In the purview of national security, there exists a relationship between the intelligence analysts (particularly those who belong to the Central Intelligence Agency [CIA]) who keep tabs with what is going on in and around the world, to see how it could affect the state, and the policymakers who makes (foreign) policies based on the assessments of these analysts. Their relationship or partnership is key to safeguarding the interests and security of the nation, in this case, the United States.
By way of analogy, their relationship may be likened to the the shepherd boy in the well-known fable of Aesop titled, “The Boy Who Cried, ‘Wolf’” where the analysts are the shepherds and the villagers represent the policymakers. The like the character in the fable, the duty of the analysts, as stated above, is to see to the security of the state by watching for signs and issue the corresponding warnings to the the policymakers who will respond accordingly whether it may be in the form of economic sanctions or military intervention, the most extreme response to be employed.
According to Sherman Kent, there are times when this relationship is strained although ideally they must be cordial. He cited several “flaws” in this relationship which he categorized in two forms – the “Warning Analysis” and the “Intentions Analysis. ” Before discussing the flaws or weaknesses, both processes do have its strengths and these lie in the relationship. The close working relationship between the analysts and the policymakers is what keeps the security of the nation intact and there have been occasions when the timely warnings were acted upon accordingly.
One of the best examples on the effectiveness of this relationship was the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. When analysts presented their findings to the National Security team of President John F. Kennedy, they acted accordingly which led to the eventual removal of the missiles from Cuba, thereby averting what could have been World War III. Another example which did not concern America’s national security yet highlighted the working relationship between analysts and policymakers involved China’s saber rattling towards Taiwan.
The US deployed a carrier battle group along the Taiwan Straits that “pacified” the area. It can be seen in these two examples that the policymakers received the assessments of the analysts, believed it when they find it to be credible, and acted upon it accordingly and appropriately, thereby completing the process. But it is worth noting that so as long as analysts are competent and provide sound and credible assessments, policymakers will be able to act accordingly and properly without causing a major fiasco. But these two appraoches are not without their flaws or weaknesses too.
In the warning analysis which entails determining the intentions of the “enemy,” both parties are aware of the flaws or issues of the other. On the part of the analysts, the “warners,” one is the tedency to “overwarn” (Davis, 2007, p. 4). As stated before, the task of the analysts is to ascertain or “guess” the intentions of the “enemy. ” The problem here is nothing is cut and dried though analysts are given a lot of latitude in doing their job and more often than not, there is the tendency to overvalue the estimates.
Then there is the apparent unpredictability of the “enemy” which would cause the analyst to second-guess. Like the shepherd boy who cried “wolf” twice in Aesop’s fable, the more mistakes analysts commit from second-guessing, the greater the decline of their credibility which will make the policymaker, the “warnee” not inclined to believe them in the future. This is also true if “warners” fail to give warnings or belittle the threat once again because of second-guessing.
The events of Pearl Harbor in 1941 and 9/11 in New York and the Pentagon in 2001 underscore that failure. Another is the tendency of the analysts to understimate the intelligence of the policymakers. Kent states that “warnees” are not dopes who are gullible and there are those who are genuinely keen on national security matters and make it a point to know the “enemy” as much as analysts do (Davis, 2007, p. 5). On the part of the “warnees,” they are hard to convince and will not act on a intelligence estimates established or built on a mere hint.
This puts an added strain or work on the part of the analysts to keep digging for information which may be unavailable and are considering other variables which only comes as a hint or based on a hunch. While this may work for police detectives, this would not be enough to convince policymakers to act and the analysts would be forced to exaggerate or overstate his estimates. This is nearly tantamount to lying which is still considered a breach of ethics on the part of the intelligence community.
In the case of the intentions analysis, this is the part where the “warner” decides whether or not to issue the warning given the data on hand. The other strength of this process is if analysts provide estimates based on what is known and knowable. The facts are on hand which makes it easy for analysts to come up with reliable and credible estimates and a convincing warning to the policymakers. There are also varaibles such as the “secrets” of the enemy which the analysts have to find out and the unknown.
It is at this point that the analyst must be creative and resourceful by using logical or rational means to justify or to make his hunches concrete by the time he presents his estimates to the policymakers (Davis, 2007, p. 7). The weakness of this process is the likelihood of being overtaken by events. It is likely to change. Any data obtained now might be outdated in a few days and if the analyst does not stay up to date of any developments, he is bound to give wrong estimates.
The most obvious case is Iraq in 2003 where the Bush Administration justfied its plan to invade on the assumption that it is the haven of terrorist and there were still weapons of mass destruction which turned out to be false eventually. Corollary to this is the tendency of the analyst to become numb in the absence of new evidence or failing to act once it becomes available which would mean the tedious task of rewriting the findings and there would be cases analysts would simply let things be which is “dangerous” (Davis, 2007, pp. 7-8).
At this point, Kent has prescribed what he calls “Alternate Analysis” techniques. Such techniques would involve the following: “Devil’s Advocacy,” where one tries to look at it from a different perspective which is by far an effective way of knowing the “enemy’s” intentions though it may fall short of predicting. But this technique is guaranteed to ensure that all bases are covered and leaves little room for error (Davis, 2007, p. 10). There is the “Risk-Benefit” approach where one looks at it from the “enemy” perspective, putting themselves in their shoes as they weigh the stakes in embarking on something.
