Richards J. Heuer

Heuer, Richards J., Jr. "Cognitive Biases: Problems in Hindsight Analysis." Studies in Intelligence 22, no. 2 (Summer 1978): 21-28. In Inside CIA's Private World: Declassified Articles from the Agency's Internal Journal, 1955-1992, ed. H. Bradford Westerfield, 333-343. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995.

"We tend to blame biased evaluations of intelligence performance at best on ignorance, at worst on self-interest and lack of objectivity. These factors may also be at work, but the experiments described [here] suggest that the nature of our mental processes is a principal culprit."


Heuer, Richards J., Jr. "Do You Really Need More Information?" Studies in Intelligence 23, no. 1 (Spring 1979): 15-25. In Inside CIA's Private World: Declassified Articles from the Agency's Internal Journal, 1955-1992, ed. H. Bradford Westerfield, 218-231. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995.

The author challenges the "often implicit assumption that lack of information is the principal obstacle to accurate intelligence estimates." He argues for moving away from "analysis that is driven by the data" toward "analysis that is driven by the conceptual framework employed to interpret the data.... There seem to be inherent practical and theoretical limits on how much can be gained by efforts to improve collection, but an open and fertile field for imaginative efforts to improve analysis."


Heuer, Richards J., Jr. "Improving Intelligence Analysis: Some Insights on Data, Concepts, and Management of the Intelligence Community." The Bureaucrat 8, no. 1 (Winter 1979-1980): 2-11.


Heuer, Richards J., Jr. “Limits of Intelligence Analysis.” Orbis 49, no. 1 (2004): 75-94.

The range of the criticisms of the Intelligence Community in the SSCI's Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq is illustrative of a lack of understanding of the problems faced by intelligence analysts in making judgments based on incomplete, ambiguous, and potentially deceptive information.

[Analysis/Gen; PostCW/00s/03/CongIraq/04]

Heuer, Richards J., Jr. "Nosenko: Five Paths to Judgment." Studies in Intelligence 31, no. 3 (Fall 1987): 71-101. In Inside CIA's Private World: Declassified Articles from the Agency's Internal Journal, 1955-1992, ed. H. Bradford Westerfield, 379-414. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995. [Available as a 300 kb (vice 2.6 mb thanks to Kathrine M. Graham/NMSU) pdf file at:]

From Westerfield's headnote: The Angleton-Golitsin-Nosenko story "has been told many times -- but never, I think, as well as in this meticulous logical and empirical exercise."

Clark comment: Heuer goes beyond a review of the case, presenting "five criteria for making judgments about deception" and describing "how each was applied by different parties to the Nosenko controversy." He also draws conclusions from his discussion of the case. Heuer notes: "I remain firmly opposed to the view that the master plot was an irresponsible, paranoid fantasy. Given the information available at the time,... it would have been irresponsible not to have seriously considered this possibility. The mistake was not in pursuing the master plot theory, but in getting so locked into a position that one was unable to question basic assumptions or note the gradual accumulation of contrary evidence."

For the author (in comment to Clark 4/98), "The long-term value of this article is not what it says about Nosenko or Angleton, but the lessons about how bona fides analysis in general should be done."

[CI/90s; CIA/Angleton & Angleton/Related][c]

Heuer, Richards J., Jr. Psychology of Intelligence Analysis. Washington, DC: Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, 1999.

From "Author's Preface": "This volume pulls together and republishes, with some editing, updating, and additions, articles written during 1978-86 for internal use within the CIA Directorate of Intelligence."

Clark comment: This slim (184 pages) volume soon will become required reading in any graduate-level course on intelligence analysis.

Wirtz, IJI&C 14.2, finds that the author "does a fine job describing the cognitive biases ... that often bedevil analysts. He also offers an outstanding explanation of how these biases affect the act of perception itself.... [And he] places his discussion of human cognitive limits and biases in the context of the unforgiving world of intelligence production."

Henry Appelbaum, "Symposium on the Psychology of Intelligence Analysis," Center for the Study of Intelligence Bulletin 11 (Summer 2000), reports that "CSI and the CIA Directorate of Intelligence's (DI) Sherman Kent School for Intelligence Analysis sponsored a one-day symposium on 20 June 2000 to explore issues raised by Richards J. Heuer's book, Psychology of Intelligence Analysis." At a conference session, "Heuer noted the importance of having intelligence analysts do more case studies,... which explore the cognitive challenges to analysis and the lessons learned. Heuer also underscored the need to stay in touch with new insights about human thought processes.... In his words, 'the DI must strive always to be an organization that learns.'"


Heuer, Richards J., Jr. "Strategic Deception and Counterdeception: A Cognitive Process Approach." International Studies Quarterly 25, no. 2 (Jun. 1981).


Heuer, Richards J., Jr., and Randolph H. Pherson. Structured Analytic Techniques for Intelligence Analysis. Washington, DC: CQ, 2010.

Peake, Studies 54.3 (Sep. 2010) and Intelligencer 18.1 (Fall-Winter 2010), comments that the one thing missing from this book "is an example of a successful application that shows how various techniques were tried, accepted, or dismissed before reaching the conclusion." Nonetheless, "this is the most up-to-date and detailed nonmathematical treatment of this crucial field."

For Wirtz, IJI&C 25.2 (Summer 2012), this "is nothing less than an analytic handbook for the Intelligence Community..... Yet it fails to addess what happens after analysts complete their estimates." Wheaton, AIJ 30.1 (2012), this "is an enormously useful reference book." Its "primary focus is a series of over 40 short 'how-to's' for various intelligence analysis techniques. Each technique receives a similar treatment including sub-sections on when to use it, the value added, as well as some guidance on the details of using the method in practice."


Heuer, Richards J., Jr., ed. Quantitative Approaches to Political Intelligence: The CIA Experience. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1978.

Although Pforzheimer sees the CIA analyst authors of these essays attempting "to avoid methodological jargon as much as possible," Lowenthal suggests that the work "[m]ay be a bit arcane for the lay reader."


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