Intelligence Collection

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The act of collecting intelligence about individuals, groups, or states of interest has come under increasing scrutiny since September 11, 2001. RAND has examined how nations successfully collect intelligence, how the U.S. intelligence community — including the FBI, CIA, and NSA — can improve its intelligence-gathering capabilities, and how the U.S. military can make better use of its limited land-, sea-, and air-based intelligence collection assets in the rapidly changing battlefields of the future.

  • Richard Danzig, Adm. Michael S. Rogers, and Michael E. Leiter at RAND's Politics Aside 2014, photo by Alex Cohen/RAND Corporation

    Blog

    Setting Standards for Cyber Security

    Nov 14, 2014

    Developing international norms and standards about appropriate cyber security activity by nations, groups, and even individuals is key to governing online activity in the future, said NSA Director Adm. Michael S. Rogers during a panel discussion at RAND's Politics Aside event.

Explore Intelligence Collection

  • Members of the New York City Police Department's Critical Response Command anti-terrorism unit stand in formation on Randall's Island in New York City, November 16, 2015

    Commentary

    A Symbolic Purging of the NYPD Radicalization Report

    The NYPD's purging of its 2007 report on radicalization may give some satisfaction by symbolically breaking the connection between the current mayoral administration and the NYPD's previous intelligence and investigative efforts. But its significance seems questionable.

    Jan 26, 2016

  • Closeup of a hand using a digital tablet

    Commentary

    Following Online Footprints to Catch Terrorists

    Millions of people leave behind online footprints each day, giving law enforcement and intelligence experts the chance to construct a profile of who is more likely to commit violence in the name of a murderous ideology.

    Dec 28, 2015

  • Candles in the French national colours are placed near the Bataclan concert hall the morning after a series of deadly attacks in Paris, November 14, 2015

    Commentary

    Big Questions Facing France

    In Paris, the heavily armed terrorists reportedly struck at six locations, including restaurants, a football stadium, and a theater during a rock concert. It seems clear the killers must have had some confederates. That would mean some terrorists are still at large.

    Nov 14, 2015

  • A person looking at top secret files with a magnifying glass

    Commentary

    Defining a New Paradigm for Government Secrecy

    Technology has afforded the U.S. national security apparatus incredible capabilities, along with equally monumental challenges and risks. The government has the option to choose whether to adjust by taking a proactive approach or to allow external forces to determine the future of its secrets.

    Oct 13, 2015

  • Demonstrators hold up their signs during the Stop Watching Us: A Rally Against Mass Surveillance march near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, October 26, 2013

    Commentary

    The USA Freedom Act: The Definition of a Compromise

    The USA Freedom Act does not “balance” privacy and national security, nor is it clear that any legislation can credibly do so. There's no monolithic view of what such a balance should look like.

    May 29, 2015

  • French special intervention police conduct a house-to-house search in Longpont, northeast of Paris, January 8, 2015

    Commentary

    Different Countries, Different Ways of Countering Terrorism

    France and the United States follow different approaches in dealing with terrorist suspects. This divergence reflects differences in the threat, historical experience, law, available resources, and public attitudes. France faces a more serious terrorist threat than the U.S. does.

    Mar 2, 2015

  • The new issue of satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo titled 'C'est Reparti' ('Here we go again') in Nice, February 25, 2015

    Commentary

    Predicting the 'Dangerousness' of Potential Terrorists

    Predicting 'dangerousness' of potential terrorists is a hit-and-miss endeavor. Unless someone is waving a gun, it is extremely difficult. Even with direct access to the subject, parole boards, suicide prevention units, and even trained clinicians get it wrong.

    Mar 2, 2015

  • Houses that Faisal Shahzad and Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen lived in before they please guilty to terrorism charges.

    Essay

    Enemies Among Us: What We Know About Homegrown Terrorists

    Dozens of young Americans have attempted to join overseas jihadist groups in the past several years, raising special concern among counterterrorism officials that they might bring the fight home with them when they return.

    Feb 26, 2015

  • A Paris crowd displaying the portraits of five of the people killed during the attack at Charlie Hebdo on January 7, 2015

    Commentary

    Attempting to Understand the Paris Attacks

    The investigation will eventually fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge of the events leading up to the attacks in Paris, but some questions will remain unanswered. Embedded in the unknowns are some of the chronic dilemmas faced by counterterrorist authorities everywhere.