This would prevent the “good guys” from overreacting and misinterpreting their intentions. Another approach would be the “High-Impact, Low-Probability” approach to see how potential threats would cause implications to America’s interests, usually based on a hunch or on snippets of information that can be obtained and finally, the “Quality of Information Check” where all raw data is thoroughly assessed to determine its authenticity consistency and comprehensiveness. This is sure to eliminate any trace of doubt and second-guessing on the part of the intelligence community (Davis, 2007, p. 11).
In conclusion, intelligence work is vital to the national security of the United States and it can be seen here that there has to be a good working relationship between the intelligence analysts and the policymakers. It can be seen here that the burden of responsibility rests on the intelligence analysts. They are perhaps the first line of defense against America’s enemies and it is vital they need to be competent enough to see the signs, ascertain them and send out the warning that is credible and convincing enough for policymakers to act on. Otherwise, the blame ultimately falls upon them should they be remiss on their duties.
Part II: If I were the the CIA analyst whose responsibilty is to provide information on the situaution in Iraq in 2003, the first and foremost thing on my mind is to adhere to the ideals of the agency. I could not help but use hindsight in trying to state how I would approach the Iraq issue. It would seem that the first three themes that define the mission of the CIA was not followed thereby leading to the current mess the US is in over at Iraq. It is apparent here that there is failure of intelligence as discovered right after the invasion took place.
As stated earlier in the first part, the US invaded Iraq on the grounds that the regime of Saddam Hussein still had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) which might find its way into the hands of terrorist organizations which might use them to launch attacks on the United States anytime and anywhere. Even before the attack commenced, an NIE on Iraq was presented before the Senate Committee on Intelligence and it found the NIE too weak to warrant action against Iraq and as a result,
Congress did not exercise its constitutional duty to declare war in a bid to put a check on President George W. Bush’s authority as commander-in-chief to commit troops in what they perceive as a needless war or a war not worth fighting. It is rather apparent that the war was waged to fulfill a political agenda which would be considered something out of conspiracy theorists’ mind. If I were in the one of the representatives from the CIA tasked to address the Iraq issue, first and foremost would be to adhere to the priniciples upheld by the agency – the moral purpose of the CIA’s mission, speaking truth to power, to do one’s homework and willingness to be accountable. These were apparently lacking when the NIE on Iraq was done.
It would be apparent that the NIE on Iraq was flawed. It can be inferred that this was done to serve a political purpose – to say what the adminstration wants to hear: Iraq was WMD despite the denials of the Iraqi government and the concurrence of the United Nations and International Atomic Energy Associatoon (IAEA). The refusal of the Bush Administration to pay attention to these statements confirm political undertones behind the NIE. This clearly violates the principle of being truthful in presenting findings. It can be surmised that the NIE was “tailor-made” to serve the interest of the “hawks” at the Bush Administration.
Despite the moral force in removing a tyrant, it is morally weak in thr honesty of stating the existence of WMD and it made the Bush Adminstration lose credibility as well as popularity or trust of the American people. As an analyst, one of the things I must do is to be honest even if the truth would hurt. If Iraq has no WMD, I would say so and not lie for the sake of serving the agenda of the “hawks” in the White House. Furthermore, another reason the NIE was flaws was because of failure to get timely intelligence from assets in-country.
One of the problems the intelligence community faces is the lack of reliable agents who can provide the necessary raw data. When one speaks of agents, these are the natives in who would be in the payroll of the CIA, the real “spies. ” The problem is there is no one reliable enough to recruit. Those currently on the payroll have their own political agenda and would be inclined to give data that serves a political purpose and the problem with field or case officers is (in the case of Iraq) is failing to verify the authenticity of the data collected.
On my part, I must be honest enough to admit this flaw rather than hide it or lie about it. Given the fact that these agents may be unreliable, I must do my homework in verifying the data by cross-checking it with my counterparts from other intelligence agencies here and from allied countries. In addition, employ the alternative analysis approaches mentioned by Sherman Kent which is considered more effective though not perfect in knowing the real score in Iraq. If I were to provide my own assessment on Iraq in 2003, I would say that Iraq was never a threat to the United States following 9/11.
Although Saddam Hussein was considered a nuisance to the United States, he was not a threat to America’s security. He was too preoccupied dealing with dissent from the Kurds and Shia people, especially the latter which had close ties to Iran. He was not likely to sponsor terrorist groups because his party was secular in nature and even (Sunni) sectarian groups hated the Saddam and his Ba’ath party. One can trust the UN and IAEA with their findings. If they said Saddam had no more WMD’s, there definitely was not.
In conclusion, honesty, along with accuracy of the facts is a virtue I must uphold as an intelligence officer (of the CIA). Though my role is “small” compared to the powers-that-be, my findings would determine the national security or foreign policy of the United States and the US has always been on the moral high ground and I must see to it it stays that way. Reference Davis, J. (2007). Sherman Kent’s Final Thoughts on Analyst-Policymaker Relations. Retrieved August 10, 2010 from Central Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency: http://www. cia. gov/library/kent-center-occasional-papers/vol2no3. htm.