The Role of Intelligence in National Security


The term intelligence is used in the context of national security. Intelligence might give us a picture of the cool actions of James Bond and the thrilling action scenes of a spy movie but the actual function of intelligence is much wider and complicated than that. As it has been defined by Lowenthal (2011), intelligence can be simply defined as ‘information’. Any kind of information with respect to a certain threat or situation which possesses a threat to the national security herein can be termed as intelligence. Thus, intelligence is not just a single task but it is a process of gathering ‘analyzed information’ which is important to the national security and such information is later used in the process of policy making of the concerning country. The purpose of intelligence is to provide a country with a critical edge which shall help the governmental agencies to make better and informed decisions regarding border security or any other form of national security and it is the process that keeps a country a step ahead of its competitors herein.

It is true that the trace of intelligence can be found during the time of Revolutionary War in the year of 1775, where it has been found that Washington had been an avid used of US intelligence. However, it is during the Cold-War era, US developed the system of intelligence in its true sense and rest of the countries of the world were thereby influenced by the United State’s establishment of intelligence and the CIA or Central Intelligence Agency (Moran & Murphy, 2013). The functions of intelligence system can be categorized into five segments or steps herein – (i) Collection (ii) Analysis (iii) Counterintelligence (iv) Covert Operations and (v) Intelligence management (Clark, 2019).


For the purpose of this particular essay, we shall take the function of ‘Analysis’ in account and thereby, we shall discuss what is the function of analysis, how analysis helps in providing informed decision to the government for the purpose of national security and how analysis has helped in major historical events of the world, referring to two different important events across the world. Further we shall critically assess the importance of analysis in the field of intelligence and what are the main advantage and disadvantage of analysis in intelligence herein.

The function of Intelligence – Analysis

Analysis is one of the important functions of Intelligence of any country. With the help of analysis, analysts gather raw information from different sources and link them accordingly to interpret in the context of a particular security question or a conflict which is posing to be threatening for the national security herein. As it has been defined by Marrin (2007), Intelligence analysis often includes a detailed procedure of “description, explanation and prediction.” The process of analysis in Intelligence is used in order to answer different tactical questions about the movement of the enemy.

The Intelligence cycle is made up of different steps and functions where the function of analysis is to intercept and dissect the raw information and reduce the ambiguity of the information in the context of a certain socio-cultural situation herein (Hayes, 2007). Analysis essentially works in differentiating the deceptive information collected by the team of collection and find a pathway to extract a simple and common truth which might be applicable in the context of national security herein. Thus, in order to predict successfully, an analyst needs to dodge the cognitive traps which are often projected by the other side. Such cognitive traps are essentially common in the case of counterintelligence. One such example of cognitive trap in analysis is the German’s use of a common word during the World War – II that replaced an important information and placed them in a sentence with such caution that the other side might not intercept the hidden meaning (Lee, 2008).

Analytic Tradecraft

The term analytic tradecraft in the field of Intelligence essentially means availing certain avenues of methods which have been availed by the Analyst in order to describe, explain and predict from a collection of raw information herein. In the steps of analytic tradecraft, the collection of raw information and processing of such information are considered to be the basic steps. After going through these two filters, an analyst works on the production of a close prediction which in turn is used as valuable data to Intelligence agency herein. Thus, the main objective of analytic tradecraft is to pursue the truth.

In pursue of the above mentioned procedure of analytic tradecraft, analysts are expected to use ‘Open Source Information Category’ and OSINT, which are one of the popular way of availing raw information that includes information gathered from the Internet, mass media and any kind of digital forum. Also, HUMINT or Human Intelligence and SIGINT or Signal Intelligence plays an important role in catering the way of analytic tradecraft as well. During the Cuba Missile Crisis, HUMINT and SIGINT were effectively used for the purpose of conducting a successful analysis of the ongoing situation and it provided the policy makers with necessary information to peruse the then national security situation. From the book of May and Zelikow (1996), it can be seen that until the then American President John F. Kennedy was briefed by famous Intelligence analyst Dino Brugioni, the use of IMINT or Imagery Intelligence was ignored by CIA or FBI during the Cold War era.

The Nature and Category of Intelligence Analysis

In order to understand the dynamic feature of the raw information that is collected during the data collection stage, the analyst needs to use definite estimation of a decision, depending on various key variables and choices herein. However, the nature and the type of Intelligence analysis can be divided in two broad grounds – types of reasoning and types of methods.

In the case of ‘system of reasoning’, an analyst usually follows through three different techniques namely the induction, deduction and intuition. Under the first technique, an analysis can be done by connecting the dots between different phenomenon, collected by the Collection team herein. The second phase is called deduction i.e. essentially reasoning with abovementioned phenomenon and thereby concluding a decision. The second phase leads an analyst from general to specific conclusion (Krizan, 1999). The third technique or phase includes using trained intuition and choosing from two or more estimated results.

However, the system of reasoning is not enough to predict a statement when it is related to Intelligence. Thus, the ‘types of methods of ascertaining Intelligence Analysis’ is needed to validate the estimated result that has been deducted by the procedure of reasoning. The first technique is opportunity analysis, which is essentially the way of connecting dots between the estimated or deducted results that has been extracted by the system of reasoning and match them with the current scenario of a country and whether such estimated results match any scenario of given by the national security agencies herein. The second technique is Linchpin Analysis with the help of which the boundary of an estimated result is set and examined throughly. And with the third technique i.e. the competing hypotheses method, the psychological characteristics of the other side is examined (Jin & Bouthillier, 2012).

