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Turning Intelligence Analysis on Its Head

I suspect that many readers of this blog have been influenced by the work of Richards J. Heuer, Jr. at some point in their career. His book, Psychology of Intelligence Analysis, prompted those of us in the field to rethink how we ensure rigor in our analysis, and it has been a mainstay in intelligence programs since its publication by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1999.

Some readers may not be aware of Heuer’s other ground-breaking contributions to the intelligence profession. Heuer, who passed away in August at the age of 91, was a consummate case officer, counterintelligence officer, and security specialist as well as an analytic methodologist.

Heuer put it so well: “When I leave this world, I want to leave it a better place as a result of my efforts. This will allow me to die a happy man with no regrets whenever that time comes.” He certainly succeeded in this pursuit.

Heuer’s career as a civil servant stands out because his contributions to the profession spanned so many disciplines. Perhaps more telling, even with Heuer’s passing, his gifts endure.

Following are a few examples of his legacy.

  • The work of an Israeli colleague spurred Heuer to explore the implications of cognitive bias for intelligence analysis. His research, summarized in Psychology of Intelligence Analysis, is one of the most frequently cited examples of applied psychology in the literature, even though Dick used to say bemusedly that he never took a psychology course. An update of the book is currently in the works.
  • Structured Analytic Techniques have emerged as a new domain in intelligence analysis. Two editions of the book we co-authored, Structured Analytic Techniques for Intelligence Analysis, have sold tens of thousands of copies worldwide. A third edition will be published in summer 2019.

  • Inspired by the vagaries of the Nosenko case—was Nosenko a Russian defector or a double agent?—Heuer conceptualized several new analytic techniques, including Analysis of Competing Hypotheses—a method that has emerged as one of the five leading structured techniques employed by analysts around the world. Heuer’s work as a counterintelligence officer also built the foundation for the MOM, POP, MOSES, and EVE process for Detecting Deception.
  • Heuer was a thought leader in the world of security analysis, writing the 500-page Adjudicative Desk Reference and the 600-page Online Guide to Security Responsibilities. In Anatomy of Betrayal, he identified seven significant character weaknesses that would establish a person’s vulnerability to recruitment as a foreign agent: Narcissism, impulsiveness/immaturity, vindictiveness, anti-social behavior, inability to make and keep a commitment, paranoia, and risk-seeking.

As Heuer approached 90, he turned his attention to writing a memoir for his family and asked me to edit his draft. I could not resist publishing a slimmed down, 100-page version of the memoir, entitled: Rethinking Intelligence: Richard J. Heuer, Jr.’s Life of Public Service. The work contains his unmistakable voice and is replete with anecdotes you would have never expected and will never forget.

In recognition of Dick Heuer’s signal contributions to the field of intelligence, Globalytica has created a Heuer Legacy Collection that includes Heuer’s Psychology of Intelligence Analysis and Structured Analytic Techniques for Intelligence Analysis, 2nd edition. With the purchase of these books, Globalytica will send you a free electronic copy of Rethinking Intelligence: Richard J. Heuer, Jr.’s Life of Public Service. Click here to purchase the Heuer Legacy Collection.

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Please note Globalytica is a separate entity from Pherson.