Intelligence Career

Credit: Dutton

The success or failure of any shared secret has two things in common. They are the quality of disinformation protecting the secret, and the dissemination of the disinformation.

Detective Lieutenant Barry M. Baker (ret.) is a 32 year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department.

An intelligence career is a natural alternative for people interested in police work, because it requires some of the same disciplines. As a police officer, you’ll collect intelligence on a continuous basis. When you interview victims and witnesses, interrogate suspects or develop informants, you’ll be collecting intelligence. When you write and submit a crime report, you’ll be documenting intelligence. Every observation you make while patrolling or visiting the donut shop will be an exercise in intelligence collection. Even when you’re off-duty, your mind will stay in the police mode as you continuously process your observations.

Of course, your intelligence career can be a lot more sophisticated than I’ve just described. Your primary mission is documenting crime and catching criminals, and those activities produce a lot of information. The intelligence value of that information is dependent on how that information is used. It depends on your department’s means to collect, categorize, analyze, and share relevant information.

The collection of criminal intelligence is constant, and every police department has some form of intelligence collection. The number of police officers assigned to a department’s Criminal Intelligence Unit depends upon the size of the department, and the volume of criminal activity. Prior to 911, the drug trade and other crimes associated with drug distribution dominated the missions of criminal intelligence units. Terrorism was always on the list of things to watch for, but 911 moved terrorism to the top of that list. Areas that experience little crime are now important for attention, because many contain strategic or soft targets for terrorists.

Disciplines for Intelligence Career

Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) intelligence career. Involves the collection of information related to the earth from imagery, imagery intelligence and geospatial information. The National Geospatial Agency (NGA) is responsible for geospatial intelligence collection management.

Human Intelligence (HUMINT) intelligence career. Involves people on the ground, typically overseas, gathering information from human sources. The National Clandestine Service (NCS) is responsible for coordination and de-confliction of clandestine HUMINT operations across the Intelligence Community.

Imagery Intelligence (IMINT) intelligence career. Involves representation of objects reproduced by optically or by electronic means. These come from a variety of sources including radar, infrared sources and electro-optics. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is responsible for all imagery intelligence collection activities.

Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT) intelligence career. Involves a highly technical, multi-disciplinary approach to intelligence collection. It provides detailed characteristics of targets including radar signatures of aircraft and telemetry of missiles. The Directorate for MASINT and Technical Collection (DT) at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) is responsible for MASINT.

Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) intelligence career. This is information gathered from non-classified, non-secret sources including news media, the Internet and commercial databases. The Open Source Center (OSC) in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) are the major collectors of open-source intelligence.

Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) intelligence career. Involves intercepted signals from communications and electronic emissions. The National Security Agency (NSA) is responsible for SIGINT collection and reporting.

Secrets in the Open - Intelligence Career

Is anything really secret? Here’s my definition of secret: “Truth of a circumstance known only to one person.” In other words, as soon as that one person shares the secret with another, the secret no longer exists. As a police officer, you’ll quickly learn that the most formidable criminals are those who work alone, and they tenaciously cling to their right to remain silent.

Of course, the working definition of secret really isn’t that simple. There are shared secrets all around us all the time. Some are silly and inconsequential while others are significant to well beyond significant. The success or failure of any shared secret has two things in common. They are the quality of disinformation protecting the secret, and the dissemination of the disinformation.

The most enduring example of dissemination of disinformation is the Allied invasion of Europe in 1944. Everyone knew there would be an invasion, and the only questions were when and where the invasion would take place. The campaign of disinformation was so successful that Allied troops were breaking out of the established beachheads in Normandy while German commanders remained divided on whether or not the real invasion was still yet to come.

Disinformation is its own Intelligence Career

Think about the differences in communications in 1944 compared to today. You might think that keeping secrets in today’s world would be much more difficult than in years past. Quite the opposite is true. Communications technology has only enhanced the dissemination of disinformation to a level never contemplated by the propagandists of 1944. In 1944 the only forms of mass media were radio and newspapers. Television was only in the development stage, and the telephone was still a household luxury item. In 1944, television, iphones, and the Internet existed only in the minds of geniuses, and on the pages of science fiction novels.

Never before in the course of human history has information moved as fast and in such volume as it does today. One thing that has remained constant throughout human history is the concept of power. Any technological advances in information management and dissemination will always be utilized by those in power to protect secrets. By utilizing as many forms of communication as possible in as much volume as possible, a few can use disinformation to create even more misinformation, and they can transform lies into truth in the minds of millions.

Here’s where your choice of a police career can go a long way in making you immune to the propagandists. While the 1944 invasion of Europe was a good secret, you’ll soon learn that most secrets swirl in a sea of corruption. Not all police officers learn from experience, but you will have the opportunity to develop your ability as a rational thinker from your constant exposure to lies and liars.

United States Intelligence Agencies

ISR - G-2 - CIA -CGI

Air Force Intelligence – Intelligence Career. The U.S. Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (USAF ISR) Enterprise provides finished intelligence derived from airborne, space, and cyberspace sensors. Operations Intelligence specialists analyze raw data, looking for usable intelligence. 

