Spies & Spying Personality Profiling: Intelligence and Counterintelligence Analysts

From The Psychology of Spies and Spying by Adrian Furnham and John Taylor.

INTELLIGENCE ANALYSTS

Intelligence Analysts write reports for various readers that provide them with insights and assessments on a specific topic or person. 

Will a country soon be overturned by an insurrection? Will country A invade country B? How sick really is the President of Y country? What is the background of the head of the military in country Z?

John Krasinski is one of many actors to star as Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst Jack Ryan
John Krasinski is one of many actors to star as Tom Clancy’s CIA Analyst Jack Ryan

Spies & Spying: Intelligence Analysts

Many specialize on a very specific subject and develop considerable knowledge and expertise. To do this they collect information and data from a variety of sources, secret and overt.

They assess the validity of the information and find patterns and links, which will add to the significance of their report. They identify gaps in knowledge which provide direction for intelligence gatherers.

The work of an Analyst is central in the world of espionage. They must evaluate and process secret information and the source as well as produce accurate, concise, and well-written reports. 

They are often called on to give oral presentations to very senior people. Policymakers turn to Analysts for the data on which to base their decisions. They often have the ear of the powerful.

 Katherine Heigl Stars in State of Affairs as a CIA Analyst who briefs the President on security issues
Katherine Heigl stars in State of Affairs as a CIA Analyst who briefs the President on security issues

The assessment of people to ensure a perfect fit

We summarize below the main skills and qualities which recruiters will look for in their assessment of potential intelligence officers.

 

Intellectual horsepower

Not everyone in an organization needs to be super clever; they do however need to be ‘bright enough’. There are different kinds of intellect that are required in an intelligence service: 

  • Intellectual and cognitive capacity (IQ): an individual’s efficiency at information processing and storage. It predicts how quickly and efficiently they learn. People can be taught skills but there is not much people can do to improve their intelligence.
  • Analytical: the ability to identify relationships and patterns from information and data. 
  • Numeric or deductive ability: this relates to those posts which demand a strong mathematical or scientific approach to their work.

Personality - is about preferred ways of doing things and seeing the world. Intelligence officers cannot change their personalities but they can learn to change their behaviors. Different roles require different personality traits. Recruiters will want to assess the following:

Stability/resilience/composure - an ability to withstand stressful external stimuli without psychological hindrance. All roles involve pressure, some more than others. It is important that people do not buckle under pressure and make bad decisions.

Openness/inquisitiveness - open to experience and embrace the new and the different. They are less fazed by unusual or different places, people, or ways of doing things. Inquisitiveness is about an individual’s ability to innovate and be curious when presented with intelligence from an existing source or a new source. 

Sociability/extraversion - value social interaction and a preference to work in groups and as part of a team. Introverts value independence, preferring to work alone, or in an insular manner.

Risk-taking preferences - central to intelligence roles is the concept of risk. While all risks are thoroughly analyzed, understood, and (as much as possible) mitigated, intelligence roles require that people take risks. We split risk into two distinct parts:

  • ‘Hot’ Risk - risk where decisions have immediate (and potentially dangerous) consequences. This represents a person's willingness to engage in missions that are physically stimulating/frightening. 
  • Cold’ Risk - risk where decisions have effects that are distant and in the future. This represents a person’s willingness to make strategic decisions based on intelligence or challenge existing intelligence in favor of a different strategy. It is calculated, planned, and strategic. 

Drive/conscientiousness/work ethic - this trait assesses the level of self-motivation, organization, and drive within an individual. A conscientious person is organized, reliable, and responsible.

Integrity/honesty - an individual’s ‘moral compass’. It focuses on whether the individual is manipulative, callous, and devious or whether they have an ethical sense and moral backbone. This is one of the most important traits in the spying world, famous for its intrigues and falsehoods. It is vitally important that insiders can trust their colleagues.

Skills

Skills can be taught - people can learn to do better. Inevitably an individual’s intellect and personality tend to dictate both what skills they initially have and how efficiently they learn further or higher skills.

