Intelligence Essentials for Everyone

By Lisa Krizan

Ed note: This is Part 1 of a paper written in June 1999 by Lisa Krizan of the Joint Military Intelligence College. It is reprinted here by permission. Part 1 and 2 were published as complete documents, as chapters in a book (thus the odd footnote and figure numbering) and also as a general overview of the intelligence process on the Society for Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP) website. This paper discusses basic intelligence techniques and methods, and is part of our series on the "Secret Amateur Spy." Addition parts of this series will appear in both the Location Intelligence and Directions on Data newsletters. The next part of this series will appear in the October 11th Directions on Data newsletter.

Part I - Intelligence Process
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. The special processing that partially defines intelligence is the continual collection, verification, and analysis of information that allows us to understand the problem or situation in actionable terms and then tailor a product in the context of the customer's circumstances. If any of these essential attributes is missing, then the product remains information rather than intelligence.18

The intelligence profession, already well established within government, is growing in the private sector. Intelligence is traditionally a function of government organizations serving the decision-making needs of national security authorities. But innovative private firms are increasingly adapting the national security intelligence model to the business world to aid their own strategic planning. Although business professionals may prefer the term "information" over "intelligence," the author will use the latter term to highlight the importance of adding value to information. According to government convention, the author will use the term "customer" to refer to the intended recipient of an intelligence product - either a fellow intelligence service member, or a policy official or decision maker. The process of converting raw information into actionable intelligence can serve government and business equally well in their respective domains.

The Intelligence Process in Government and Business
Production of intelligence follows a cyclical process, a series of repeated and interrelated steps that add value to original inputs and create a substantially transformed product. That transformation is what distinguishes intelligence from a simple cyclical activity.19 In government and private sector alike, analysis is the catalyst that converts information into intelligence for planners and decision makers.

Although the intelligence process is complex and dynamic, several component functions may be distinguished from the whole. In this primer, components are identified as Intelligence Needs, Collection Activities, Processing of Collected Information, Analysis and Production. To highlight the components, each is accorded a separate Part in this study. These labels, and the illustration below, should not be interpreted to mean that intelligence is a uni-dimensional and unidirectional process. "In fact, the [process] is a multidimensional, multi-directional, and - most importantly - interactive and iteractive."20

Figure 2: Process of Intelligence Creation and Use. (Click for larger image)

The purpose of this process is for the intelligence service to provide decision makers with tools, or "products" that assist them in identifying key decision factors. Such intelligence products may be described both in terms of their subject content and their intended use.

Any or all of these categories may be relevant to the private sector, depending upon the particular firm's product line and objectives in a given industry, market environment, and geographic area.

A nation's power or a firm's success results from a combination of factors, so intelligence producers and customers should examine potential adversaries and competitive situations from as many relevant viewpoints as possible. A competitor's economic resources, political alignments, the number, education and health of its people, and apparent objectives are all important in determining the ability of a country or a business to exert influence on others. The eight subject categories of intelligence are exhaustive, but they are not mutually exclusive. Although dividing intelligence into subject areas is useful for analyzing information and administering production, it should not become a rigid formula. Some intelligence services structure production into geographic subject areas when their responsibilities warrant a broader perspective than topical divisions would allow.22

Similarly, characterization of intelligence by intended use applies to both government and enterprise, and the categories again are exhaustive, but not mutually exclusive. The production of basic research intelligence yields structured summaries of topics such as geographic, demographic, and political studies, presented in handbooks, charts, maps, and the like. Current intelligence addresses day-to-day events to apprise decision makers of new developments and assess their significance. Estimative intelligence deals with what might be or what might happen; it may help policymaker's fill in gaps between available facts, or assess the range and likelihood of possible outcomes in a threat or "opportunity" scenario. Operational support intelligence incorporates all types of intelligence by use, but is produced in a tailored, focused, and timely manner for planners and operators of the supported activity. Scientific and Technical intelligence typically comes to life in in-depth, focused assessments stemming from detailed physical or functional examination of objects, events, or processes, such as equipment manufacturing techniques.23 Warning intelligence sounds an alarm, connoting urgency, and implies the potential need for policy action in response.

