This week, we talk to Dryad Global’s senior Libya analyst Sophia Bellas about the ‘secret’ world of intelligence gathering.
With over a decade in the military and commercial intelligence world, Sophia is always pushing boundaries and challenging the accepted norms. Being highly adept at articulating complex situations in a way that can be grasped equally by operators and policy makers. Sophia has work widely republished across international and trade press. In her spare time, Sophia is studying a degree in Theology at Durham University. Follow Sophia on LinkedIn for insights and analysis on Libya.
A common misconception, both within the industry and the wider public, is the assumption that intelligence is a ‘dark art’. This impression leads individuals to assume that intelligence analysis is conducted in dark rooms*, tapping into information sources which are both esoteric and closed to the public.
It is perhaps not surprising that many individuals subscribe to this stereotype. Popular culture has been fed for decades on stories of thrilling espionage, dashing Hollywood heroes and glamorous femme fatale operatives working in windowless rooms at incredibly high tempos. Indeed, this intriguing side to the work has also played into the egos of some intelligence operators who don’t necessarily shy away from the dark arts reputation aligned with their profession. That said, there is a grain of truth to these assumptions. Intelligence analysts and firms have to be trusted to handle information sensitively and carefully, in a manner which protects their clients’ interests.
Misconceptions about intelligence gathering are rife. In an age of automated reports, algorithms and data trawling, a new perception has formed which misconstrues intelligence gathering and analysis as merely a statistical process undertaken by software, churning out probability of risks in any given situation. Many companies have opted to rely on cheap automated risk analysis to safeguard their business, believing that it’s enough just to tick the boxes for insurance requirements. However, intelligence analysis is fluid and evolves at an incredible rate. Good intelligence reporting will always have a real, breathing human behind it, applying their contextual knowledge and experience to information.
Take for example the Covid-19 global pandemic and the imminent US elections. They can all be tracked and analysed by digital platforms, that can conduct sentiment analysis and give traders an idea of projected outcomes and trends. But the algorithms can’t contextualise the ‘so what’ impact of these outcomes on issues such as global trade and the wider broader geo-political reverberations. Only an expert in their field can take this data, information and analysis and provide accurate and credible intelligence from which to make informed risk mitigation guidance. Intelligence isn’t and can’t be merely a statistical process undertaken by software, providing a probability of risk.
At Dryad Global, we aim to conduct intelligence reporting and analysis in a transparent and collaborative manner, which retains a sensitivity towards client security and privacy, whilst remaining open to innovation. We endeavour to utilise cutting edge analytical tools and IT systems to aid our process of analysis; however, we are dedicated to ensuring that one key thread permeates all of our intelligence process – the human touch. In the context of our Libya reporting, I draw on in-country sources and sensitive reports, as well as wider sources of information. Honing and refining this information with our analytical team, my expertise on Libyan issues comes to bear, providing the client with timely and accurate information. Our clients rest assured that our sources and analysis have been corroborated and communicated via people, to be accessed by people. At any given time our team is always an email or phone call away if clarification or additional detail is required.
In an industry which can sometimes feel like it has limited and restrictive business models, we are dedicated to flexibility and adjusting to clients’ needs. We provide both bespoke intelligence reporting options as well as instantly available one-off product downloads. Our aim is to take the dark arts out of intelligence. It’s simple we provide solutions that fit a company’s needs with the operational flexibility that only a human can provide.
*Sophia is not kept in a windowless, dark room.
Sophia Bellas is available for media commentary and can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org