Introduction to Intelligence Studies
eBook - ePub

Introduction to Intelligence Studies

Carl J. Jensen, III, David H. McElreath, Melissa Graves

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eBook - ePub

Introduction to Intelligence Studies

Carl J. Jensen, III, David H. McElreath, Melissa Graves

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Über dieses Buch

Introduction to Intelligence Studies provides a comprehensive overview of intelligence and security issues confronting the United States today.

Since the attacks of 9/11, the United States Intelligence Community has undergone an extensive overhaul. This textbook provides a comprehensive overview of intelligence and security issues, defining critical terms and reviewing the history of intelligence as practiced in the United States. Designed in a practical sequence, the book begins with the basics of intelligence, progresses through its history, describes best practices, and explores the way the intelligence community looks and operates today. The authors examine the 'pillars' of the American intelligence system—collection, analysis, counterintelligence, and covert operations—and demonstrate how these work together to provide 'decision advantage'. The book offers equal treatment to the functions of the intelligence world—balancing coverage on intelligence collection, counterintelligence, information management, critical thinking, and decision-making. It also covers such vital issues as laws and ethics, writing and briefing for the intelligence community, and the emerging threats and challenges that intelligence professionals will face in the future. This revised and updated second edition addresses issues such as the growing influence of Russia and China, the emergence of the Islamic State, and the effects the Snowden and Manning leaks have had on the intelligence community.

This book will be essential reading for students of intelligence studies, US national security, and IR in general.

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Chapter 1
An Overview of Intelligence

Intelligence is more than information. It is knowledge that has been specially prepared for a customer’s unique circumstances. The word knowledge highlights the need for human involvement. Intelligence collection systems produce 
 data, not intelligence; only the human mind can provide that special touch that makes sense of data for different customers’ requirements.
Captain William S. Brei
Getting Intelligence Right: The Power of Logical Procedure
Chapter Objectives
  1. Demonstrate familiarity with the many definitions and uses of the term “intelligence.”
  2. Understand how intelligence enhances national security.
  3. Summarize the relationship between the intelligence community and policymakers/decision-makers.
  4. Recognize how the “reality” of intelligence work often differs from common perceptions and myths perpetuated in the popular media.
  5. Understand the importance of “decision advantage” and how it can be achieved.
  6. Demonstrate an initial understanding of the delicate balance between intelligence gathering and the rights of citizens.
  7. List and explain the five functions of intelligence agencies.


Intelligence has played a critical role in mankind since the earliest humans began to think and process information. Information and the intelligence drawn from that information directly influence the daily decisions of individuals, businesses, industry, the military, and the government. Nations have risen and fallen on the power of intelligence and the decisions that have resulted from it. Thus, the ability to know, anticipate, and plan is very powerful.
The hope of decision-makers is that intelligence will provide knowledge of quantitative factors and afford insight into the intangible. When that happens, intelligence can describe existing situations and identify or confirm capabilities that will shape future conditions.
Throughout the text, we will expand on the ideas presented in this chapter. One overriding theme that readers should keep in mind is this: however we examine intelligence, from the perspective of the public (government), military, or the private sector (business), its purpose is to provide that critical edge in decision-making that shifts the balance in favor of the decision-maker. This is a concept known as decision advantage, where one knows more than a competitor or adversary. This concept is very important in today’s intelligence world. In a 2008 publication titled Vision 2015: A Globally Networked and Integrated Intelligence Enterprise, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) quoted Georgetown professor Jennifer Sims when describing the benefits of decision advantage:
The key to intelligence-driven victories may not be the collection of objective ‘truth’ so much as the gaining of an information edge or competitive advantage over an adversary. Such an advantage can dissolve a decision-maker’s quandary and allow him to act. This ability to lubricate choice is the real objective of intelligence. (Director of National Intelligence, 2008: 8)

What Is Intelligence?

