Overview of the Intelligence Cycle
Gathering and converting raw, basic information into finished intelligence are all essential practices in the intelligence cycle. The drastic increase in the threat of terrorism since the 9/11 attacks has prompted the Intelligence Community’s (IC) keen incorporation of this cycle in providing domestic security (Ben Jaffel et al., 2020). Measures of domestic intelligence collection and analysis aim to prevent terror groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from conducting their terror threats in the country. However, citizens have genuine concerns within the context of the intelligence cycle. These concerns include questions such as under what circumstances the intelligence agencies can collect the information and where the Americans’ data go for analysis (Clark, 2013). This essay clarifies some of these concerns. It employs a hypothetical ISIS attack in order to discuss primary data collection and analysis strategies that the IC can rely upon in evaluating terror attacks.
Brief Overview of the Hypothetical Terrorist Attack
The United States has withdrawn its troops from Afghanistan, which has resulted in the Taliban subsequently taking over the Afghan government. Ever since this happened, the United States government has received several threats that a mass casualty event would take place in most of New York’s most prosperous commercial divisions. The Islamic State has been taking advantage of the sense that the United States government has shifted the prevalence of its efforts to focus on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on its economy. For a short period, analysts at the Intelligence Community intercepted the terrorist group’s communications. The government was informed that ISIS had sent small rouge groups worldwide. One of these groups, a gang of four radicalized youth members, entered the United States at the beginning of 2020 before the pandemic chaos. Intelligence efforts have created a reliable disposition that the ISIS team is located at 18th Broad Street, which makes sense because it is the New York Stock Exchange location.
Techniques of Domestic Intelligence Collection
The process of gathering information from people is commonly associated with overseas operations. However, research from Lemieux (2018) reflects on World War II activities that show that analysts can supplement this clandestine process by collecting relevant information from within the nation. Given the shift in priorities and the functional and organizational changes that followed the 9/11 attacks, the country has adopted several information strategies. In addition to joint terrorism taskforces and the establishment of field intelligence groups, the government launched techniques such as human and signal intelligence. According to Chang et al. (2018), the primary focus of these methods is to gain access to private and restricted insights that might help the IC and other agencies better understand terrorist groups like ISIS. This section discusses how the homeland security enterprise could utilize human, signal, and open-source intelligence to collect data about the potential attack on one of the country’s central Stock Exchange centers.
Human intelligence (HUMINT) is a method where intelligence agencies obtain information from human sources. Clark (2013) reveals that people still view this technique as an enhanced form of espionage. However, HUMINT is carried out by overt gatherers of data such as diplomats, military personnel, and people who have received official delegations from the government. These and other debriefers collect information by assessing unclassified publications and accessing exclusive Congressional hearings and conference materials (Ben Jaffel et al., 2020). Other activities include interrogating refugees and prisoners of war and talking to legal travellers to and from hostile lands like Iraqi and Afghanistan. In this case, potential HUMINT sources include agents, recruits, and foreign volunteers who successfully infiltrated ISIS plans with a cover story. Svendsen (2012) states that with the proper support, these collectors will obtain intelligence through monitored observations and by eliciting personnel and available ISIS documentation in New York.
Kamiński (2019) demonstrates that the homeland security enterprise can intercept enemy communication signals as a whole or individually. The United States IC can compromise ISIS communications intelligence (COMINT), electronic intelligence (ELINT), or foreign instrumentation signals intelligence (FISINT). Communications intelligence focuses on voice, video, and facsimile elements. From what research has concluded about prior situations, it would be possible for the agency to collect powerful messages from airwaves, cable and fiber optics, and other mediums that the group might be using. Conversely, while ELINT uses radar technologies to pinpoint and ascertain the emitter’s location and features, FISINT intercepts the opponent’s telemetry (Lemieux, 2018). Additionally, it is pertinent to note that one can conduct SIGINT operations in various ways. These platforms include overt ground collection settings, such as the possible ISIS facility on Broad Street and other covert sites in the country (Clark, 2013). Further, the government can use its renowned communication satellites and terrestrial locations to monitor the terrorist group’s domestic transmissions.
The two methods of collecting intelligence are either overt or covert. Open-Source intelligence (OSINT) uses overt sources. Williams & Blum (2018) demonstrates that OSINT sources can be divided into public media materials, the internet, general information primarily from the government, professional and academic publications, commercial, and grey data. As the Soviet Union used this technique to derive approximately 90% of its opponents’ information, the United States government can access its vastly proliferated electronic database to learn about this and other ISIS attacks (Ben Jaffel et al., 2020). The agency can rely on OSINT because it can provide precious information concerning the organization’s capabilities and how to prevent the New York attack. For instance, at one point, the government might have collected messages from ISIS urging their members to hold embassies hostage to publicize their causes (Norton, 2011). The government would examine these and other secondary sources to develop valuable intelligence against the terrorist group.
Intelligence Community Members Collecting Information
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the primary body leading other agencies in collecting from within the nation and effectively combatting threats at the level of ISIS. This agency would be among the best choices in this case because it has the capacity and training to address domestic violent terrorist threats (Ellingsen, 2016). The FBI prides itself on efficiently intercepting opponent communications using the tools mentioned in the previous segment and assessing the information for established patterns. In this context, it would identify a specific person of interest in the planned attack on the New York Stock Exchange (Tromblay, 2018). This role of the FBI started in 2001 with a dedicated Counter-terrorism Division (CTD) but has developed work with the Directorate of Intelligence in accomplishing missions. While the whole body is tasked with maintaining national security, this department contributes to the goal through domestic surveillance (Svendsen, 2012). Overall, the FBI would be among the best members of the IC working on this case.
