Stupid Intelligence

David Brooks explains what’s wrong at the CIA:

If you read C.I.A. literature today, you can still see scientism in full bloom. The tone is cold, formal, depersonalized and laden with jargon. You can sense how the technocratic process has factored out all those insights that may be the product of an individual’s intuition and imagination, and emphasized instead the sort of data that can be processed by an organization.

This false scientism was bad enough during the cold war, when the intelligence community failed to anticipate seemingly nonrational events like the Iran-Iraq war or the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. But it is terrible now in the age of terror, because terror is largely nonrational.

What kind of scientific framework can explain the rage for suicide bombings, now sweeping the Middle East? What technocratic mentality can really grasp the sadistic monster who was pulled out of the spider hole a few weeks ago?


At least partly to blame for the CIA’s overreliance on “scientific” analysis must be the Agency’s overreliance on scientific means of data gathering. I’m talking, of course, of the recon satilites and signal intelligence which have almost completely replaced old-fashioned human intelligence.

And for that, we have the Congress of the 1970s thank.


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