The Risk Of Using Unresolved Cases To Support Finished Intelligence Analysis

This post was published on the original Intelligence Shop Web site in 2017. The message is still relevant, hence, its inclusion here on the Shop’s new site.

This week, Foreign Policy Magazine got a hold of the DHS-FBI joint intelligence bulletin (JIB) describing the threat of “lethal violence” from white supremacist extremists. The JIB cited facts from six crimes that occurred in 2016 that were intended to support analysts’ key judgments. However, the citations were less effective because new facts emerged after publication that undercut the original reporting. 

It is risky to cite unresolved cases–especially to support a thesis or key judgments–because investigation sometimes reveals erroneous detail in the original reporting; or a subsequent trial may find a subject not guilty, or guilty of a lesser charge. Of the six examples cited in the JIB, three did not hold up over time.   

  • In a court case that resolved three months after the JIB’s publication, the “self-identified” white supremacist who attacked the 18-year-old Chinese student with a hatchet was found not guilty by reason of insanity. It was determined he had a 30-year history of mental illness. 
  • Three persons who were arrested for a racially motivated attack on a group of Hispanic men in a Los Angeles, California, park were indeed charged with assault with the added allegation the offenses were hate crimes. However, the disposition, filed 7 July 2016, indicated the men were convicted of one crime: assault and battery
  • Analysts apparently relied on “law enforcement sources” for details of a case involving two KKK members who stabbed a third man they accused of “being Jewish and secretly working for law enforcement.” However, court documents that were cited in press accounts published shortly after the 3 December 2016 assault confirmed all three men belonged to the Loyal White Knights (LWK) of the Ku Klux Klan. The group were drinking when an old argument arose. The victim had previously criticized his LWK associate for his associate’s handling of LWK operations in California.    

OSINT does not always offer follow-up reporting, so the onus is on the analyst to track down the disposition through the appropriate court system. A good practice is to use only fully resolved cases to support finished intelligence products.

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