Red Cell Analysis Hezbollah Case Study

Excerpt from Case Study :

Red Cell Analysis -- Hezbollah

Its supporters claim that it is just a political party with legitimate goals, while critics charge that Hezbollah is first and foremost a terrorist organization with the stated goal of eliminating Israel and establishing a Palestinian homeland in its place. This paper provides a review of the relevant peer-reviewed and scholarly literature together with governmental resources to determine which data collection programs would be best utilized in response to this threat, which members of the intelligence community would be the best collectors of intelligence on Hezbollah, and what intelligence analysis strategies would be the most effective and why. A discussion of these issues is followed by a summary of the research and important findings in the conclusion.

Review and Analysis

Data-collection alternatives

Data-collection alternatives for tracking Hezbollah activities are important given the group's stated anti-American agenda. Established in 1982, Hezbollah ("The Party of God") has been a participant in Lebanon's political system since 1992 and remains committed to an anti-American and anti-Israel agenda.

To overcome the nebulosity of the group's activities and improve its data-collection activities, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Analytic Red Cell office has used an innovative data-collection method that is intended to draw on the wisdom of the crowd and developing fresh insights into events abroad through collaboration with a wide range of analysts and sources.

At present, the group's supporters are believed to number several thousand together with a few hundred terrorist field operatives; Hezbollah may have established a presence in Iraq recently, but it is known to operate in the southern suburbs of Beirut, the Bekaa Valley, and southern Lebanon and has cells established in Europe, Africa, South America, North America, and Asia.

In addition, Hezbollah's official and unofficial funding comes from a wide array of sympathetic sources in Lebanon and from abroad, including logistical support from Syria.

Data-collection activities concerning Hezbollah's current operations must taken into account the organization's four primary methods used to prosecute its anti-Israel agenda which are as follows:

1. Bringing terrorists and collaborators through the border crossings using foreign documents;

2. Setting up a terrorist organization inside Israel and in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip;

3. Cross-border operations - smuggling weapons and terrorists; and,

4. Financial support for Palestinian organizations and groups.

Recent intelligence-gathering activities have indicated that Hezbollah is increasing its cooperation and collaboration with like-minded terrorist organizations in the region, including

Tanzim, Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the Popular Front.

According to one security analyst, "This cooperation is particularly evident between Hezbollah and the Tanzim and in practice, in recent months Hezbollah has served as a kind of 'external command' for most of the Tanzim organizations in the territories."

These trends were supported by the findings from the editors of the Middle East Journal who reported that on October 17, 2008, "Israeli Defense Force soldiers killed Basem Hamis Mustafa Abu Suria, a senior member of the Tanzim organization, in a raid on the West Bank city of Nablus. The IDF said that Abu Suria had worked to ally Tanzim, an offshoot of Fatah, with Hamas and Hezbollah."

Likewise, Marin-Guzman (2003) reports that, "Tanzim al-Jihad, a fundamentalist cell, was responsible for the assassination of President Sadat in 1981. [Tanzim] followers propose violence, terrorism, and political assassinations, as a means to accomplish their objectives."

In this setting, analyzing the disparate sources of intelligence that are received assumes a new level of importance, and these issues are discussed further below with respect to alternative intelligence analytical strategies.

Intelligence analysis strategies

The intelligence community has a number of analytical strategies available, including conventional intuitive analysis, all-source analysis, alternative analysis, and the analysis of competing hypothesis.

The analysis of competing hypothesis technique used by the Red Cell office resembles an advanced game of chess wherein the players seek to maximize their respective advantages by anticipating the next several moves of their opponent. According to the Red Cell office director, Jon Nowick, "We try to anticipate four, five moves ahead in the mind of our adversary. We paint a picture where there are no dots to connect."

This level of intelligence analysis, though, does not come easy or cheap and requires the full-time active participation by dozens of intelligence operatives and analysts. According to Mintz, "Typically the Red Cell team assembles 20 or so participants for a day-long session at leased offices in the Washington area. Each session divides into smaller groups and takes up a different question."

