Quick Hits

Quick Hits 155 – Are “experts” as good as they say they are?

Everywhere you turn you come across an ‘expert’.

Everywhere you turn you come across an ‘expert‘. This happens in national security as well. But are these people REALLY experts? Borealis takes issue with the term and provides some background on his experience in national security to provide followers with context.

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My own experience

My years at CSE (July 1983 to December 2000)
  • arrived fluent in English, French and Spanish with strong working ability in Portuguese and Italian and moderate ability in German;
  • wrote 250 foreign intelligence (FI) reports in my first six months, 500 in my first year;
  • sent on Arabic language training 1984, could read language fluently in three months;
  • self taught Farsi (Persian) in 1985: could read language fluently in three months;
  • developed course in Norwegian and taught students to read language;
  • worked as cryptanalyst in 1989-1990;
  • appointed as senior linguist analyst in 1990 – responsible for recruiting, testing, interviewing and review of less experienced analysts‘ work;
  • self taught Bahasa (Indonesia) in 1994 – could read language fluently in two months;
  • managed a team of 25 linguist-reporters in 1997;
  • managed a team of 20 linguist-analysts in 1998;
  • became head of collection and data processing in 1999.
My years at CSIS (2001-2013)
  • arrived as specialist in Iran and larger Middle East (language, culture, history, politics) in 2001;
  • became strategic analyst on terrorism in 2005;
  • promoted to one of four senior strategic analyst positions (EX-1 equivalent in Canadian government parlance) in 2009;
  • wrote more than 250 strategic reports on Iran and terrorism from 2001 to 2013;
  • delivered more than 1, 500 presentations on terrorism and radicalisation to violence to CSIS colleagues, domestic clients and international partners in 35 countries;
  • assisted in the debriefing of dozens of human sources and the training of three human sources;
  • interviewed several convicted terrorist offenders in prison.
Public Safety Canada (2013-2015)
  • helped deliver Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) sessions across Canada;
  • helped create early intervention programs for radicalisation to violence in Calgary, Montreal and Toronto.
Provincial Anti-Terrorism Section of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP-PATS) (2015)
  • helped train law enforcement officers on recognising radicalisation to violence and terrorism;
  • assisted in investigations of individuals of concern.
Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting (2015 to present)
  • have written six published, peer-reviewed books on terrorism to date;
  • wrote as a regular columnist for The Hill Times on national security and terrorism (Apr 2016-June 2020);
  • provided training and presentations on terrorism in seven nations;
  • have written dozens of op-ed pieces on national security and terrorism in Canadian media;
  • acted as Director of Security for the SecDev Corporation;
  • delivered hundreds of presentations on national security and terrorism across Canada and the US;
  • have done thousands of interviews for Canadian and international TV, radio and Internet media on national security and terrorism;
  • have written to date thousands of blogs and podcasts on national security and terrorism;
  • have mentored dozens of young Canadians and international citizens on careers in national security;
  • was chosen as a fellow at International Centre for Counter Terrorism (the Hague) and at the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (Concordia University);
  • acted as an instructor on national security and terrorism at George Brown College and University of Ottawa.

Director of the Security, Economics and Technology at the Professional Development Institute at the University of Ottawa (2019 to present)

  • have developed new courses and programs where practitioners teach practitioners.


By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

2 replies on “Quick Hits 155 – Are “experts” as good as they say they are?”

I really enjoyed your presentation on “experts”. You have identified an “expert” problem that ,before the Covid-19 crisis began, my friend and I, Neil McDonald, used to talk about a lot while enjoying coffee at Starbucks on Wellington. Except we did not label it the “expert” problem. But it’s a great word for it. (We approached it from a teaching-learning perspective: he is a retired University Professor and I am a retired social-studies teacher at Jr. and Sr. High School).
Looking at it from a holistic point of view I have learned to consider it as a learning problem. That problem can be defined as acquiring your knowledge from some other person in some official capacity, such as : teacher, doctor, lawyer, priest etc. The way our school system works is by sending our offspring to locations outside the home where officials(teachers) follow a menu and serve that particular day’s selection. If one can remember a few months later what it was, then you are given a certificate to prove you were there and digested it all but the dessert (-: . We are schooled, then, from childhood to obtain our knowledge from others and it’s enshrined in law by creating the school system. (You and I know there are exceptions to the above where some innovative teachers, both in grade-schools and post-secondary institutions, rebel and improvise to teach students how to learn by activity-oriented lessons, etc. Once upon a time I made a paradigm shift and in teaching social-studies I ditched the school texts and began to teach students history and geography through archival records and artifacts. The parents rebelled and I barely kept my job. Dr (Anon), the best historian, by far in Newfoundland’s Memorial University, staged a similar rebellion. He was suspended. But due to his widespread popularity, Mun took him back. They really wanted to fire him but did not have the courage. He is still there. So, we school our people from childhood to obtain their knowledge from ”:experts” instead of learning for themselves. We end up with an electorate who, having seen the leaders’ debates, have to wait until the next day’s news to tell them who won and lost .Sorry to bore you with all this which you know so well. but it annoys me to no end that the “experts” now are those on Twitter, Facebook etc. Have a good day.

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