It's been said that the most important thing analysts with the CIA know — even with all of their top secret information — is that their work has a profound impact. The analysts who work in the Directorate of Intelligence (DI) are some of the brightest people in the country, but what truly makes their contributions outstanding is the integrity and objectivity they bring to it. They do this not to gain public accolades or recognition, but because the country and the President need experts who will tell it like it is. From the Cold War to the war on terrorism, the energy and commitment of the DI officer has been critical to our nation's security.
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The Job of an Analyst
Analysts are skilled subject-matter experts who study and evaluate information from many sources. Information flows in from around the world, including satellite surveillance, foreign newspapers and broadcasts, and human contacts. This information varies widely in terms of reliability, and often it is conflicting or incomplete. The analyst's role is to develop meaningful and usable intelligence assessments from all of those sources. Often this is like putting together the pieces of a puzzle, received at different times from different places, to form a picture that is complete enough to comprehend — even when some pieces are still missing.
Analysts are grouped into the following categories of expertise:
Analytic Methodologists develop and apply new or established approaches to analysis — such as statistical, polling, econometric, mathematical, or geospatial modeling methodologies — to add rigor and precision to the DI’s overall intelligence analysis and collection.
Counterintelligence Threat Analysts collect, study, and interpret a range of reports to identify and prevent foreign intelligence operations that threaten the US Government or Intelligence Community.
Counterterrorism Analysts help warn of terrorist threats by assessing the leadership, motivations, plans, and intentions of foreign terrorist groups and their state and nonstate sponsors.
Crime and Counternarcotics Analysts follow international narcotics trafficking and organized crime groups to detect emerging trends and patterns that will affect US national security.
Economic Analysts use their specialized skills to analyze and interpret economic trends and developments, assess and track foreign financial activities, and develop new econometric and modeling methodologies.
Intelligence Collection Analysts apply their expertise on intelligence collection systems capabilities, processes, and policies to drive the flow of intelligence information and provide colleagues the data needed to understand and analyze issues.
- Leadership Analysts collect and analyze information on foreign leaders and organizations to offer US policymakers insights on their foreign counterparts.
Medical and Health Analysts are physicians who analyze and assess global health issues, such as disease outbreaks, and who follow the health of foreign leaders.
Military Analysts help US policymakers stay on top of threats by following foreign military and technical developments that affect another country’s ability to wage war or to threaten regional or international stability.
Political Analysts look at political, social, cultural, and historical information to interpret intelligence about foreign political systems and developments.
Psychological and Psychiatric Analysts tap their expertise in psychology, psychiatry, or sociology to study the health of foreign officials and to assess the psychological and social factors that influence world events.
Science & Technology Analysts use their unique technical and scientific knowledge to identify and analyze weapons proliferation and proliferators; conventional weapons systems; chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons; information warfare; computer systems; and energy security.
Targeting Analysts use network analysis techniques and specialized analytical tools to identify and detail key figures and organizations who may pose a threat to US interests.
The Role of Analysis
An intelligence analyst pulls together relevant information from all available sources and then analyzes it to produce timely and objective assessments, free of any political bias. This finished intelligence product, which may be in the form of a written report or oral briefings, could very well appear on the desks of the President and his key senior advisors.
Each morning, the Director of National Intelligence delivers the President's Daily Brief, an extremely sensitive intelligence document containing short assessments of current worldwide developments, as well as anticipated events that will require the President's attention in the future. The assessment content represents a team effort by analysts across the community .
To highlight the importance of analysis, consider a recent briefing on smallpox. One analyst's routine update, about the risk of naturally occurring smallpox outbreaks and the threat from countries that hold stores of the virus, took on new importance in light of other global events and virus outbreaks. That update was passed up and on, becoming a full Presidential briefing.
Is This the Job for You?
Intelligence analysts are on the cutting edge of fast-paced global change. To keep up, several qualities are critical for success: problem solving, strong communication skills and teamwork.