Interpersonal skills - the ability to cultivate and maintain relationships. Certain jobs specify a need for strong social skills, not only to gather information but also to operate with others.

Observational skills - the ability to observe and follow targets. Certain roles have a need to be aware of their surroundings.

Physical ability - some roles require more than average physical fitness.

Leadership - leadership is relevant primarily for the Spymaster and for those who have to lead groups. It needs to encompass strategic ability, ambition, and a willingness to delegate. The desirable qualities of a leader are much debated. 

Excerpt courtesy of The Psychology of Spies and Spying by Adrian Furnham and John Taylor.

Spies & Spying Personality Profiling: Intelligence and Counterintelligence Analysts

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From The Psychology of Spies and Spying by Adrian Furnham and John Taylor.

INTELLIGENCE ANALYSTS

Intelligence Analysts write reports for various readers that provide them with insights and assessments on a specific topic or person. 

Will a country soon be overturned by an insurrection? Will country A invade country B? How sick really is the President of Y country? What is the background of the head of the military in country Z?

John Krasinski is one of many actors to star as Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst Jack Ryan
John Krasinski is one of many actors to star as Tom Clancy’s CIA Analyst Jack Ryan

Spies & Spying: Intelligence Analysts

Many specialize on a very specific subject and develop considerable knowledge and expertise. To do this they collect information and data from a variety of sources, secret and overt.

They assess the validity of the information and find patterns and links, which will add to the significance of their report. They identify gaps in knowledge which provide direction for intelligence gatherers.

The work of an Analyst is central in the world of espionage. They must evaluate and process secret information and the source as well as produce accurate, concise, and well-written reports. 

They are often called on to give oral presentations to very senior people. Policymakers turn to Analysts for the data on which to base their decisions. They often have the ear of the powerful.

 Katherine Heigl Stars in State of Affairs as a CIA Analyst who briefs the President on security issues
Katherine Heigl stars in State of Affairs as a CIA Analyst who briefs the President on security issues

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Listen to former CIA Analyst Gina Bennett in True Spies podcast Blinking Red
Listen to former CIA Analyst Gina Bennett in True Spies podcast Blinking Red

Spies & Spying: Intelligence Analyst psychological profile notes 

They need to be clever with higher-than-average analytical ability, often associated with computer skills. They need to be curious, inquisitive, and eager to keep up-to-date.

They also must be hard-working, well-organized, very careful and detail-oriented, and they have to avoid bias.

Ex-CIA Analyst and SPYEX consultant Rodney Faraon was exec producer of State of Affairs 

Spies & Spying: Intelligence Analyst essentials

And the three essentials for an Intelligence Analyst are:

The three essentials for an Intelligence Analyst

Spies & Spying: Intelligence Analysts in fiction and film

One of the greatest analysts to emerge from the intelligence world is Richards Heuer. His seminal work Psychology of Intelligence Analysis (2018) is among the best. In the UK, David Omand’s How Spies Think (2020) is rapidly becoming a textbook for the Intelligence Analyst.

In fiction, Jack Ryan in Tom Clancy’s novels is described as an Analyst, best portrayed in the opening scenes of The Hunt for Red October (2010); in effect, he is as much a Special Forces officer as an Analyst. 

COUNTERINTELLIGENCE ANALYSTS

While intellect is an essential quality for both Intelligence and Counterintelligence Analysts, their jobs are quite different. 

Counterintelligence Analysts focus on the activities of hostile intelligence services who are seeking to recruit agents or mount other hostile intelligence activities against a state's critical national infrastructure, military, and technology as well as the host government. These Analysts spy on spies. It takes a very particular skill and mindset to do this well.

Their work is among the most sensitive in a service. CI Analysts work in small groups and very few outside their circle know anything about their work.

Kathy Burke stars as a Counterintelligence Officer in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Spies & Spying: Counterintelligence Analysts, psychological profile notes

They must have exceptionally high standards, being precise and scrupulous about the work they produce. They also need great insight into people and politics. They need to be both technically and interpersonally very sophisticated. And it goes beyond question their honesty and integrity are crucial.

