learning with professionals - Higgins Counterterrorism Research ...


learning with professionals - Higgins Counterterrorism Research ...

Man is not rational, merely capable of it.

Processes that Help Achieve Accuracy


— Jonathan Swift

Processes that can help to achieve Accuracy include data verification, authentication

of sources, and systematic analytical methods.

Source and Data Verification. Thoughtful people normally respond to new information

with several questions. The initial reaction asks “Is it true or false?” and is followed

by “Is it likely, doubtful, or unlikely?” 80 These questions mark the beginning of the verification

process, and the answers come from a combination of knowledge, common sense,

skepticism, faith, and guesswork. 81 With the development of these facilities, people tend

to handle rumor (unverified information), by doing at least one of the following:

(1) they accept it because it came from a trusted source, (2) they reject it because it

does not square with what they think to be likely, (3) they suspend judgment until more

information comes out, or (4) they ignore the information altogether. 82

If intelligence professionals, as Sherman Kent suggested, are trained “in the techniques

of guarding against their own intellectual frailties,” this training would prompt

them to suspend judgment (choice 3) until more information becomes available. 83

The other choices, (1), (2), and (4), do not compel analysts to perform the deliberate and

methodical actions necessary to reach conclusions that are rationally convincing, not only to

themselves, but to others. 84 These actions constitute the process of verification, and hence,

comprise the most important processes that support the achievement of Accuracy.

The data on which a judgment or conclusion may be based, or by which probability

may be established, begins with evidence:

A datum becomes evidence in some analytic problem when its relevance to one or

more hypotheses being considered is established. Evidence is relevant to a hypothesis if it

either increases or decreases the likelihood of that hypothesis. Without hypotheses, the

relevance of no datum could be established. 85

80 Jacques Barzun and Henry F. Graff, The Modern Researcher (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College

Publishers, 1985), 96.

81 Barzun and Graff, 96.

82 Barzun and Graff, 96.

83 Sherman Kent, Strategic Intelligence for American World Policy, revised ed. (Princeton University Press,

1966), 199, as quoted by Harold P. Ford in “A Tribute to Sherman Kent,” Studies in Intelligence, 24, no. 3 (Fall

1980): 3.

84 Barzun and Graff, 99.

85 David A. Schum, Evidence and Inference for the Intelligence Analyst (Lanham, MD: University Press of

America, 1987), 1:16.

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