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Intel students deliver intelligence briefing on Ebola

Monday, December 8, 2014

Shadya Maldonado

Nine sophomores in Intelligence Writing & Presentation, a course taught by Professor Art Mills of the Tom Ridge School of Intelligence Studies and Information Science at Mercyhurst University, have spent the semester studying the spread of Ebola throughout West Africa. Their charge: to deliver an “intelligence briefing” to the dean of Mercyhurst’s School of Health Professions & Public Health, David Dausey, Ph.D.

The students briefed Dausey on Monday, Dec. 8, at 10 a.m. in the Center for Academic Engagement. It is not uncommon for intelligence studies students to prepare briefings for important decision-makers in both the public and private sectors. Recently, for instance, students delivered a briefing to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency on the interplay between Syria’s ethnic and religious structures and the civil war in that country. Working with a private sector decision-maker, students served as subcontractors of The Boeing Company to study the effectiveness of digital games in mitigating cognitive biases. In the intelligence industry, falling prey to cognitive biases can lead to egregious errors in judgment and have far-reaching effects on U.S. security.

In Monday’s case, the students’ decision-maker was Dausey, who has been frequently sought out by the national media to assess the Ebola threat and its public health impacts.  Their presentation was divided into two sections, one focusing on the state of the threat in the affected West African countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Their overall estimate concludes: “It is unlikely the UN goal of 70 percent case isolation and 70 percent proper burial will be reached by Jan. 1, 2015. Despite circular reporting that the goal is close to being met, indicators such as misrepresentative case numbers, low compliance standards and constant social discontent within West Africa suggest otherwise.”

Students also studied the media’s coverage of the outbreak, the amount of attention devoted to it and the “hysteria” they suggest followed.

Student analysts included Shadya Maldonado, Heather Swede, Aaron Henry, Collin Popson, Jacob Eneix, Emani Burton, Brendan Crowther, Nicholas Branccacio and David Rinderle.