Three essentials for the counterintelligence analyst:

 Three essentials for the counterintelligence analyst
  Listen to CIA officer Robert Bear’s hunt for The Fourth Man, Part 1 and Part 2 on True Spies podcast 
 Listen to CIA officer Robert Bear’s hunt for The Fourth Man, Part 1 and Part 2 on True Spies podcast 

Spies & Spying: Counterintelligence analysts in books and film

Biographies and autobiographies have been published on James Angleton, Oleg Kalugin, and Victor Cherkashin. In fiction, John le Carré’s Connie, George Smiley’s colleague and friend, is the classic Counterintelligence Officer.


Excerpt courtesy of
The Psychology of Spies and Spying by Adrian Furnham and John Taylor.

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The assessment of people to ensure a perfect fit

We summarize below the main skills and qualities which recruiters will look for in their assessment of potential intelligence officers.

 

Intellectual horsepower

Not everyone in an organization needs to be super clever; they do however need to be ‘bright enough’. There are different kinds of intellect that are required in an intelligence service: 

  • Intellectual and cognitive capacity (IQ): an individual’s efficiency at information processing and storage. It predicts how quickly and efficiently they learn. People can be taught skills but there is not much people can do to improve their intelligence.
  • Analytical: the ability to identify relationships and patterns from information and data. 
  • Numeric or deductive ability: this relates to those posts which demand a strong mathematical or scientific approach to their work.

Personality - is about preferred ways of doing things and seeing the world. Intelligence officers cannot change their personalities but they can learn to change their behaviors. Different roles require different personality traits. Recruiters will want to assess the following:

Stability/resilience/composure - an ability to withstand stressful external stimuli without psychological hindrance. All roles involve pressure, some more than others. It is important that people do not buckle under pressure and make bad decisions.

Openness/inquisitiveness - open to experience and embrace the new and the different. They are less fazed by unusual or different places, people, or ways of doing things. Inquisitiveness is about an individual’s ability to innovate and be curious when presented with intelligence from an existing source or a new source. 

Sociability/extraversion - value social interaction and a preference to work in groups and as part of a team. Introverts value independence, preferring to work alone, or in an insular manner.

Risk-taking preferences - central to intelligence roles is the concept of risk. While all risks are thoroughly analyzed, understood, and (as much as possible) mitigated, intelligence roles require that people take risks. We split risk into two distinct parts:

  • ‘Hot’ Risk - risk where decisions have immediate (and potentially dangerous) consequences. This represents a person's willingness to engage in missions that are physically stimulating/frightening. 
  • Cold’ Risk - risk where decisions have effects that are distant and in the future. This represents a person’s willingness to make strategic decisions based on intelligence or challenge existing intelligence in favor of a different strategy. It is calculated, planned, and strategic. 

Drive/conscientiousness/work ethic - this trait assesses the level of self-motivation, organization, and drive within an individual. A conscientious person is organized, reliable, and responsible.

Integrity/honesty - an individual’s ‘moral compass’. It focuses on whether the individual is manipulative, callous, and devious or whether they have an ethical sense and moral backbone. This is one of the most important traits in the spying world, famous for its intrigues and falsehoods. It is vitally important that insiders can trust their colleagues.

Skills

Skills can be taught - people can learn to do better. Inevitably an individual’s intellect and personality tend to dictate both what skills they initially have and how efficiently they learn further or higher skills.

Interpersonal skills - the ability to cultivate and maintain relationships. Certain jobs specify a need for strong social skills, not only to gather information but also to operate with others.

Observational skills - the ability to observe and follow targets. Certain roles have a need to be aware of their surroundings.

Physical ability - some roles require more than average physical fitness.

Leadership - leadership is relevant primarily for the Spymaster and for those who have to lead groups. It needs to encompass strategic ability, ambition, and a willingness to delegate. The desirable qualities of a leader are much debated. 

Excerpt courtesy of The Psychology of Spies and Spying by Adrian Furnham and John Taylor.
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