As we shall see, intelligence is itself a dynamic concept that does not have just one definition or application. As mentioned above, the ultimate purpose of the intelligence product is simple: provide an edge to the decision-maker. Intelligence is many things, but foundationally, its core mission is to provide knowledge of the world in which we live. This may come as a surprise to those weaned on spy movies and fiction—although the Intelligence Community (IC) does engage in covert and operational activities when the need arises, the production of knowledge is its main mission. At a conference your authors once attended, a senior IC official explained to students why the suave, fictional MI-6 operative James Bond may, in reality, be the world’s worst spy. We include his explanation in Box 1.1.
Box 1.1 James Bond: World’s Worst Spy?
James Bond is a fictional spy created by Ian Fleming, who once worked for British Intelligence. Bond movies are wildly entertaining, with numerous action sequences and intense romances. However, at a conference attended by your authors, a prominent figure from an American intelligence agency once described why Bond may be the world’s worst spy:
  • Everyone knows who he is—the phrase “Bond, James Bond” brings instant recognition. In reality, spies need to keep their identities confidential.
  • Bond causes a scene everywhere he goes—from car chases to shooting on the run, he wreaks havoc wherever he is. Real spies must remain discreet.
  • He has questionable and frequent romantic relationships, often with agents from the other side. In reality, such actions can lead to compromising situations and blackmail.
  • While intelligence agencies run on information, Bond never files reports. He seems to do all his talking with his fists.

The Challenge of Defining Intelligence

No single definition of intelligence is accepted by all. The term itself is used in a variety of ways, which makes it difficult to come up with a single definition. Complicating the problem, different agencies have particular missions and operate under different rules. For example, the focus of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is international. It has an entirely different set of guidelines than the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which has both a law enforcement and domestic intelligence mission. Hence, both define intelligence differently.
The title of a 2002 article by Michael Warner frames the issue nicely: “Wanted: A Definition of ‘Intelligence’” (Warner, 2002). Noting the many definitions that abound, Warner concluded that although definitions vary, the common purpose of the intelligence enterprise remains relatively consistent. Using the Hoover Commission of 1955 as an example, he noted that its simple definition seemed to do the trick: intelligence “deal[s] with all the things which should be known in advance of initiating a course of action” (Warner, 2002).
Although Warner may have been satisfied with that simple description, the issue remains unsettled. For example, the International Dictionary of Intelligence defines it as:
[T]he product resulting from the collecting and processing of information concerning actual and potential situations and conditions relating to domestic and foreign activities and to domestic and foreign or US and enemy-held areas. (Carl & Bancroft, 1990)
Contrast the above with the definition used by the FBI:
Simply defined, intelligence is information that has been analyzed and refined so that it is useful to policymakers in making decisions—specifically, decisions about potential threats to our national security. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, n.d.)
The FBI further articulates three aspects of intelligence:
  1. Intelligence is a product that consists of information that has been refined to meet the needs of policymakers.
  2. Intelligence is also a process through which that information is identified, collected, and analyzed.
  3. Intelligence refers to both the individual organizations that shape raw data into a finished intelligence product for the benefit of decision-makers and the larger community of these organizations.
(Federal Bureau of Investigation, n.d.)
The 2013 Department of Defense publication, Joint Intelligence (JP 2-O), provides yet another definition, one with a decidedly military spin:
The product resulting from the collection, processing, integration, evaluation, analysis, and interpretation of available information concerning foreign nations, hostile or potentially hostile forces or elements, or areas of actual or potential operations. (Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2013: GL 8)
An examination of each definition makes one thing clear: agencies define intelligence to meet their particular needs and missions. For example, the FBI is concerned primarily with domestic and international threats confronting the homeland, what it defines as “potential threats to our national security.” The military, on the other hand, is concerned with “foreign nations, hostile or potentially hostile forces or elements, or areas of actual or potential operations.”
In its 1999 Consumers’ Guide to Intelligence, the CIA provided this succinct definition:
Reduced to its simplest terms, intelligence is knowledge and foreknowledge of the world around us—the prelude to decision and action by US policymakers. (Central Intelligence Agency, 1999: vii)
Note that the CIA adds the requirement that intelligence should act as a “prelude to decision and action,” implying that it should not merely satisfy idle curiosity; according to this definition, intelligence must be useful for some larger purpose, generally one that serves the national interest. This sort of intelligence, which can empower a consumer toward some level of understanding or action, is often termed actionable intelligence. Some argue that all intelligence should strive toward this state.
Each of these definitions contains elements of the larger picture, and all have the benefit of brevity. Yet none encompasses the wide range of activities carried out by today’s IC. A more comprehensive and illuminating definition appears in Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy, written by retired CIA analyst Mark Lowenthal:
Intelligence is the process by which specific types of information important to national security are requested, collected, analyzed, and provided to policymakers; the products of that process; the safeguarding of these processes and this information by counterintelligence activities; and the carrying out of operations as requested by lawful authorities. (Lowenthal, 2015: 10)
Lowenthal’s definition is salient for several reasons. In the first place, it highlights the various aspects of the definition as commonly used today. Intelligence is a process, one that involves many steps. These will be discussed at length in Chapter 7 (“Putting It All Together: The Intelligence Cycle”). As a process, it is also dynamic—that is, intelligence activities do not stop.
Intelligence is also a product, such as national intelligence estimates that detail analyses of particular strategic issues, or the Presidential Daily Brief, which is a succinct rendering of important issues prepared specially for the President of the United States. Many, but not all, of these products are classified— that is, only those individuals with a sufficient security clearance and a “need-to-know” may access them.
Intelligence is also about protecting what we know—what is termed counterintelligence. Achieving decision advantage is not just about learning as much as possible about an adversary; it is also about protecting one’s own information. Just as a football team needs to play both offense and defense well, the IC needs to both protect and acquire—if either is not achieved, decision advantage can be lost.
Finally, intelligence often refers to the community that collects and analyzes important information and disseminates it as intelligence. Chapter 3 (“The IC Today”) discusses the myriad parts of today’s IC: the 17 agencies that make up the nucleus of the federal intelligence world; the other federal, state, and local agencies that also participate in the effort; and the private sector, with its huge resources and wide breadth.

