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Final Essay Assignment
James Peterson

What biases, if any, might be common to U.S. intelligence agencies? Give two examples from history or modern day?
Explain what role policymakers play and what problems they face in relation to threat analysis.

Course: INTL634
March 3, 2013

What biases, if any, might be common to U.S. intelligence agencies? Give two examples from history or modern day?
There are a number of different types of bias mentioned in our text books. In their book, “Analyzing Intelligence” Bruce and Bennett discuss the denial and deception (D&D) bias traps than an analyst can fall into. They mention that there are three major categories: 1) Cultural and personal bias; 2) Organizational bias; & 3) Cognitive heuristics bias. Such biases can taint the analysts opinions based on their type of biases. (George & Bruce. 2008, 127-130)
Cultural and personal bias may allow the perception of the intelligence to be tainted by personal beliefs and pre-conceptions that the analyst has developed over his lifetime. This type of bias also may be influenced by personal experiences, morals, customs, habits, and social environments.
Organizational bias is “generally associated with the limitations and weaknesses of large bureaucratic organizations”. This type of bias is the result of actual or perceived goals, policies, and traditions of an organization. Bruce also says that the differences are even more extreme when “classified information” is involved.
Cognitive heuristics bias is the inability to properly perceive or understand the world around them. This type of bias makes the analysts vulnerable to optical illusions, magician’s tricks, political and military deception just to name a few. This bias may cause the analyst to believe that there is more going on than was actually is happening or as Bruce says “too much from too little”, taking things for granted because that is what the analyst believes he is observing, and believing what the analyst is being told without checking further.
In his book, Robert Clark talks about two kinds of bias found in the art of predictive analysis which is pattern or confirmation bias, and heuristic bias. (Clark, 2010, 207) Pattern or confirmation bias uses gathered evidence to confirm rather than reject a hypothesis. Pattern or confirmation bias could lead to false predictions through just looking at one side of the problem. An analyst with this type of bias would not be a critical thinker but would just take a problem as face value and not analyze both sides to predict what is more likely to happen and use his bias to confirm his analysis but not offer any type of analysis that could prove that the analysis could be untrue. This type of bias could cause the analyst to just look at past patterns or behavior and predict the future from past actions.
The other bias mentioned is heuristic bias which uses ‘inappropriate guidelines or rules’ in analyzing intelligence. (Clark, 2010, 207) An example of this type of bias would be where the analyst may be prejudicial towards one ethnic group and thus use inappropriate guidelines to bias his analysis. An example of this type of bias would be where the analyst is either republican or democratic and thus will base his decisions on one particular political standing and not be open to all sides of the issue. For example, an analyst may be pro-gun and he will look at just the one side of gun control.
Another type of bias found in gathering HUMINT is using a source that has a vested interest in the outcome, whether it is monetary or for some other purpose. (Clark, 2010, 126) Clark uses an example where the source would sell the intelligence to the highest bidder and therefore may embellish the Intel to some degree to make it more appealing in order to obtain higher bids. A great example of this type of source could be a terrorist who has been arrested and is being held in jail. The terrorist may try to share bad intelligence in order to get special treatment in prison. Clark advises the analyst to be weary of this type of situation.
Other types of biases that can affect an analyst’s objectivity are ethnocentric bias; wishful thinking bias; organizational or personal loyalties bias; status quo biases; and premature closure bias, through making early judgment which will in turn cause the analyst to heavily defend his analysis even though it may be wrong. (Clark, 2010, 3 & 4)
Jack Davis writes how the greatest tensions between policy makers and intelligence analysts are “conflicting professional ethics and objectives”. Davis labels this as “policy bias” or the “white elephant” in the room. Davis says that where the analysts are to remain unbiased in their analysis of the intelligence, the policy makers often want to use the intelligence to support their particular agenda. According to Davis this is the reason the analyst must get to know the “clients” in order to know the “clients” beliefs and knowledge of the problem. (George & Bruce, 2008, 166)
A real world example of an ethnocentric bias mentioned by Clark was the Yom Kippur attack on Israel. (Clark, 2010, 4) This was a surprise attack by Egypt and Syria against Israel in October 1973. Bruce says that this was a failure of both the United States and Israel intelligence community for not giving a warning of the “well-planned Arab invasion”. (George & Bruce, 2008, 195-196) Bruce says that failure was possibly because of the faulty assumptions by analysts, both in the United States and Israel, of the Arab’s intentions and capabilities. Bruce also points out that the Arabs were under estimated because of reports of quality of their equipment that they were moving into position.
A real world example of a cognitive bias, (believing what was told) would be the 2003 invasion of Iraq looking for WMD’s. We all know now that the WMD issue in Iraq was some bad intelligence and caused some bad decisions to be made. Because President Bush wanted to believe that Saddam Hussein had WMD’s and because of this belief the United States and her allies invaded Iraq in order to find these WMD’s and neutralize them. Bruce wrote in “Analyzing Intelligence” that the national intelligence estimate (NIE) had reported that Saddam had a great potential for building WMD’s and had stockpiled the same. According to Bruce, the Iraq NIE claimed that Iraq had an active chemical weapons program, that was producing chemical weapons, that Iraq had biological weapons, had begun to reconstitute it’s nuclear weapons program, that Iraq was developing UAVs intending to probably deliver BW agents, and that Iraq had ballistic missiles capable of reaching long distances. Bruce wrote that analysts failed much because they believed the ‘Denial & Deception’ or D&D that Iraq was using to confuse their adversaries of their actual strengths and weaknesses. (George & Bruce, 2008, 201-202)

