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The Use of Intelligence Collection Systems Essay

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Updated: Jun 8th, 2022


National security is a significant issue for the United States, and the government does its best to deal with possible terrorist plots. It equally refers to managing the consequences of terrorist attacks that have already occurred and preventing such scenarios from happening. In the second case, numerous intelligence collection systems or disciplines (INTs) play an essential role. It is so because they allow intelligence officers to collect useful information that can disclose potential threats. Various examples prove that these systems are effective, and the aborted plan to bomb the subway in New York City in 2009 is among them. SIGINT was used to prevent that dangerous situation from happening. However, this paper is going to comment on three other INTs, including HUMINT, IMINT, and OSINT, that would also have been significant in identifying this terrorist threat against the US.

Three Types of INTs

To begin with, one should explain what HUMINT, OSINT, and IMINT are. Firstly, HUMINT stands for human intelligence and implies information that is collected from people with the help of numerous conversational techniques (Stark, 2018). Intelligence officers usually work with spies, foreign agents, some civilians, and refugees. Stark (2018) explains that these individuals are useful sources to receive secret or classified information that can reveal terrorist plans. Secondly, IMINT denotes imagery intelligence that implies the collection of images. According to the US Naval War College (n.d.), a picture is worth hundreds of words since it can show, for example, that terrorists are preparing for an attack or have dangerous weapons in their possession. This method was popular during World Wars I and II, while modern satellites and unscrewed aerial vehicles provide intelligence officers with such images (US Naval War College, n.d.). Thirdly, OSINT introduces open-source intelligence that deals with the information that is available to the general public. According to the US Naval War College (n.d.), this INT type analyzes mass media, official reports, conference proceedings, and others to identify signals of potential threats.

It is reasonable to explain how all these INTs could have been used in preventing the planned New York subway bombing case in 2009. With the help of HUMINT, intelligence officers could have interrogated foreign agents or even civilians to identify suspicious individuals in New York. In turn, IMINT could have presented evidence that these people received or bought explosives. Finally, OSINT could have been useful to identify that terrorists grew in intensity, which is a warning sign for the whole national security system.

Simultaneously, one should comment on the limitations of the INTs under consideration. When it comes to HUMINT, Stark (2018) admits that it is the most subjective intelligence collection type that requires many skills. Thus, successful results depend on whether intelligence officers can adequately identify the essential points of information and how fast they can be analyzed. Furthermore, HUMINT cannot be expected to collect information that is well kept by terrorists. A significant limitation of IMINT refers to the fact that this INT is suitable to identify more substantial terrorist threats. In other words, if enemies are not represented by numerous forces or do not work with massive weapons, IMINT might not reveal planned attacks. As for OSINT, its main drawback relates to the fact that these data are also available for the adversary. Consequently, this type of intelligence collection cannot provide officials or decision-makers with unique and reliable information.

The limitations described above indicate that intelligence officers should take specific steps to benefit from the use of the INTs under analysis. It does not mean whether an INT relies on images or evidence from people. In any case, the quality of input information is the most significant issue. It means that intelligence officers should do their best to obtain the most reliable data or pictures. The second essential step is to analyze the received information. The intelligence officers’ responsibility is to determine whether the data are reliable and what consequences it implies. For example, in HUMINT, the question is whether a source of information is trustworthy, while IMINT officers should identify what precisely specific images depict. Finally, responsible officers should build appropriate rapport and give it to high-ranking officials who deal with decision-making.

Collection and Analysis Capabilities Gap

The information above makes it possible to suppose that there is a gap between the intelligence community collection and analysis capabilities, and the presence of the US forces in Iraq proved this claim. Kerr, Wolfe, Donegan, and Pappas (n.d.) stipulate that the intelligence community collection capabilities are of poor quality because enemies are well aware of them. Consequently, terrorists know how the US forces can identify their plans and prevent some scenarios from happening. In Iraq, effective measures included “isolating scientists and technicians involved in the programs and employing effective camouflage, concealment, and deception efforts” (Kerr et al., n.d., para. 18). At the same time, the intelligence community can impress with decent analysis capabilities. Kerr et al. (n.d.) admit that it is possible because the United States shifts away from the long-term analysis in favor of achieving short-term conclusions. This fact increases the probability of working with more precise decision products.

The information above means that it is necessary to comment on some reasons why the intelligence community has consistently been able to prevent the gap. Firstly, it refers to technological innovations that allow the United States to benefit from IMINT by obtaining detailed pictures, including infrared-censored images that can depict even camouflaged objects. Secondly, new information search and analysis techniques make a difference in OSINT, ensuring that intelligence officers arrive at reasonable conclusions. Finally, the development of social sciences and human resource management results in HUMINT officers improving essential skills. Stark (2018) explains that it refers to talent spot, emotional intelligence, understanding body language, and others.


It is the responsibility of every nation to provide its citizens with a safe and secure living environment. The best situation is when governments and appropriate agencies do their best to prevent terrorist attacks from happening. In this case, intelligence collection disciplines or systems are of significance since they can reveal what actions enemies are going to take. The United States of America benefits from many systems, and each of them deals with a particular source of information. Thus, the paper has commented on human, imagery, and open-source intelligence systems. It has been mentioned that these intelligence collection types can be useful to identify or see terrorist activities and plans. Even though they imply significant limitations, responsible officers can overcome them by drawing more attention to the steps needed to analyze the obtained information. Finally, the paper has demonstrated that the intelligence community does its best to eliminate a gap between collection and analysis capabilities, which might improve US intelligence performance.


Kerr, R., Wolfe, T., Donegan, R., & Pappas, A. (n.d.). Issues for the US intelligence community. Web.

Stark, B. (2018). The ultimate guide to human intelligence (HUMINT). Web.

US Naval War College. (n.d.). Intelligence studies: Types of intelligence collection. Web.

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