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Following on the heels of the previous post is an article published in American Diplomacy by Herman J. Cohen (former deputy assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research from 1980 to 1984; senior director for Africa on the National Security Council, 1987–1989; and assistant secretary of state for Africa, 1989 to 1993).

” Policymaker: Know thy Intelligence Analyst “

Not a bad summary of the IC process, in generalities, despite a certain fact-checking sketchiness and a tendency to refight old battles with dead IC-NSC neoconservatives ( Wiliam J. Casey, Constantine Menges) over Central American policy during the Reagan administration. An excerpt:

About twenty-five times a year, the intelligence community is charged with supporting decision making on issues of high-policy interest. For example, U.S. national security leaders have been grappling with contrasting policy options in Iran ever since the rise of the reform movement in that country in the early 1990s. Should we have a policy of engagement in order to encourage reforms in Iran, or should we assume that Iran’s anti-American posture is not likely to change no matter how its domestic situation evolves? This is the type of policy question that requires deeper study, extended reflection, and in-depth discussion among analysts on a whole range of issues and trends.

The intelligence community deals with these weightier issues through the mechanism of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). All of the intelligence components are invited to participate and contribute draft sections of the final document under the coordination of the National Intelligence Council (NIC). This small body of veteran analysts and operatives from a variety of agencies and disciplines serves as the community-wide coordinating arm for the director of Central Intelligence. The top officials in the NIC are called National Intelligence officers (NIOs) for Asia, Africa, Latin America, nonproliferation, terrorism, and so on.

Whenever a decision is taken to prepare an NIE, the NIO for the region or sector concerned is almost always assigned to be the coordinator of the process. The NIO establishes the terms of reference and negotiates the division of labor for the preparation of the different sections. In the hypothetical case of an NIE about Iran, the CIA would prepare the section on Iran’s support for terrorism and clandestine political operations in the Middle East; State/INR might prepare the section on Iran’s political dynamics; the DIA might put together a document on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

The character and ability of the NIO has a decided affect on the clarity and utility of the the NIE sent to the President and top tier policy-makers. The NIE put together on Afghanistan prior to the Soviet invasion was a superb product, predicting that the hold of the Communist regime in Kabul on the rest of the country would continue to erode and that the USSR would invade to prop up their hapless clients. In hindsight, this seems obvious but it was somewhat radical at the time to predict that the Soviets would extend the Brezhnev Doctrine to a non-Eastern Bloc, non-aligned, Muslim state.

This prediction in the NIE was made long before Prime Minister Hafizullah Amin had his rival President Nur Mohammed Taraki wacked or high Soviet Red Army personages visited Afghanistan on ” recon tours”. As a result, President Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski had months to put together a coherent policy to resist Soviet expansion ( an effort opposed by Cyrus Vance and the State Department) in the worst case scenario of an invasion of Afghanistan.

Not every NIE is quite so well crafted.

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