The Learner's Guide to Geospatial Analysis

What is Intelligence Analysis?


Puzzles and Mysteries

The following discussion is a paraphrase of the RAND report Assessing the Tradecraft of Intelligence Analysis (Chapter 2, pages 3-12).The intelligence cycle can be contrasted with the intelligence analytic cycle which, according to the RAND report, typically includes three forms of analysis:

  • technical processing as a form of analysis
  • single discipline analysis such as GEOINT
  • all-source analysis

The distinction between the first two types and all-source analysis is being blurred because of this use of tools, such as GIS, to integrate multiple intelligence sources. As such, some suggest a continuum of analysis from the collection system at one end to analysis at the other. Along this continuum, there is a transition where the data is used to support analysis. According to RAND, past this transitional area, analysis splits into:

  • puzzle-solving
  • mystery-framing

According to RAND:

  • A puzzle tests the ingenuity of the solver to use information. Here one pieces together the information pieces in a logical way in order to come up with the solution, sort of like, the overlay process in GIS. Puzzle-solving in GIS involves pulling together many sources of data and information and, using that evidence, identifies new spatial patterns or trends and develops new knowledge.
  • Mystery-framing includes political and societal questions related to humans. Anticipating human actions, e.g., where will a terrorist strike next, always involves subjective judgment which is less certain and more prone to biases. The analytic logic is also significant different for mysteries because there is no definitive solution. Mysteries can only be generally framed and made sense of which suggested that the argument is as important as the evidence. In the geospatial realm, information is always lacking because of accuracy, age, detail, or relevance. Therefore, many geospatial intelligence questions are mysteries. Mysteries involving human perceptions benefit from experience.