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INT570- All Source Intelligence

Intelligence Failure: The War in Iraq

Rachael Riggs

National American University/ Henley-Putnam School of Strategic Security

INT570-All Source Intelligence

Milo Szymczak

April 17, 2022

Intelligence Failure: The War in Iraq

Intelligence Failure:

"any misunderstanding of a situation that leads a government or its military forces to take actions that are inappropriate and counterproductive to its own interests." (Dr. O'Connor, 2005)

An analyst working for a government agency attempting to decipher which intelligence is most critical at any given time will inevitably face times where he was wrong. The more significant problem arises when he is catastrophically wrong. To say the "CIA is a culture of failure" (Diamond, 2008) seems to discount the times the CIA was catastrophically correct. Of course, when it comes to an intelligence failure, the ramifications are astronomical, and someone must be held accountable.

The United States has encountered a few times throughout its history when the intelligence failures turned out to be so monumental that even explanations were not enough for citizens to understand or accept the failures. One such event is the Iraq War, and the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) claims ultimately sent U.S. Troops into Iraq. As coalition forces landed in Iraq, they swiftly took control of Iraq’s major cities while toppling the Saddam Hussein regime in just three weeks. (History.com Editors, 2009) Nearly twenty years later, U.S. troops remained in Iraq, attempting to help the country from being overrun by insurgents and terrorists. (Moon, 2014)

Sadly, the outcome of what will be of Iraq is not even where U.S. intelligence failed most greatly. The intelligence failure began before the U.S. even went to war with Iraq. The reason given to the public for Americans to go to war with Iraq was the idea that Saddam Hussein held WMD and he intended to use such weapons. This idea provided the needed support of the American people. Years later, none of said Weapons of Mass Destruction were ever found. This monumental failure of intelligence is outright humiliating for a country. We left destruction in our wake and seriously demolished U.S. credibility (Stone, 2004) domestically and abroad.

One of the more significant issues is that many of the intelligence community's sources in Iraq ended up being unreliable. (Ackerman, 2020) Another problem was the time analysts had to produce the report. The analysts were tasked only two weeks to provide results. (Associated Press, 2008) Analysts heavily relied on information from a source they could not verify as holding accurate intelligence. It was later realized that almost all of the information he provided was, in fact, unreliable or completely false. (Sutherland, 2011)

The war in Iraq has seen scrutiny on whether it is an intelligence failure or a propaganda-filled disinformation campaign brought on by the president. (The Propaganda War Waged Over The Iraq Invasion (2003), 2014) Making this more of a white house failure with a presidential administration intent on going to war at all costs. Whatever the reason, the intelligence community did disseminate information and shoulders the liability.

Multi-Source Collection: Preventative for Failures?

Definition of Multi-source:

The intelligence products, organizations, and activities that incorporate all sources of information and intelligence, including open-source information, in intelligence production. All-source intelligence is a separate intelligence discipline and the name of the function used to produce intelligence from multiple intelligence or information sources.” (Headquarters, Department of the Army, 2004)

Multi-Source collection is the collection and interpretation of intelligence from all sources. Using this intelligence discipline minimizes the chance for error. (Leidos Editorial Team, 2017) The Seven main intelligence disciplines include HUMINT (Human Intelligence), SIGINT (signals intelligence), IMINT (Imagery Intelligence), MASINT (Measurement and Signature Intelligence), OSINT (Open-Source Intelligence), TECHINT (Technical Intelligence), and CI (Counterintelligence). Multi-source intelligence collection is putting all the puzzle pieces together and creating an accurate picture with all the incoming intelligence from each discipline. Analytics and cloud-based architectures make multi-source collection possible. Technological advances have made it possible to gather all the information into an accurate intelligence profile. (Leidos Editorial Team, 2017)

One company that distributes this architecture, Intelligent Design Partners, describes its multi-source collection capabilities. This company's systems include primary and secondary sources, collection from many countries and languages scouring the dark web, and enabling keyword search, analysis, and imagery. (Intelligent Design Partners, 2022) This multi-disciplinary collection method verifies the authenticity of all collected information. It then packages this information into finished intelligence to handle by a multi-source analyst.

Multi-Source Collection to Diminish Intelligence Failures

There are three reasons for an intelligence failure:

1. Failure to process and analyze information correctly.

2. Failure to disseminate or share information.

3. Failure to act on intelligence. (Stark, 2020)

Using all-source intelligence and collecting with a multi-source method, analysts would have provided a more robust, more accurate picture of the reality of Iraq and WMD. Instead of relying so heavily on a human source for most intelligence in Iraq, a complete thorough intelligence data set could have been constructed within one of these architectures. (Zhao, Li, Jiang, & & Song, 2020) This data could have provided intelligence from all disciplines to come together. It then can provide a complete picture of the reality of Iraq. This data can analyze information from all disciplines and bring critical pieces together to show where information becomes intelligence. The collection of intelligence in this way can also help mitigate issues regarding information sharing between agencies and individuals.


