Intelligence officer

An intelligence officer is a person employed by an organization to collect, compile and/or analyze information (known as intelligence) which is of use to that organization. The term of 'Officer' is a working title, it is not to be confused with rank as in the police where sergeants are also 'Police Officers,' and enlisted Military ranks can be Intelligence Officers as well. Organizations which employ intelligence officers include armed forces, police, civilian intelligence agencies, customs agencies and private corporations.[1]

Sources of intelligence

Intelligence officers make use of a variety of sources of information, including

Open source intelligence (OSINT)
Derived from publicly available sources such as the Internet, library materials, newspapers, etc.
Communications intelligence (COMINT)
Eavesdropping and interception of communications (e.g., by wiretapping) including signals intelligence (SIGINT) and electronic intelligence (ELINT).
Imagery intelligence (IMINT)
Derived from numerous collection assets, such as reconnaissance satellites or aircraft.
Human intelligence (HUMINT)
Derived from covert human intelligence sources (agents or moles) from a variety of agencies and activities.
Financial intelligence (FININT)
The gathering of information about the financial affairs of entities of interest.
Measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT)
Derived from collection assets that collect and evaluate technical profiles and specific characteristics of certain targeted entities.
Technical intelligence (TECHINT)
Based on scientific and technical characteristics of weapons systems, technological devices and other entities.

Please note, the difference between MASINT & TECHINT is that TECHINT involves analysis of weapons systems in the custody of the organization which commissions such tests, while MASINT involves analysis, or remote sensing, of trace evidence left behind by the weapons systems ( unintended emissive byproducts, or "trails"—the spectral, chemical or RF emissions an object leaves behind which serve as distinctive signatures).

Role and responsibilities

The actual role carried out by an intelligence officer varies depending on the remit of his/her parent organization. Officers of foreign intelligence agencies (e.g. the United States' Central Intelligence Agency, the United Kingdom's Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS)) may spend much of their careers abroad. Officers of domestic intelligence agencies (such as the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation, the UK's Security Service (MI5) and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO)) are responsible for counter-terrorism, counter-espionage, counter-proliferation and the detection and prevention of serious organized crime within their own countries (although, in Britain, the Serious Organised Crime Agency had been set up to take care of serious organized crime).

Titles and responsibilities common among intelligence officers include:

Field Officer
An officer that manages the intelligence collection plan for specific missions in foreign countries.
Case Officer
An officer that runs intelligence agents in order to collect raw intelligence information. Case Officers spend their time recruiting and exploiting source agents in order to collect HUMINT.
Collections Officer (Collector)
An officer that collects information, not necessarily from human sources but from technical sources such as wiretaps, bugs, cyber-collection, MASINT devices, SIGINT devices and other means.
Operations Officer
An officer that plans or enacts the necessary steps to disrupt or prevent activities of hostile individuals or groups.
An officer that analyzes collected information and results of operations to determine the identities, intentions, capabilities and activities of hostile individuals or groups and to determine requirements for future operations. After analysis, analysts are also responsible for the production and dissemination of their final product.[2][3]
Counterintelligence Officer
An officer that works to prevent detection, penetration, manipulation and compromise of the intelligence agency and its operations by foreign, domestic, or hostile agents.[4] Often Counterintelligence officers are law enforcement officers, this is the case with the Diplomatic Security Service's Counterintelligence Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Counterintelligence Division. This is often done in order to arrest moles and foreign intelligence agents.

Intelligence Agents

Intelligence Agents are individuals that work for or have been recruited by an Intelligence Officer, but who are not employed by the Intelligence Agency of the Intelligence Officer. Sometime around 2000, the United States Intelligence Community adopted a more "corporate" vocabulary and began referring to agents as assets.[5] Intelligence Agents can be of several types:

Source Agent
A primary source of intelligence information. This is the classic HUMINT source.
Access Agent
An agent that identifies and approaches potential sources (eventual source agents) for assessment or recruitment. In Counter-Proliferation (CP) access agents are often scientists. In Counter-Terrorism (CT) access agents are often religious or ideological leaders.[5]
Agent provocateur
An agent that infiltrates hostile organizations with the intent of spreading disinformation from within or disrupting their operations through enticement and sabotage.
Rogue Agent
A former Intelligence Officer, who may be subject to a burn notice, that is no longer accepting direction from his/her Agency.
Double Agent
An agent or intelligence officer who accepts direction from two or more intelligence agencies. Known as triple agents when the number of directing agencies is three.

Contrary to popular belief or what is seen in Hollywood films, professionally trained intelligence officers are never referred to as agents, secret agents or special agents, they are referred to as Case Officers or Operations Officers. Agents are the foreigners whom betray their own countries to pass information to the Officer; agents are also known as confidential informants (in law enforcement lingo) or assets.

See also


  1. Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals, Board of Directors,
  2. U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Intelligence and Analysis Brochure,
  3. Department of Homeland Security, Deployed Intelligence Officers and Protective Security Advisors, , accessed Jan 8 2013
  4., Counter-Intelligence Officer Job Duties
  5. 1 2 Ishmael Jones,The Human Factor: Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture, 2008
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