One more reason early warning intelligence doesn’t work

Eric Garland Intelligence Analysis 2 Comments

Intelligence and futures studies and allied fields prattle on about the need for “weak signals,” “early warning,” and the ability to “expect the unexpected.” Almost nobody has dealt with the fact that, from the lack of WMD in Iraq to the collapse of the housing market, to the inability of Greece to pay back its bonds, we get all kinds of early warning and shoot the messenger as a matter of course.

And the other shoe drops for our friends at MF Global, who are “befuddled” as to what happened to their clients’  money. But not everybody was. Apparently, they fired the risk officer who warned them about the danger of betting heavily on European debt.

Big surprise.

At some point we need to deal with the fact that “intelligence” and “risk management” are dead concepts until somebody unpacks the reality of how bureaucratic hierarchies work. What we say we want in terms of warning and what we really want are vastly different things.