Processing within the intelligence cycle involves the conversion of raw information into practical use by analysts. This is accomplished through organizing and sorting out of raw data and information into databases where the information can be retrieved and used. How fast and timely can analyst process information before dissemination? For this method to be effective, processing of information requires the analyst to understand information needs, collection sources and plan, the analytic strategy, and the information being processed.
The intelligence cycle is the method of systematic developing information into finished intelligence to customers. “The cycle of intelligence, as a systematic and permanent process, is meant to reveal the essence, by analysis of data and information, which is subsequently communicated to decision-makers, so that they could make substantiated decisions, of an adaptive action nature, in regard to threats (risks, vulnerabilities) or opportunities” (Tropotei, 2018). The intelligence cycle includes the planning and direction phase, collection, processing, analyzing and production, dissemination, and the evaluation phase.
The process looks simple but can be sophisticated depending on other variables such as weather, technology, and location. This research will analyze all the steps of the cycle and focuses on the Issues of processing within the intelligence cycle. The purpose of this study is to explore the effects of intelligence processing within the intelligence cycle and analyze the importance of timely information processing and evaluation. This study seeks to answer the research question, how time is wasted with respect to a data query in the processing phase of the intelligence cycle. This research will be conducted through the use of interaction analysis. The goal is to increase the amount of knowledge regarding data query, analysis, and determine whether or not there is an impact within the process of the intelligence cycle.
The stages in the intelligence cycle are vital but the processing of information is the pivotal part of the cycle. It is very essential that analyst take a step back to filter out information and data. Querying and requesting for information play a critical role in this hypothesis. Time is of the essence but sometimes technology does not favor analyst, therefore, the time to query data could be minutes or hours. As information is collected and being analyzed, there may be intelligence gaps which the analyst needs to fill due to the information requirements form the customer. In this situation (processing stage), various platforms and disciplines are assessed and the most relevant one to yield the most benefits are chosen.
Additionally, collaborating with various analysts can be helpful throughout this process. Due to the various stages within this phase, the classification of documents and labeling it with the appropriate classification is paramount. This undergoes a quality control check and if mislabeled, misclassified or over classified, there could be potential damage to the nation or restrict with the sharing of information. According to Feinstein, 2016 “The consequences of under classifying a document are obvious: Individuals without proper clearance gain access to information they shouldn\'t be allowed to see. But most of the mistakes result from over classification - classifying documents at levels higher than necessary or for periods longer than required”.
The planning and direction phase is when policymakers are recognizing the need for intelligence collection. It establishes the customer’s intelligence necessities and intelligence actions are planned accordingly. The planning and direction steps are essential because it includes the information need with direction on how the information will be collected and the time limit for the entire process.
The collection stage is where raw information is gathered to produce the finished product. Collection of data is performed through intelligence disciplines such as geospatial, human, signal, open source intelligence just to mention a few. Due to goals and mission of the member of the intelligence community, thus focusing on specific intelligence discipline, information collection can be a shared effort utilizing various disciplines and collaborating between federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The main purpose of the collection phase is to meet and define strategic and tactical needs.
The processing stage of the intelligence cycle deals with converting raw information to make intelligence sense using decryption and translation. Often, analyst query information to analyze and draw a conclusion to satisfy the information required in the planning and direction phase. During the processing stage, the analyst needs to understand the requirements by the customer and find specific means to acquire that information. During this phase, an analyst must apply their problem-solving skills to process data using the tools available to them. This stage is critical within the intelligence cycle as mistakes can be made and the issue of compliance may arise. “Processing is critical. Many intelligence queries are time-sensitive; relevant information needs to be passed on for analysis as quickly as possible to respond to imminent threats and contingencies.
The main challenge is to quickly screen the data and provide analysts with a set of relevant, and only relevant, items within a given time window” (Dimitrov, Kress & Nevo, 2016). Further details on the processing stage will be talked about later in this research.
The dissemination stage is all about delivering the finished product to respective customers. Although this stage possesses its struggles, the dissemination stages normally share or pass information through electronic means via emails etc. thus the speediness the time for information to reach its customers. During the evaluation phase, feedback is expected, as there are more ways to improve throughout the whole process. Consistent evaluation is key within the intelligence world due to the dynamics and nature of the environment analyst operates in. During the evaluation period, threats are identified and eliminated.
