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A Diverse Universe: Exploring the World of Intelligence Analysts

By Dr.  Edna Reid

What do intelligence analysts (IA) do? How can I participate in a red cell exercise* about the use of social media in the Middle East uprisings? What are the current issues in intelligence analysis in the U.S. and overseas? How can I identify recent books about these issues and meet the authors? Are these authors available to speak at my institution? What certificate programs are available in intelligence analysis and where can I meet their representatives? If any of these questions spark your interest then register to attend a D.C. conference (June 2011) on intelligence analysis or check out intelligence.gov!

Yes, the International Association for Intelligence Education (IAFIE) is having its seventh annual conference in Washington, D.C., June 6-9, 2011. The mission of IAFIE is to advance research, knowledge, and professional development in intelligence education (http://www.iafie.org). Members of IAFIE are involved in various intelligence disciplines such as intelligence analysis, national security, and competitive intelligence. Members are active in developing and diffusing intelligence studies and programs that emphasize the need for intelligence professionals (e.g., intelligence analysts, collection specialists, cyber threat specialists, staff operation specialists).

CNNMoney.com, in 2009, identified intelligence analyst (IA) as among the ten best jobs in America. Intelligence analysts are involved in identifying, evaluating, and analyzing information for decision makers in the intelligence community (IC). It is a challenging yet almost invisible career field that has some overlapping specialization and expertise requirements like those in library and information science, e.g., the emphasis on identification, evaluation, and analysis of information.

However many information professionals overlook intelligence analysis as an alternate career path! Reid’s article on Information Professionals as Intelligence Analysts describes the analytical skills required of intelligence analysts as somewhat similar to those of open source (publicly available information such as news) researchers and/or political analysts. Additionally, the article posits that intelligence analysts come from diverse formal education backgrounds such as degrees in social sciences, engineering, psychology, economics, library science, history, business, computer science, or political science.

In order for information specialists to become intelligence analysts, they will need to hone their analytical skills and enhance their knowledge about IC agencies (e.g., DHS, CIA, NSA). Those who intend to explore this alternate path or just seek additional insights can check out the IAFIE conference or intelligence.gov because they will open their eyes to other ways of framing (packaging) library/information science competencies.

An important aspect of framing competencies for intelligence analyst positions is being able to translate your industry’s jargon into that which is used in the IC so that you can be effective in communicating your interests. Toward this end, Reid’s article provides a useful comparison of terminologies used in library/information science with those used by the U.S. intelligence community. For example, unclassified information is Open Source INTelligence (OSINT), cataloging is metadata tagging, and spying is Human INTelligence (HUMINT).

So consider exploring the world of intelligence analysts or just pass this information to a friend or family member who may want to consider a nontraditional career path that has many opportunities and challenges that can lead to a global adventure!

*Red cell exercise is an analytical technique for pretending that the analyst is the bad guy.
Dr. Edna Reid is an Intelligence Analyst with the DOJ.
Careers in the Intelligence Community (We Have Thousands of Positions in All Types of Fields), Accessed May 19, 2011. http://www.intelligence.gov/careers-in-intelligence
CNNMoney.com Best Jobs in America 2009. Accessed May 19, 2011. http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/bestjobs/2009/snapshots/9.html
Intelligence.gov, Accessed May 19, 2011. http://www.intelligence.gov/about-the-intelligence-community
Reid, E. Information Professionals as Intelligence Analysts: Making the Transition. Best Practices …, 2009. Accessed May 19, 2011. http://www.governmentinfopro.com/federal_info_pro/2010/01/information-professionals-as-intelligence-analysts-making-the-transition.html

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