Stephen Marrin – The CIA’s analysis in the post-Cold War World

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Event Date: 29 April – 1 May 2011
East Midlands Conference Centre
University of Nottingham  
University Park
Nottingham NG7 2RJ



Landscapes of Secrecy: The CIA in History, Fiction and Memory


Dr Stephen Marrin (Brunel University) – The CIA’s analysis in the post-Cold War World

Since the end of the Cold War, CIA analysts have incorporated new technologies and techniques into their production processes. Yet the effectiveness of these changes in improving analytic processes is debatable given the frequency of high profile failures like 9/11 and Iraq. Many people point to these failures as indicators that CIA’s analytic performance is inadequate or flawed. Yet this conventional wisdom is wrong. These so-called failures more accurately represent the perennial dilemmas and tradeoffs associated with the analytic function, and–most importantly–the inappropriate expectation that these observers hold of CIA’s ability to prevent surprises. A more careful examination of both history and concept reveals a greater need for a change in expectations than a change in analytic process. In addition, while much has been written about CIA’s failures, much more needs to be written from the perspective of the working analyst or manager regarding the frequency and type of analytic success. Only then will we have the ability to accurately evaluate the effectiveness of CIA’s post-Cold War analytic performance.

Stephen Marrin is a Lecturer in the Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies at the Department of Politics and History, Brunel University. He previously served as an analyst for both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Government Accountability Office. He is the author of numerous articles on intelligence analysis as well as the forthcoming book “Improving Intelligence Analysis: Bridging the Gap between Scholarship and Practice” (Routledge, June 2011).

Contact details: Department of Politics and History, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UB8 3PH, UK

Email: stephen.marrin@brunel.ac.uk

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