Biases common to USA intelligence agencies
In matters national and global security, intelligence is a very vital aspect of obtaining, analyzing and working or acting on the information that is acquired. In every country worldwide there is a body or rather, many bodies that are in charge of this process. However, it is worth mentioning that security is not only a universal matter that intertwines with other issues in the country and on the globe, but also a multi-agency concern. It requires the input and cooperation among the various bodies, organizations and individuals involved in running a country. Having said this, it is also vital that we delve into the details of intelligence and how the information required is obtained and dealt with.
Intelligences and intelligence data collection and analysis are a complex but important process that requires not only sober reasoning but also versatility in thought and reasoning. This gives the people or bodies involved a very productive way of looking into the matters at hand. As such, the first thing to develop is a mental model or systems that aid in the process of intelligence analysis. It is at this point that a lot needs to be done such that no fixed mindset affects the reasoning and thought of the collector, analyzer or implementer of the intelligence action. After creating a system, it then follows that the aspects of intelligence analysis should also be had in mind. Such include the diagnostic aspect whereby one looks at the situation in a bid to reveal the underlying issues that form pillars for the observed or suspected issue. Secondly, one needs to have a contrarian look at the situation. This is whereby, attention is paid to the normal or expected occurrences but in such a way that the end result is to give an idea as to what is not normal or what is unexpected but has a great possibility of taking place altogether. Also, an intelligent analyst needs to have a look at the imaginative aspect of the situation. When all these are taken into account, it is possible to have an objective look at the matter at hand without losing track of small but game changing details.
Furthermore, among other things, it is a crucial step to review the mindset or the system through which the intelligence is worked on. This is in a bid to avoid the common mistakes that are committed by even the very experienced intelligence analysts. Key in this process is the criterion of evaluating the key assumptions available. Sometimes what is observed or thought to be right can be used as a piece of vital information on an intelligence issue. These assumptions are quite disappointing at time since they might end up not being the truths they were once thought to be. As such, if there is an investigation in the process, it is very important to underline the crucial points and use them as the basis of the investigation or search. However, be it from an eyewitness or rational deduction, the information can be wrong or misleading. Thus there is need for the objective eye to look at these assumptions and come up with their demerits and other policies. A keen investigation into the quality of the information and its source is also important.
It is at this point that it is prudent to bring up the USA intelligence agencies and some of their failing in terms of handling a situation with a lot of biasness in the intelligence information, that may have led to the failure or a time consuming process of fighting a crime or an event. A good example is the 2002 sniper shooting case that saw a couple of shootings take place in Washington, DC. This shooting case was taken serious after a couple of sniper kind of killings rose in number in the city and required a quick solution. Apparently, the only solution was to, not only disable the activities of this killer or killers, but to bring the responsible to book. The issue here is the amount of time taken to capture the sniper. In one way or the other, the process would have been faster if there was a deeper look upon the information given to the law enforcement agencies. First, the profile given, stated categorically that the sniper was male. As much as this was a possibility, it was not certain that it was true. It was also said that the sniper was acting alone and is a white man. These were possibilities but not to high level of confidence to be the truth or the real fact. Also, the notion that the man was a military man and is driving a white van is given thus focusing people involved in the search to one particular direction. There is no ruling out that these are possibilities but it is good to note that these are not the only possibilities. The natural laws of intelligence security analysis involves analyzing the roles of thinking and what is involved in the process, tools of brainstorming and an objective psychological analysis of the situation.
Apart from analyzing assumptions involved in a case, it is also crucial to determine the source of information and its credibility. This goes a long way to ensure that there is quality information at the disposal of the analyzer of these pieces of information. Having a versatile mind also helps in the process of noticing and identifying the significance of the indicators or signposts that give a hint on some kind of change or evolution in tactics, procedures or development of the enemy or a process. Similarly, a lesson is learnt from the Israeli Yom Kippur case. As has been seen over the years, Israel has one of the most sophisticated and efficient security intelligence organs in the world. However, in the 1973 Yom Kippur incident, their security intelligence was tested and found to have some kind of bias in the process of investigation and dealing with the issue. Though the attack by Egypt on the country was subverted, it left all the security intelligence organs shaken by how much a bias can be. Apparently, the analysis was too busy thinking that Egypt will wait to build its war power and seek alliances with other Arab countries before even thinking of an attack on Israel. In short the focus was on the readiness than on the possibility of a spontaneous attack. As such, the bias led to a scratch in the ego of the Israeli security agencies.
In all these cases of intelligence analysis it is important to analyze and test the competing but divergent or parallel hypotheses. In this process, it is also good to apply the technique of the devil`s advocacy.
In the aftermath of the onshore attack on the Cuban republic in 1961, a few hiccups are also noticed. The fact that the government dispatched its forces in a very small number to go into war was a misinformed decision. It is also evident that the political rivalry between J. F Kennedy and the opponent, Nixon clouded the judgment of policy and decision makers hence making the war on Cuba a kind of failure. There are very many commentaries about this failure. However, two issues stand out in the discussion. First the bias as a result of political rivalry and secondly some officers blame the issue on the senior ones whose main agenda was to `protect` the president and policy makers from some information.
