A very interesting peek inside the CIA’s “alternative thinking zone.” The real question is, if they’re doing things like “what-if” scenarios and brainstorming sessions, what the hell is the rest of the CIA doing? This is pretty basic stuff.
Tenet decided to form a group of contrarian thinkers to challenge conventional wisdom in the intelligence community and mitigate the threat of additional surprises through “alternative analysis.” On that evening, his instructions were simple: “Tell me things others don’t and make [senior officials] feel uncomfortable.”
The following morning, Miscik and two senior analysts formed the CIA’s Red Cell, which has been a semi-independent unit within the agency ever since. It is devoted to “alternative analysis,” which includes techniques like “what ifs,” Team A/Team B exercises, and premortem analysis, all of which are used to identify holes in a plan, model an adversary to understand their weaknesses, or consider all of the conceivable ways a plan can fail beforehand.
Source: Inside the CIA Red Cell
“what the hell is the rest of the CIA doing? ”
Intelligence gathering and analysis. “What If” scenarios are where we assume that our gathered intelligence is wrong – and hypothesize things that go against what we believe we know about the technological capabilities of enemy governments, the intelligence-gathering capacity of insurgents, the breadth of terrorist networks, etc. These are useful exercises, but most of the rest of the CIA is involved in either gathering intelligence or analyzing it to distinguish actionable intelligence and then acting on it.
So the “rest” of the CIA is looking both ways for traffic and then crossing the street. The small Red Cell group is looking both ways and then wondering “What if there are cars we can’t see?”