Artificial intelligence is the systematic process that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and act like humans. Some activities of artificial intelligence include data and speech recognition. The Hutchinson Unabridged encyclopedia with atlas and weather guide (2018) defines artificial intelligence as the “Branch of science concerned with creating intelligent machines and computer programs that can solve problems, learn, and adapt, and can be said to display an intelligent response to a stimulus. This may include behavior compared with that of an intelligent human, but AI also involves procedures that are not observed in people or procedures that involve much more computational power than people are capable of”. Although artificial intelligence may be used in the collection phase of the intelligence cycle, it is essential in the processing phase as it gives the analyst a broader view and perception of objectives.
Additionally, the time for data to be processed by machines may be faster, accurate, and less compliance as compared to a human. Therefore, for an analyst to remain effective and deliver information timely, it is best to utilized artificial intelligence in various forms to enhance productivity. The argument of artificial intelligence is the processing of metadata and or content based. This might prove the difference in terms of analyzing information. In today’s technological world, information is vital and as such, customers and tactical commander need this vital information to make decisions. Some airborne platforms, for instance, may have different capabilities to retrieve, process, and send metadata as fast as possible. The time and geographic location is key in target development and the process of analyzing information.
The suggested methodology used in this study is built around analyst methods and interviews within this environment. The survey was conducted of 30 military personnel (Army, Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard) of different background and different occupation specialty. First, a survey of data and information processing was conducted on how analyst processes their data when information need is received. Out of the survey conducted, 10 to 15 personnel were satisfied with their information processing from the collection source to retrieval from databases.
The concern was due to longer wait periods in searching through databases, analyzing it, and sharing the information to necessary customers. Based on this assessment, only 33 to 50 percent of the information is being processed timely. Although the sample may be too small compared to the whole intelligence community, averagely, an analyst or two is assigned per shop to oversee intelligence processing and analysis taking the number of members within the intelligence community into consideration, it can be predicted that the same amount of information may be processed and analyzed.
Findings and Analysis
The processing of intelligence is very vital in foreign intelligence and national security. Between intelligence collection and analysis, the processes of intelligence need to be interpreted to give it meaning to policymakers and customers. “In January 2010, referring to the December 2009 attempted bombing of a U.S. airliner, President Barrack Obama stated: “The bottom line is this: […] this was not a failure to collect intelligence; it was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had.” (Palfy, 2015).
“The need to modernize and integrate PED capabilities into a holistic, efficient intelligence-gathering system can be summed up by this challenge confronting the community: ISR analysts of the future must be capable of integrating the increasing amounts of raw signals, human, geospatial, dynamic, and open source intelligence with critical thinking to provide tailored intelligence support to operational and higher-level decision makers. Addressing these hurdles offers the military an opportunity to critically assess the way PED is done in the Department, and incorporate new thinking that will transform a critical part of its arsenal. On a practical level, PED technology development must be targeted to improve analysts’ ability to rapidly search across near real-time sensors, leverage historical data, and identify valuable intelligence. This includes enhancing weapons systems to facilitate the needs of updated intelligence gathering technologies; integrating quick-reaction networks, tools, and equipment; and advancing the science of analysis to shorten the time it takes to translate collections into actionable intelligence” (Kimmons, Makuta, & Gilmer).
Accurate intelligence is essential to prevent crime and terror within and outside the homeland. With accurate intelligence process, making the accurate and timely decisions can mitigate potential threat. Raw data and information need to be transformed through exploitation and processing before it can be considered intelligence information. The major terror that has hot our nation can be tracked through the sharing of information and hence the development of fusion centers. Although much is emphasized on sharing information between agencies, information needs to be first processed and analyzed before sharing. The essentiality of this step cannot be undermined, as false intelligence can be catastrophic in many ways.
Different types of data require different measures of processing it. For instance, within signal intelligence, processing continues to be automated and thus rapidly transformed by collection sources. Human intelligence might also need a translation of information or documents before the analyst can exploit and process information.
The processing and exploitation is the execution of related functions that converts and refines collected raw data and information into usable information and provide intelligence information to customers. In order to have an effective intelligence process, information collected need to be evaluated, exploited, and fused into existing information to facilitate intelligence production. As new technologies continue to emerge with different innovations, there should be a need for well-trained personnel due to the changing threats and environment. Personnel needs to recognized and mitigate biases, challenge assumptions, and continue to seek education on new technologies. Additionally, critical thinking must be applied in the day-to-day analysis.
Applying critical thinking ensures full account for data processing and analytical measures. In the near future, processing information might be timely due to adversaries adopting to advance technologies and different techniques. As more information becomes complex to decrypt through collection assets, the intelligence community need to adopt new ways to process these data. Additionally adopting the processing, exploitation, and dissemination model will help support intelligence operations by refining and converting information for reporting to decision makers and relevant customers.