There is no intelligence without high-quality analysis

The importance of top class analysis has grown in recent years, with Supo enhancing its analytical functions accordingly.

Fibers on a brown background.

On receiving new information, an operational analyst at Supo must address a wide variety of questions. Is the information source reliable? Are the details credible?

Supo’s mission is to produce meaningful intelligence information. There may be very little information available on some occasions, whereas at other times there is plenty of material, but it is characteristically inconsistent. Reality is messy, and it is not always easy to judge what information is important and what is not.

Only after undergoing careful analysis does information become intelligence. The work of analysts really is crucial in many aspects of producing intelligence information. 

Analysts play a significant role in Supo information gathering 

Operational analysts at Supo are closely involved in information gathering, helping to direct this work. Operations typically have some kind of target or set of targets on which information is gathered. Operational analysts usually examine things on a very concrete level, for example by analysing the networks of target individuals. They continually evaluate the information gathered in intelligence operations.

Supo also applies internationally tried and tested methods of intelligence analysis, which seek to reveal various kinds of bias in thinking. For example, hypotheses are used in analysis work, to bring transparency and structure to analysis.

Analysis of competing hypotheses is a frequently used method. Several hypotheses are formulated as a basis for analysis, with efforts then made to refute them as further information is gathered. The hypotheses are finally tested by multiple analysts and, ideally, whatever ultimately survives this process is the most probable hypothesis.

Analysts must sometimes conduct red teaming, considering the mindset and objectives of the target. There are also specific analytical techniques for testing this perspective.

Competing hypotheses

Hypothesis 1:  A group is planning to attack a critical infrastructure target and is capable of doing so.
Hypothesis 2: The group is planning to attack a critical infrastructure target, but is unable to do so in the short term.
Hypothesis 3: The group is not planning to attack any critical infrastructure target.

Analysis is conducted from many points of view 

There are many levels of Supo analysis. While operational analysts are engaged in practical information gathering, the job of tactical analysts is to combine information from various operations and other sources. They also direct operational information gathering, and maintain such resources as the national terrorism overview.

Strategic analysts seek to draw conclusions on a broader level concerning the overall significance for national security of information gathered in Supo enquiries and from other sources. Strategic analysis anticipates and directs information gathering to meet the information needs of top-level government and to illuminate its blind spots.

What is special about Supo analysis work? 

One special feature of Supo’s strategic analysis work is an ongoing dialogue with policymakers. Even though the actual analysis must always be independent, intelligence information is produced to serve the information needs of top-level government.

These needs are reviewed in annual discussions with leading politicians and public officials that enable formulation of priorities for civilian intelligence. Supo staff use these priorities to derive more detailed intelligence questions for investigation. These questions seek to serve the information needs of top-level government.

Analysts play a key role in formulating intelligence questions, which may be refined, for example, through brainstorming by several analysts. Intelligence work is always teamwork involving collaboration between analysis, information gathering and operations management.

Supo has enhanced its analysis work

The intelligence community has stressed the importance of high standard analysis in recent years. Technological progress has eroded the traditional monopoly on various means of information gathering that was formerly enjoyed by the intelligence services of old, and Supo has recruited a significant number of analysts.

From the perspective of analysis itself, it is essential for analysts to come from diverse backgrounds and Supo has hired university graduates in very diverse fields, journalists and individuals from other branches of state administration as analysts in recent years.

Analysis work and associated training at Supo have been enhanced, becoming increasingly professional and systematic.

Some cognitive biases in intelligence

The mirroring effect
Projecting one’s own views onto those of another party, because people tend to regard their own thoughts and actions as rational. 

Adapting to a group outlook without forming or expressing any view of one’s own, because maintaining good team spirit is considered more valuable.