The Use of Intelligence Analysis in Practical Situations – A critical analysis with respect to two historical events

The operation of analysis is one of the part functions of Intelligence. However, Intelligence analysis is often regarded as one of the important segments of Intelligence system in order to decipher messages through Signal Intelligence or SIGINT or decipher a critical situation through HUMINT or IMINT (Human Intelligence or Imagery Intelligence) herein. The use of Intelligence analysis can be found in many historical events where they had played an important role. The CIA of USA during the Cold War era used Intelligence analysis to a great extent to decipher, predict and restrict certain situations which would have otherwise led to a bigger wartime affair.

For the purpose of this essay, we have selected two historical events where Intelligence Analysis was used by CIA and FBI respectively to intercept certain secret missions which were propagated by other countries. In both of these situations, the Intelligence analysis was successful in predicting the hostile moves presented by the then Soviet Russia herein. Thus, we shall critically assess and discuss two chosen scenarios of applied Intelligence analysis namely – The Cuban Missile Crisis in the year of 1962 and Espionage case of Aldrich H. Ames in the year of 1994.

The Cuban Missile Crisis in the year of 1962

In the year of 1962, the then Soviet Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev decided to fuel the Cuba Crisis by conducting a secret weapon aiding mission which was disguised under the name of ANADYR. Such secret spy move was not expected from Soviet Russia and it posed a great threat for the USA as in the year of 1962, US did not have any embassy in Cuba. Thus, Human Intelligence analysis was of very little help (Miller & McAuliffe, 1994). While several prediction could be deduced by the US Intelligence Analysis function that Cuba had the presence of offensive missiles as such information was presented in the reports of more than 200 HUMINT or Human Intelligence herein (Caddell, 2017). However, the US Intelligence was not sure of such report. Thus, during this time, the US Intelligence Analysis used the method of IMINT or Imagery Intelligence which was gathered by a US U-2 flight. The photo interpreters of National Photographic Interpretation Centre (NPIC) analyzed the photos using the Intelligence Analysis method and the presence of SS-4 medium range ballistic missiles deployed by the then Soviet Russia was detected. As USSR lacked severely in the field of IMINT and Intelligence Analysis, no cognitive trap was set and US Intelligence did not face much obstacle herein. On the basis of such result of the Intelligence Analysis, the then president of US, John F. Kennedy, approached the Cuba missile crisis with delicacy and a possible nuclear war was averted.

Espionage case of Aldrich H. Ames in the year of 1994

The espionage case of Aldrich H. Ames, a 52 year old employee of CIA, caused a nationwide outrage in the year of 1994. Ames was employed by CIA for a time period of 31 years and he was working for the Soviet Russia since the year of 1985. In this case, the US Intelligence Analysis caught the incident of Ames’s unreasonable high expenditure habit in the recent times and a detailed investigation following that particular cue; it was found out that he was working as a spy for the Russia. It was also found out from the report that, Ames had caused the death of many US spy in Soviet Russia, thus weakening the CIA’s ability to track Russia’s movement. In the year of 1994, both Ames and his wife pled guilty of espionage and they were sent to prison.

Thus, if we critically discuss and assess the two historical events regarding the USA’s CIA Intelligence Analysis system, it can be concluded that for an age where technology was not quite developed and the communication system had several flaws, the contribution of Intelligence Analysis has not only saved US form getting involved in another horrific warfare but the Cuba Crisis has saved the world from a horrific nuclear war herein. In both of the cases, several Intelligence analysis methods were used including the method of deduction, induction and scientific method herein.

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Analysis is one of the most important functions of the Intelligence. With the help of proper analysis, explanation and prediction, the work of an Intelligence agency can be solved. Thus, it can be said that the collection of raw information adheres to no importance unless the same has been analyzed properly with the help of expert analysts herein. Although with the passage of time, the use of Intelligence Analysis has changed a lot and most of the Intelligence tools have now been converted to technology. However, from the abovementioned two examples, the contribution of human intelligence cannot be ignored. HUMINT, SIGINT, IMINT are still considered as some of the important and necessary tool for the purpose of concluding an Intelligence Analysis herein. Hence, effective Intelligence Analysis must always be resorted as the ultimate end user to predict the result of Intelligence successfully. Along with Intelligence analysis, the role of collection, counterintelligence and covert operation is equally important to conclude a mission without any fault.


  1. Clark, R. (2019). Intelligence Analysis: A Target-Centric Approach. London, Sage, chap.1
  2. Carr, C. (1994). ‘Aldrich Ames and the Conduct of American Intelligence’. World Policy Journal, 11(3), 19-28
  3. Caddell, J. (2017). ‘Discovering Soviet Missiles in Cuba: How Intelligence Collection Relates To Analysis and Policy’. War on the rocks. [accessed on 13th July, 2021] < >
  4. Hayes, J. (2007), "Analytic Culture in the U.S. Intelligence Community. Chapter One. Working Definitions.” History Staff, Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency
  5. Jin, T., & Bouthillier, F. (2012). ‘The Integration of Intelligence Analysis into LIS Education’. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 53(2), 130-148
  6. Krizan, L. (1999), Intelligence Essentials for Everyone. Joint Military Intelligence College
  7. Lee, B. (2008). ‘Radio Spies – Episodes in the Ether Wars’. Radio espionage through World War Two -- Hauck Award, 21, 7
  8. Lowenthal, M. (2011). ‘Transforming Intelligence: From What, to What?’ American Intelligence Journal, 29(1), 5-11
  9. Marrin, S. (2007). ‘Intelligence Analysis: Structured Methods or Intuition?’ American Intelligence Journal, 25(1), 7-16
  10. May, R. & Zelikow, D. (1996). The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis. New York, W.W. Norton Company
  11. Miller, L., & McAuliffe, M. (1994). ‘The Cuban Missile Crisis’. OAH Magazine of History, 8(2), 24-41

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