The Sources and Methods of Intelligence Studies

James J. Wirtz

in The Oxford Handbook of National Security Intelligence

Published in print March 2010 | ISBN: 9780195375886
Published online September 2010 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

The Sources and Methods of Intelligence Studies

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“Sources and methods” is a term used to describe the practice of intelligence collection and analysis. Intelligence sources and the nature of information obtained vary. Intelligence sources may include information obtained from espionage, images obtained by satellites, intercepted communications, and publicly available media reporting. The nature of information may vary from purloined documents to the “signature” of ship's radar. The term methods, which is synonymous with tradecraft, pertains to the techniques used by operations officers and analysts to carry out their duties. Methods may include social-science methodologies, computer-based analytic tools, maintaining secretive communications and so on. Sources and methods of intelligence agencies are heavily guarded because it comprise of the ways the information is collected and analyzed can give opponents opportunity to assess the capabilities and interests of their enemy. Intelligence agencies surround their sources and methods in a cloak of secrecy because they are significant in the success of ongoing and future operations and analysis. In the advent of globalization, the barriers are dissolved between foreign and domestic violence activities including the way local and national law enforcement and intelligence agencies work. Distinctions between private and public interests and entities are also blurred as activities in the public and private sphere interact to shape domestic and international threats. Apart from globalization, the advent of information revolution also changed the practice and study of intelligence. Policymakers, analysts, and scholars are now confronted with a torrent of data and information as well as the virtual realities of “cyberspace”. New collective workspaces which are empowered by the advancement in communication and computer technologies are also creating new opportunities for collaboration. This article discusses three emerging topics in the study and practice of intelligence in such a way to illustrate the emerging sources and methods of intelligence studies. These new emerging topics are: the intelligence for homeland security, the concept of collective intelligence, and the application of intelligence and warning methodologies to mitigate risk.

Keywords: sources and methods; intelligence collection; intelligence analysis; sources; methods; collective intelligence; application of intelligence; warning methodologies; homeland security

Article.  4531 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; International Relations

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