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Failed Intelligence Adaptation Essay

Intelligence analysts must seek to understand the adversary’s thought process, and should develop and continuously refine their ability to think like the adversary.

Recent history like that what happened in the 9/11 attack in the United States soil proved that the analysts tasked to undertake the information analysis on Al-Qaeda had been surprised and committed intelligence failure.  Comparisons of the attack on the trade towers with the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor have often suggested that the adversaries on these occasions might have been pushed to make desperate moves.

But the signs leading up to 9/11 were ignored for at least three of the same reasons that the Japanese were able to catch the U.S. Pacific fleet at anchor on the morning of 7 December, 1941—good intelligence indicators lost in the “noise” of disinformation; a belief that the enemy lacked the technical capacity to undertake the action; finally, mirror imaging, the assumption on the part of the intelligence “consumer” that the action undertaken was unlikely because it was “illogical.” (Porch D. and Wirtz, J.J.)

“Noise” becomes a problem especially when intelligence services have overlapping mandates, are competitive and therefore fail to cooperate to share and analyze information, or believe that the other service has a special responsibility for the collection of a particular type of intelligence. A second factor in intelligence surprise occurs when the technological capabilities of the enemy are underestimated. The final cause of intelligence surprise is “mirror-imaging”—the belief that the perpetrators will not carry out a particular act because the defender, in their place, would not do it. (Porch D. and Wirtz, J.J.)

The above factors reflect that the Principle of Joint Intelligence stating that “Unity of intelligence effort must be ensured”, was not fully realized.   For a particular area of interest, there should be unity of intelligence effort to ensure complete, accurate, and current intelligence to develop the best possible understanding of the adversary and the situation, and to reduce unnecessary redundancy and duplication (fas.org).

Reference

Porch, D. and Wirtz J.J. “Strategic Insight: Surprise and Intelligence Failure”. Sept. 6, 2002. Retrieved June 30, 2009.http://www.ccc.nps.navy.mil/rsepResources/si/sept02/homeland.asp
“Joint Intelligence Principles”. Retrieved June 30, 2009. http://www.fas.org/irp/doddir/dod/jp2-0/j2-0ch4.htm


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