The United States Intelligence community draws on advanced technology and analytical techniques. An intelligence process that sets objectives, collects, analyzes, and report findings, with feedback loops integrated throughout. Explicitly, the intelligence community advantages technology and tradecraft within a proscribed process. However, estimation of threats and decision-making are outcomes of human thinking. Analysts and policymakers create mental models, or short cuts to manage complex, changing environments. In other words, to make sense of ambiguous or uncertain situations, humans form cognitive biases. Informed because of personal experience, education, and specifically applied to intelligence analysis, Davis (2008) also adds, biases formed by factors such as past reporting and organizational norms (Davis 2008, 158-160). Former Central Intelligence Analyst Jones (1998) defines biases as, “an unconscious belief that conditions, governs, and compels our behavior” (Jones 1998, 22). Analyst see targets via their personal cognitive biases, then perceive cause-and-effect or patterns with self-satisfying expectations.
II. PROBLEM OF BIASES:
Biases as Jones describes is what governs our behavior. Therefore, as humans we cannot function without biases. Dr. Johnston, ethnographer for the Central Intelligence Agency, goes a step further.
Johnston (2005) states, “although a research might pretend to be neutral and unbiased in presenting his findings and conclusions, personal biases can creep into a finished product” (Johnston 2005, 10-11). Biases are necessary, but can lead analysts astray. One powerful bias common throughout the intelligence community and inflicts new, as well as veteran analysts alik...
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Gates, Robert M. 1992. Guarding Against Politicization. Center for the Study of Intelligence. Historical Document, Central Intelligence Agency, 201. https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/kent-csi/volume-36-number-1/html/v36i1a01p_0001.htm#top (accessed June 1, 2012).
George, Roger, G., and Bruce, James, B. 2008. Analyzing Intelligence: Origins, Obstacles, And Innovations, edited by Roger Z. George and James B. Bruce. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press.
Lowenthal, Mark, M. 2012. Intelligence From Secrets To Policy. 5th ed. Washington, D.C.: SAGE/CQ Press.
Medina, Carmen A. 2008. The New Analysis. In Analyzing Intelligence: Origins, Obstacles, And Innovations, edited by Roger Z. George and James B. Bruce. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press.
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