01 Intelligence is an inherent function of all leaders and all participants. It cannot be delegated but it can be abdicated (as in the USA). Intelligence is a “whole” or the thing entire.
(There is a need) to recognize that just as the essence of knowledge is not as split up into academic disciplines as it is in our academic universe, so can intelligence not be set apart from statecraft and society, or subdivided into elements…such as analysis and estimates, counterintelligence, clandestine collection, covert action, and so forth. Rather … intelligence is a scheme of things entire. (Bozeman 1998: 177):
02 Reforming bad systems makes them worse and more expensive. Only transformation will do.
Reformations and transformations are not the same thing. Reformations are concerned with changing the means systems employ to pursue their objectives. Transformations involve changes in the objectives they pursue.
The righter we do the wrong thing, the wronger we become. When we make a mistake doing the wrong thing and correct it, we become wronger. When we make a mistake doing the right thing and correct it, we become righter. Therefore, it is better to do the right thing wrong than the wrong thing right. This is very significant because almost every problem confronting our society is a result of the fact that our public policy makers are doing the wrong things and are trying to do them righter.
System thinking is holistic versus reductionist thinking, synthetic versus analytic. Reductionist and analytic thinking derive properties of whoses from the properties of their parts. Holistic and synthetic thinking derive properties of parts from the whole that contains them.
03 Politics and intelligence, when they have integrity, achieve the best possible outcome for the greatest number, at the least cost. When they both lack integrity, the 1% screw the 99%.
The central problem of our time is the failure of human organization–its failure to scale, to adapt, to assimilate. We believe the failure stems directly from a rejection of diversity and a falsification of feedback loops–the absence of integrity.
In the 21st Century, intelligence, design, and integrity are the triad that matters most. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is the non-negotiable starting position for getting it right, and this is crucially important with respect to the sustainability of the Earth as a home for humanity.