Intelligence (Information Gathering)

For other uses of "Intelligence", see Intelligence (disambiguation).

Intelligence assessment is the development of forecasts of behaviour or recommended courses of action to the leadership of an organization, based on a wide range of available information sources both overt and covert. Assessments are developed in response to requirements declared by the leadership in order to inform decision making. Assessment may be carried out on behalf of a state, military or commercial organisation with a range of available sources of information available to each.

An intelligence assessment reviews both available information and previous assessments for relevance and currency, where additional information is required some collection may be directed by the analyst.


Intelligence assessment is based on a customer requirement which may be a standing requirement or tailored to a specific circumstance, a Request for Information (RFI). The "requirement" is passed in to the assessing agency and worked through the intelligence cycle, a structured method for responding to the request for information.

The RFI may indicate in what format the requester prefers to consume the product.

The RFI is reviewed by a Requirements Manager who will then direct appropriate tasks to respond to the request. This will involve a review of existing material, the tasking of new analytical product or the collection of new information to inform an analysis.

New information may be collected through one or more of the various collection disciplines; human source, electronic and communications intercept, imagery or open sources. The nature of the RFI and the urgency placed on it may indicate that some collection types are unsuitable due to the time taken to collect or validate the information gathered. Intelligence gathering disciplines and the sources and methods used are often highly classified and compartmentalised with analysts requiring an appropriate high level of security clearance.

The process of taking known information about situations and entities of importance to the RFI, characterising what is known and attempting to forecast future events is termed "all source" assessment, analysis or processing. The analyst uses multiple sources to mutually corroborate, or exclude, the information collected, reaching a conclusion along with a measure of confidence around that conclusion.

Where sufficient current information already exists the analysis may be tasked directly without reference to further collection.

The analysis is then communicated back to the requester in the format directed, although subject to the constraints on both the RFI and the methods used in the analysis may be made available for other uses as well and disseminated accordingly. The analysis will be written to a defined classification level with alternative versions potentially available at a number of classification levels for further dissemination.

Target centric intelligence cycle

Where the subject of the assessment is clearly identifiable and provisions exist to make some form of intervention against that subject the target centric assessment approach may be used. This approach, known as F3EA, is complementary to the intelligence cycle and focussed on the intervention itself.

The subject for action, or target, is identified and efforts are initially made to find the target for further development. This activity will identify where intervention against the target will have the most beneficial effects.

When the decision is made to intervene action is taken to fix the target, confirming that the intervention will have a high probability of success and restricting the ability of the target to take independent action.

During the finish stage the intervention is executed, potentially an arrest or detention or the placement of other collection methods.

Following the intervention exploitation of the target is carried out which may lead to further refinement of the process for related targets. the output from the exploit stage will also be passed into other intelligence assessment activities.

