Intelligence -- both good and bad -- can influence presidential decision-making, alter U.S. foreign policy, and prevent surprises. Whatever the limits of the U.S. intelligence community, it continues to face criticism for its perceived shortcomings, most recently for not predicting the Arab Spring and totally missing North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's death. While the intelligence community can claim several successes , it has also endured a number of humiliating failures. The intelligence breakdowns noted in this project have been at the heart of pivotal events that refashioned the Middle East, altered the course of the Cold War, and thrust the United States into World War II, the war on terror, and the war in Iraq.
At all levels of the military and government, decision–makers rely on intelligence estimates that are accurate, reliable and relevant. Good intelligence can save lives and protect our national security; mistakes can lead to severe consequences. Unlike national-level intelligence agencies, who depend on college graduates with degrees in topics directly related to the analytic effort, the US Army depends on young enlisted soldiers as the core of their intelligence analysis effort. Lacking the critical thinking skills that are expected to be part of a university’s academic program, these young analysts often also lack historical perspective of the impact of intelligence on decisions-making, and knowledge of the cognitive biases that contributed to these decisions. Cognitive biases are not necessarily always bad; they are mental shortcuts that help people make faster decisions. However, an intelligence analyst must be able to critically examine their own cognitive biases and avoid allowing them to influence their analysis.
This project provides learners an opportunity to explore the multiple factors that contributed to the United States’ ten greatest intelligence failures. Links to cases, themes, and perspectives give learners the means for improving their analytic skills and help mitigate cognitive bias, one of the greatest limitations of an intelligence analyst. This project can be used in a stand-alone mode or as part of an instructor-led training program.
1. Review the link for Cognitive Bias and familiarize with the various biases that impact decision-making. Pay particular attention to those biases deemed to be of most interest to the US intelligence community and the subject of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence Sirius Program.
2. Review the Themes Defined to gain a better understanding of the factors involved in National-level decision-making.
3. Select a case study and examine the associated themes and perspectives. Journal articles and videos are provided to gain more in-depth background. During this activity, answer the following questions:
What were key factors that contributed to this event?
What biases were displayed by the perspectives of the case study?
What biases were evident within the themes of the case study?
4. Select an Intelligence Assessment Template and prepare it for presentation to national level decision-makers. Share your results on the collaboration page.
5. Complete the Case/Theme Matrix. Share your results on the collaboration page.
6. Post other comments, questions, or reflections on the collaboration page.
Many political scientists, focusing upon the concept of "political power," define politics as the pursuit of political power and competition for political power. John M. Pfiffner and Frank P. Sherwood define politics as "the process by which political power is acquired and exercised." Politics involves the pursuit, acquisition, and exercise of political power.
Political power is the ability to shape and control the political behavior of others and to lead and guide their behavior in the direction desired by the person, group, or institution wielding the political power. Political power is the capacity to influence, condition, mold, and control human behavior for the accomplishment of political objectives. That is to say, political power is the ability of one political actor--e.g., an individual citizen, a family, an interest group, a political action committee, a political party, or the government--to effect a desired change in the behavior of other political actors, persuading or forcing the latter to act in a manner they would not act in the absence of the former's impact on the situation. Actor A has political power over Actor B to the degree that he is able to motivate, inspire, incite, stimulate, or otherwise bring about some modification of B's political behavior--a modification in behavior favored by Actor A. A's political power, of course, would also include his capacity to induce B to continue doing something he is currently doing, if B would discontinue the behavior in the absence of A's inducements.
Political behavior consists of human activities relating to the government and its processes of authoritative decision-making and action. Examples of political behavior, or political activity, include such actions as (1) voting in elections, (2) contributing money to political parties or to the election campaigns of candidates running for government office, (3) attending and actively participating in party caucuses, or meetings (e.g., precinct meetings and county, district, state, and national conventions), (4) serving on party and campaign committees, (5) serving as campaign workers for particular candidates, (6) working for political action committees, (7) active membership in political interest groups, (8) lobbying, (9) engaging in protest demonstrations, (10) writing to or otherwise contacting members of the legislature or other government officeholders, (11) disseminating political propaganda, (12) writing letters to newspaper and magazine editors--letters discussing politics and issues of public policy, (13) writing and publishing books, periodicals, articles, and other literature dealing with public issues, (14) running for government office, and (15) governmental activity--the government's making and enforcement of authoritative decisions, decisions that are vested with the authority of the society for and in the name of which they are made and carried out, are binding on all members of the society, and have the effect of authoritatively distributing resources and values for the society.
While the term "political behavior" refers to many different types of human activity, all of these types of activity are concerned ultimately with public policy. All types of political behavior, in the final analysis, relate to authoritative decision-making and action by the government and to the resulting authoritative allocation of the benefits and costs of living in the political society.