The role of policy makers and the problems they face
Policy makers are some of the most important bodies in the day to day process of dealing with security threats that affect the nations on a regular basis. It is their primary role to be patriotic and loyal to their country. This is in line with the oaths of office they take before they set foot into their various offices. The first and primary issue in their mind and action is supposed to be the protection of their nation. Also, they are supposed to formulate policies that will affect how security matters are handled. This is because policies are the driving wheels by which country is run. As such, the people who make these policies should be of sound mind of great conviction that they have the interests of the country at heart. When formulating these policies they determine for example, how much of the national or federal government is geared towards driving the security operations and implementations.
The policy makers are also involved in the formulation and implementation of foreign policy. Foreign policy determines the kind of relations a country will have with other nations of the world. This means that the economic, environmental, legal and security matter relations that occurs between countries largely pass through the hands of the policy makers. Apart from these, they also determine the legal basis and modes of operation by the security agencies so as to have an ethically and properly functioning structure that propagates the security operations. These legal bases include laws on firearms, investigation into security related crimes and threat handling procedure. As a result of this, the policy makers are probably some of the most important people. It is also important to note that the president and his government are involved in policy implementation and the assessment of the security threat issues around the world. This gives them an opportunity to collect information by analyzing and acting on it in a systematic way. It therefore goes without saying that for a high level security intelligence operation to be on its toes. The president has to approve it from the very beginning. The policy makers are briefed on the security situations and they in turn make decisions that will save the situation with minimum damage. Notably, when a security threat goes sour or any misconduct and misjudgment is suspected, it is always the policy makers in form of committees of the senate or parliament that will investigate the details and give recommendations and actions to be taken in such cases. Finally and most importantly, it is the role of these policy makers that when a case or an alert is issued, the information is shared with the relevant bodies to ease the process of handling such a situation. Similarly, it is their role to act on the intelligence they are given by the security agencies to enable them keep the country and its people safe by dealing with an imminent threat.
Despite their numerous uncountable roles in dealing with security threats and its root formulations, policy makers also have challenges and problems in their work. It is important to note that the policy makers here include the leaders in the country level, local level and security organizational levels. The first challenge among these people is the inability to sometimes share information. This happens for various reasons that range from shear timidity to having a sense of being the protector of the nation and the organization. The truth is in these organizations, some of the junior workers do not dare to share information with their superiors because of job security. For this reason they would rather keep their mouth closed and retain their jobs or sometimes, their life may be in danger for talking. On the other hand, the senior policy makers in the organization may be hoarders of information to protect the organizational budget. Others keep the information to hide a loophole that may exist in the analysis. Clarke argues that in whatever case, there are incentives that make one to avoid sharing of information.
Also, the main challenge among policy makes is the inability to make objective analysis and critical look at the situation. This is as a result of the biasness that exists among the various personalities involved. These biases are based on a number of issues that may prove problematic even to the people who work together for the purpose of security development some are based on one`s background or cultural affiliations that may cloud their judgment in the event of analyzing or investigating a situation. Wishful thinking is also a problematic issue that brings out a bias while one is dealing with a security situation. This is because, when one believes something should happen in a particular way to end up with some kind of predicted outcome and the fact that they believe it can only happen in one way, then this becomes a problem and a hindrance to objective dealing with a situation. Personal or political rivalry has been found to be the fastest route to this kind of biasness. An example is seen in the USA presidential election campaigns between John F. Kennedy and Nixon of the Republican Party. It was seen that, in their quest for presidency they moved it a notch higher and used foreign policy on the Cuban case. Since this was the main topic upon which to flex political muscle, one of them took a very severe position while the other, having no other option, adopted a relatively liberal approach. The severity and underestimation of the enemy plus a factor thinking it is a must win battle, brought the Cuban quest to a sudden halt. Status quo bias which is the belief that nothing different can take place is also one of the problems associated with the modern day policy makers. Many a time, political officers are not able to accept the change that has been noted until it is too late. As explained by Clarke in his book of intelligence analysis, the former president, sometime after leaving office, says that: “Year after year, the worriers and fretters would come to me with awful predictions of the outbreak of war. I denied it each time. I was only wrong twice.” This is a lucky case, just to say it in bold terms. Lastly, we can note that at some point in the process of dealing with security issues, the policy makers or the customers to the security agencies fail to act on the intelligence provided. This may be as a result of fear of reprimanding or just personal ego or simply the idea that one`s judgment is much more superior.
In s nutshell, the concept of national security is a vast one with great need for cooperation and discipline in the dispensation process. In the USA and other numerous countries, the security agencies have for a long time succeeded in thwarting security threats. However, due to some bias in the system of analysis and implementation some of the situations are not properly handled or not handled with the proper intensity required. Problems also arise from bias and rivalry of the policy makers thus making them have a challenge in the actual implementations and executions.
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Biases common to USA intelligence agencies