Intelligence writing is not mystical. It is matter of fact.
My favorite definition of intelligence comes from the Hoover Commission (1955):
“Intelligence deals with all the things which should be known in advance of initiating a course of action.”
The following are valuable excerpts of wisdom from the book Communicating With Intelligence: Writing and Briefing in the Intelligence and National Security Communities (2nd Edition) by James S. Major.
I highly recommend reading this book whether you’re a novice executive protection analyst or a veteran that wants to brush up on the fundamentals.
The Process of Writing Intelligence
- Identify the intelligence issue within the topic.
- Identify the questions that need to be addressed.
- After completing the research, identify the two or three key points the policy maker is to take away.
- Draft, using the questions to organize the paper.
Identify the Audience by Asking These Questions
- Who are the readers?
- What do they need to know about this subject?
- What do they already know?
“Lead With Your Knockout Punch”
This has multiple applications. First, your intelligence product needs to lead with the most important information first (not methods, or academic chicanery, just the cold hard facts and conclusions). Begin with your conclusions, then follow up with your analysis of what it means. In a more broad view, each paragraph of your product must also begin with your knockout punch of that paragraph, in the first sentence.
For example, James S. Major recommends asking yourself this question: “What does my reader want to know about the content of my paper? Then answer that question on the first page, in the first paragraph.”
The Three Missions of Intelligence Writing
- Make Judgements About the Future. With limited time, conflicting information, and evolving situations, the analyst must make judgements about how various events impact the principal.
- Interpret Foreign Cultures and Alien Problems. For our purposes, this means to find the logic behind any particular event that happens to be at the center of our research.
- Support Decision Makers. The analyst supports decision makers by interpreting information, not just presenting information. The analyst does this by answering significant questions, providing a framework for understanding an issue, and by warning of potential problems.
The Four Essences of Intelligence Writing
- Focus on the Future. The analyst needs to think in terms of what the facts mean, rather than focusing on what happened & what the facts are.
- Write for Generalists Grappling with Real Problems. The value of a paper is directly proportional to its clarity, brevity, and focus on issues.
- Writing is the Art of Meaningful Characterization. The analyst amens meaningful generalizations that help the reader put events in perspective and think them through.
- Begin With Conclusions, Then Explore Implications. The analyst must think in these terms: “This is the situation; these forces are at work; this is what it means.”
Thank you for reading, and I hope you download the full PDF.
You won't be disappointed!
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