Intelligence Gathering

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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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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 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

  • 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