Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Information versus Intelligence

Intelligence, Dear Reader, is a sexy word in our industry. Just google "private investigator intelligence" and see how many investigative firms offer some kind of intelligence collection or analysis services as part of their core business.

In general, however, the word is all too likely to be used incorrectly, and most usually interchangeably, with the word information.

But the two are not the same.

So, what is the difference?

Actually, to totally contradict what I've said above, all intelligence is information but the reverse is not true. Or it is if you distinguish between raw and actionable intelligence.


Raw intelligence is information gathered through a variety of means - be it through human sources, technical or physical surveillance, published (or unpublished) reports or documentation etc. Pretty much any information, from any source, can be counted as raw intelligence.

In this form it is not yet actionable. For that, it must go through a process where, amongst other things, it should be verified through correlation with other sources.

You might recall the term intelligence cycle which refers to the whole process from planning to dissemination of an intelligence product. It is a cycle because the dissemination leads to further tasking and so on, and so on.        

The Intelligence Cycle

Basically, actionable intelligence is the product of the intelligence cycle, where raw intelligence is gathered, processed, and analysed.

So where do we, as private investigators, fit into this?

Arguably, and for the most part, we are primarily collectors of raw intelligence. However, this is not generally sufficient for our purposes or, more importantly, for our Clients'. In order to turn that information into intelligence - or raw intelligence into actionable intelligence - we need to undertake further action to turn it into a useful, and usable, product. We must wear more than one hat.

TonyG, in his sadly now-defunct blog, wrote a post on this very topic a while ago.

Brian Willingham from Diligentia Group has also written a very nice article on "The Investigative Approch to Intelligence Gathering".

So, to summarise the point of this post, in the words of the FBI, raw intelligence is the "unevaluated intelligence information, generally from a single source, which has not been fully evaluated, integrated with other information, or interpreted and analysed."

Don't settle for just information.

1 comment:

  1. Personal investigation can be something filled with a lot of confusion. There are many things that they can do that many people are not aware of. But, it is important that you understand the difference between information versus intelligence. Knowing the difference between the two will help you make the right decisions when hiring a PI. http://www.infocusinvestigations.com