Unclassified extracts from the latest Studies in Intelligence (SI) hit the cyber-streets, and they represent more must-read material for cleared professionals. First, a word on the brains behind Studies in Intelligence. The peer-reviewed periodical was one of many important contributions of CIA’s renowned Dr. Sherman Kent—former Yale University professor of history turned intelligence analyst with the OSS’s then-new Research & Analysis Branch. There, Kent demonstrated the value of applying a kind of scholarly rigor to intelligence analysis. Kent’s story of contributions alone is important to understand, because it demonstrates the powerful effect of intellectual rigor combined with a spirit of innovation and high moral and ethical standards. Now, the latest from the CIA’s Studies in Intelligence.
KEEPING SECRETS SECRET
Dr. Genevieve Lester is a nonresident adjunct fellow in the Strategic Technologies Program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies on Rhode Island Avenue NW here in Washington, D.C. Dr. Lester asks When Should State Secrets Stay Secret? from an Accountability, Democratic Governance, and Intelligence point of view in her book that’s reviewed by Jason U. Manosevitz. Manosevitz is on the Editorial Board of SI, and he’s also with CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence.
The question of intelligence oversight is a hot topic among intelligence and civil rights professionals, alike, and of course Edward Snowden put the discussion on the front pages. Manosevitz tells us how Lester’s study joins that conversation. “Lester’s work offers a glimpse into how some in the next generation of national intelligence academics view oversight issues,” Manosevitz writes. “She aims to apply a rigorous analytic framework to the key problem of intelligence accountability. Lester criticizes,” Manosevitz concludes, “current oversight mechanisms as making it easier to keep state secrets secret, highlights the non-public nature of judicial decisions in intelligence matters as worrisome, and concludes that Congress has failed to keep pace with the growth of intelligence agencies following 9/11.” However, Manosevitz is frustrated because, according to his review, “Lester never answers the title question of when state secrets should stay secret.” So, no matter your position on how or how well our government manages intelligence oversight, When Should State Secrets Stay Secret? seems like an important read, and the one Amazon.Com customer who’s read it gives it 4 stars in a reasonably convincing review, “Who Will Watch the Watchers?” Guess I’ll be reading this one.
TIMELESS INTELLIGENCE ANALYSIS
In another timely read first introduced in 2008 as we were watching Iraq come unhinged, Studies in Intelligence re-presents Jack Davis’ chapter “Why Bad Things Happen to Good Analysts” from Editors Roger George and James Bruce’s 2008 Analyzing Intelligence: Origins, Obstacles, and Innovations. In this edition of SI, Bruce adds a quick remembrance of Jack Davis, to begin. Bruce writes, “When we thoroughly revised the book for its second edition in 2014, of the dozen original chapters that we retained, Jack’s was the only one that needed no revision or updating. This was best explained by a reviewer who observed that Jack’s article was timeless.”
In “Why Bad Things Happen to Good Analysts,” Jack Davis asks, “How could experienced analysts have screwed up so badly?” His answer argues, “Ironically, after the unfolding of events eliminates substantive uncertainty, critics also are psychologically programmed by the so-called hindsight bias to inflate how well they would have handled the analytic challenge under review and to understate the difficulties faced by analysts who had to work their way through ambiguous and otherwise inconclusive information.”
Davis doesn’t focus, however, on the then-most current alleged intelligence failures that facilitated our foray into Iraq. He considers, for example, the question of the 1979 revolution in Iran that one of the most a well-respected, experienced CIA experts on Iran simply could not anticipate. Davis goes on to address Key Perils of Analysis, Assigning Blame, Psychological Perils at the Work Station, Perils of Review and Coordination, Policy Bias, and more, all immensely important for cleared professionals and, especially, intelligence analysts.
The Second Edition of Analyzing Intelligence: Origins, Obstacles, and Innovations—that includes Jack Davis’ chapter—has been reviewed 25 times on Amazon.Com, and it’s received four and a half stars. One reviewer wrote, “This is not an Analysis 101 book. It is a serious, insightful look at the important aspects of intelligence analysis as it is practiced and should be practiced.” Again, one to read.
There will be a test.