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Intelligence is

[t]he result of the process of systematic gathering, evaluation, and synthesis of raw data on individuals or activities suspected of being or known to be criminal in nature. Intelligence is information that has been analyzed to determine its meaning and relevance. Information is compiled, analyzed, and/or disseminated in an effort to anticipate, prevent, or monitor criminal activity. The product of the analysis of raw information related to crimes or crime patterns with respect to an identifiable person or group of persons in an effort to anticipate, prevent, or monitor possible criminal activity.[1]
[t]he product resulting from the collection, processing, integration, evaluation, analysis, and interpretation of available information concerning foreign nations, hostile or potentially hostile forces or elements, or areas of actual or potential operations. The term is also applied to the activity which results in the product and to the organizations engaged in such activity.[2]

The International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts (IALEIA) states that intelligence is an analytic process:

deriving meaning from fact. It is taking information collected in the course of an investigation, or from internal or external files, and arriving at something more than was evident before. This could be leads in a case, a more accurate view of a crime problem, a forecast of future crime levels, a hypothesis of who may have committed a crime or a strategy to prevent crime.[3]

Intelligence is information collected by the U.S. Intelligence Community and includes a wide variety of human and technical means. Intelligence has also been defined as "knowledge, organization, and activity."[4] As defined in Executive Order 12333, as amended, the term includes foreign intelligence and counterintelligence.

Intelligence collection disciplines[]

Intelligence collection disciplines through which the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) collects intelligence are generally referred to as those which fall within national technical means or non-technical means. Technical means include signals intelligence (SIGINT), measurement and signatures intelligence (MASINT), and imagery intelligence (IMINT). Non-technical means include human intelligence (HUMINT) and open source intelligence (OSINT). Each of these collection disciplines is source-specific — that is, a technical platform or human source, generally managed by an agency or mission manager, collects intelligence that is used for national intelligence purposes.


"The terms data, information, and intelligence are generally (mis)interpreted to have the same meaning. One manner of differentiating among these terms is the extent to which value has been added to the raw data regardless of whether it was collected through overt or clandestine means. The terms exist along a continuum, with data at the far left and intelligence at the far right; as one moves from left to right, additional value and context is added to discrete or posited facts to provide enhanced meaning to an ultimate consumer. Information collected clandestinely may or may not be of any inherently greater value than information collected through open source methods. Information collected is 'raw' until its sources have been evaluated, the information is combined or corroborated by other sources, and analytical and due diligence methodologies are applied to ascertain the information's value. Lack of such critical evaluations can lead to flawed 'intelligence' being provided to consumers who may take action based on the intelligence."[5]

What intelligence can do[]

Intelligence can:

  • Provide an advantage in dealing with foreign adversaries by supplying information and analysis that can enhance the intelligence consumer's understanding.
  • Warn of potential threats and opportunities.
  • Provide insight into the causes and consequences of current events.
  • Enhance situational awareness.
  • Assess long-term strategic issues and alternative futures.
  • Assist in preparation for international or planning meetings.
  • Inform official travelers of security threats.
  • Report on specific topics, either as part of routine reporting or upon request.

What intelligence cannot do[]

  • Intelligence can provide assessments of likely scenarios or developments, but it cannot provide predictions of what will happen with absolute certainty. The IC's resources and capabilities are limited by:
  • Numerous priorities competing for finite budget dollars, personnel, and capabilities.
  • Limited access to denied areas.
  • Technological limitations of IC systems.
  • The IC must maintain its ability to obtain useful information.
  • The need to protect information and intelligence sources and methods may limit the sharing or use of some reports.

Violate U.S. law or the U.S. Constitution[]

The activities of the U.S. IC must be conducted in a manner consistent with all applicable laws and Executive Orders. The IC is particularly aware of the importance of ensuring:


  1. Privacy, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Compliance Verification for the Intelligence Enterprise, App. B, at 41.
  2. U.S. Department of Defense, Joint Pub. 1–02: DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (Nov. 8, 2010, as amended through May 15, 2011) (full-text).
  3. International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts, Successful Law Enforcement Using Analytic Methods.
  4. Sherman Kent, Strategic Intelligence for American World Policy (1965).
  5. Homeland Security Intelligence: Perceptions, Statutory Definitions, and Approaches, at 2 n.4.


See also[]