The ultimate purpose of acquiring political power is to use it to shape and control public policy--public policy in general or some aspect of public policy. Those who possess political power and utilize it to influence, shape, and control the political behavior of others--whether to influence a decision of a political party or a political action committee, to impact on the outcome of an election, to influence the decisions and actions of government offices and institutions, or to obtain for themselves election or appointment to public office and thereby gain personally the legal right to actively and officially participate in the processes of authoritative decision-making by the government--are concerned ultimately with influencing, conditioning, shaping, and controlling the content and direction of public policy. Political power is acquired and exercised in order to significantly affect the government's authoritative decisions and actions on public policy--either decision-making and action on public policy in general or decision-making and action in a particular area of public policy (let's say, public education, national health insurance, immigration, drug enforcement, civil rights, affirmative action, taxation, energy policy, environmental protection, gun control, or regulation of abortion).
2003: US Invasion of Iraq
2001: 9/11 Attacks
1998: Indian Nuclear Test
1991: Collapse of the Soviet Union
1979: Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan
1978: Iranian Revolution
1973: Yom Kippur War
1968: Tet Offensive
1961: Bay of Pigs Invasion
1941: Pearl Harbor Attack
Intelligence Assessment Templates
Intelligence Estimate – Defense
Joint Intelligence Estimate
Intelligence Requirements – DOJ
Political Theme (continued)
Political power may be defined as the ability to influence, condition, shape, and control the content and direction of public policy. Political power is influence or control over or participation in the making and implementation of official decisions of government offices and institutions--i.e., the authoritative, binding decisions made and carried out by the government for and in the name of the entire society.
In a modern constitutional democratic political society, such as Britain or the U.S.A., do all persons who wield political power hold formal positions in the government? The answer to this question is, of course, no. One who possesses and exercises political power may or may not be an official governmental decision-maker, or an official participant in govern- mental decision-making. A political actor wielding political power may or may not hold a government office relevant to the particular policy decision or decisions he is seeking to mold and control. If he does hold such an office, he operates as a formal-legal participant in the public-policy decision-making processes carried on by the government. If he does not occupy a relevant public office, he plays the role of a private citizen who, through mobilization of political resources available to him, effectively exerts pressure on the government and thereby influences, conditions, and modifies the government's decision-making behavior in one or more areas of public policy. In the latter case, the citizen may act as an individual, as a member of a politically influential family, as one who is highly respected and strategically located in a politically influential "Old Boys" or "First Families" network, as a member or hired lobbyist of a political interest group, as a leader or active member of a political party or faction, or in two, three, four, or all five of the foregoing capacities.
Two major forms of political power are political authority and political influence.
Political authority is governmental power, the formal-legal authority of the public officeholders and institutions comprising the government to make and carry out decisions on public policy--to adopt and implement the authoritative decisions that have the force of law and are binding on all members of the society. Political authority is the legally established power of the government to make rules and issue commands and to compel obedience to them, making use of physical force and coercion when deemed necessary. Political authority, in short, is the legal right--the legally established power--to govern society.
If the political authority exercised by a government is willingly and widely accepted by the population comprising the society the government endeavors to control, that government will not have to rely entirely or almost entirely on naked force to maintain order and obtain compliance with its decisions. Under these conditions, the authority exercised by the government is legitimate, and the government itself is
Legitimate political authority is the legitimate right of the government to govern the entire society, the widely recognized right of the government to adopt and enforce public-policy decisions for and in the name of the entire political community. Legitimate political authority is governmental power derived from willing and widespread acceptance by the citizenry of the right of the organs of their government to make rules and issue commands and to expect obedience to them. Legitimate political authority, in short, is governmental power based on political legitimacy.
Political legitimacy exists in a political community, or society, when most citizens (1) perceive the government as having the moral as well as legal right to make and enforce decisions binding on the whole community, (2) see the decisions themselves as being legitimate, and (3) consider it the duty of all citizens to voluntarily comply with these decisions, thereby substantially reducing the government's need to employ armed force or expend other resources to compel or induce compliance. The existing political regime, or system of government, is considered to be legitimate because, according to widespread and deep-seated feelings and beliefs among the members of the political society, those persons occupying the offices and institutions comprising the government obtained their positions by legitimate means and therefore have the moral and legal right to hold these formal governmental positions and to exercise the powers legally assigned to the positions. Absent, under normal conditions, are efforts of substantial segments of the society to employ force and violence--armed insurrection, or rebellion--in order to overthrow the political regime, to prevent effective enforcement of the government's decisions, or to secede from the existing political community and form a separate and independent community and governmental system of their own.