Explain what role policymakers play and what problems they face in relation to threat analysis.
The main role of the policy makers is to make policy and oftentimes the intelligence community is right in the middle of that process. According to Lowenthal, inside the National Security Policy process rests the five points of interest, with the President of the United States as an individual on the top, then the federal departments such as the DOD, State Department, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and DHS ECT, the National Security Council as the hub, the intelligence community, and finally the United States Congress.
Ideally the President is at the top of the power structure, but hopefully they all work together to develop policies especially when they affects National Security and the lives of the citizens of the United States. Looking back at the 9/11 attacks we find that they were not working together and thus critical information was not shared and it cost thousands of lives. The DHS was formed to help coordinate the information from the different agencies in a hope of preventing such blunders in the future. (Lowenthal, 2012, 199-200) The ultimate goal of the policy makers should be to arrive at a consensus between the different agencies.
In his book, Robert Clark, tells his readers that the Policy Makers are the customer of the intelligence analysts. He says that the number of customers of intelligence prior to 9/11 was comprised mainly of two groups. There was the military and then there were the country’s leaders. Following the terrorist attacks the customer base for the intelligence analysts grew substantially. (Clark, 2010, 294) The two basic customers went from military and national leaders to state and local government as well as private businesses. Every area mentioned has unique needs. For example, a private business, such as a bank, may need to have intelligence on the new technology being used to steal customer information from ATM’s such as ‘card skimming’, for the purpose of developing measures to prevent this type of theft. The state or federal agencies may need intelligence on biological or nuclear threats. Clark describes policy makers as the customer in these areas and the intelligence analyst as the one trying to sell his product which is the intelligence. (Clark, 2010, 294)
Clark states that the political policy maker as maybe the ‘most’ difficult customer of the intelligence analyst. Because the political policy maker will know the political arena much better than the individual analyst might. But Clark notes that the policy maker may be more attentive to analysts in the Science and Technology (S&T) and weapons intelligence because of the lesser knowledge in these areas. (Clark, 2010, 295) According to Clark the political policy maker has some unique problems when it comes to intelligence. They are often under time restrictions as they are extremely busy with many different tasks to complete. Another problem for the policy maker is the need for clear and brief messages because of the time sensitive material. For example, the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, where there was intelligence that Iraq had WMD’s or the capability of building WMD’s and there may be an immediate threat to the safety of the United States. Clark says that the political policy makers have short memories and don’t often keep copies of prior intelligence reports. The other problem according to Clark is the ‘today news’ philosophy they have where they want current intelligence instead of intelligence that may have been obtained in the past months.
Clark notes that political policy makers usually adopt a certain mindset. They will look at the raw intelligence and take what supports their particular mindset and ignore the rest. (Clark, 2010, 295) Take for example the current issue of “gun control”. The political policy makers on one side of the isle are in strong opposition of “gun control” policies and the policy makers on the other side of the isle are in strong support of “gun control” policies. (Clark, 2010, 295)
According to Lowenthal, there appears to be potential for stress “at each stage of the intelligence process”. Because there are some in both parties who don’t get along there is differences in terminology used. Apparently, according to Lowenthal, the policy makers don’t necessarily like the intelligence community and the intelligence community doesn’t necessarily like the policy makers. He states the intelligence community refers to the policy makers as the consumer as they consume the intelligence given to them by the intelligence community. There seems to be a forced respect between the two because they need each other. (Lowenthal, 2012, 206) Looking back in history this was no more obvious than during war time. Looking back at the Viet Nam war this was very obvious. The intelligence community obtains information of threats but the policy makers seem to drag their feet in creating policy because they want to be cautious where the intelligence community is looking for bold quick moves to quell the enemy and this can sometimes lengthen the war action. Sometimes policy makers are forced to be cautious because of foreign policy already in place with ally nations and therefore the government leaders have to balance risk against results. For example, the United States gets a lot of their oil supply from the Middle Eastern countries and does the United States want to risk this availability of oil against intelligence that is not 100% accurate.
Sometimes policy makers are forced to create policy that they may not necessarily agree with but know must be done. Lowenthal uses the example of the mission to kill Osama bin Laden as an example of creating policy. They had different options of accomplishing the feat but finally decided on using the Navy Seals to enter the compound where he was residing and taking him out. They felt that this way there was less risk for collateral damage such as what would have possibly happened in a UAV strike. I am sure that the decision was aided by looking back at previous failed attempts. (Lowenthal, 2012, 183-184)

Clark, Robert, Intelligence Analysis: A Target-Centric Approach 3rd edition, (Washington, DC: Sage, CQPress 2010)
George, Roger Z. & Bruce, James B. (Editors). Analyzing Intelligence: Origins, Obstacles, and Innovations. (Washington, DC Georgetown University Press 2008)
Lowenthal, Mark M. Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy 5th Edition (Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, and Washington DC, Sage CQPress, 2012)

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