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Students Lay Foundation for Intelligence Analysis Organization

June 9th, 2009

By Sarah Pride

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 338-8727
OfficeOfCommunications@phc.edu

Popularized by the movies like James Bond and the Bourne Identity, perceptions of intelligence work often include images of dark sunglasses, exotic locales, and occasionally violent, high-tech espionage. The reality, however, is typically less flashy and more meaningful.

One of the more popular programs at Patrick Henry College, the Government: SI track is a case in point. The SI course work and apprenticeship module prepares young people to be intelligence analysts, training under the leadership of industry professionals with decades of experience. It not only helps students find excellent internships and jobs, it prepares them in the disciplines of “applied leadership,” working through various projects at PHC to learn intelligence gathering techniques that produce actual data used by the intelligence community.

This past year, some SI students and alumni branched out even further, initiating an intelligence analysis organization known as the Nathan Hale Center for Intelligence Studies (NHCIS). Group members are currently working toward official 501(c)3 status, establishing a business plan and developing new information resources they intend to market to the intelligence community. The project is based on a successful model built by Mercyhurst College, which organized its own analysis center after its strategic intelligence program had operated for a dozen years. PHC’s SI students began the NHCIS in their program’s fourth year, observing the great need for Christian input in the intelligence field.

Dr. Gordon Middleton, Director of PHC's Strategic Intelligence Program

Noting the program’s rapid growth, Dr. Gordon Middleton, Director of the Strategic Intelligence program observes that, “Our vision is of a somewhat different nature (than Mercyhurst College). We are focused on [developing] leadership, not just producing excellent analysts in the intelligence business.”

The NHCIS has finished two practice projects used to test its management capabilities—a comprehensive “country study” of India and a beta test of software for an outside company—and currently has three more projects underway. The “Phoenix Project,” headed up by 2009 graduate John Curry, consists of a team formally contracted by the PHC Office of Admissions to coordinate the 2009 summer SI Teen Leadership Camps. Recent graduate Isaiah McPeak, who has also served PHC as an executive debate coach, manages the Iranian Human Rights Report, an in-depth study of Iran. And Daniel Wayne Watson, also a new graduate, is working with Dr. Middleton to develop the Cultural Analytical Framework, an expansion of the Western world’s current academic position on how to understand other cultures.

Citing preparations the team has made for SI camps, McPeak notes that “John Curry is going to make it the best camp in history.” Over past years, SI camps have always been popular and well-attended. For this summer, five PHC SI students met weekly for an entire semester to plan an imaginary trip to “somewhere in southeast Asia,” according to Curry. He and his team have planned a framework for the camp that flows seamlessly from the students’ arrival on Sunday to their departure on Saturday, with flexibility built into the schedule to allow for students’ strategic decision-making. This year will also prove the maiden year for an SI alumni track, providing advanced training for returning students. After classroom sessions, tradecraft workshops, and operations planning, campers will conduct evening “missions.”

Prepping for an SI teen camps exercise in the counselors' HQ

“We’ll say, here’s your information, the intelligence you’ve collected, and the characters you’ve met today,” Curry explains. “Now, from the evidence and the lessons you’ve learned, go out and make choices—and live with the consequences.” For students still interested, it’s not too late to register.

Another exciting project, which may further the NHCIS’ goal of creating a unique niche in the intelligence community, is the Cultural Analytical Framework. In his doctoral thesis, Dr. Middleton demonstrates how the Western intelligence community uses cultural analysis frameworks that unwittingly miss key cultural differences, simply because these frameworks are limited to Western modes of thought.  His conclusion charts a need for the academic community to introduce a flexible, organic approach to cultural analysis. This would include a meticulous, broad-based evaluation of all aspects of a population—quite simply, its “body, mind, and heart,” as well as aspects universal to humanity, particular to given groups and particular to individuals.

“My vision is to actually create an advanced analysis course around these foundational and philosophical constructs,” says Dr. Middleton.

If it is anything like other initiatives undertaken by PHC’s Strategic Intelligence students, this future course will grow into a resource used by analysts in the field. The SI track continues to build a solid foundation as it attracts students with a passion focused on hard work and real-world applicability.

Other SI projects currently include: the Border Security Alert (BSA), a weekly collation of open-source information that tracks suspicious activity on the borders of the United States and provides that data to intelligence organizations; the Militant Islamic Report; Red Team; and the Intelligencer. Dr. Middleton suggests that students interested in the Government: SI track should ideally apply for it during their freshman spring semester, but adds that, “We’ve had students join as late as their junior year, and there’s still room for more students in the SI Program!”

For more information about PHC’s Government: SI track, click here.