Political influence needs to be distinguished from political authority. While political authority is the formal-legal right of the government to make and enforce official decisions on public policy, political influence is the ability of private individuals and groups to impact on the government's making and implementation of official policy decisions.
Political influence is the ability of private individuals and groups to influence, condition, shape, and thereby control the authoritative decisions and actions of those who possess the formal-legal authority to take these decisions and actions. The individuals and groups exercising political influence do not hold the relevant government offices and therefore do not possess the formal-legal authority to make the official governmental decisions they seek to shape and control; but they do have and exercise the ability to shape and control the decision-making behavior of those officeholders in the government who do possess the formal-legal authority to make the relevant decisions on public policy. Such individuals and groups exercise significant influence over particular policy decisions made by particular government offices and institutions. These individuals and groups have acquired and are exercising that form of political power called "political influence." A private individual or organization possesses and exercises political influence to the extent that its interests and demands have to be taken into account by the government--or an office or institution of the government--when making and carrying out decisions on public policy.
Political influence, in short, is the form of political power exercised by those who do not possess the formal-legal authority to make and enforce particular governmental decisions on public policy, but have and utilize the ability to condition, modify, and control the official decision-making behavior of those in government office who do possess the authority to make and implement the decisions.
When the United States Congress enacts a law and provides for its enforcement, that public institution--or set of public institutions--is exercising political authority. When the leaders of a political interest group, a private organization, successfully persuade particular members of Congress to vote a certain way on a pending legislative bill, when the MCs were not inclined to vote that way in the absence of interest-group pressure, the leaders of the interest group are exercising political influence.
The intelligence profession, already well established within government, is growing in the private sector. Intelligence is traditionally a function of government organizations serving the decision-making needs of national security authorities. But innovative private firms are increasingly adapting the national security intelligence model to the business world to aid their own strategic planning. Although business professionals may prefer the term “information” over “intelligence,” the author will use the latter term to highlight the importance of adding value to information. According to government convention, the author will use the term “customer” to refer to the intended recipient of an intelligence product — either a fellow intelligence service member, or a policy official or decision-maker. The process of converting raw information into actionable intelligence can serve government and business equally well in their respective domains.
Production of intelligence follows a cyclical process, a series of repeated and interrelated steps that add value to original inputs and create a substantially transformed product. That transformation is what distinguishes intelligence from a simple cyclical activity. In government and private sector alike, analysis is the catalyst that converts information into intelligence for planners and decision-makers.
Although the intelligence process is complex and dynamic, several component functions may be distinguished from the whole. In this primer, components are identified as Intelligence Needs, Collection Activities, Processing of Collected Information, Analysis and Production. To highlight the components, each is accorded a separate Part in this study. These labels should not be interpreted to mean that intelligence is a uni-dimensional and unidirectional process. “[I]n fact, the [process] is multidimensional, multidirectional, and — most importantly — interactive and iterative.”
The purpose of this process is for the intelligence service to provide decision-makers with tools, or “products” that assist them in identifying key decision factors. Such intelligence products may be described both in terms of their subject content and their intended use.
Any or all of these categories may be relevant to the private sector, depending upon the particular firm’s product line and objectives in a given industry, market environment, and geographic area.
A nation’s power or a firm’s success results from a combination of factors, so intelligence producers and customers should examine potential adversaries and competitive situations from as many relevant viewpoints as possible. A competitor’s economic resources, political alignments, the number, education and health of its people, and apparent objectives are all important in determining the ability of a country or a business to exert influence on others. The eight subject categories of intelligence are exhaustive, but they are not mutually exclusive. Although dividing intelligence into subject areas is useful for analyzing information and administering production, it should not become a rigid formula. Some intelligence services structure production into geographic subject areas when their responsibilities warrant a broader perspective than topical divisions would allow.
Similarly, characterization of intelligence by intended use applies to both government and enterprise, and the categories again are exhaustive, but not mutually exclusive. The production of basic research intelligence yields structured summaries of topics such as geographic, demographic, and political studies, presented in handbooks, charts, maps, and the like. Current intelligence addresses day-to-day events to apprise decision-makers of new developments and assess their significance. Estimative intelligence deals with what might be or what might happen; it may help policymakers fill in gaps between available facts, or assess the range and likelihood of possible outcomes in a threat or “opportunity” scenario. Operational support intelligence incorporates all types of intelligence by use, but is produced in a tailored, focused, and timely manner for planners and operators of the supported activity. Scientific and Technical intelligence typically comes to life in in-depth, focused assessments stemming from detailed physical or functional examination of objects, events, or processes, such as equipment manufacturing techniques.23 Warning intelligence sounds an alarm, connoting urgency, and implies the potential need for policy action in response.