Analysis: Former GCHQ director co-authors paper on training analysts

Sir Omand

Sir Omand

It is not often that a former Director of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Britain’s primary signals intelligence agency, publicly expresses his or her views on intelligence analysis. Yet this is precisely what Sir David B. Omand, GCB –GCHQ Director from 1996 to 1997– has done, by co-authoring a paper for the latest issue of the CIA’s partly declassified journal, Studies in Intelligence. The paper, which Sir Omand co-wrote with King College’s Dr. Michael Goodman, is titled “What Analysts Need to Understand”. It details the ongoing “innovative” revisions currently being implemented in the training of British intelligence analysts, following the 2003 fiasco over Iraq’s purported “weapons of mass destruction”. The analysis, which, among other things, quotes Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (!), focuses on the difficulty of teaching methods to develop the analysts’ “strong professional instincts”. It further points to intelligence analyst trainees’ “exposure to a variety of critical views, including the unorthodox”. The article doesn’t explain whether such “unorthodox” and “critical views” include those of Katharine T. Gun, the former GCHQ employee who in 2003 voluntarily exposed GCHQ’s collaboration with its US counterpart, the National Security Agency, to illegally bug the United Nations offices of Angola, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, and Pakistan. By diabolical coincidence, the UN representations of the above six countries had failed to be won over by American and British arguments in support of the invasion of Iraq. Gun was summarily fired by GCHQ and charged under the UK Official Secrets Act (charges were eventually dropped after she threatened to reveal even more information about the case). So much for exposure to “unorthodox views” over at GCHQ.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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