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Intelligence assessment is the development of forecasts of behavior or recommended courses of action to the leadership of an organisation, based on a wide range of available information sources both overt and covert. Assessments are developed in response to requirements declared by the leadership in order to inform decision making. Assessment may be carried out on behalf of a state, military or commercial organisation with a range of available sources of information available to each.
An intelligence assessment reviews both available information and previous assessments for relevance and currency. Where additional information is required, some collection may be directed by the analyst.
Intelligence assessment is based on a customer requirement or need, which may be a standing requirement or tailored to a specific circumstance or a Request for Information (RFI). The "requirement" is passed to the assessing agency and worked through the intelligence cycle, a structured method for responding to the RFI.
The RFI may indicate in what format the requester prefers to consume the product.
The RFI is reviewed by a Requirements Manager, who will then direct appropriate tasks to respond to the request. This will involve a review of existing material, the tasking of new analytical product or the collection of new information to inform an analysis.
New information may be collected through one or more of the various collection disciplines; human source, electronic and communications intercept, imagery or open sources. The nature of the RFI and the urgency placed on it may indicate that some collection types are unsuitable due to the time taken to collect or validate the information gathered. Intelligence gathering disciplines and the sources and methods used are often highly classified and compartmentalised, with analysts requiring an appropriate high level of security clearance.
The process of taking known information about situations and entities of importance to the RFI, characterizing what is known and attempting to forecast future events is termed "all source" assessment, analysis or processing. The analyst uses multiple sources to mutually corroborate, or exclude, the information collected, reaching a conclusion along with a measure of confidence around that conclusion.
Where sufficient current information already exists, the analysis may be tasked directly without reference to further collection.
The analysis is then communicated back to the requester in the format directed, although subject to the constraints on both the RFI and the methods used in the analysis, the format may be made available for other uses as well and disseminated accordingly. The analysis will be written to a defined classification level with alternative versions potentially available at a number of classification levels for further dissemination.
Target-centric intelligence cycle
This approach, known as Fix-Find-Finish-Exploit-Assess (F3EA), is complementary to the intelligence cycle and focused on the intervention itself, where the subject of the assessment is clearly identifiable and provisions exist to make some form of intervention against that subject, the target-centric assessment approach may be used.
The subject for action, or target, is identified and efforts are initially made to find the target for further development. This activity will identify where intervention against the target will have the most beneficial effects.
When the decision is made to intervene, action is taken to fix the target, confirming that the intervention will have a high probability of success and restricting the ability of the target to take independent action.
During the finish stage, the intervention is executed, potentially an arrest or detention or the placement of other collection methods.
Following the intervention, exploitation of the target is carried out, which may lead to further refinement of the process for related targets. The output from the exploit stage will also be passed into other intelligence assessment activities.
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- World War I
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- May, Ernest (ed.) Knowing One's Enemies: Intelligence Assessment before the Two World Wars (1984)
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- Yardley, Herbert O. American Black Chamber (2004)
- World War II
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- May, Ernest (ed.) Knowing One's Enemies: Intelligence Assessment before the Two World Wars (1984)
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- Cold War Era
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- Ambrose, Stephen E. Ike's Spies: Eisenhower and the Intelligence Establishment (1981).
- Andrew, Christopher and Vasili Mitrokhin. The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB (1999)
- Andrew, Christopher, and Oleg Gordievsky. KGB: The Inside Story of Its Foreign Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev (1990).
- Bogle, Lori, ed. Cold War Espionage and Spying (2001), essays by scholars
- Boiling, Graham. Secret Students on Parade: Cold War Memories of JSSL, CRAIL, PlaneTree, 2005. ISBN 1-84294-169-0
- Dorril, Stephen. MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service (2000).
- Dziak, John J. Chekisty: A History of the KGB (1988)
- Elliott, Geoffrey and Shukman, Harold. Secret Classrooms. An Untold Story of the Cold War. London, St Ermin’s Press, Revised Edition, 2003. ISBN 1-903608-13-9
- Koehler, John O. Stasi: The Untold Story of the East German Secret Police (1999)
- Ostrovsky, Viktor By Way of Deception (1990)
- Persico, Joseph. Casey: The Lives and Secrets of William J. Casey-From the OSS to the CIA (1991)
- Prados, John. Presidents' Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations Since World War II (1996)
- Rositzke, Harry. The CIA's Secret Operations: Espionage, Counterespionage, and Covert Action (1988)
- Trahair, Richard C. S. Encyclopedia of Cold War Espionage, Spies and Secret Operations (2004), by an Australian scholar; contains excellent historiographical introduction
- Weinstein, Allen, and Alexander Vassiliev. The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America—The Stalin Era (1999).
- Intelligence Literature: Suggested Reading List (CIA)
- The Literature of Intelligence: A Bibliography of Materials, with Essays, Reviews, and Comments by J. Ransom Clark, Emeritus Professor of Political Science, Muskingum College
- Intelligence Online Investigative news and reporting on intelligence activities worldwide, including secret service and industrial espionage (subscription required).