Analytic Culture in the U.S. Intelligence Community: An Ethnographic Study   [open pdf - 6MB]

"The Intelligence Community is relatively small, highly selective, and largely shielded from public view. For its practitioners, intelligence work is a cognitively-demanding and high-risk profession that can lead to public policy that strengthens the nation or puts it at greater risk. Because the consequences of failure are so great, intelligence professionals continually feel significant internal and external pressure to avoid it. One consequence of this pressure is that there has been a long-standing bureaucratic resistance to putting in place a systematic program for improving analytical performance. According to 71 percent of the people I interviewed, however, that resistance has diminished significantly since September 2001. It is not difficult to understand the historical resistance to implementing such a performance improvement program. Simply put, a program explicitly designed to improve human performance implies that human performance needs improving, an allegation that risks considerable political and institutional resistance. Not only does performance improvement imply that the system is not optimal, the necessary scrutiny of practice and performance would require examining sources and methods in detail throughout the Intelligence Community. Although this scrutiny would be wholly internal to the community, the concept runs counter to a culture of secrecy and compartmentalization."

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