Introduction to chapter one

Intelligence is the product resulting from the collection, collation, evaluation, analysis, integration, and interpretation of collected information. It is a specialized information product that provides the State or an adversary with information required to further its national interests. One of the most important functions of intelligence is the reduction of the ambiguity inherent in the observation of external activities. In the most obvious case, adversary intelligence organizations may seek information concerning military capabilities or other matters that directly threaten the national security of the State.

In each of these cases, the information sought may provide the adversary with an edge and might allow him to implement a well-developed strategy to reach his goals. In most cases, the development of an intelligence product involves collecting information from a number of different sources. In some cases, information may be disseminated immediately upon collection based upon operational necessity and potential impact on current operations. This type of raw intelligence is usually based on fragmentary information about fast-breaking events and may contain substantial inaccuracies or uncertainties that must be resolved through subsequent report and analysis. Finished intelligence products contain information that is compared, analyzed, and weighted to allow the development of conclusions. Finished intelligence is produced through analytical review in the intelligence process. The intelligence process confirms a fact or set of facts through a multiplicity of sources to reduce the chance of erroneous conclusions and susceptibility to deception.

Intelligence is divided into strategic and operational intelligence. Strategic intelligence provides policy makers with the information needed to make national policy or decisions of long-lasting importance. Strategic intelligence collection often requires integrating information concerning politics, military affairs, economics, societal interactions, and technological developments. It typically evolves over a long period of time and results in the development of intelligence studies and estimates. Operational intelligence is concerned with current or near-term events. It is used to determine the current and projected capability of a program or operation on an ongoing basis and does not result in long-term projections. Most intelligence activities support the development of operational intelligence.


Broadly speaking, people tend to associate intelligence with crime prevention; meaning probably that the availability of timely intelligence can prevent the occurrence of crime. But is this perspective completely true? To gain more insight, let’s examine the following widely held views:

i. That intelligence services are solely responsible for the generation and dissemination of intelligence, for that reason they must be held accountable whenever any breach of security occurs;

ii. That intelligence failure occurs when intelligence agencies give wrong or misleading information or when actionable intelligence is not received on time; and

iii. That various security agencies have their statutory responsibilities and must exclusively focus on their mandates, even in the face of national emergencies which demand greater collaboration and dynamism in handling issues.


The intelligence cycle is the process through which intelligence is obtained, produced, and made available to users. In depicting this cycle, the United States Intelligence Community uses a five-step process. Other nations may describe this cycle differently; however, the process is largely the same. The steps in the intelligence cycle are depicted in the following illustration:

1. Planning and Direction: The first step in the cycle, planning and direction, involves the management of the entire intelligence effort, from the identification of a need for data to the final delivery of the intelligence product to the consumer. The process consists of identifying, prioritizing, and validating intelligence requirements, translating requirements into observables, preparing collection plans, issuing requests for information collection, production, and dissemination, and continuously monitoring the availability of collected data. In this step specific collection capabilities are tasked, based on the type of information required, the susceptibility of the targeted activity to various types of collection activity, and the availability of collection assets.

2. Collection: includes both acquiring information and provisioning that information to processing and production elements. The collection process encompasses the management of various activities, including developing collection guidelines that ensure optimal use of available intelligence resources. Intelligence collection requirements are developed to meet the needs of potential consumers. Based upon identified intelligence, requirements collection activities are given specific taskings to collect information. These taskings are generally redundant and may use a number of different intelligence disciplines for collection activities. Tasking redundancy compensates for the potential loss or failure of a collection asset. It ensures that the failure of a collection asset is compensated for by duplicate or different assets capable of answering the collection need. The use of different types of collection systems contributes to redundancy. It also allows the collection of different types of information that can be used to confirm or disprove potential assessments. Collection operations depend on secure, rapid, redundant, and reliable communications to allow for data exchange and to provide opportunities for cross-cueing of assets and tip-off exchanges between assets. Once collected, information is correlated and forwarded for processing and production.

3. Processing: The third step, processing, is the conversion of collected information into a form suitable for the production of intelligence. In this process, incoming information is converted into formats that can be readily used by intelligence analysts in producing intelligence. Processing may include such activities as translation and reduction of intercepted messages into written format to permit detailed analysis and comparison with other information. Other types of processing include video production, photographic processing, and correlation of information collected by technical intelligence platforms.

4. Production: The fourth step, production, is the process of analyzing, evaluating, interpreting, and integrating raw data and information into finished intelligence products for known or anticipated purposes and applications. The product may be developed from a single source or from all-source collection and databases. To be effective, intelligence production must focus on the consumer’s needs. It should be objective, timely, and most importantly accurate. As part of the production process, the analyst must eliminate information that is redundant, erroneous, or inapplicable to the intelligence requirement. As a result of the analytical effort, the analyst may determine that additional collection operations are required to fill in gaps left by previous collection or existing intelligence databases. The final intelligence product must provide the consumer with an understanding of the subject area, and draw analytical conclusions supported by available data.

5. Dissemination: The final step of the intelligence cycle is dissemination. Dissemination is the conveyance of intelligence to the consumer in a usable form. Intelligence can be provided to the consumer in a wide range of formats including verbal reports, written reports, imagery products, and intelligence databases. Dissemination can be accomplished through physical exchanges of data and through interconnected data and communications networks.

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