Intelligence is a vastly broad concept that can take on various meanings depending upon the context one uses the term. The Holy Bible, for example, speaks to the essence of knowledge in the book of Proverbs, “Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish” (King James Bible, 1769/2021, Proverbs 12:1). Essentially speaking, the Bible speaks about the cycle of learning: receive instruction and knowledge, apply it, and potentially fail. If one fails, they must pick themselves up and restart through a correctional process. Those who do not embrace the correctional process are foolish, as they may never learn the best way to accomplish a given task or goal. As mentioned earlier, the Bible’s concept in the passage applies heavily to the intelligence community in the United States, especially regarding how it prosecutes the war on terror.
Taylor and Swanson (2019) discuss one of the intelligence community’s most significant failures, the attacks of September 11th. After the September 11th attacks, the United States intelligence community rapidly changed to correct their failures. Today, multiple agencies make up the intelligence community to include the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), National Security Agency (NSA), and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), to name a few (Taylor & Swanson, 2019). Each organization within the intelligence community is responsible for its proverbial piece of the intelligence-gathering pie. For instance, the NRO’s principal responsibility is to create and maintain the nation’s satellite system to gather intelligence (Taylor & Swanson, 2019; Wigner, 2021). Each intelligence organization’s mission is designed to be intertwined with the next to ensure accurate and efficient information gathering to assist the prosecution of criminals and enemies of the United States.
Taylor and Swanson (2019) explain that all levels of government have developed intelligence organizations of their own or have embedded them into preexisting organizations, such as municipal police departments. In order to keep federal, state, and local levels of government on the same page with intelligence gathering, development, and distribution, the intelligence cycle was conceptualized and implemented (Omand, 2013). Omand (2013) explains that the intelligence cycle has been developed over time, but the root purpose remains: to take raw information, develop it into intelligence, and then present it to policymakers. Taylor and Swanson (2019) illustrate the six steps of the intelligence cycle: requirements, planning and direction, collection, processing and exploitation, analysis and production, and finally, dissemination. Each of these steps is an essential process in itself, but they all rely on active collaboration with any agency involved (Taylor & Swanson, 2019).
In a simplistic sense, requirements refer to what is vital to the United States now that could threaten citizens, the military, or the world. Thus, planning and direction are crucial to developing fundamental management of the involved agencies seeking intelligence prioritized by the nation’s pre-established requirements (Burke, 2021). Once the planning phase concludes, agencies can collect information through various methods, such as surveillance operations and interviews. After collection, agencies must process the information they collected and craft it into usable information for analysts. Once information is adequately crafted, an analysis will begin. Finally, after the analysis is the dissemination of information, arguably one of the most essential steps in the process (Taylor & Swanson, 2019). Collectively, the intelligence cycle attempts to rid inefficiencies, overlapping organizational prospects, and boost communication efforts from the federal to the local level (Burke, 2021).