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York College students publish second edition of Intelligence Analysis book


For most observers, the day’s news might paint a bleak international picture. Civil wars become bloodier. Terrorists take innocent lives. In an occasional glimmer of hope, the pendulum of international relations swings from tense confrontation to a possible diplomatic breakthrough.

Students majoring in Intelligence Analysis at York College of Pennsylvania view those reports through an informed lens and think about what is occurring behind the headlines.

“When I see stuff pop up in the news, I think, OK, what is the motivation behind it?” says Maura Gallant, a junior from Pottstown, Pennsylvania. “It makes you think a little deeper about what’s going on.”

Experts uncover the truth by collecting and analyzing intelligence.

“A lot of countries ‒ Syria, North Korea, Iran – those are countries we’re not always on the best of terms with,” explains Claire Ashcraft, a senior who moved to York from Texas. “So, the only way to really know what’s going on is to use intelligence, gain information on the ground, maybe the internet, maybe geospatial.”

Digging for information

Maura and Claire were among about 25 students in Dr. John Weaver’s National Security class who spent a good chunk of the fall semester updating information from the first edition of “Intelligence Analysis: Unclassified Area and Point Estimates.” That book, authored by students in a previous class, was based on President Barack Obama’s 2015 National Security Strategy. The second edition of the book, with the new information, will be published in the summer. 

National Security students did the bulk of the writing for the second edition, while students in Dr. Jennifer Pomeroy’s World Regional Geography class contributed context and perspective.

“For example, with Iran, we talk about nuclear proliferation, and being able to know where the nuclear facilities are located can be helpful for someone doing a more in-depth analysis,” Claire says of the geography students’ entries.

Among the topics in the updated book are Iran, North Korea, China, Russia, and homeland security. 

Maura focused on threats to the homeland, including global terrorism and political division in the United States. She and two Criminal Justice majors researched and wrote that chapter, drawing from sources such as media briefings by the Departments of State and Homeland Security.

“We looked at what makes those threats more powerful against the U.S. and found that groups need economic funding,” she says. “So, to eliminate the threat, we need to cut off funding from terrorists, terrorist organizations and violent protesters.”

The organizations’ ability to spread ideology through mass information also must be blocked, she says.

Finding solid sources

Compounding the challenge for the class was that news reports could be used only as a guide.

“We didn’t go with news articles because too often there is a bias or slant,” Claire explains. “We were told not to use them because it can make data and analysis less reliable.”

Claire and two other Intelligence Analysis majors wrote about Iran.

“I have done research on Iran in the past, and other members of the group have as well,” she says. “I thought it would be really interesting to get a deep look at Iran, what is going on, its strengths and weaknesses.”

The project provided Maura and Claire with useful benefits.

“The biggest thing I took away was it helped with critical-thinking skills,” says Maura, who envisions herself working on humanitarian issues at the State Department or the United Nations. “It took me out of my comfort zone.”

What Claire learned can be applied to many life situations.

“Probably the biggest thing was time and patience,” she says. “You need the time to be able to look through everything, see what matches up, what doesn’t. You have to have patience to see what’s there.”

Claire hopes to work in geographic information systems, using her analytical skills and what she’s learned in her geography minor. GIS can analyze and present geographic and demographic information in the form of maps and digital data.

Recognition from the pros

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which serves military strategists and intelligence professionals, praised the book for teaching critical thinking and methodologies.

In addition to providing the intelligence community with an updated resource, the students have become published authors.

“It’s pretty exciting to be able to say I published a portion of a book at this point in my life,” Maura says.

For Claire, it was an unexpected achievement.

“I never thought I would have the opportunity to do something like this, especially in college as an undergraduate,” she says. “It’s not something most students get to do, so it’s something I’m really proud of.”

To learn more about the Intelligence Analysis program, visit our website