The Intelligence Cycle
The intelligence cycle is the process of developing unrefined data into polished intelligence for the use of policymakers. The intelligence cycle consists of six steps, described below. The graphic below shows the circular nature of this process, although movement between the steps is fluid. Intelligence uncovered at one step may require going back to an earlier step before moving forward.
Requirements are identified information needs—what we must know to safeguard the nation. Intelligence requirements are established by the Director of National Intelligence according to guidance received from the president and the national and homeland security advisors. Requirements are developed based on critical information required to protect the United States from national security and criminal threats. The attorney general and the Director of the FBI participate in the formulation of national intelligence requirements.
Planning and Direction is management of the entire effort, from identifying the need for information to delivering an intelligence product to a consumer. It involves implementation plans to satisfy requirements levied on the FBI, as well as identifying specific collection requirements based on FBI needs. Planning and direction also is responsive to the end of the cycle, because current and finished intelligence, which supports decision-making, generates new requirements. The executive assistant director for the National Security Branch leads intelligence planning and direction for the FBI.
Collection is the gathering of raw information based on requirements. Activities such as interviews, technical and physical surveillances, human source operation, searches, and liaison relationships result in the collection of intelligence.
Processing and Exploitation involves converting the vast amount of information collected into a form usable by analysts. This is done through a variety of methods including decryption, language translations, and data reduction. Processing includes the entering of raw data into databases where it can be exploited for use in the analysis process.
Analysis and Production is the conversion 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”—individual pieces of information disseminated individually. Finished intelligence reports “connect the dots” by putting information in context and drawing conclusions about its implications.
Dissemination—the last step—is the distribution of raw or finished intelligence to the consumers whose needs initiated the intelligence requirements. The FBI disseminates information in three standard formats: Intelligence Information Reports (IIRs), FBI Intelligence Bulletins, and FBI Intelligence Assessments. FBI intelligence products are provided daily to the attorney general, the president, and to customers throughout the FBI and in other agencies. These FBI intelligence customers make decisions—operational, strategic, and policy—based on the information. These decisions may lead to the levying of more requirements, thus continuing the FBI intelligence cycle.
The Intelligence Analyst
- Validate known intelligence with data from other sources.
- Gather, analyze, correlate, or evaluate information from a variety of resources, such as law enforcement databases.
- Prepare comprehensive written reports, presentations, maps, or charts based on research, collection, and analysis of intelligence data.
- Study activities relating to narcotics, money laundering, gangs, auto theft rings, terrorism, or other national security threats.
- Collaborate with representatives from other government and intelligence organizations to share information or coordinate intelligence activities.
- Evaluate records of communications, such as telephone calls, to plot activity and determine the size and location of criminal groups and members.
- Gather intelligence information by field observation, confidential information sources, or public records.
- Link or chart suspects to criminal organizations or events to determine activities and interrelationships.
- Study the assets of criminal suspects to determine the flow of money from or to targeted groups.
- Design, use, or maintain databases and software applications, such as geographic information systems (GIS) mapping and artificial intelligence tools.
Converting Data Into Intelligence
Everything in this manual is of no use to you unless you have a plan on how it should be used. The majority of information in this manual explains how and where the data was collected. It is only data. As I said earlier, it may not even be factual and certainly a lot of it will prove to be a bunch of garbage or questionable self promotion by the company or its agents. Data by itself is useless. Data has to be relevant to the task at hand, it must be complete, it must be accurate, it must be timely and it must be in a format we can use. The data has to be filtered through a system – a business intelligence system. Pushing the data through the business intelligence system turns the data into information and eventually into our final goal – knowledge. In your case, enough knowledge of a company that you can make a much better than average decision as to whether or not to have that company as your business partner.