Remembering CIA Psychologist Richards “Dick” J. Heuer, Jr. (July 15 1927 – August 21 2018) [COVID-19 & The Analysis of competing hypotheses]

“Do You Really Need More Information? The US Intelligence Community invests heavily in improved intelligence collection systems while managers of analysis lament the comparatively small sums devoted to enhancing analytical resources, improving analytical methods, or gaining better understanding of the cognitive processes involved in making analytical judgments.”

Psychology of Intelligence Analysis — Richards J. Heuer

August 21 2021 — Former CIA veteran Richards “Dick” J. Heuer died on August 21st at Carmel Valley Manor. Dick was recruited into the Central Intelligence Agency during its early years. Throughout his career he worked in numerous areas of the intelligence field. He was the recipient of multiple honors from the Central Intelligence agency, the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts and the International Association for Intelligence Education. Follow us on Twitter:@INTEL_TODAY

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“Dick influenced analysis at the CIA more than any other single person.”

Former CIA Director Michael Morell

Dick was born in Philadelphia to Richards J Heuer, Sr. and Marion Dapp Heuer. After a brief stint as a draftee in the army, Dick attended Williams College, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy.

Heuer went on to study at the University of California, Berkeley where he met his future wife Feesie Farnsworth, the start of 61 years of devoted married life. Later in life he went on to complete his graduate studies obtaining a Masters in International Relations from the University of Southern California.

He was most known for his work on analysis of competing hypotheses and his groundbreaking book, Psychology of Intelligence Analysis, continues to be a staple in intelligence programs nearly 20 years after its publication by CIA; one of the most frequently cited examples of applied psychology in the literature.

Throughout his career, he has worked in collection operations, counterintelligence, intelligence analysis and personnel security. In 2010 he co-authored a book with Randolph (Randy) H. Pherson titled Structured Analytic Techniques for Intelligence Analysis.

Richards Heuer is well-known for his analysis of the extremely controversial and disruptive case of Soviet KGB defector Yuri Nosenko, who was first judged to be part of a “master plot” for penetration of CIA but was later officially accepted as a legitimate defector. [Wikipedia]

“Analysis of competing hypotheses (ACH) is an analytic process that identifies a complete set of alternative hypotheses, systematically evaluates data that is consistent and inconsistent with each hypothesis, and rejects hypotheses that contain too much inconsistent data.”

Analysis of competing hypotheses

Heuer’s work on analysis of competing hypotheses [ACH] provides a methodology for overcoming intelligence biases.

ACH is an eight step process to enhance analysis:

1 — Identify all possible hypotheses

2 — Make a list of significant evidence and arguments

3 — Prepare a matrix to analyze the “diagnosticity” of evidence

4 — Drawn tentative conclusions

5 — Refine the matrix

6 — Compare your personal conclusions about the relative likelihood of each hypothesis with the inconsistency scores

7 — Report your conclusions

8 — Identify indicators

Heuer originally developed ACH to be included as the core element in an inter-agency deception analysis course during the Reagan administration in 1984 concentrated on Soviet deception regarding arms deals.

In late May 2021, President Biden tasked the US Intelligence Community to determine whether the COVID-19 virus emerged from human contact with an infected animal (Hypothesis 1) or from a laboratory accident (Hypothesis 2).

Biden’s 90-day review period will conclude on August 26, 2021. The President stated that a non classified version of the IC report will be released.

RELATED POST: The Origin of Covid-19 — The Definitive Conclusion of the U.S. Intelligence Community 90-days Investigation (August 24 2021) [UPDATE — Classified Report in Review Process. What’s the Conclusion?]

I would like to make a small but very important point. The two hypotheses do not constitute a complete set of alternative hypotheses.

For instance, a natural origin does not rule out a laboratory accident. Moreover, a Wuhan scientist collecting bat samples for research purposes could very well be the patient zero.

“The scientist seeks to disprove a hypothesis, not to confirm it. A hypothesis is accepted only when it cannot be rejected.” Richards J. Heuer Jr., Psychology of Intelligence Analysis

REFERENCES

Psychology of Intelligence Analysis — Richards J. Heuer Jr — Chapter V –  Do You Really Need More Information?

Richards “Dick” J. Heuer, Jr. — The Monterey Herald (Sept. 2, 2018)

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OBITUARY — Richards “Dick” J. Heuer, Jr. (July 15, 1927 – august 21, 2018)

Remembering CIA Psychologist Richards “Dick” J. Heuer, Jr. (July 15 1927 – August 21 2018) [COVID-19 & The Analysis of competing hypotheses]

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