Intelligence Operations

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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

  • Cyber illustration of a judge's gavel

    Commentary

    The Future of Cyber Investigations at the FBI Is Unclear

    Evidence presented by the FBI in the case of U.S. v. Jay Michaud was excluded because the agency was unwilling to reveal the software exploit used to collect it. If the FBI exposes its capabilities, other criminals can patch their computers, but concealing its techniques risks the ability to prosecute cyber criminals.

    Aug 24, 2016

  • People take part in a candlelight memorial service the day after a mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, June 13, 2016

    Blog

    Orlando Nightclub Shooting: RAND Experts React

    RAND experts provide perspective on the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, what it likely means within the context of the campaign against ISIS, and more.

    Jun 15, 2016

  • Hands on a keyboard in a dark room

    Commentary

    Cyberterrorism and the Role of Silicon Valley

    As national security and war are being redefined for the digital age, Silicon Valley will need to be on the front line of counterterrorism. Its inventors and entrepreneurs are driving the information revolution, and they must figure out how to protect vital systems against malevolent intrusions.

    Jun 13, 2016

  • A pro-Russian rebel sends messages over his smartphone in the eastern Ukrainian town of Slaviansk, May 16, 2014

    Report

    How Commercial Tech Can Affect Military Intelligence Operations

    Commercial technologies such as smartphones are primarily about identifying and tracking people and patterns of behavior. Their presence is greatest in urban environments. This happens to be where most military intelligence operations are conducted and where most future insurgencies and wars are likely to take place.

    Jun 6, 2016

  • Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, Tennessee

    Commentary

    Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Is a National Security Threat

    National security and counterterrorism experts agree that rhetoric that paints all Muslims as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers has a high chance of breeding future terrorists. And evidence suggests that such language can hamper U.S. efforts to stop terrorists before they strike and to capture them after attacks.

    Apr 13, 2016

  • People gather around a memorial in Brussels, Belgium following terrorist bombings, March 22, 2016

    Commentary

    Terror Attacks in Brussels: Insights from RAND Experts

    RAND experts weigh in on the timing of the deadly bombings in Brussels, why the attack was inevitable, Salah Abdeslam's arrest, and more.

    Mar 22, 2016

  • Police at the scene of a security operation in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek in Belgium, March 18, 2016

    Commentary

    Europe's Terror Fight Far from Over

    Salah Abdeslam is suspected of being the logistics man for the November terrorist attacks in Paris. His capture may provide authorities with a window into the ISIS network in Europe.

    Mar 22, 2016

  • Syrian refugees stand in line as they wait for aid packages at Al Zaatari refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan, January 20, 2016

    Commentary

    Tracking Refugees with Biometrics: More Questions Than Answers

    Using biometrics in refugee crises is compelling because it gives individuals who have nothing proof of identity even without a government-issued credential like an ID card or passport. But who has rights to the U.N. biometrics database and what is its future?

    Mar 9, 2016

  • 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