Perfecting the analytical instrument for safety

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By DC Pathak

In a world of hidden events, not only in the field of defense and security, but also in the socio-political sphere, good observation and competent examination of the available information has become particularly important in defining an effective response.

Since safety demands the perfection of the analytical instrument, the standards set out there can be the benchmark for this task anywhere. The purpose of the analysis is to produce an assessment or an “observation”. He must adhere to certain compliance standards and be aware of certain avoidable pitfalls. The most important of these can be easily listed.

The first is the requirement that facts considered reliable be the sole basis for an authentic analysis – such as information provided by established intelligence services concerning a threat to national security.

Contributions from experts in special areas of study are welcome, but the guideline here is that the analyst should borrow the facts from a study, but not necessarily the inference the specialist draws from it. This would also apply to reliable media reports which are a mixture of fact and opinion.

The internet has blurred the line between fact and fake news since social media has become such an obvious tool in the fight. The authenticity of the assessment can only be guaranteed by a perfect analysis using reliable information.

Second, the absence of personal biases, “group thinking” – the desire to follow peers – or wishful thinking must be guaranteed. These are the most common pitfalls of analysis. Added to this is the not-so-rare tendency of analysts to say what their teachers want to hear.

An oft-cited example is the CIA verdict on former Iraqi President, the late Saddam Hussein’s alleged plan to secretly possess weapons of mass destruction, which has led the United States to make Iraq the second largest theater. of the “war on terror” after Afghanistan in 2003. Saddam Hussein was captured but no such weapon was unearthed.

An addition to the principle of enlisting only reliable facts in the analysis, however, should be mentioned here. “Precise” information on a threat should not be sacrificed for shortcomings of immediate relevance and topicality. Saddam Hussein had a “recent” history of using chemical weapons against Iran, although the issue of his continued possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was at best an unauthenticated guess by US officials. intelligence.

This should have been reflected in the assessment so that a justifiable cause of action against him could still be found.

The third imperative of good analysis is the analyst’s ability to rise above the details and try to get the big picture they alluded to – in other words, to achieve the “macro” on the basis of everything that existed at the “” micro level.

Some may get bogged down in the details and others go on with the work as if analysis were the end in itself – they might justify the saying, “Analysis can lead to paralysis”.

This can sometimes happen because of an undue concern for historical perspectives. The analysis must lead to progress towards deciphering the future, which is the essence of evaluation. An assessment is futuristic, and a competent analyst understands that the facts of the past are only important if they can help assess what might happen in the times to come.

Fourth, in the context of security, it should be understood that the threat is ultimately rooted in the activities of a number of “individuals” who constitute the “enemy” group. Security threats are primarily human-made and that is why human intelligence is always privileged.

In addition to human sources, however, a lot of information of Intellectual value now comes from technological channels – and this must be interpreted in terms of human activity and read in conjunction with human intelligence.

Bringing together information from two separate channels is a new challenge of organizational coordination and analytical integration. Technical intelligence now combines with data analysis, which in turn depends on creating a united platform of relevant systems that span the activities of a “person of interest” for easy access. NATGRID was created by India precisely for this purpose.

Last, but not least, today’s analysis went beyond examining the information gathered as it was recorded and assessing what the available facts would mean in light. of the existing scenario.

It is difficult to obtain complete information on the plan and the movements of the adversary, in particular because covert communication and the creation of an underground network of “agents” were facilitated for the enemy, thanks to the availability of cyberspace.

Analysts today must be prepared to try to be more specific with less information. In this, Albert Einstein’s famous postulation that “imagination is more important than knowledge” is extremely relevant to the function of analysis.

Aware of the existing situation, the analyst could project the available information into the future and imagine possible courses of action to which the enemy could resort – also taking into account his modus operandi of the past – and help policy makers to formulate counter-attacks. -measures even in a situation of limited intelligence.

Imagination is a gift of the human brain, and since the “threat” is also a product of the enemy’s mind, it is a great aid to analysis. Einstein did not speak of wild imagination, but emphasized the intellectual power of an analyst to glimpse the future through the events of the present.

The analysis function in the national security system is enhanced to meet the demands of the parallel flow of human and technical intelligence, the pace of change in the security scenario which tends to reduce the lifespan of an assessment and a Rapid scanning of information in the public domain that may contain undetected nuggets of valuable information.

Interestingly, analysts today not only calculate and decipher what is generated by intelligence agencies about a threat, but they also give projections that help set the stage for the intelligence organization’s future tasks. -even continuously.

Intelligence production and analysis have thus become two sides of the national security coin. The analysis converts the available intelligence into security predictions, which in turn help shape the charter of intelligence production for the future. Intelligence is the anchor of security – and analysis makes sense of intelligence.

(The author is a former director of the Bureau of Intelligence. The opinions expressed are personal)


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