The Intelligence Gathering Cycle

Intelligence gathering involves the collection of information relevant to national security. It can be strategic, dealing with policy and long-term projections, or operational, concerning near-term events.


Much of this information is publicly available, such as demographics, basic military capabilities and munition shipments. Other information is gathered through covert chan서울흥신소 nels such as imagery intelligence and signals intelligence.


The first step in the intelligence cycle is planning and direction. This involves managing 서울흥신소 the intelligence process, identifying requirements, translating them into observables, preparing collection plans, and determining whether specific collection capabilities are available. This step is important because it ensures that intelligence consumers receive the information they need. Whether they are policymakers, executives, investigators, or patrol officers, these consumers usually have unique information needs.

The second step in the intelligence cycle is collection. This includes obtaining data from HUMINT, SIGINT, IMINT, and MASINT sources. These data are gathered by human or technical means. SIGINT collection primarily involves intercepting signals, but it also includes the use of remote sensors and satellites to gather imagery. IMINT collection includes gathering information from the written word, such as books, magazines, and newspapers, and it also can include audio recordings, and video.

MASINT collection focuses on the human element in the intelligence gathering process. It is a type of HUMINT in which agents are recruited to gather information under a pretext. They are typically directed by an agent handler. This step can also involve infiltration and penetration activities. For example, infiltration agents might enter the target organization on a false pretense to gather information about organizational dynamics or technical processes. Penetration agents might be sent into the target on a mission to obtain specific information, such as an address, phone number, or other detail.


Despite the popular image of cloak-and-dagger secret agents, the bulk of intelligence work is actually an undramatic search for information that has already been made available. This information is commonly called “open source” intelligence and may be obtained in a variety of ways. For example, university-trained research analysts sift reports from diplomats, businessmen and accredited military attaches in quiet offices. Radio broadcasts and all manner of publications, including technical and professional journals, are also sources of valuable intelligence. Similarly, the growing number of on-line databases provide adversaries and competitors with tailored data products concerning U.S. government and industry activities.

In the case of a penetration test, intelligence gathering may involve researching vulnerabilities before actually exploiting them. It’s important to find as much background information as possible on the target infrastructure without compromising the scope of the engagement.

The next step in the intelligence cycle is processing, which converts incoming data into forms that are easily accessible to intelligence analysts. This may include translation and reduction of intercepted communications, correlation of IMINT, SIGINT, and MASINT and OSINT sources, and more. The goal is to develop reinforcing intelligence through a multiplicity of sources to reduce the chance of error and susceptibility to deception.

This process is consumer driven; intelligence requirements are established by consumers of the intelligence product such as policymakers, military officials, investigators or patrol officers. The resulting requirements establish priorities and drive the collection activities of the Intelligence Community.


The next step in the intelligence cycle is analysis. During this phase, the raw information collected during collection is converted into finished intelligence that supports policymakers and drives new requirements for future collections. It includes the translation of intelligence materials from foreign languages, evaluation of relevance and reliability, and collation of data for exploitation. It also includes combining disparate pieces of information to identify collateral information and patterns and interpreting their significance.

The analysis phase also includes assessing the reliability of raw intelligence materials received from open sources such as internal telemetry, closed dark web communities, and external intelligence-sharing communities. This information is used to filter out irrelevant or unreliable data from the finished product. It also helps to verify the accuracy of data derived from other types of intelligence, such as signals intelligence or human intelligence (HUMINT).

Intelligence analysts use the results of their analysis to draw conclusions and provide recommendations for action to policymakers. They may produce brief one-page reports or lengthy studies of current and potential criminal activity. They may also monitor, warn, and forecast crime trends.

Emerging technologies present an opportunity for the IC to expand, automate, and sharpen its intelligence capabilities. However, organizational and bureaucratic barriers as well as security and technical realities of data architecture can hinder the IC’s ability to quickly adopt and effectively deploy these technologies.


The final stage of the intelligence cycle involves the dissemination of finished intelligence. This takes place through both physical exchanges of data and via interconnected intelligence databases.

Intelligence gathering begins with a decision maker setting intelligence requirements to meet his or her objectives. These requirements are relayed to the requirements prioritization committees in the Intelligence Community who lay the validated requirement on intelligence collection agencies for fulfillment.

Once a requirement is collected, the raw information is combined with other intelligence and open-source materials in finished intelligence products for distribution to the consumer. The consumer may then request feedback on the degree to which his or her needs were met and provide new requirements for future collection.

Human intelligence (HUMINT) continues to be the foundation of intelligence operations. Although the public imagines HUMINT operatives as cloaked secret agents, much of this work is more mundane — sifting reports from diplomats, businessmen, military attaches and universities. Open-source intelligence, or OSINT, is the information available to anyone with access to newspapers and journals.

Electronic and signals intelligence, or ELINT and SIGINT, includes information that can be intercepted from communication systems or satellites by a hostile or potentially hostile entity. This is often combined with HUMINT and other types of intelligence to create a comprehensive picture of the situation on the ground or in the skies above.