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Studies in Intelligence 67, No. 4 (Extracts, December 2023)

Analytical Tradecraft: Instituting Devil’s Advocacy in IC Analysis after the Arab-Israeli War of October 1973

James D. Marchio


The apparent failure of Israeli intelligence to anticipate the massive and deadly attack by Hamas fighters from the Gaza Strip in October 2023 recalled the US Intelligence Community’s largely unknown efforts to create a devil’s advocacy program in the wake of the Arab-Israeli War 50 years before. The position popularly known as the devil’s advocate (from the Latin advocatus diaboli) was created by Pope Sixtus V in the late sixteenth century in what today we might think of as part of a nominee-vetting process.

Although not exactly the function IC proponents envisioned for a devil’s advocate, many—including past directors of central intelligence (DCIs)—saw value in creating a formal challenge mechanism to ensure divergent points of view were properly expressed in finished products.

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