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Intelligence Students Must Use Their Observation Skills before Analyzing Information

Intelligence Students Must Use Their Observation Skills before Analyzing Information


By David E. Hubler
Contributor, In Homeland Security

Teaching intelligence analysis to students is complicated by the vast amount of material available on open Web sources today. But Indiana University lecturer Carol E.B. Choksy, speaking at the International Association for Intelligence Education (IAFIE) conference in Charles Town, West Virginia this week, believes that she found a way for her students to become more media-savvy by teaching literacies for detection deception.

Choksy, who teaches information and library sciences, tells her students, “Don’t read first; react to the visual.” Her aim is to develop critical thinking for intelligence students by training their eyes to observe before poring over the texts on analysis and other skills intelligence professionals need.

Accurate Intelligence Sources More Difficult to Determine in Today’s Media

Intelligence students need to understand visual signs before they learn about source collection from printed materials and fake news, she told a panel on Tuesday at the IAFIE conference. Even educated people have difficulty today spotting fake news, Choksy noted.

As an example, she showed a screenshot of the Breitbart Store, which looks like an ordinary online sales landing page. Clicking the link, however, brings students to Breitbart’s news articles.

To make her point, she asks her students to look at grocery store tabloids such as the National Enquirer and The Globe. These publications use “active measures” to gain readers and push their political agenda. They mix bold, creative front pages, often featuring unflattering photos of notable politicians, to advertise the often one-sided articles on the inside pages.

Recent Manchester Bombing Shows Viral Nature of Fake News Reports

Even as Choksy was speaking, fake news reports on social media reported misinformation about a terrorist bombing at an Ariana Grande rock concert in Manchester, England. The bombing took place on Monday evening and killed 22 people, including the bomber. Fifty-nine others were wounded.

Some postings listed teens missing after the blast who were not even at the concert. These posts went viral.

“So we are all part of the problem,” Choksy said. “We don’t know how to make proper judgments about what is true and what is not.”

Examining Intentions Critical in Identifying Intelligence Misinformation

One of the problems in trying to identify bias, propaganda [and] active measures is trying to figure out someone else’s intentions. “One of the mysteries of life is not knowing intentions,” she explained.

Choksy wants her students to know the difference between reliability and trustworthiness. Reliability means consistency but not necessarily accuracy; trustworthiness is being regularly truthful, she explained.


About the Author

David E. Hubler brings a variety of government, journalism and teaching experience to his position as a Quality Assurance Editor at APUS. David’s professional background includes serving as a senior editor at CIA and the Voice of America. He has also been a managing editor for several business-to-business and business-to-government publishing companies. David has taught high school English in Connecticut and at Northern Virginia Community College. He has a master’s degree for Teachers of English from the University of New Hampshire and a B.A. in English from New York University. David’s 2015 book, “The Nats and the Grays, How Baseball in the Nation’s Capital Survived WWII and Changed the Game Forever,” was recently published in paperback by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.