Information and Intelligence

At this point, readers should realize that we have made a great effort to separate the terms “information” and “intelligence.” In fact, they are not synonymous. Information is unprocessed material of every description that can be used to produce intelligence. It is, in essence, “raw data.” Since intelligence is derived from information, it shares many attributes with information. Information, and the intelligence that results from it, is perishable. Information will often be incomplete, sometimes confusing, and contradictory. Not all information will be important or even relevant, and much of it may be inaccurate or misleading. Too much information can be as harmful as too little. With all information, we seek not a large amount, but rather to have the right information available when needed. In today’s world, obtaining the “right” information is becoming increasingly more difficult because of the sheer amount of data available. Box 1.2 provides a description of the “Knowledge Doubling Curve,” an idea articulated by architect and futurist R. Buckminster Fuller in 1981 that helps explain how and why we are awash in so much information.
Box 1.2 Knowledge Doubling Curve
R. Buckminster Fuller was a visionary in many areas, including architecture and imagining the future. In his 1981 book Critical Path, Fuller cre...


  1. Cover
  2. Title
  3. Copyright
  4. Dedication
  5. Contents
  6. Acknowledgments
  7. Authors
  8. CHAPTER 1 — An Overview of Intelligence
  9. CHAPTER 2 — History of Intelligence in the United States
  10. CHAPTER 3 — The IC Today
  11. CHAPTER 4 — Collection
  12. CHAPTER 5 — Barriers to Analysis
  13. CHAPTER 6 — Analytical Methods
  14. CHAPTER 7 — Putting It All Together: The Intelligence Cycle
  15. CHAPTER 8 — Counterintelligence
  16. CHAPTER 9 — Covert Operations
  17. CHAPTER 10 — Constitutional Mandates—Overview of Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Roles
  18. CHAPTER 11 — Writing and Briefing for the Intelligence Community
  19. CHAPTER 12 — Military Intelligence
  20. CHAPTER 13 — Criminal Intelligence and Crime Analysis
  21. CHAPTER 14 — Threats and Challenges for the Twenty-First Century
  22. CHAPTER 15 — Future of Intelligence
  23. Index