Kinds of Intelligence

My recent blog on the value of intelligence to our national health brought questions on what intelligence means and what are the different kinds of intelligence.

First of all, what is intelligence? The definition I quoted earlier from Merriam-Webster reads “evaluated information concerning an enemy or possible enemy or a possible theater of operations and the conclusions drawn therefrom.” I define intelligence as simply facts about a foreign nation.

It turns out that intelligence comes in many different forms. The list of intelligence varieties I compiled from open sources does not include any classified information. Here it is:

Geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) is information gathered from satellite and aerial photography, or mapping/terrain data. A subcategory is imagery intelligence (IMINT), the result of aerial or satellite observation and photography.

Measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT) is data derived from an array of signatures (distinctive characteristics) of fixed or dynamic target sources. According to the Air Force Institute of Technology’s Center for MASINT Studies and Research, MASINT is split into six major disciplines: electro-optical, nuclear, radar, geophysical, materials, and radiofrequency.

Technical intelligence (TECHINT) results from analysis of weapons and equipment used by the armed forces of foreign nations. A subcategory is medical intelligence (MEDINT), the analysis of medical records and/or actual physiological examinations to determine health and/or particular ailments and allergic conditions for consideration.

Cyber or digital network intelligence (CYBINT or DNINT), information gathered from cyberspace.

Financial intelligence (FININT), the analysis of monetary transactions.

And finally, the form of intelligence I did most of my work in: signals intelligence (SIGINT), the intercept and exploitation of foreign radio signals. SIGINT’s subcategories are Communications intelligence (COMINT), Electronic intelligence (ELINT)—that is intercept and exploitation of electronic signals that do not contain speech or text (which are considered COMINT)—and foreign instrumentation signals intelligence (FISINT) the collection and analysis of telemetry data from a missile or sometimes from aircraft tests (sometime called telemetry intelligence or TELINT).

More next time.

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