The outcomes of these analytical sessions are compared to analyses from other Homeland Security officials to identify junctures and potential threats. The process is labor-intensive and fraught with opportunities for misinterpretation, but by bringing so many experts together at once, these constraints are minimized while maximizing the collective insights these experts bring to the table.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's Center for the Study of Intelligence's analysis of competing hypotheses is described as "a tool to aid judgment on important issues requiring careful weighing of alternative explanations or conclusions. It helps an analyst overcome, or at least minimize, some of the cognitive limitations that make prescient intelligence analysis so difficult to achieve."

This description is consistent with the definition provided by George and Bruce (2008) which indicates, "Analysis of Competing Hypotheses is a technique for identifying alternative explanations (hypotheses) for a development and evaluating all available evidence to help disconfirm, rather than confirm, these explanations. The process arrays all the data against multiple hypotheses and determines which pieces of evidence are consistent or inconsistent with each hypothesis."

The analysis of competing hypothesis method provides analysts with the ability to single out the most likely eventualities while eliminating the most unlikely.

The step-by-step analysis of competing hypothesis is congruent with the Red Cell analytical approach described above as outlined below:

1. Identify the possible hypotheses to be considered. Use a group of analysts with different perspectives to brainstorm the possibilities.

2. Make a list of significant evidence and arguments for and against each hypothesis.

3. Prepare a matrix with hypotheses across the top and evidence down the side. Analyze the "diagnosticity" of the evidence and arguments -- that is, identify which items are most helpful in judging the relative likelihood of the hypotheses.

4. Refine the matrix. Reconsider the hypotheses and delete evidence and arguments that have no diagnostic value.

5. Draw tentative conclusions about the relative likelihood of each hypothesis. Proceed by trying to disprove the hypotheses rather than prove them.

6. Analyze how sensitive your conclusion is to a few critical items of evidence. Consider the consequences for your analysis if that evidence were wrong, misleading, or subject to a different interpretation.

7. Report conclusions. Discuss the relative likelihood of all the hypotheses, not just the most likely one.

8. Identify milestones for future observation that may indicate events are taking a different course than expected.

In sharp contrast to conventional intuitive analysis, the analysis of competing hypotheses is distinguished by three key elements as follows: distinguish analysis of competing hypotheses from conventional intuitive analysis.

1. Analysis starts with a full set of alternative possibilities, rather than with a most likely alternative for which the analyst seeks confirmation. This ensures that alternative hypotheses receive equal treatment and a fair shake.

2. Analysis identifies and emphasizes the few items of evidence or assumptions that have the greatest diagnostic value in judging the relative likelihood of the alternative hypotheses. In conventional intuitive analysis, the fact that key evidence may also be consistent with alternative hypotheses is rarely considered explicitly and often ignored.

3. Analysis of competing hypotheses involves seeking evidence to refute hypotheses. The most probable hypothesis is usually the one with the least evidence against it, not the one with the most evidence for it. Conventional analysis generally entails looking for evidence to confirm a favored hypothesis.

At important point that must be made is that even the most well conducted analysis of competing hypotheses may not provide analysts with the timely and accurate intelligence they need to make informed estimates of terrorist threats at any given point in time. According to the CIA, "There is no guarantee that analysis of competing hypotheses or any other procedure will produce a correct answer. The result, after all, still depends on fallible intuitive judgment applied to incomplete and ambiguous information."

Despite these limitations, the analysis of competing hypotheses model provides analysts with a useful framework in which to evaluate a wide range of intelligence data in a systematic and methodological fashion.


The research showed that Hezbollah was created in 1982 with an anti-Israel and anti-American agenda. Since that time, the group has engaged in the legitimate political process in Lebanon but has also carried out a number of terrorist attacks on Israel and its interests that have resulted in death and destruction for the citizens of Israel and Palestine. Keeping track of Hezbollah's far-flung global operations has become increasingly challenging, and trying to stay one step ahead of them has become increasingly challenging in recent years. For this purpose, the research…

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