Army Intelligence – Intelligence Career. U.S. Army Intelligence (G-2) operates under five major military intelligence (MI) disciplines. They are Imagery Intelligence, Signals Intelligence, Human Intelligence, Measurement and Signature Intelligence, and Counterintelligence and Security Countermeasures. For example, a Counterintelligence Special Agent collects forensic and physical evidence to detect foreign intelligence and terrorist threats. 

Central Intelligence Agency – Intelligence Career. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) provides national security intelligence to senior U.S. policymakers. The CIA is made up of multidisciplinary Mission Centers. They integrate the full range of analytic, operational, support, technical and digital capabilities.

Coast Guard Intelligence – Intelligence Career. U.S. Coast Guard Intelligence provides timely, actionable, and relevant intelligence to shape Coast Guard operations, planning, and decision-making. Coast Guard Intelligence personnel are integrated into Coast Guard commands at every level. Groups of intelligence personnel attached to a unit comprise an “intelligence component.”


Defense Intelligence Agency – Intelligence Career. The Defense Intelligence Agency is a Department of Defense combat support agency. With more than 16,500 military and civilian employees worldwide, DIA produces foreign military intelligence and provides intelligence to warfighters, defense policymakers and force planners. DIA has positions in collection, analysis, information systems, operational support and more.

Department of Energy – Intelligence Career. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence is responsible for all intelligence activities throughout the DOE complex. That includes nearly thirty intelligence offices nationwide. DOE provides unmatched scientific and technological expertise in support of policymakers, defense, homeland security and cyber security.

Department of Homeland Security – Intelligence Career. The Office of Intelligence and Analysis uses information and intelligence from multiple sources to identify and assess current and future threats to the U.S. It focuses on four strategic areas: intelligence analysis; identify intelligence pertinent to homeland security; share information necessary for action; and manage intelligence for the homeland security enterprise.

Department of State – Intelligence Career. The Bureau of Intelligence and Research provides the Secretary of State with analysis of global developments and all-source intelligence. The INR Assistant Secretary reports directly to the Secretary of State and serves as the Secretary’s principal adviser on all intelligence matters. INR analysts focus on supporting diplomats and diplomacy with a wide range of information and analyses.


Department of the Treasury – Intelligence Career. The Office of Intelligence and Analysis is a component of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI). TFI uses intelligence and enforcement to safeguard the financial system against rogue nations, terrorist facilitators, money launderers and other threats.

Drug Enforcement Administration – Intelligence Career. DEA’s Office of National Security Intelligence (ONSI) facilitates intelligence coordination and information sharing with other members of the Intelligence Community. The goal is to reduce the supply of drugs, protect national security, and combat global terrorism. DEA has 21 field divisions in the U.S. and more than 80 offices in more than 60 countries worldwide.

Federal Bureau of Investigation – Intelligence Career. The FBI is an intelligence and law enforcement agency. The Intelligence Branch drives collaboration to achieve the integration of intelligence and operations. It engages with partners across the intelligence and law enforcement communities. By overseeing intelligence policy and guidance, the Intelligence Branch ensures objective strategic and tactical work.

Marine Corps Intelligence – Intelligence Career. The U.S. Marine Corps produces tactical and operational intelligence for battlefield support. Its IC component is responsible for policy, plans, programming, budgets, and staff supervision of intelligence and supporting activities. The department has responsibility for geospatial intelligence, advanced geospatial intelligence, signals intelligence, human intelligence and counterintelligence.


National Geospatial Intelligence Agency – Intelligence Career. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency provides timely, relevant, and accurate geospatial intelligence in support of national security. Information collected and processed by NGA is tailored for customer-specific solutions. NGA provides support to civilian and military leaders and contributes to the state of readiness of U.S. military forces. It also contributes to humanitarian efforts such as tracking floods and fires, and in peacekeeping. NGA is a Department of Defense Combat Support Agency.

National Reconnaissance Office – Intelligence Career. The National Reconnaissance Office designs, builds and operates the nation’s reconnaissance satellites. NRO products can warn of potential trouble spots around the world, help plan military operations, and monitor the environment. As part of the Intelligence Community, the NRO plays a primary role in achieving information superiority. A DOD agency, the NRO is staffed by DOD and CIA personnel. It is funded through the National Reconnaissance Program, part of the National Foreign Intelligence Program.

National Security Agency – Intelligence Career. The National Security Agency/Central Security Service is the nation’s cryptologic organization. It coordinates, directs, and performs specialized activities to protect U.S. Information systems, and it produces foreign signals intelligence. Its workforce represents analysts, engineers, physicists, mathematicians, linguists, computer scientists, researchers and more.

Navy Intelligence – Intelligence Career. The Office of Naval Intelligence collects and analyzes maritime intelligence. It disseminates that intelligence to strategic and tactical decision makers. Its workforce of active duty, Reserve and civilian professionals supports combat operations. ONI produces intelligence on naval weapons and technology proliferation.

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Becoming a Police Officer

An Insider's Guide to a Career in Law Enforcement by Barry M. Baker

Choosing A Police Department
Police Hiring Process
Police Academy
Police Report Writing

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