Describing intelligence analysis
Before we can work to improve intelligence analysis, we first need to establish what it involves and how well it has been practiced. Unfortunately, while there are a lot of general descriptions of the analytic process, there is very little detailed scholarship that describes exactly who analysts are and exactly what they do on a daily basis. There are many different kinds of intelligence analysts who do different kinds of analysis. Some kinds of analysts can be differentiated based on source of information evaluated: single-source analysts evaluating signals intelligence (SIGINT), imagery intelligence (IMINT), human intelligence (HUMINT), and open source intelligence (OSINT). Then there are all-source analysts who assess information from all sources at the same time. In addition, the substantive subject matter that the analyst focuses on can be different. Some are responsible for a defined geographic area (for example, individual countries or entire regions), while others are responsible for particular kinds of threats or groups. Another difference could be the prism used to evaluate the threat. For example, the standard differentiation between different kinds of power-politics, economics, military, and leadership-can provide a framework for analysts to break down (or actually analyze) a country or group before then evaluating its significance. Finally, analysts can also be differentiated based on the kinds of problems they address. On one end of the scale there are tactical intelligence analysts producing current intelligence, who work primarily with descriptive data that address the who, the what, the where, the when and sometimes the how. On the other end of the scale there are strategic intelligence analysts who frequently address motivation or causation, or the why. The tactical analyst requires a facility with tangible data, pattern recognition, and frequently the need to “make the call,” whereas the strategic analyst requires greater facility with concepts, abstractions, uncertainty, and ambiguity. The strategic analyst requires an ability to critically evaluate a situation, assess it for significance, match the assessment of significance against either decisionmaker interest or national interest, reframe or re-conceptualize the situation as needed, and construct an argument about that significance using whatever information, including raw intelligence, is available.