The Intelligence Analysis Crisis

Uri Bar-Joseph, Rose McDermott

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The U.S. Intelligence community is in crisis. Contrary to popular opinion, this crisis in the intelligence community did not start in recent years, rather it dates back to the 1960s at a time when the U.S. intelligence on several accounts failed to provide sound national intelligence estimates. The failures of the U.S. intelligence is due to two factors: the common psychological traits which resulted in unmotivated biases in information processing which lead to systematically mistaken estimates in analysis; and the political environment of the intelligence system which has produced the notion that the intelligence product is not merely a means to achieve foreign policy goals but also a political commodity that can be used to advance political and bureaucratic interests. These biased outcomes have resulted in a bureaucratically incentivized and personally motivated manipulation in the production and use of intelligence analysis. This article discusses American intelligence failures within the broader context of American intelligence culture. It outlines eight specific aspects of this culture in order to determine the specific domains in which such intelligence estimation failures are likely to emerge. Particular focus is given on the two domains of failures: motivated and unmotivated biases. Suggestions on how to limit the impact of these biases on the intelligence estimates are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of National Security Intelligence
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199892211
ISBN (Print)9780195375886
StatePublished - 2 Sep 2010

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2010 by Oxford University Press, Inc. All rights reserved.


  • American intelligence culture
  • American intelligence failures
  • Crisis
  • Intelligence estimation failures
  • Motivated biases
  • U.S. intelligence community
  • Unmotivated biases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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