Simply put, intelligence (or “intel”) is information that has been processed, evaluated, and analyzed.
Simply put, intelligence (or “intel”) is information that has been processed, evaluated, and analyzed. Intelligence exists to support policy makers and military leaders in a variety of ways. Basically, intelligence is concerned with issues related to national security and is normally collected and processed in secret. Counterintelligence (CI) is the effort made by intelligence organizations to prevent foreign intelligence services from gaining information about them or disrupting their activities. CI efforts are also directed at preventing other intelligence services from conducting espionage within a nation’s borders. The military also conducts CI in order to carry out protective measures at home and among units deployed abroad.
The role of intelligence and the agencies that conduct intelligence activities can be broken down into four primary components. The first is to prevent a potential enemy from achieving strategic surprise. Second is to provide policy makers with knowledge that has been collected and assessed by experts, usually over a long period of time. This is especially important in governments where the leadership is transitory. The third role is to support the policy-making process. Decision makers require current intelligence in order to determine what policies they may wish to carry out. Timely intelligence can offer critical background information, help determine risk, and enable leaders to consider the potential risks and rewards of the decisions they are considering. Finally, there is the need to keep secret the methods of collecting intelligence as well as the information needs of decision makers. Governments and the military need to keep some information secret from others and, at the same time, have ways of getting information from those who wish to keep their knowledge confidential. This makes having intelligence services vital, for both civilian and military organizations.
The importance of good intelligence has been understood throughout history. The ancients of the Middle East, the
The legendary ancient Chinese general
The fall of the Roman Empire and the onset of the Middle Ages meant that intelligence was focused primarily on military operations or on keeping an eye on one’s vassals. To what degree
As nation-states began to emerge, intelligence began to take on a greater level of organization.
Intelligence began to take on forms that are more recognizable in today’s world. A series of revolutions and wars from the seventeenth through the nineteenth century led to an increasing appreciation of intelligence and counterintelligence and the use of clandestine and covert operations.
A diplomat named
The decoding of the so-called Zimmermann note, an intercepted German telegram that proposed an alliance of Germany, Mexico, and Japan against the United States, led the Americans to declare war on Germany on April 6, 1917.
Intelligence played a vital role in the
Prior to the outbreak of hostilities
The British responded to reports and rumors of German espionage by creating the
Technological advances, particularly in communications, made the need for accurate intelligence, delivered quickly, a necessity for all of the belligerents. Equally important was counterintelligence. The outcome of battles was often the result of good intelligence or counterintelligence. In the secret war of intelligence, the Allies won a decisive victory over the Axis powers. The
There were failures, however. The successful Japanese attack at
Prior to World War II, the United States had no real intelligence organization to speak of. The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, had demonstrated the need for a structured intelligence function within the government, and this led to the establishment of the
The end of the
Besides terrorism, nations face other threats to their security, and they will continue to seek out intelligence about the intentions and capabilities of enemies, potential enemies, and even friendly nations. In addition, border security issues, internal dissent, competition for natural resources, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the resurgence of piracy, and numerous other regional and global issues will make intelligence a vital function of governments for a long time to come.
Andrew, Christopher, and Vasili Mitrokhin. The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB. New York: Basic Books, 2000. Presents the story of what The Washington Post called “one of the most extraordinary events in the intelligence game since the Soviet Union collapsed,” KGB espionage activities, based on the archives of KGB researcher and defector Vasili Mitrokhin. _______. The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World. New York: Basic Books, 2000. This volume is the second installment of the history of postwar espionage based on the Mitrokhin archive, secret KGB documents through which the late coauthor revealed the Soviet Union’s activities in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Photographs. Black, Ian, and Benny Morris. Israel’s Secret Wars: A History of Israel’s Intelligence Services. New York: Grove Press, 1992. Designed for specialists and spy buffs, a history of five decades of Israeli intelligence, from internal conflicts to victories in spying on Arab neighbors. Dorril, Stephen. MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty’s Secret Service. New York: Free Press, 2002. A history of Her Majesty’s secret service that debunks myths and reveals a more fumbling organization than legend would suggest. Documents activities conducted for the United States as well as various assassination plans and spy operations. Knightley, Philip. The Second Oldest Profession: Spies and Spying in the Twentieth Century. New York: W. W. Norton, 1980. A history of spies and spying, from the first modern intelligence agency, established in 1909, to the present day, with emphasis on Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States. Knightley is unsympathetic to elaborate espionage operations, considering them expensive and corrupting. Lowenthal, Mark W. Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy. 4th ed. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2009. A primer on intelligence (including boldfaced key terms, reference lists, and useful appendixes) that considers both the history of intelligence gathering and the impact of intelligence institutions on public policy decisions. Richelson, Jeffrey T. A Century of Spies: Intelligence in the Twentieth Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. Written by a senior fellow at the National Security Archive, this volume examines both technological and human intelligence and their impact on history, decade by decade: from Adolf Hitler through the Cold War to economic espionage. Volkman, Ernest. The History of Espionage. London: Carlton Books, 2007. An investigative reporter and former executive editor of Espionage magazine provides an overview of spying from ancient times to the world after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Weiner, Tim. Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA. New York: Doubleday, 2007. A Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times correspondent uses archives and interviews with CIA insiders (such as former chiefs Richard Helms and Stansfield Turner) for this history of the agency. Weiner argues that the CIA has, in the main, done more damage than good when it became distracted by gadgetry and covert actions under presidential influence while neglecting its mission to provide accurate intelligence. Wise, David. Nightmover: How Aldrich Ames Sold the CIA to the KGB for $4.6 Million. New York: HarperCollins, 1995. Wise, an acclaimed espionage expert, rehearses the Ames case and the mole-hunt team that brought him to justice. The damage inflicted achieves a human dimension as Wise tells the tragic stories of the CIA operatives whom Ames identified.
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