How government and business leaders define their needs for these types of intelligence affects the intelligence service's organization and operating procedures. Managers of this intricate process, whether in government or business, need to decide whether to make one intelligence unit responsible for all the component parts of the process or to create several specialized organizations for particular sub-processes. This question is explored briefly below, and more fully in Part VII.

Functional Organization of Intelligence
The national Intelligence Community comprises Executive Branch agencies that produce classified and unclassified studies on selected foreign developments as a prelude to decisions and actions by the president, military leaders, and other senior authorities. Some of this intelligence is developed from special sources to which few individuals have access except on a strictly controlled "need-to-know" basis.24 The four categories of special intelligence are Human Resources (HUMINT), Signals (SIGINT), Imagery (IMINT) and Measurement and Signatures (MASINT). The four corresponding national authorities for these categories are the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). DIA shares authority for HUMINT, being responsible for Department of Defense HUMINT management. Along with these four agencies, other members of the Intelligence Community use and produce intelligence by integrating all available and relevant collected information into reports tailored to the needs of individual customers.

Private sector organizations use open-source information to produce intelligence in a fashion similar to national authorities. By mimicking the government process of translating customer needs into production requirements, and particularly by performing rigorous analysis on gathered information, private organizations can produce assessments that aid their leaders in planning and carrying out decisions to increase their competitiveness in the global economy. This primer will point out why private entities may desire to transfer into their domain some well-honed proficiencies developed in the national Intelligence Community. At the same time, the Intelligence Community self-examination conducted in these pages may allow government managers to reflect on any unique capabilities worthy of further development and protection.

Figure 3: National Intelligence Production Resources. (Click for larger image)

The next part of this series will appear in the October 11th Directions on Data newsletter.


ASD/C4ISR Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance
BI Business Intelligence
CIA Central Intelligence Agency
CISS Center for Information Systems Security
CSRC Computer Security Resource Center
DCI Director of Central Intelligence
DIA Defense Intelligence Agency
DII Defense Information Infrastructure
DISA Defense Information Systems Agency
DoD Department of Defense
DODSI Department of Defense Security Institute
FISINT Foreign Instrumentation and Signature Intelligence
GPO U.S. Government Printing Office
HUMINT Human Intelligence
IC Intelligence Community
IITF Information Infrastructure Task Force
IMINT Imagery Intelligence
INFOSEC Information Systems Security
INFOWAR Information Warfare
IOSS Interagency OPSEC Support Staff
IPMO INFOSEC Program Management Office
ISSR-JTO Information Systems Security Research Joint Technology Office
JIVA Joint Intelligence Virtual Architecture
JMIC Joint Military Intelligence College
MASINT Measurement and Signature Intelligence
MBTI Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
Management Research Institute
NACIC National Counterintelligence Center
NCSC National Computer Security Center
National Intelligence Council
NII National Information Infrastructure
NIMA National Imagery and Mapping Agency
NIST National Institute for Standards and Technology
NSA National Security Agency
NSTISSC National Security Telecommunications and Information Systems Security Committee
NTIA National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Office of Management and Budget
OPSEC Operations Security
OSD Office of the Secretary of Defense
OTP Office of Technology Policy
SCIP Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals
SIGINT Signals Intelligence


18 Captain William S. Brei, Getting Intelligence Right: The Power of Logical Procedure, Occasional Paper Number Two (Washington, DC: Joint Military Intelligence College, January 1996), 4.
19 Melissie C. Rumizen, Benchmarking Manager at the National Security Agency, interview by author, 4 January 1996.
20 Douglas H. Dearth, "National Intelligence: Profession and Process," in Strategic Intelligence: Theory and Application, eds. Douglas H. Dearth and R. Thomas Goodden, 2d ed. (Washington, DC: Joint Military Intelligence Training Center, 1995), 17.
21 Ronald D. Garst, "Components of Intelligence," in A Handbook of Intelligence Analysis, ed. Ronald D. Garst, 2d ed. (Washington, DC: Defense Intelligence College, January 1989), 1; Central Intelligence Agency, A Consumer's Guide to Intelligence (Washington, DC: Public Affairs Staff, July 1995), 5-7.
22 Garst, Components of Intelligence, 2,3.
23 CIA, Consumer's Guide, 5-7.
24 CIA, Consumer's Guide, vii.

Published Thursday, October 5th, 2006

Written by Lisa Krizan

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