completely accurate nor completely inaccurate; it is somewhere in between. It is for thisreason that the then-
Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet said, ―In the intelligence business, you are almost never completely wrong or completely right.‖
Therefore, the use of accuracy as a metric to evaluate intelligence analysis must be done very, very carefully.
In addition, even if accurate analysis was produced, a ―self
negating prophecy‖ resulting
from analysis produced within a decision cycle could occur. This means that intelligenceanalysis can help change what may happen in the future, making the analysis inaccurate.Since intelligence analysis can influence what decisionmakers decide to do, and what they dohas the potential to prompt or preclude actions of other international actors, an accuracyyardstick would not effectively capture the quality of the analysis. For example, if anintelligence analyst warns that a terrorist bombing is imminent and policymakers implementsecurity procedures to deter or prevent this incident based on this warning and the terroristsare deterred, then the warning will be inaccurate even though it helped prevent the bombing.This causal dynamic exists for all intelligence issues including political, economic, andscientific due to the nature of the intelligence mission. Therefore, post-hoc assessment of intelligence accuracy may not provide a true sense of the accuracy of the intelligence.It is precisely because of these practical difficulties of using accuracy as a criterion thatneither the
Office of the Director of National Intelligence‘s analytic integrity and standards
staff nor the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence uses it as a metric for analyticquality. While accuracy, or perhaps omniscience, is the desired goal of all intelligenceanalysts, using it as a criterion for reliably evaluating analytic quality is at this point notfeasible.
Like accuracy, another absolute standard for evaluating analytic quality involves theprevention of decisionmaker surprise.
By describing, explaining, evaluating, and forecastingthe external environment, intelligence analysts facilitate decisionmaker understanding to thepoint that decisionmakers are not surprised by the events that take place. Whendecisionmakers are surprised, by definition there must have been an intelligence failure sinceit failed to achieve its objective; preventing surprise.The problem with this expectation, of course, is that surprise is ever present in internationalrelations.
Many surprises are the intentional result of adversaries who employ secrecy tohide their intentions. Secrecy in policy creation and implementation magnifies theeffectiveness of power application internationally because, when done successfully, theintended target has little or no time to effectively counter the respective policy. In military
terms, this power magnification is known as a ―force multiplier‖ although the concept is
applicable to the economic and political arenas as well. Secrecy has thus become a ubiquitoustechnique in the implementation of most international policies as a way to ensure policysuccess through surprise.Accordingly, preventing surprise has become just as necessary and is usually assigned tointelligence organizations because of their ability to uncover secrets. Not all surprises,however, can be prevented by uncovering secrets. Sometimes international forces canproduce spontaneous events that surprise everyone involved, such as the fall of the BerlinWall. These are the mysteries emphasized in some writings on intelligence.