Axioms for an intelligence analyst

The analyst is an essential part of the Intelligence Process. They have to do all the work that needs to be done to address the answers to your client. In the process of analysis the following axioms for analysts should be considered (Morgenstern & Jenter, 2018; Watanabe, 1997):

• Believe in your own professional judgment 

The analyst is an expert on the field. The analyst must believe in his work and stand his ground if the intelligence supports his position.

• Be a risk-taker

The analyst has not to be afraid of being wrong when forecasting events or trends. Taking risks is part of his job description. Only by taking risks the analyst can maximize his value to your agency. But be careful about much risk you accept to take.

• It is better to make a mistake than to do nothing at all

If the analyst is wrong on an issue, and the facts call for it, please admit it. Only those analysts who do not take risks and who don’t do anything make no mistakes. If someone works he will make mistakes and from them, you can learn and develop yourself.

• Avoid mirror imaging at all costs

Mirror imaging is projecting the analyst’s thought process or value system onto someone else. The analysts’ targets are criminals or persons with a totally different mindset, moral system, and values in their life. Their mentality is completely different. A good analyst must learn to think as they do.

• Intelligence is of no value if it is not disseminated

The final process of every intelligence analysis is to disseminate the results to your client. The Analyst must communicate the intelligence, conclusions and recommendations clearly and effectively and in a timely manner. Also, the decisions of your client are something completely different from your job. Your part was to analyze and synthesize the correct parts of the information to provide your intelligence report. What your client does not know has no value.

• When everyone agrees on an issue, something probably is wrong

It is rare and not natural for a group of people in the intelligence community to fully agree on anything. If it does occur, it’s time to worry. 

• Your client does not care how much you know, tell them just what they need to know 

The order that you received from your client is pretty much clear. They need to answer specific questions. Excessive details merely obscure the important facts.

• The form is never more important than the substance

A professional appearance and appropriately selected formats are important, but they do not outweigh substance. Imagine that you have done a great job and the presentation of your intelligence report cannot be read easily. Also, the intelligence report must look like a professional job. Actually, you are a professional, so do the right thing. Clients want to know what intelligence means, and they want it when they need it.

• Aggressively pursue the collection of information that you need 

Never settle for less than all you need. If you fail to get access to the vital data source for any reason, you will be held responsible. If you need additional resources please communicate with your client and explain to him the problem.

• Do not take the editing process personally 

Probably you are not working alone. Other people might write the final intelligence report. If editorial changes do not alter the meaning of your message, you will have to accept them. If they alter the message that you want to pass to your client then speak up. Even then, it might be that a brighter mind has seen what you have missed. Believe in your product, but be self-critical.

• Know your intelligence community counterparts and talk to them 

As we said you probably work on a team. With your counterparts, you are not competitors because you belong to the same breed. A good intelligence analyst has to become part of the network. Socialize with other peers. Make connections with them. Share with them important material or educational pieces of training or intelligence events. Do not pick up the phone only when you need something.

• Do not take your job or yourself too seriously 

At all costs avoid working burnout. Writing you off as an asset will be a net loss to your agency (although it may not immediately see it exactly like this). The welfare of your family and your health is more important than nailing down a criminal or scaling another rung on the career ladder. Your role in the larger order of things is not self-important. Think about your career as a marathon race. You cannot sprint at the very beginning. Your commitment, perseverance, and dedication to your job as an analyst will bring results only over the long term.


Morgenstern, H., & Jenter, D. (2018). Reading Guide for the Module S-002 SENTER Project: Open Source Intelligence (OSINT). (D. Jenter & B. Varchmin, Eds.) (1.0.1. edition). Albstadt-Ebingen: Albstadt-Sigmaringen University, Germany.

Watanabe, F. (1997). How to Succeed in the DI: Fifteen Axioms for Intelligence Analysts. Studies in Intelligence, 1, 45–47. Retrieved from

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