The Intel on Intelligence
So what is intelligence
Intelligence and information are not the same thing, though they are closely related. Intelligence may contain information and when spoken casually, the term “intel” or “intelligence”, often refers to information also. Information is sometimes called “raw intelligence.” Information is just a fact or collection of facts. Intelligence is the conjecture drawn from the processed and analyzed information. Intelligence professionals are expected to develop intelligence, anyone can compile facts like a jeopardy contestant; the key is the analysis and recommendations.
Here’s an example:
-You neighbor’s house had lights on late one night and the lights have been off for two days.
-There are a couple daily newspapers in the driveway.
-Your neighbor was heard asking someone on a cell phone about passports and vaccinations and a 30-day Visa
-His car hasn’t moved since a taxi was seen outside his house at the beginning of Labor Day weekend, two days ago.
-The dog that is usually in the back yard hasn’t been heard barking for two days.
-A person you don’t recognize driving a vehicle with a cat-lover bumper sticker stopped at the house around 1800 and walked a lap around it, watered the garden and left with the newspapers by 1830.
The facts and observations mentioned above are raw information or unprocessed intelligence. What follows is intelligence:
Your neighbor is most likely out of country for up to 30 days and it’s possible someone is dog sitting for him unless it’s at a kennel. It’s unlikely that the person you saw would dog sit since they apparently have a preference for cats (as evident by the bumper sticker) and likely own at least one. It’s also apparent that the person who showed up was scheduled to check on the house since they preformed a task and left shortly thereafter.
The different intelligence collection platforms are colloquially known as “INTs.” They cover a variety of methods to gather information for analysis and dissemination. The act of collecting information through these platforms is often called espionage. Some of the more common INTs include Human Intelligence (HUMINT), Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), Imagery Intelligence (IMINT) and Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT). HUMINT draws information from any human source such as witting agents, interrogations and unwitting sources. Usually Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) dominates this field. IMINT utilizes imagery the most common example is Google earth, but military imagery sources also use radar and infrared imaging among others. The National Geospatial Agency (NGA) controls the satellites that are used for this collection platform. In a nutshell, SIGINT can intercept data transmissions and either locate the source or eavesdrop. SIGINT is the bread and butter of the National Security Agency (NSA). MASINT tracks emissions in an area and can determine what type of enemy elements are present within an area of operations (AOR). When compared against known equipment used by the enemy, MASINT can tell you what the enemy’s capabilities are. For example, if you hear a police siren, a signature unique to law enforcement vehicles, you know there’s a cop and at a minimum, he’s armed with at least a pistol, can check your speed, and has a radio.
These are just the main collection platforms and they’ll be covered in more detail in future hubs.
For more on intelligence in general, you may want to check these books out
Discusses the role of intelligence in policy-makers' decisions
Provides a candidly thorough explination of the United States Intelligence Community.