- There is no standard definition of “intelligence”. Popular thinking and the best efforts of legislatures, agencies and academics to the contrary, no generally agreed upon definition of intelligence exists. This problem is exacerbated when the newly formed intelligence communities in law enforcement and the private sector are included.
- Developing such a definition is important in order to create realistic expectations in the minds of the decisionmakers intelligence is designed to support. This is particularly true in a democracy where the electorate views the notions of secrecy and unaccountable power often linked with intelligence activities with hesitation.
- Two activities, secrecy and covert operations, typically associated with intelligence are not, in fact, necessary to define intelligence. Secrecy, or more accurately, confidentiality, is only necessary to preserve options for the decisionmaker that the intelligence activity supports. Covert operations, on the other hand, are better viewed as an act of policy than as an intelligence activity.
- Common threads run through many of the earlier attempts to define intelligence, however. These threads, pulled together, result in a good working definition of intelligence:
- Intelligence is a process, using primarily unstructured information from all sources and focused externally, that is designed to reduce the level of uncertainty for a decisionmaker.
Part 1 -- The Problem Of "Intelligence"
Part 2 -- The Importance Of A Clear Definition Of Intelligence
Part 3 -- The Reasons For A Lack Of A Definition
Part 4 -- What Would A Good Definition Look Like?
Part 5 -- Previous Attempts To Define Intelligence/Legislative Attempts
Part 6 -- Previous Attempts To Define Intelligence/Agency Attempts
Part 7 -- Previous Attempts To Define Intelligence/Expert Attempts
Part 8 -- Previous Attempts To Define Intelligence/Law Enforcement And Private Sector Attempts
Part 9 -- Defining Intelligence