The Intelligence Process Essay

Question 14

The Intelligence Process is a five step process in which data is collected, examined and analyzed to form coherent patterns to guide intelligence agencies for decision making. The five steps are as follows:

Planning and Direction- First a plan of action is devised to see how information pertaining to the task at hand will be collected. Since the intelligence needed could be for a number of operations (economic, political or military), it is better to plan what kinds of data is needed so that the focus of the information-collecting procedure is not lost.

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Collection- All channels of getting information, from public records to other law enforcement agencies are used to collect as much data as possible. At this stage all the necessary sources are brought in for the next step in the procedure.

Processing and Exploitation- At this point the data is evaluated, the sources from which the information has been is deemed good, bad, true or heresy.

Analysis and Production- The collected intelligence is now compared and contrasted to other pieces of information and is developed into new knowledge.

Dissemination: The collated intelligence is then given to the client for feedback.

I am going to choose the collection and analysis components of the intelligence cycle.


At the level of academia, the intelligence cycle is applied though if course it is not as detailed or laborious. For example, for a sociology project, in order to take up a social issue, the student reviews relevant literature about the issue. This method is also employed, on a large scale by intelligence agencies. They develop an intelligence collection plan and collect information in the form of human, imagery, electronic, signals or open source intelligences. In the hierarchy of the intelligence cycle, collecting the data rates as the most important because once you have your data, then only can you arrange it in some coherent fashion.

By the importance stressed on the collection of information, it can be said that information is the currency of intelligence. No patterns can be drawn out if every source necessary for the client’s objectives is not exhausted. These sources include newspapers, informers, undercover agents, federal agencies and other law enforcement agencies[1]. We can take the example of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who has to consider local, state and tribal law enforcement. Their operation is a mix of national security intelligence and law enforcement. For the FBI, the operations undertaken at the collection stage are physical and technical surveillances, interviews, undercover operations and searches. These provide raw information for the issue given by the client[2].

An important aspect of collecting this information is the issue of security. The information being gathered is of a delicate nature and in the era of digital technology, the line between what should be public and what should be private is becoming blurred. This is why the management of the information is just as important as the information itself. Security measures should be taken for the protection of the data that has been collected. Authority should be granted to only some personnel and all the encryption strategies should be put in place to safeguard the information.

Since at the planning stage, the client’s goals and objectives are outlined, at the collection stage only relevant information should be targeted.  For successful intelligence, the client’s needs should be kept in mind at all times so that the final report is coherent and relevant to the decision making needs of the client. It is always stressed, no matter what a person’s chosen career is, “Do your research”. This applies to intelligence agencies even more because their data and analysis will affect the decision making abilities of the men and women responsible for a country. That is why at the collection stage, no stone should be left unturned because every piece of information, provided it is relevant, is necessary to aide the decision making process.

The intelligence cycle meets the client’s needs in a systematic way. Its planned approach to information makes it easier to break down its sheer volume into manageable chunks. With the advent of technology, the collection process has been made smoother because it has lessened the amount of paperwork. Though, for some types of information it is better to see it manually because it makes analyzing, which we shall come to next, much easier.

As collecting information is the most important stage in the intelligence process, it is of vital importance that all data be kept under strict security measures. Any information in the wrong hands would affect the entire operation.

Analysing and production:

Right after information is collected, the next stage is analyzing it. This stage is defined as”the converting of raw information into intelligence. It includes integrating, evaluating, and analyzing available data, and preparing intelligence products. The information’s reliability, validity, and relevance is evaluated and weighed. The information is logically integrated, put in context, and used to produce intelligence. This includes both “raw” and “finished” intelligence. Raw intelligence is often referred to as “the dots”. … “Finished” intelligence reports “connect the dots” by putting information in context and drawing conclusions about its implications.”[3]

This stage is the next important step in the intelligence cycle. Once raw information is gathered, it has to be put into an understandable form. At this stage the credibility of all the sources used is put into question and all the relevant information is extracted. The data is analyzed into studies and a case is built according to the needs of the client. Analyzing and production puts all the raw data into coherence. Just like the example mentioned before, a student may arrange the data she has collected on a social issue into a bar graph or pie chart so is the process of analyzing to make manufacture raw data into finished intelligence. Basically the nature of intelligence is to provide statistics and facts to aide the decision making process of government bodies.

The advent of technology has also made this task easier. Computerized databases make putting raw information into an accessible form and simple word-processing and presentation software’s have also made it easier to present data at briefings or forming reports. Other technologies include spreadsheets, statistical programs and mapping programs[4]. Intelligence Analysis Programs may be costly to maintain but they do take a lot of manual labour out of the analyzing and production stage. It is still necessary to cast a human eye on the analysis because a computer glitch in handling important information can prove to be costly.

As with the raw data, it is of vital importance that the analyzed form should also be under the strictest security controls. Authorization software and encryption codes should be applied so that the data is protected. This stage is also the most important because the implications of the analysis are also put forth and this has a tendency to affect all the factors taken into consideration when coming to a decision. Patterns which emerge once the data is analyzed are of key importance to the client that is why the utmost care should be taken when forming conclusions. This is why the analysis stage is the next important stage after collection. It fits raw data into a big picture.

The analysis and production components of the intelligence cycle allow the aims and objectives of the client to be seen in a coherent format. Once again the approach is systematic and hence seemingly, unconnected pieces of information can be seen in a pattern. This is why the collection stage is so important because you first need to have raw data to be analyzed in the first place. Good intelligence will be clear, concise and broken down into understandable chunks for the client to access. Good intelligence will also make for sound decision making because that is what it is ultimately for. Every decision taken, especially at the risk of a country’s people should be backed with the relevant facts and statistics. For successful law enforcement, every necessary facet needs to be analyzed because laws affect everyone at the local, state and national level. Intelligence gathered with all the proper protocols has extremely powerful affects. Intelligence, by its very nature forms the basis of democracy because it allows for questioning and criticizing the institutions that are responsible for the decisions that affect us. A good government will base its decisions on sound intelligence which is why it is necessary that nothing be left for comment.

The intelligence cycle is a long and laborious one and at every stage hard work is needed. However, the components involving the most man power are the collecting and analyzing stage because everything depends on the information gathered and how it is analyzed. The intelligence should be open to all those who need it as it is the duty of the leadership to “proactively share” it. This will ensure the smooth functioning of an open and democratic state. A government has the charge of the people under it hence it has a responsibility to make decisions backed by facts.


The Intelligence Process, Law Enforcement Intelligence: A guide for State, Local and Tribal Law Enforcement Agencies, ;;, (accessed 13 August 2010)

Godfrey E. Drexel and Don R. Haris, Basic Elements of Intelligence, Department of Justice, Washington, 1971, Principles of Investigation, John P. Kenney and Harry W. More, Jr., West Publishing, 1979, The Intelligence Process ;;, (accessed on 13 August 2010)

[1] Godfrey E. Drexel and Don R. Haris, Basic Elements of Intelligence, Department of Justice, Washington, 1971, Principles of Investigation, John P. Kenney and Harry W. More, Jr., West Publishing, 1979, The Intelligence Process ;; , (accessed on 13 August 2010)

[2] The Intelligence Process, Law Enforcement Intelligence: A guide for State, Local and Tribal Law Enforcement Agencies,;;, (accessed 13 August 2010)

[3] The Intelligence Process, Law Enforcement Intelligence: A guide for State, Local and Tribal Law Enforcement Agencies,;;, (accessed 13 August 2010)

[4] The Intelligence Process, Law Enforcement Intelligence: A guide for State, Local and Tribal Law Enforcement Agencies,;;, (accessed 13 August 2010)