What can an intelligence analyst do?

OSINT has become increasingly sophisticated in both sources and methodologies. Information is emerging in unprecedented ways, including online expressions of personal emotion, photographs representing places and events, and public social and professional networks. The combination of computing power and data science techniques has made possible the preservation and processing of vast amounts of publicly available data. Machine learning, computer algorithms, and automated reasoning further expand the ability to analyze specific data, including processing information and discerning valuable intelligence.

Intelligence analysis must remain forward-looking and policy-relevant, providing the best forecasts possible. However, the analyst must focus more on getting the client to recognize the complexity and uncertainty of life, while also outlining the key factors of an issue and how they lead to different possible futures. The role of analysts is generally not to reduce uncertainty about potential future results but to inform clients of uncertainties and contingencies.

Armed with this analytical spirit, the analyst's next task is to educate policymakers about how their unique approach to national security issues can help them in their day-to-day work. Intelligence analysts can correct policymakers' misconception that intelligence committees have the ability to eliminate strategic surprises with access to classified information and experts. As Sherman Kent points out, we do not claim that our assessment is infallible. Instead, we claim that what we provide is "the most in-depth, objective, and carefully considered evaluation."