The Psychological Puzzle: Contributing Factors to the Top-Down Politicization of Intelligence

  • Rebecca Moretti Boston College
Keywords: Social Science, Intelligence, Top-Down Politicization


Policy and intelligence are intimately intertwined. Policymakers need intelligence to make decisions, while the intelligence community derives significance from its ability to provide policy makers with reliable information. In this symbiotic relationship, it is healthy for intelligence consumers to at times check and direct the work of intelligence producers. However, if undertaken maliciously, this checking mechanism manifests as top-down politicization. Here, leaders use intelligence post facto to legitimize their policies instead of using it to guide them, reversing the rational decision-making process. Certain factors may compel leaders to manipulate intelligence to reflect their policy preferences. This essay demonstrates how three distinct processes of top-down politicization can arise from ambiguous evidence, the psychology of intelligence consumers, and the nature of the leaders’ political positions and responsibilities. It then proceeds to argue that political leaders’ psychology is the most potent source of top-down politicization.

Author Biography

Rebecca Moretti, Boston College

REBECCA MORETTI is a junior in the Political Science Honors Program at Boston College. She was born in Los Angeles, but lived in Rome until the age of eight, before moving back to the United States, where she attended Harvard-Westlake school. She is interested in international security and diplomacy, and is fluent in five languages. At Boston College, Rebecca is a John Marshall Fellow and a staff writer for The Heights. Rebecca is passionate about writing and film and has published several plays that have been performed around the country. She is currently studying abroad at the University College London in the department of Political Science.

How to Cite
Moretti, R. (2016). The Psychological Puzzle: Contributing Factors to the Top-Down Politicization of Intelligence. Elements, 12(1).