One of the most significant issues with the intelligence analysis on Iraq is that most of the intelligence came from one source, HUMINT. Later, it was discovered that these sources provided inaccurate and unreliable information. Using a multi-source collection, it is hopeful that a well-rounded final intelligence product would cultivate. All intelligence sources would have come together to create a defined picture ready to be processed by big data analytics. (Rafael, 2022) This design architecture creates factual accuracy for the report, which the analyst can then analyze. This way of obtaining intelligence concerning Iraq would have also provided a more timely final report, which could be handed over to policymakers with higher confidence in the finished product. (Ackerman, 2020)

This type of collection would have dissolved issues such as those had with HUMINT. This disolvance would portray a more accurate multi-source and could have mitigated any issues concerning intelligence sharing and cross-company analysis, as these systems gather all intelligence from each agency without the problems with egos attempting to withhold exceptional information. Multi-source collection from all-source intelligence will prove how powerful this aid to the collection is. This type of collection allows algorithms to work out the problems leaving a polished finished product ready for review. (Leidos Editorial Team, 2017) (Zhao, Li, Jiang, & & Song, 2020)This intelligence is beyond beneficial to any analyst and will help lessen the instances of intelligence failures.


Ackerman, R. K. (2020, September 1). Iraq War Intelligence Failures Led to Current Limitations. Signal, p. 1. Retrieved from https://www.afcea.org/content/iraq-war-intelligence-failures-led-current-limitations?msclkid=737b59fabe3b11ecb4e0f3a3bfb49a8f

Associated Press. (2008, December 9). Official: Iraq war was both an intel and policy failure. Retrieved from NBC News: https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna28148115?msclkid=737b702dbe3b11ec84346b837d631faf

Diamond, J. (2008). The CIA and the Culture of Failure: U.S. Intelligence from the End of the Cold War to the Invasion of Iraq . Stanford Security Studies.

Headquarters, Department of the Army. (2004, May 17). Intelligence Part Three: Military Intelligence Disciplines. FM-2.0 Intelligence. Washington DC, Washington DC, United States. Retrieved from GlobalSecurity.org: https://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/library/policy/army/fm/2-0/chap5.htm?msclkid=4f7e9606bc8711ec8f9f48f6ab3ce878

History.com Editors. (2009, November 24). War in Iraq begins. (A&E Television Network) Retrieved from History: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/war-in-iraq-begins#:~:text=Coalition%20forces%20were%20able%20to,operations%20on%20May%201%2C%202003.

Intelligent Design Partners. (2022). IDP Multi Source Collection and Analysis. Retrieved from Intelligent Design Partners: https://intelligentdecisionpartners.com/idp-multi-source-collection-and-analysis.html?msclkid=662711bcbe4f11ecba21d560323f103b

Leidos Editorial Team. (2017, February 2). Multi-source intelligence in national security: 9 questions with Keith Johnson. Retrieved from Leidos: https://www.leidos.com/insights/multisource-intelligence-national-security-9-questions-keith-johnson?msclkid=4f7ddcfdbc8711eca38e9367dd81103a

Moon, R. (2014, June 16). Thousands Flee as Terrorists Take Over Iraq's Christian Heartland. Retrieved from Christianity Today: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2014/june/thousands-flee-as-terrorists-take-over-iraq-christian-mosul.html?msclkid=37b68d39bc7b11ec948321e8872367d5

Pfiffner, J. P. (n.d.). The Decision to Go to War with Iraq. George Mason University. Fairfax County: George Mason University. Retrieved from http://pfiffner.gmu.edu/files/pdfs/Book_Chapters/Bush%20Iraq%20War%20Decision,%202010.pdf?msclkid=131721ecbc7f11ec966411b93fb4069b

Rafael. (2022). ImiSight: Multi Source Intelligence System and Service. Retrieved from Rafael: https://www.rafael.co.il/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Imisight-Brochure.pdf?msclkid=c431d7dfbe4f11ec988cd3a31daafb80

Stark, B. (2020, May 9). Intelligence Failures: 3 Reasons How (and Why) Intelligence F#$K-ups Occur. Retrieved from Intelligence 101: https://www.intelligence101.com/3-reasons-how-and-why-intelligence-failures-occur/#:~:text=Intelligence%20Failures%20occur%20for%20three%20reasons%20%E2%80%93%201,share%20information.%203%20Failure%20to%20act%20on%20intelligence.?msclkid=4fec3d04ba0f11ecb

Stone, P. H. (2004, 3 6). INTELLIGENCE FAILURES DENT U.S. CREDIBILITY. National Journal, 36(10), p732-733. Retrieved from https://eds-p-ebscohost-com.nauproxy01.national.edu/eds/detail/detail?vid=5&sid=effa9d7a-b4d1-4e0b-82b0-b01a5e7677ea%40redis&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ%3d%3d#AN=12603959&db=pwh

Sutherland, D. (2011, July 27). The Role of Intelligence in the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Retrieved from E-International Relations: https://www.e-ir.info/2011/07/27/the-role-of-intelligence-in-the-2003-invasion-of-iraq/?msclkid=737be833be3b11ecb42cd6be657bfbb7

The Propaganda War Waged Over The Iraq Invasion (2003) (2014). [Motion Picture].

Zhao, X. J., Li, A., Jiang, R., & & Song, Y. (2020, April 8). Multi-source knowledge fusion: a survey. Springer Link, 2567–2592. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s11280-020-00811-0

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