Intelligence Collection

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.

  • 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

  • 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.

    Nov 18, 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

  • The search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 resumed even as senior Australian officials warned that bad weather and a lack of reliable information were seriously impeding efforts.

    Commentary

    Why 'Big Data' Can't Find the Missing Malaysian Plane

    The failure to find the missing aircraft demonstrates anew the serious gaps in data coordination and challenges public assumptions about the thoroughness and simplicity of searching the world's data for answers.

    May 1, 2014

  • airport security check with passenger walking through metal detector

    Commentary

    The Real Homeland Security Issues for 2014

    Americans should be able to discuss the terrorist threat and how best to meet it, how much of the country’s precious resources should be devoted to homeland security, and the impact intelligence efforts can have on personal privacy and freedom.

    Feb 5, 2014

  • Member of the protest group, Code Pink, protests against U.S. President Obama and the NSA before his arrival at the DOJ in Washington, January 17, 2014

    Commentary

    The Facts About the Metadata 'Menace'

    Metadata from a phone call include information such as the direction (who called whom), length, date and time. The program does not record the location or the name associated with a call. No one is listening to the call and no content is recorded.

    Jan 26, 2014

  • A protester during a rally against mass surveillance near the U.S. Capitol

    Commentary

    After NSA Spying Revelations, US Must Reform Rules on Secrecy and Data

    The U.S. should make two key reforms. First, the over-designation of material as classified makes it is harder to protect the few real secrets; this must be change. Second, the FISA court must become a gatekeeper for NSA access to communications data.

    Nov 14, 2013

  • People hold posters of senior al Qaeda figure Abu Anas al-Liby during a demonstration over his capture by U.S. authorities

    Commentary

    How War on Terrorism Has Evolved

    Special operations to capture terrorists are more dangerous than drone strikes, and nimble terrorist adversaries will develop countermeasures to make them even more difficult. But they are politically more acceptable and offer opportunities for intelligence and the visible delivery of justice.

    Oct 24, 2013

  • U.S. marines during a live-fire exercise on the flight deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio

    Blog

    Do U.S. Raids in Libya, Somalia Signal a Shift in Terror Strategy?

    The raids that the United States conducted over the weekend in Libya and Somalia could signal a new focus in Washington on capturing terrorist suspects and gathering intelligence rather than relying on drone strikes. RAND experts Linda Robinson, Angel Rabasa, and Seth Jones comment.

    Oct 10, 2013

  • red_light_camera_9663344643_b3609779b4_h

    Commentary

    Needed: Sustainable Spying Oversight

    Domestic intelligence in the United States is an activity with a history, and efforts to consider future policy on this issue need to take that history into account, writes Brian Jackson. Public acceptability must be part of the calculus in devising oversight and control of intelligence efforts.

    Sep 18, 2013

  • U.S. consulate in Lahore, Pakistan

    Commentary

    Building a More Secure American Embassy

    The recent decision to close 19 U.S. embassies and consulates in the Middle East and Africa because of intelligence indicating terrorist planning for unspecific attacks underscores the need to continue focusing attention and resources on the danger al-Qaida and its affiliates pose to the United States and its allies.

    Sep 5, 2013

  • Report

    Increasing Flexibility and Agility at the National Reconnaissance Office: Lessons from Modular Design, Occupational Surprise, and Commercial Research and Development Processes

    To help the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) become more flexible and agile in an increasingly uncertain world, RAND researched whether the NRO might benefit from building modular satellites and examined how professionals respond to surprise.

    Aug 14, 2013

  • Supporters of Edward Snowden

    Commentary

    What Did Edward Snowden Get Wrong? Everything

    Unfortunately, during the Snowden affair, many news outlets have spent more time examining ways the government could abuse the information it has access to while giving scant mention to the lengths to which the intelligence community goes to protect privacy, writes Andrew Liepman.

    Aug 12, 2013

  • A collection newspapers with pictures and publications of Edward Snowden

    Blog

    The Snowden Affair: Questions and Answers with Olga Oliker

    There is an element of hypocrisy in Russian officials and pundits lauding Snowden as a human rights hero for his actions, says Olga Oliker, when Russia itself has a terrible record on free political speech.

    Aug 7, 2013

  • A crew member from Station Boston conducts security zones in the Boston Harbor

    Commentary

    The Day After: How Will the Boston Marathon Bombing Change the Way America Fights Terrorism?

    The risk of overreaching in the name of homeland security is great. But the best and most likely outcome of this latest attack would be a measured security response built around Americans engaging anew in their own security, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Apr 19, 2013