What CIA Taught Me About Humanity

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Carmen Medina is the CIA’s former Deputy Director of Intelligence and a member of The Cipher Brief network of experts. Her unique insights will be featured regularly on TCB.

Having started my professional career in 1978, I’ve seen my fair share of international affairs and bust-ups—everything from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 to the Great Recession of 2008. As a CIA analyst, your goal is to divorce yourself from all personal bias and opinion. This, of course, is impossible; all of us, no matter how well-trained or professional, hold values that color how we process information in the first place. I bend toward optimism; sometimes that helped, like when I believed in the 1980s that black majority rule in South Africa would occur sooner rather than later and without a bloody conflagration. My optimism tricked me, however, when I thought sanity would prevail in Yugoslavia before it devolved into civil war.

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