Influences on Intelligence Analysis

Why Bad Things Happen to Good Analysts

By Jack Davis with an introduction by James B. Bruce

From the introduction by James B. Bruce. Jack Davis is a legend among intelligence analysts. Jack made important contributions, many published by CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence, as an analyst, thought leader, and teacher of intelligence analysis. Jack’s academic writings, if fewer, have expanded on these important ideas.

Jack had a special gift for identifying key challenges that analysts face in the workplace. Many creep in stealthily and appear unexpectedly. Often, by the time we see them, it’s too late to correct for them. In his “Why Bad Things Happen to Good Analysts,” Jack confronts the most important psychological hurdles that can trip up even the best analysts in their daily work—and often do. Here he explores perils in making analytic judgments and coordinating them, along with the more practical issue of dealing with the bureaucracies that analysts work in, and grappling with the insidious trap of policy bias. His remedies are found chiefly in “alternative” and “challenge” analysis, now readily available through rigorous use of structured analytic techniques.

This article first appeared in Analyzing Intelligence, the volume that Roger George and I co-edited in 2008. When we thoroughly revised the book for its second edition in 2014, of the dozen original chapters that we retained, Jack’s was the only one that needed no revision or updating. This was best explained by a reviewer who observed that Jack’s article was timeless. This article is reproduced with the permission of Georgetown University Press.

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All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed in this article are those of the author. Nothing in the article should be construed as asserting or implying US government endorsement of an article’s factual statements and interpretations.

Posted: Oct 05, 2016 12:23 PM
Last Updated: Oct 05, 2016 12:23 PM