Intelligence -- Information Gathering

Intelligence (abbreviated int. or intel.) is information valued for its currency and relevance rather than its detail or accuracy - in contrast with "data" which typically refers to precise or particular information, or "fact," which typically refers to verified information. Sometimes called "active data" or "active intelligence", these typically regard the current plans, decisions, and actions of people, as these may have urgency or may otherwise be considered "valuable" from the point of view of the intelligence-gathering organization. Active intelligence is treated as a constantly mutable component, or variable, within a larger equasion of understanding the secret, covert, or otherwise private "intelligence" of an opponent, or competitor, to answer questions or obtain advance warning of events and movements deemed to be important or otherwise relevant.

As used by intelligence agencies and related services, "intelligence" refers integrally to both active data as well as the process and the result of gathering and analyzing such information, as these together form a cohesive network (cf. "hive mind"). In a sense, this usage of "intelligence" at the national level may be somewhat associated with the concept of social intelligence albeit one which is tied to localized or nationalist tradition, politics, law, and the enforcement therof.


Information collected can be difficult to obtain or altogether secret material gained through espionage ("closed sources"), or it can be banal and widely available, such as newspaper articles or Internet postings ("open sources"). Traditionally, intelligence involves all-source collection, storage and indexing of data, usually in multiple languages, in the expectation that some small portion will later prove important. Intelligence findings or "product" and the sources and methods used to obtain them (tradecraft) are often highly classified and sometimes compartmentalized, and intelligence officers need top level security clearance.

  • Government intelligence is usually assigned to clandestine intelligence agencies, often with large, secret budgets. These use a variety of techniques to obtain information, ranging from secret agents (HUMINT) to communications intercepts (COMINT) to spy satellites (IMINT). See surveillance and list of intelligence gathering disciplines. Intelligence agencies often engage in clandestine activities beyond espionage such as political subversion, sabotage and assassination.
  • Military intelligence is an element of warfare which covers all aspects of gathering, analyzing, and making use of information over enemy forces and the ground. It involves spying, look-outs, high-tech surveillance equipment, and also secret agents.

  • Business intelligence denotes the public or secret information that an organization obtains about its competitors and markets. See also data warehousing.

Intelligence as used here, when done properly, serves a function for organizations similar to that which intelligence (trait) serves for individual humans and animals. Intelligence collection is often controversial and seen as a threat to privacy. While usually associated with warfare, intelligence can also be used to preserve peace.

List of Intelligence Agencies.

Major publicly-accessible intelligence sources:

  • Bloomberg

  • CIA World Fact Book

  • credit rating agencies

  • Dow Jones

  • Internet search engines such as Google

  • LexisNexis

  • newspapers of record, such as the New York Times

  • private investigators

  • public libraries

  • Wikipedia



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