See also

Further reading

  • Andrew, Christopher. For the President's Eyes Only: Secret Intelligence and the American Presidency from Washington to Bush (1996)
  • Black, Ian and Morris, Benny Israel's Secret Wars: A History of Israel's Intelligence Services (1991)
  • (2003) essays by scholars
  • Dulles, Allen W. The Craft of Intelligence: America's Legendary Spy Master on the Fundamentals of Intelligence Gathering for a Free World (2006)
  • Kahn, David The Codebreakers: The Comprehensive History of Secret Communication from Ancient Times to the Internet (1996), 1200 pages
  • Lerner, K. Lee and Brenda Wilmoth Lerner, eds. Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence and Security (2003), 1100 pages. 850 articles, strongest on technology
  • Odom, Gen. William E. Fixing Intelligence: For a More Secure America, Second Edition (Yale Nota Bene) (2004)
  • O'Toole, George. Honorable Treachery: A History of U.S. Intelligence, Espionage, Covert Action from the American Revolution to the CIA (1991)
  • Owen, David. Hidden Secrets: A Complete History of Espionage and the Technology Used to Support It (2002), popular
  • (1997)
  • Richelson, Jeffery T. The U.S. Intelligence Community (4th ed. 1999)
  • Shulsky, Abram N. and Schmitt, Gary J. "Silent Warfare: Understanding the World of Intelligence" (3rd ed. 2002), 285 pages
  • West, Nigel. MI6: British Secret Intelligence Service Operations 1909–1945 (1983)
  • West, Nigel. Secret War: The Story of SOE, Britain's Wartime Sabotage Organization (1992)
  • Wohlstetter, Roberta. Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision (1962)
World War I
  • Beesly, Patrick. Room 40. (1982). Covers the breaking of German codes by RN intelligence, including the Turkish bribe, Zimmermann telegram, and failure at Jutland.
  • May, Ernest (ed.) Knowing One's Enemies: Intelligence Assessment before the Two World Wars (1984)
  • Tuchman, Barbara W. The Zimmermann Telegram (1966)
  • Yardley, Herbert O. American Black Chamber (2004)
World War II
  • Babington Smith, Constance. Air Spy: the Story of Photo Intelligence in World War II (1957) - originally published as Evidence in Camera in the UK
  • Beesly, Patrick. Very Special Intelligence: the Story of the Admiralty's Operational Intelligence Centre, 1939–1945 (1977)
  • Hinsley, F. H. British Intelligence in the Second World War (1996) (abridged version of multivolume official history)
  • Jones, R. V. Most Secret War: British Scientific Intelligence 1939–1945 (2009)
  • Kahn, David. Hitler's Spies: German Military Intelligence in World War II (1978)
  • Kahn, David. Seizing the Enigma: the Race to Break the German U-Boat Codes, 1939–1943 (1991)
  • Kitson, Simon. The Hunt for Nazi Spies: Fighting Espionage in Vichy France, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, (2008). ISBN 978-0-226-43893-1
  • Lewin, Ronald. The American Magic: Codes, Ciphers and the Defeat of Japan (1982)
  • May, Ernest (ed.) Knowing One's Enemies: Intelligence Assessment before the Two World Wars (1984)
  • Smith, Richard Harris. OSS: the Secret History of America's First Central Intelligence Agency (2005)
  • Stanley, Roy M. World War II Photo Intelligence (1981)
  • Stevenson, William. A Man Called Intrepid: The Incredible WWII Narrative of the Hero Whose Spy Network and Secret Diplomacy Changed the Course of History (2009)
  • Wark, Wesley K. The Ultimate Enemy: British Intelligence and Nazi Germany, 1933–1939 (1985)
  • Wark, Wesley K. "Cryptographic Innocence: the Origins of Signals Intelligence in Canada in the Second World War", in: Journal of Contemporary History 22 (1987)
Cold War Era
  • Aldrich, Richard J. The Hidden Hand: Britain, America and Cold War Secret Intelligence (2002).
  • Ambrose, Stephen E. Ike's Spies: Eisenhower and the Intelligence Establishment (1981).
  • (1999)
  • Andrew, Christopher, and Oleg Gordievsky. KGB: The Inside Story of Its Foreign Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev (1990).
  • Bogle, Lori, ed. Cold War Espionage and Spying (2001), essays by scholars
  • Boiling, Graham. Secret Students on Parade: Cold War Memories of JSSL, CRAIL, PlaneTree, 2005. ISBN 1-84294-169-0
  • Dorril, Stephen. MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service (2000).
  • Dziak, John J. Chekisty: A History of the KGB (1988)
  • Elliott, Geoffrey and Shukman, Harold. Secret Classrooms. An Untold Story of the Cold War. London, St Ermin’s Press, Revised Edition, 2003. ISBN 1-903608-13-9
  • (1999)
  • Ostrovsky, Viktor By Way of Deception (1990)
  • Persico, Joseph. Casey: The Lives and Secrets of William J. Casey-From the OSS to the CIA (1991)
  • Prados, John. Presidents' Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations Since World War II (1996)
  • (1988)
  • (2004), by an Australian scholar; contains excellent historiographical introduction
  • Weinstein, Allen, and Alexander Vassiliev. The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America—The Stalin Era (1999).

External links

  • Intelligence Literature: Suggested Reading List (CIA)
  • ISRIA, February 5, 2006.
  • The Role of Open Sources in Intelligence, ISRIA, December 31, 2005.
  • Read Congressonal Research Service (CRS) Reports regarding Intelligence issues
  • The Literature of Intelligence: A Bibliography of Materials, with Essays, Reviews, and Comments by J. Ransom Clark, Emeritus Professor of Political Science, Muskingum College
  • Proposal for a Privacy Protection Guideline on Secret Personal Data Gathering and Transborder Flows of Such Data in the Fight against Terrorism and Serious Crime
  • Intelligence Online Investigative news and reporting on intelligence activities worldwide, including secret service and industrial espionage (subscription required).

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