intelligence community

The term intelligence community refers to government and other public agencies as well as private agencies that gather, assemble, and report information that pertains to world or national security. For example, in the United States, the intelligence community (which refers to itself as the Intelligence Community) includes the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Treasury Department, and departments within each of the branches of the military. In addition, the community includes individuals and companies that contract to provide intelligence gathering or analysis services for the government, for corporations, or for private individuals, or who publish intelligence news to the general public. An example of a company that provides a range of services is Jane's, originally a publisher of information about shipping and aviation, which now offers information about worldwide military capabilities.

The CIA includes centers or special staffs for:

  • Nonproliferation and arms control
  • Counterterrorism
  • International organized crime and narcotics trafficking
  • Environment intelligence

Much intelligence gathered by members of the intelligence community comes from publicly available sources, such as newspapers and magazines (whether in print or online) and from radio and television broadcasts. However, very critical information is developed through clandestine contacts and electronic eavesdropping. In the U.S., the National Imagery and Mapping Agency provides geographic information and terrain visualization.

The global intelligence community includes organizations such as Interpol that endeaver to coordinate and share intelligence gathering. The global Internet has given rise to much discussion about intelligence gathering versus privacy (see Echelon). The acts of terrorism of September 11, 2001, however, tend to be strengthening the arguments for more and better intelligence.

This was last updated in April 2010

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