From Gregory Treverton's recent article in the Prospect on intelligence work, this example of how the rush to production crowds out contemplation-- and thus serious insight.
[T]he crown jewel of intelligence products is the President's Daily Brief (PDB), perhaps the most expensive publication per copy since Gutenberg's Bibles. Often caricatured as "CNN plus secrets," much of it is material recently collected by a spy, or satellite image, or intercepted signal, plus commentary. On the British side of the ocean, there is less of a flood of current intelligence, and the assessments of the Joint Intelligence Committee are, in my experience, often thoughtful. But on both sides, the tyranny of the immediate is apparent. As one American analyst put it to me: "We used to do analysis; now we do reporting."
The focus on the immediate, combined with the way intelligence agencies are organised, may have played some role in the failure to understand the contagion effects in the recent Arab Spring. In the US, especially, where analytic cadres are large, analysts have very specific assignments. The Egypt analysts are tightly focused on that country, perhaps even on particular aspects of it. They would not have been looking at how events in Tunisia might affect Egypt. To be fair, the media probably overstated the contagion effect of events from one Arab country to the next-but that there was some such effect seems apparent in retrospect. Worse, my bet is that if asked whether events in Tunisia might affect Egypt, even slightly, those Egypt analysts would have said "no" with more or less disdain.