Nada Bakos is a veteran intelligence analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency. In her latest article for the Washington Post, she explains with clear language and great detail how intelligence analysts have to scrap to get every last detail about a foreign leader so they can predict the potential actions of a nation-state.
But of course, Mr. Trump does not require much tradecraft in this sense.
Trump’s Twitter feed is a gold mine for every foreign intelligence agency. Usually, intelligence officers’ efforts to collect information on world leaders are methodical, painstaking and often covert. CIA operatives have risked their lives to learn about foreign leaders so the United States could devise strategies to counter our adversaries. With Trump, though, secret operations are not necessary to understand what’s on his mind: The president’s unfiltered thoughts are available night and day, broadcast to his 32.7 million Twitter followers immediately and without much obvious mediation by diplomats, strategists or handlers.
Intelligence agencies try to answer these main questions when looking at a rival head of state: Who is he as a person? What type of leader is he? How does that compare to what he strives to be or presents himself as? What can we expect from him? And how can we use this insight to our advantage?
For more on how to improve your skills as an intelligence analyst, consider CompFutures’ educational offerings.