Understanding the Intelligence Cycle

Title:                      Understanding the Intelligence Cycle

Author:                  Mark Phythian

Pythian, Mark (2013), ed. Understanding the Intelligence Cycle. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

LCCN:    2012050067

UB250 .U25 2013

Summary

  • “This book critically analyses the concept of the intelligence cycle, highlighting the nature and extent of its limitations and proposing alternative ways of conceptualizing the intelligence process. The concept of the intelligence cycle has been central to the study of intelligence. As Intelligence Studies has established itself as a distinctive branch of Political Science, it has generated its own foundational literature, within which the intelligence cycle has constituted a vital thread – one running through all social-science approaches to the study of intelligence and constituting a staple of professional training courses. However, there is a growing acceptance that the concept neither accurately reflects the intelligence process nor accommodates important elements of it, such as covert action, counter-intelligence and oversight. Bringing together key authors in the field, the book considers these questions across a number of contexts: in relation to intelligence as a general concept, military intelligence, corporate/private sector intelligence and policing and criminal intelligence. A number of the contributions also go beyond discussion of the limitations of the cycle concept to propose alternative conceptualizations of the intelligence process. What emerges is a plurality of approaches that seek to advance the debate and, as a consequence, Intelligence Studies itself. This book will be of great interest to students of intelligence studies, strategic studies, criminology and policing, security studies and IR in general, as well as to practitioners in the field. “– Provided by publisher.
  • “This book analyses the nature and extent of the flaws and limitations inherent in the concept of the intelligence cycle. The concept of the intelligence cycle has been central to the study of intelligence. As Intelligence Studies has established itself as a distinctive branch of Political Science, it has generated its own foundational literature, within which the intelligence cycle has constituted a vital thread – one running through all social-science approaches to the study of intelligence and constituting a staple of professional training courses. However, there is a growing acceptance that the concept neither accurately reflects the intelligence process nor accommodates important elements of it, such as covert action, counter-intelligence and oversight. Bringing together key authors in the field, the book considers these questions across a number of contexts: in relation to intelligence as a general concept, military intelligence, corporate/private sector intelligence and policing and criminal intelligence. A number of the contributions also go beyond discussion of the limitations of the cycle concept to propose alternative conceptualisations of the intelligence process. What emerges is a plurality of approaches that seek to advance the debate and, as a consequence, Intelligence Studies itself. This book will be of great interest to students of intelligence studies, strategic studies, security studies and IR in general”– Provided by publisher.

Subjects

Date Posted:      September 8, 2015

Compiled and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake.[1]

The intelligence cycle is a basic theoretical model often used to show how the principal parts of the intelligence process—requirements, collection, analysis, and dissemination—are related. There are many variants with more and different functions included, as a simple Google search will show. For example, planning and management, implicitly part of the cycle, are only sometimes included explicitly. But the idea that these steps are always involved in accomplishing an intelligence mission is generally accepted.

What is not accepted by anyone who works in the business is that the parts of the process always—or even ever—occur in the commonly described sequence. The model is often challenged because it does not depict the interrelationships and interactions that routinely occur during each phase. Changes due to modified requirements, updated information, conflicts among analysts, changed assumptions, and management decisions are the norm, and they are non-linear, many occurring at the same time. Understanding the Intelligence Cycle deals with each of these issues and suggests alternative models that better reflect reality.

Each of the contributions to this book suggests variations of the basic model. None presents a system that will work in all circumstances. While most look at the production of national security intelligence, one chapter considers policing intelligence, and another looks at the corporate world. Several include covert action and counterintelligence explicitly while others look at the influence of “cyber-specific espionage” (p. 86) and other technological variables.

Whether a single model of the intelligence-producing system is even possible remains in doubt. But Understanding the Intelligence Cycle provides a better understanding of the problem and should help professionals at all levels.

[1] Hayden Peake, “Intelligence Officer Bookshelf,” The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Stuidies (21, 2, Spring/Summer 2015, p. 120)Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of his reviews cited have appeared in recent unclassified editions of ClA’s Studies in Intelligence. These and many other reviews and articles may be found online at http://www.cia.gov

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