    Feb 26, 2015

  • A masked man speaking in what is believed to be a North American accent in a video that Islamic State militants released in September

    Report

    When Jihadis Come Marching Home

    Although the numbers of Westerners slipping off to join the jihadist fronts in Syria and Iraq are murky, U.S. counterterrorism officials believe that those fighters pose a clear and present danger to American security.

    Feb 16, 2015

  • Report

    Building the Guatemalan Interagency Task Force Tecún Umán: Lessons Identified

    USSOUTHCOM intends to use the Interagency Task Force (IATF) Tecún Umán as a model for new counternarcotics units in Guatemala. This report describes lessons learned from the IATF and provides recommendations for resolving challenges.

    Feb 9, 2015

  • A hostage runs toward a police officer outside Lindt cafe, where other hostages are being held, in Martin Place, Sydney, December 15, 2014

    Blog

    Could the Sydney Café Siege Happen Elsewhere?

    As the world mourns those lost in the Sydney café siege, investigations have begun examining the efficacy of Australia's anti-terrorism measures and details about the background and motives of the gunman. At the same time, terrorism experts are reflecting on where else such an attack could emerge.

    Dec 17, 2014

  • Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (L) discusses a report on the CIA's anti-terrorism tactics on the floor of the U.S. Senate as Senators Debbie Stabenow (rear) and Patty Murray look on, Washington, December 9, 2014

    Commentary

    Why the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA May Both Be Right

    Given that many questions of fact regarding the CIA's program of enhanced interrogation techniques can probably never be conclusively answered, the real issue comes down to a value judgment: whether inflicting physical pain on prisoners is an acceptable means of reducing the risk of terrorist attacks.

    Dec 12, 2014

  • Militant Islamist fighters parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province

    Commentary

    When Jihadis Come Marching Home

    The existing pool of determined jihadists in America is very small and lacks training and experience, which fighting in Syria and Iraq would provide. Returning jihadi veterans would be more formidable adversaries. Still, the threat appears manageable using current U.S. laws and existing resources.

    Nov 19, 2014

  • Richard Danzig, Adm. Michael S. Rogers, and Michael E. Leiter at RAND's Politics Aside 2014

    Blog

    Setting Standards for Cyber Security

    Developing international norms and standards about appropriate cyber security activity by nations, groups, and even individuals is key to governing online activity in the future, said NSA Director Adm. Michael S. Rogers during a panel discussion at RAND's Politics Aside event.

    Nov 14, 2014

  • Some of the ultrastructural morphology displayed by an Ebola virus virion in an undated handout colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM)

    Commentary

    Ebola: The Faceless National Security Threat

    The rapid, uncontrolled spread of aggressive diseases such as Ebola is often a matter of national security. U.S. intelligence professionals must establish relevant information collection and dissemination mechanisms to deal with such contingencies.

    Sep 10, 2014

  • Brian Michael Jenkins (left), with Seth Jones (middle) and Andrew Liepman (right), speaking about al Qaeda at RAND's Santa Monica headquarters, 2013

    Announcement

    Brian Michael Jenkins Joins Elite Panel on Domestic Intelligence Gathering

    Brian Michael Jenkins, senior adviser to the RAND president and an expert on transportation security and terrorism, has joined the “Blue Ribbon Panel,” which will preside over work by a Business Executives for National Security task force to determine whether post-9/11 reforms have kept pace with evolving threats to homeland security.

    Aug 26, 2014

  • Line handlers await the arrival of the Virginia class attack submarine USS Hartford

    Commentary

    How Do We Deal with a Flood of Data?

    Despite the battle-tested value of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems, the amount of data they generate has become overwhelming to Navy analysts. If the Navy does not change the way it processes information, it will reach an ISR “tipping point”—as soon as 2016.

    Jun 23, 2014

  • News Release

    'Cloud' System Could Help Navy Analysts Consume Expanding Ocean of Data

    The Navy has a growing demand for intelligence to help Navy vessels avoid collisions, pinpoint targets, and perform other vital tasks. But the amount of data it may collect in the future is more than it can process today. Cloud strategies offer promising options.

    May 5, 2014

  • intelligence specialist monitors automatic identification systems aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush

    Report

    'Cloud' System Could Help Navy Analysts Consume Expanding Ocean of Data

    The Navy has a growing demand for intelligence to help Navy vessels avoid collisions, pinpoint targets, and perform other vital tasks. But the amount of data it may collect in the future is more than it can process today. “Cloud” strategies offer promising options.

    May 1, 2014