Agency Spotlight–Branches of the FBI Part 2

Aug 18, 2017


In the first part of this series, we took a look at four of the six branches within the FBI: the National Security Branch, the Information Technology Branch, the Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch, and the Human Resources Branch. This post will look at the Intelligence Branch.

Intelligence Branch

This branch oversees intelligence policy and guidance. They ensure that the FBI’s intelligence production remains objective and strikes the correct balance between strategic and tactical work. The intelligence branch is responsible for all intelligence strategy, resources, policies, and functions.

“Intelligence” is defined as information that has been analyzed and refined so it’s useful to policymakers in making decisions, specifically about potential threats to national security. The FBI and other organizations that make up the U.S.  intelligence community use the term “intelligence” three different ways:

  • A product that consists of information that has been refined to meet the needs of policymakers.
  • The process through which information is identified, collected and analyzed.
  • Refers to both the individual organizations that shape raw data into a finished intelligence product for the benefit of decision makers and the larger communities of these organizations.

The Intelligence Cycle

The FBI uses the Intelligence Cycle for developing unrefined data into polished intelligence for the use by policymakers. It consists of 6 steps:

  • Requirements—identify information needs; what must be known to safeguard the nation. Requirements are developed based on critical information necessary to protect the U.S. from national security and criminal threats.
  • Planning and Direction—management of the entire effort, from identifying the need for information to delivering an intelligence product to a consumer.
  • Collection—gathering of new information based on requirements. Actions used include interviews, technical and physical surveillance, human source operation, searches, and liaison relationships.
  • Processing and Exploitation—converting a vast amount of information collected into a usable form. This is done through encryption, language translations, and data reduction. Processing includes entering raw data into databases where it is exploited for use in the analysis process.
  • Analysis and Production—conversion of raw information into intelligence. This includes integrating, evaluating, and analyzing data, and preparing intelligence products. Information is integrated, put in context, and used to produce intelligence.
  • Dissemination—distribution of raw or unfinished intelligence to consumers whose needs initiated intelligence requirements. The FBI disseminates information in 3 standard forms: Intelligence Information Reports, FBI Intelligence Bulletins, and FBI Intelligence Assessments.

There are various types of intelligences—military, political, economic, social, environmental, health, and cultural. The FBI uses 5 main ways of collecting intelligence, collectively referred to as intelligence collection disciplines, or INT’s.

  • Human intelligence—(HUMINT)—the collection of information through human sources. Within the U.S., this is the FBI’s responsibility, outside the U.S. the CIA generally conducts this.
  • Signals intelligence—(SIGINT)—electronic transmissions collected by ships, planes, ground sites, or satellites.
  • Imagery intelligence—(IMINT)—sometimes referred to as photo intelligence (PHOTINT), it involves designing, building, and operating imagery satellites.
  • Measurement and Signatures intelligence—(MASINT)—concerns weapons capabilities and industrial activities. Its primary use is to help identify chemical weapons or pinpoint specific features of unknown weapons systems.
  • Open source intelligence—(OSINT)—refers to information and sources that are generally available including information obtained from media, professional and academic records, and public data.

The last post in this series will look at the Science and Technology Branch.

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