Our Intelligence Branch is front and center making sure the FBI produces the intelligence necessary to protect the nation. It is the strategic leader of the FBI’s Intelligence Program, driving collaboration to achieve the full integration of intelligence and operations and proactively engaging with the Bureau’s partners across the intelligence and law enforcement communities. By overseeing intelligence policy and guidance, the Intelligence Branch ensures the FBI’s intelligence production remains objective and strikes the correct balance between strategic and tactical work.
Inside the Intelligence Branch
In August 2014, Director James Comey established the FBI’s Intelligence Branch to lead the integration of intelligence and operations across the organization. The Intelligence Branch is responsible for all intelligence strategy, resources, policies, and functions.
The ongoing efforts of the Intelligence Branch represent the continued evolution of the FBI’s Intelligence Program and the Bureau’s essential ability to fulfill both its national security and law enforcement responsibilities. As the threat environment continues to evolve, so must the FBI in order to keep pace with the United States’ adversaries.
The Intelligence Branch includes the Directorate of Intelligence.
Directorate of Intelligence
The Directorate of Intelligence is the FBI’s dedicated national intelligence workforce, with clear authority and responsibility for all Bureau intelligence functions. The directorate’s mission is to provide strategic support, direction, and oversight to the FBI’s Intelligence Program. It carries out this function through embedded intelligence elements at FBI Headquarters and in each field division.
The intelligence cycle is the process of developing unrefined data into polished intelligence for the use of policymakers. The cycle consists of six steps, described below. The graphic shows the circular nature of this process, although movement between the steps is fluid. Intelligence uncovered at one step may require going back to an earlier step before moving forward.
Requirements are identified information needs—what must be known to safeguard the nation. Intelligence requirements are established by the Director of National Intelligence according to guidance received from the president and the national and homeland security advisors. Requirements are developed based on critical information necessary to protect the United States from national security and criminal threats. The attorney general and the Director of the FBI participate in the formulation of national intelligence requirements.
Planning and Direction is management of the entire effort, from identifying the need for information to delivering an intelligence product to a consumer. It involves implementation plans to satisfy requirements levied on the FBI, as well as identifying specific collection requirements based on FBI needs. Planning and direction also is responsive to the end of the cycle, because current and finished intelligence, which supports decision-making, generates new requirements. The executive assistant director for the National Security Branch leads intelligence planning and direction for the FBI.
Collection is the gathering of raw information based on requirements. Activities such as interviews, technical and physical surveillances, human source operation, searches, and liaison relationships result in the collection of intelligence.
Processing and Exploitation involves converting the vast amount of information collected into a form usable by analysts. This is done through a variety of methods including decryption, language translations, and data reduction. Processing includes the entering of raw data into databases where it can be exploited for use in the analysis process.
Analysis and Production is the conversion of raw information into intelligence. It includes integrating, evaluating, and analyzing available data, and preparing intelligence products. The information’s reliability, validity, and relevance is evaluated and weighed. The information is logically integrated, put in context, and used to produce intelligence. This includes both “raw” and finished intelligence. Raw intelligence is often referred to as “the dots”—individual pieces of information disseminated individually. Finished intelligence reports “connect the dots” by putting information in context and drawing conclusions about its implications.
Dissemination—the last step—is the distribution of raw or finished intelligence to the consumers whose needs initiated the intelligence requirements. The FBI disseminates information in three standard formats: Intelligence Information Reports (IIRs), FBI Intelligence Bulletins, and FBI Intelligence Assessments. FBI intelligence products are provided daily to the attorney general, the president, and to customers throughout the FBI and in other agencies. These FBI intelligence customers make decisions—operational, strategic, and policy—based on the information. These decisions may lead to the levying of more requirements, thus continuing the FBI intelligence cycle.
Our Responsibility to Protect Civil Liberties
Intelligence activities conducted within the U.S. require special consideration because they directly affect privacy rights and civil liberties protected by the Constitution and other laws.
The FBI’s authority to collect information is very clearly laid out in law and is directed by the attorney general. Intelligence collection is done only in accordance with the intelligence priorities set by the president, and is guided at every step by procedures mandated by the attorney general. The FBI is subject to and follows the attorney general’s guidelines and procedures for FBI national security investigations and foreign intelligence collection.
The FBI’s collection authorities are also controlled by the federal courts. Under the USA PATRIOT Act, a federal judge must still approve search warrants and wiretaps for counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigations. Agents must still prove probable cause in order to obtain a warrant authorizing searches and wiretaps. The FBI only collects and disseminates intelligence under guidelines designed specifically to protect the privacy of U.S. citizens, and the Bureau is committed to using its authorities and resources responsibly.
The FBI is dedicated to carrying out its mission in accordance with the protections provided by the Constitution. FBI agents are trained to understand and appreciate that the responsibility to respect and protect the law is the basis for their authority to enforce it.
The FBI puts a premium on thoroughly training its special agents about their responsibility to respect the rights and dignity of individuals. In addition to extensive instruction on Constitutional law, criminal procedure, and sensitivity to other cultures, every new FBI agent visits to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., to see for themselves what can happen when law enforcement becomes a tool of oppression.