Intelligence Today and Tomorrow

A Reflection on Analysis
A Call for More Humility in Intelligence Analysis
John S. Mohr

There is scant literature devoted to the topic of humility and intelligence analysis. Ample studies of humility exist in other fields, including medicine, business, and religion, but writings on the intelligence discipline have only addressed humility as a peripheral issue. The late CIA analyst, national intelligence officer, and intelligence educator Jack Davis’s 2006 work on the analyst-policymaker relationship may contain the most direct allusion to analytic humility. In discussing public criticism of flawed analytic performance, Davis wrote:

Confidence, even overconfidence, in substantive judgments is a staple of the analysts’ environment. Especially the more experienced DI (Directorate of Intelligence in CIA) analysts tend to see themselves as the best informed on the issues they follow as well as the most objective national security professionals in the US government.

This essay builds on Davis’s admonition and attempts to add to the body of literature on critical thinking and intelligence analysis by advocating for greater humility in intelligence analysis and addressing the dangers of insufficient humility. I will argue that the Intelligence Community (IC) needs to embrace humility as a central tenet for three reasons.

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Posted: Dec 22, 2017 12:04 PM
Last Updated: Dec 22, 2017 12:04 PM