Basics of Intelligence Collection

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Intelligence collection is the process of gathering information for use by decision makers. This can include entirely unobtrusive activity that is inherently passive. For instance, open source information, such as from news and media outlets, can be gathered, analyzed, summarized, and passed on to the principal who awaits the information. Sometimes, this requires placing officers or agents in foreign countries to facilitate access to the open source media. Clearly, the advent of the Internet has significantly increased access to this type of open source information, permitting some intelligence services to conduct some degree of open source collection without leaving their headquarters. Intelligence operatives can also maintain overt relationships with individuals in positions to provide open source information on topics of interest to a foreign government. Some of these individuals may even be unwittingly providing information of interest.

Intelligence can also be collected clandestinely using methods that are often illegal within the target country in question. Clandestine methods include the identification of individual targets in positions to provide information of use to an intelligence service. Intelligence operatives from a foreign power can build clandestine relationships with targeted individuals who may pass on useful information. In these instances, an individual is recruited to wittingly pass information to a foreign government. A creative intelligence service may even approach an individual under false pretenses where they pose as representatives of another government. In this case, the individual is fooled as to the true recipient of the information being passed. At any rate, individuals passing proprietary or classified information are in violation of US laws.

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