Friday, December 4, 2015

The Umbrella Man: A Must-See Cautionary Tale About The Inherent Unlikelihood of Conspiracy

This is not to say that there are no conspiracies, but only to say that analysts should be cautious about leaping to that kind of conclusion at the outset. (If you can't see the video, click on this link to view on the NY Times page)


Lisa Krizan said...

Thanks, Kris. To me this also brings to light the importance of including multiple sources and multiple levels of granularity into a given analytic effort. Not only do we need to guard against drawing premature or obvious conclusions, but we need to understand the influence of our own viewpoint on our thinking. Therein lies the challenge of integration and collaboration among different -INTs and agencies, as well as disciplines and levels of bureaucracy. Context is everything, in terms of understanding the target as well as our own processes. But too often the pressure of timeliness overrules the value of thoroughness.

Mark Stout said...

Great posting and a nifty video. I'm immediately reminded of a specifically intelligence-related example of the same sort of phenomenon: Roswell, 1947. It's easy for people of a certain persuasion to imagine that the Air Force is covering up a UFO incident when it gets tight-lipped and some odds bits of debris are found. Because after all, who could ever have imagined what turned out to be the truth: that the USAF was using balloons to carry super sensitive microphones into the upper atmosphere to listen for nuclear tests thousands of miles away that weren't actually happening.

Pat said...

A good analyst will admit that he/she doesn't know why the Umbrella Man is standing there and seek further information. Asking for the mystery man to step forward was the logical response, especially given the situation. After the TWA flight to Paris exploded in midair over the Long Island Sound, there were countless missile and bomb theories. It wasn't until the plane was reassembled and the bodies of the victims examined that the fuel tank could be found to be the cause. It's reasonable to seek answers, but not without adequate information.