Intelligence - Intelligence Analyst - Richards and Pherson - Assessment Answer

January 14, 2017
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Question:Intelligence Analyst

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Intelligence Analyst Assignment

Assignment Task

Answer the following question drawing on material presented in relevant academic material and other sources.

What is the most important task of the intelligence analyst? Explain and justify your answer.

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Intelligence analysis is the way by which common truths are separated out of deceptive information available in any situation (Richards & Pherson, 2010). Though it used in its purest form inside various national Intelligence agencies, it is also useful in business intelligence, competitive intelligence. For intelligence analysts, often the situation is deliberately given multiple leads by the opponent to confuse them; preventing them to find the right conclusion. Also analysts must be aware of traps and counter intelligence deployed by the opponent. To perform as an intelligence analyst one certainly needs problem solving skills. Analysts often go for the “middle of the road” explanation based on their own experience on the level of risk the opponent may take up for minor gains. By this, analysts screen out the high and low probabilities to find out the underlying intention of the opponent. It is studied that analysts who draw conclusion at an early stage of the analysis are less accurate in their decisions than those who concluded at a later stage. This is due to the better and clearer information available at the later stage. False leads, pieces of information are often deliberately put the opponent; which any analyst should avoid. Not taking decision without adequate information is considered to be a good practice in intelligence analysis (Davis, 2014).

Aim and objectives:

The aim of this paper is to discuss the profession of intelligence analysis and about the most important task of an intelligence analyst. The objectives of the paper are to:

  • Assess the profession of intelligence analysis.
  • Analyse the tasks of an intelligence analyst.
  • Critically evaluate the most important task of an intelligence analyst.

Analytic tradecraft

Analytic tradecraft refers to the method s used by the analysts for intelligence analysis. Institutions like Joint Military Intelligence, Mercy Hurst College Institute of Intelligence Studies train analyst in this field. In their regular work, analysts handle with very sensitive, complex and secretive issues of their clients and providing right information at the right time to the client is one of the major duties of any analyst. The details study of the available information helps the policy makers in taking the right decision. Analytic tradecraft standards are made and used to equalize the difference between analysts which ultimately results in better teamwork and productivity (Clark, 2012). They must know their craft and the basic tools used for intelligence analysis such as

Setting goals for intelligence analysis:

Having goals to achieve provides the analysts a direction with which they can proceed in the investigation. Setting goals from the customer’s point of view is usually helpful. For a company finding out future plans of their competitor might be the goal of the intelligence analysis (Fleisher & Bensoussan, 2003). On the other hand the goal for an analyst in the national intelligence agency might be to know about the purpose of visit of any foreign minister to his country.

To be Bold and honest:

As an intelligence analyst, one should have confidence on their own skills. He should stand firm on his decision if he believes the available information proves his conclusion. A good analyst should always be open for other interpretations and viewpoint but, he must also believe in his findings and take firm decisions (Richards & Pherson, 2010).

Agreement on content:

An intelligence analyst must let his customer know about the analytic process used. Clients might not know about threat possibilities or opportunities which are visible to the analyst. He should brief the concerned matter to the client in due time so that his input becomes beneficial to the policy making of the company. Analysts are also always looking for obvious indications of near around threats like a war or a political turmoil. When such scenario occurs, the analyst should be able to have a crisis team to obtain time sensitive information (Picard et al, 2002).

Orienting to the Customers:

An experienced analyst orients his hob according to the need of the client. The client might be looking for the right path of action or if the client has already found the path of action, intelligence about the probable hurdles on that path might be helpful. Finding links which are not obvious might be useful to the client if given in proper time. When client needs, the analyst should be able to communicate with his assets to collect information about the concerned matter in very short time.

Maintaining Peers:

Like in other professionals; Intelligence analysts maintain good relation among each other because that allows them to learn other’s skills which is essential in this field and also because the opponent company can be their next consumer. Maintaining the bonds with fellow analysts also helps in aggressive collection of information when needed. Regular connection with counterparts is essential here to maintain a collection system (Richards & Pherson, 2010).

Organising intelligence:

When an analyst collects information from his collection system, the information comes in a mixed form. Some might be true, some might be irrelevant, others could be misleading. It is the job of the intelligence analyst to organise the information before it can be used in policy making. He should be able to organise the information between categories such as direct information, indirect information, direct data, indirect data etc. and to interrelate known data. Evaluation of the data is also to be done before drawing the conclusion (Heuer, 2013).

The Analytic process

The main objective of having an intelligence analyst is to identify threats in due time so that the company can take steps to avoid business losses. The analyst should follow these steps:

Define the problem

Analysts are to define and describe the problems and hurdles that are imminent to the policy makers. Some issues are known and can be answered promptly, while some may need a little investigation. Intelligence analyst should understand the thinking of his customer and allies (Barron, 2014).

Generate Hypothesis

After defining the problem the analyst should put forward general reasonable hypothesis of the problem. For example, a company policy maker might want to know if their competitor will lower its prices. In this case there can be two hypotheses; they will increase or they will not increase their prices. However with more investigation more can be found, for example they might give discounts to customers or even rise in price for certain products.

Determine information needs and collecting information

To perform his duties, an intelligence analyst needs various information. Some can be readily available to the analyst and some may be not. The intelligence analyst should be able to identify the gap of information and he should be able to collection more information on the subject through his collection system or from open system such as public record, press records, databases etc. (Chen et al, 2012).

