Intelligence officers are by trade a tight-lipped group, unwilling and often unable to talk to
outsiders about their business. Where, then, does everyone else get their ideas about intelligence? More importantly, where can those who are not intelligence professionals reliably turn to for a better understanding of the Intelligence Community and what it does? Society’s collective impressions about intelligence seem to be changing as our lives are touched more and more by concerns related to information, how it is collected, and who is using it for what purposes. This article discusses the profession of intelligence by briefly surveying some of the unclassified sources of common ideas, perceptions, and misperceptions about what the world of secrets is all about. It is important for citizens of a democracy to have a realistic understanding of what its intelligence organizations can
and cannot do, as well what they will or will not, do in the name of national security. It is also vital for policymakers, military planners, and our interagency partners to have a realistic understanding of the intelligence community’s missions and true capabilities if they are to work effectively together.
One reason why general knowledge about the world of intelligence has been so sparse was that very little information about intelligence organizations has been accessible to anyone outside the profession until relatively recently. Intelligence historian Christopher Andrew provides three reasons for this lack of material. First, states typically denied the very existence of their intelligence organizations. Second, what intelligence experience state’s possessed was kept strictly to themselves and rarely if ever released for study. Indeed, almost nothing was shared regarding intelligence activities even within respective governments, and consequently there were few if any significant reflections or open discussions of intelligence activities. Finally, Andrew observes that for many years historians were simply not interested in the world of intelligence…
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| About the Author:
Kevin Rousseau is a Visiting Associate Professor and the Distinguished Chair for National Intelligence Studies at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He has a BS from the U.S. Military Academy, an MS in strategic intelligence from the Defense Intelligence College, a Master of Military Arts and Sciences in Strategic Studies from the School of Advanced Military Studies, and a JD from the George Mason University School of Law.