National Security Agency (NSA)
The National Security Agency (NSA) is responsible for using SIGINT to gather and analyze relevant information about a terrorist attack. A combination of SIGINT and NSA is vital to the country’s policymakers and military forces’ process of making critical decisions that involve life and death situations (Kamiński, 2019). The mission of SIGINT in the United States is to collect information about foreign powers, organizations, terrorists, and persons planning to conduct an assault on American soil. The agency follows the instructions of those with an official need for specific information and the required clearance, including the Executive Branch of the government. In responding to the New York situation, Tromblay (2018) asserts that NSA must maintain a high-speed pace and use all multifunctional technologies at its disposal to examine the severity of the threat. Still, the department has a robust tradition of employing highly-qualified and dedicated young people with the passion and the commitment to meet the agency’s goals.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
This is another law enforcement agency with the ability to enforce immigration directives to investigate foreign terrorists residing in the United States. ICE’s prominent role is implementing criminal and federal civil laws on border control, immigration, trade, and customs. It relies on undercover agents, confidential informants, surveillance, and cooperating defendants to collect information (Vogel & Tyler, 2019). One must have seen on the news that the United States has raided a particular company and arrested an undocumented immigrant within the country. Besides administrative functions, other operations of the ICE include enforcement and removal operations (ERO) and homeland security investigations (HSI) (Tortorella, 2014). The agency has HSI agents who examine potential crimes on the nation’s critical infrastructures, such as the New York Stock Exchange. On the other hand, the ERO component identifies “removable aliens,” convicted criminals, fugitives, people who have entered the country illegally, and those who might threaten national security.
Strategies of Intelligence Analysis
Intelligence analysis is an integral part of the intelligence process. It involves converting raw information into finished intelligence. Here, responsible agencies integrate, evaluate, and analyze collected data whose primary form is contradictory and fragmentary (Kuwahara et al., 2021). Those who work in analysis ensure that they develop a finished intelligence product that the Executive Branch and other bodies can understand. They assess ye validity, reliability, and relevance of the information before integrating it into a coherent text with a more understandable context. Additionally, the process encompasses investigating events and judgments that support the notion that a significant threat might be planned inside the country (Fingar, 2012). The members of the IC involved in such missions devote a substantial portion of their resources to offering strategic assistance and intelligence to policymakers. Agencies such as the FBI and NSA perform their analysis function using the following key intelligence strategies:
Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH)
Analysis of competing hypotheses is a technique whereby an analyst identifies a collection of views and systematically examines a set of data that is consistent or inconsistent with the hypothesis. Shi et al. (2020) demonstrate that one can eliminate an idea if it contains too much conflicting information. The case of a possible attack in New York presents many alternative explanations and conclusions that might make evaluation difficult. However, the ACH tool employs careful weighing of these alternatives and helps a researcher minimize specific cognitive limitations that undermine the success of the intelligence cycle. The tool contains eight steps that have been proven effective in assisting analysts in avoiding typical challenges (Dhami et al., 2019). These steps include developing the hypothesis, gathering evidence, diagnostics, refinement, inconsistency, sensitivity, and conclusions. The homeland security enterprise and IC would structure ACH so policymakers and military personnel can understand and apply it. An excellent structuring of the process of testing evidence makes the tool clearer and easier to pinpoint the problem.
High-Impact/Low-Probability Analysis (HILP)
The IC and other administrations can use the high-impact/low-probability tool to access and categorize the intelligence gathered regarding the likelihood of a terrorist attack. This method is appropriate when the agency wishes to alert and prepare policymakers about the possibility of a problematic future situation (Fingar, 2012). The HILP project divides extraordinary events into those due to natural hazards or more diverse and complicated issues, including intentional attacks. Once analysts decide the category into which the New York attack falls, they establish connections with the intelligence and report relevant conclusions and suggestions. They also postulate significant triggers and identify factors that would accelerate or alter the possibility in any way. According to Shi et al. (2020), the analysis includes generating a list of indicators and periodically reviewing the list to shape adverse outcomes into positive ones. It is also vital that national security agencies combine this method with other analysis practices for better results.
“What If?” Analysis
Using the “What if?” tool, IC members assumed that the ISIS attack occurred and caused a particular amount of loss and impacted various aspects of the nation’s well-being. The agencies would then reassess the situation to discover what they might have missed. This process of thinking backward about such an event would help departments establish triggering circumstances (Tortorella, 2014). The homeland security enterprise can use this method to observe various elements of the perceived attack and periodically monitor the collected intelligence for further clues. In addition, this tool enables analysts to create a deal scenario of what is likely to transpire and how to mitigate the problems if it comes to it. The group leader may use a detailed program to brainstorm and determine the most possible activities and identify consequences (Chang et al., 2018). In addition, while the method is appropriate for teams and individuals, the IC will require considerable training t familiarize themselves with ISIS and its components.
Intelligence collection and analysis comprise the most critical sections of the intelligence cycle. The FBI, NSA, and ICE are tasked with conducting domestic intelligence to collect reliable information while ensuring national security. These agencies can utilize various intelligence-gathering strategies, including HUMINT, SIGINT, and OSINT. HUMINT focuses on human sources, SIGINT involves signal ad communications interception, and OSINT is primarily similar to performing a secondary analysis of existing publications. The three most appropriate intelligence analysis techniques for this situation include ACH, HILP, and “What if?” analysis. These methods would help the homeland security enterprise better understand the likelihood and prevalence of the ISIS attack. Intelligence collection and analysis also provide a significant window for military personnel to prepare and launch complete countermeasures against the terrorist group.
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