Evaluate sources

Analysts face counterintelligence from the opponent as the opponent also always tries to not being predictable to other companies. This means that when an intelligence analyst is collecting information on a matter, he should evaluate the sources of this information for authenticity. False leads or wrong information should be avoided.

Evaluate Hypotheses

At the initial stage there might be multiple hypotheses which should be evaluated thoroughly. Methods of analysing hypotheses or link charts are useful here. It is important to determine if the hypotheses is valid or false or would require further investigation to become useful to the client.

Production and packaging

After the hypotheses are evaluated the analyst should deliver the product to the client explaining the key features including timeliness, scope and periodicity. Timeliness explains the usefulness of the product at the given time. It also accounts the total amount of time taken for the product. Scope of the product is the level of authenticity and accuracy in the product. Government intelligence products are often packaged with structured written or oral presentation including hard copies, briefings and electrical messages (Barron, 2014).

Peer review

Peer review is important to an intelligence analyst because it allows then to verify the authenticity of the collected intelligence. So, regular coordination with peers is vital. Large intelligence agencies have their peers in other agencies too. If the analyst thinks he is right in a conclusion, he should stick to the same even if the coordinator thinks he might be wrong. However the analyst should be open enough to value other point of views and interpretations. Having well connected peers also enables the analyst to aggressively search for information when needed by the customer (McMaster, 2014).

Customer feedback and production evaluation

The duties of an intelligence analyst do not end on delivering the product to the consumer. To make the intelligence useful in the policy making, the analyst and the consumer should be in constant contact, giving feedbacks to each other (Davis, 2014).

Role of an intelligence analyst

The above discussed are the basic tasks of any intelligence analyst. However the role of an intelligence analyst can’t be explained related to a single role. They are appointed for various objectives like keeping an eye on near around threats or opportunities that can be utilised by the consumer or to suggest a solution to an existing problem (McMaster, 2014). An analyst is also supposed to find answers for the policy makers on demand. Finding information and delivering them to the policy maker in due time might be considered as the main task of any intelligence analyst. Time is crucial here. The intelligence collected should be evaluated before being delivered to the consumer. Reporting about any crucial finding won’t be helpful if the delivery is done after the policy making process is done. Companies as well as National agencies always want the information in their hands as early as possible because that allows them to take precautionary steps to prevent the loss. For this fast paced working requirement the analyst needs to maintain a working collection system, whose limits and strengths are to be known by him (Raisinghani & Meade, 2005). Also, it is his task to keep himself updated with technologies and knowledge which helps in fast working scenario. An intelligence analyst should also keep in mind that the analysis should not depend on his own knowledge alone. A third person, who knows the other field, can be included to do the task.

Intelligence analysis involves obtaining the necessary information through the analysis of data available in the freely available sources or produced in unspoken ways. It is isolated as part of the investigation as a whole – and as an element of the intelligence cycle (Heuer, 2013). One of the main tasks of intelligence analysis is to answer the questions posed by the military and political leadership of the country. In the majority of cases, intelligence has only individual pieces of information that can be used for this purpose. Analysts need to draw the necessary conclusions from this information. It is also an important form of representation of the management information. One must provide information in a concise and convincing enough form (tables, graphs). However, a lot depends on the preferences of the leaders. Thus, Western scholars have noted that the leaders of the Soviet Union preferred not to receive analysis and raw information. In this regard it should be noted that before this approach could be justified, but the complexity of today's situation in the world and assessing a huge amount of information without the processing being done by professional analysts is difficult (McMaster, 2014).

Intelligence analysts helps the leaders of the country to make a decision, and then finds out intelligence service response to his opponents. Intelligence agencies can evaluate and criticize the policies of successful leaders. In this connection it should be noted that certain types of leaders with irritation perceive negative information for them and offer alternatives (Heuer, 2013).


The main stages of work on intelligence analysis are as follows:

  1. General familiarity with the problem
  2. Definition of used terms
  3. Gather the facts
  4. The interpretation of the facts
  5. Building a hypothesis
  6. Conclusions
  7. Statement
  8. Reference.

Accuracy and errors are significant too. Evaluation of the reliability of the information obtained is often a major weak point (Jones, 2013). So, before the attack on Pearl Harbor US intelligence received warnings about the threat of attacks, but each of the threats had alternative explanations. The same situation occurred before the German attack on the USSR. On the one hand, Stalin received numerous conflicting warnings of the impending attack from different sources, but they could not adequately assess. On the other hand, the German intelligence gave a much lower estimate of the mobilization capacity of the USSR and the stability of the Soviet political system. It is also difficult to predict revolutions and coups. So, in 1979, analysts of US military intelligence, based on information provided by members of the Iranian secret services had concluded that the Shah of Iran was going to retain power in the next decade, but just a few months later there was the Islamic revolution in Iran and the Shah was overthrown (Barron, 2014).


It can be concluded that intelligence analysis is the way by which common truths are separated out of deceptive information available in any situation. Though it used in its purest form inside various national Intelligence agencies, it is also useful in business intelligence, competitive intelligence. Intelligence analysis involves obtaining the necessary information through the analysis of data available in the freely available sources or produced in unspoken ways. It is isolated as part of the investigation as a whole – and as an element of the intelligence cycle. One of the main tasks of intelligence analysis is to answer the questions posed by the military and political leadership of the country. In the majority of cases, intelligence has only individual pieces of information that can be used for this purpose.

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