I thought I had it clear that an Intelligence Analyst is a civilian or a military in charge of analyzing intelligence, while an Intelligence Officer is an officer, working in Intelligence. Although, the definitions should be clear and well known to anybody interested or working in the field of Intelligence, I’ve stumbled some days ago on a debate upon what these notions means, they differing from field to field, from country to country, from one perspective to another, from language to language. Today, remembering how, a few years ago I had to research the definitions of the words “Intelligence”, “security” and “safety”, I believe it is right to summarize a few perspectives the debaters had on the two notions mentioned above.
Apparently, an intelligence officer could be either enlisted, commissioned, or civilian. The term “officer” in this case refers to the duty (while in my language, officer means anybody with a higher military rank than lieutenant). The definitions depend on the nature of the agency and are by rank or by job type. In DoD/military intelligence organizations, an “intelligence officer” normally refers to a commissioned officer or civilian whose specialty is Intel, like logistics or personnel officer. In non-DoD (non-military), “officer” vs. “analyst” depends on type of job. Officers plan, conduct, and lead operations. In many countries, an intelligence officer is either a case officer (recruiting HUMINT), a desk officer (steering the intelligence cycle) or an intelligence analyst (analyses HUMINT, SIGINT, DIGINT, OSINT, all-INT and reporting based on all the collected information), when only a very few intelligence officers are actively conducting HUMINT or CI operations.
The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA) is a 235-page Act of Congress, signed by President George W. Bush, that broadly affects United States federal terrorism laws, and it says:
“The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 were designed, among other goals, to break down obstacles to information sharing and to facilitate collaboration and “all-source analysis” of the wide and expanding range of national security issues. To meet the challenges of the 21st century, we can no longer tolerate false distinctions between “all-source” and “single-INT” analysts or agencies. Stated another way, providing high-quality analysis and enhancing policymaker understanding of complex developments require utilizing all types of information and the insights of everyone who can contribute. Information sharing and collaboration are now essential attributes of intelligence analysis. For example, imagery analysts need (and have) access to SIGINT and HUMINT that could help them to determine the purpose of a construction project. Diplomatic reporting and SIGINT are useful to determine the veracity or biases of a clandestine HUMINT source. Freely available unclassified materials (Open Source Intelligence or OSINT) provides context for all kinds of other reporting. In other words, all analysts are—and must be—all-source analysts.”
That while the roles and activities performed within intelligence organizations are similar between military, civilian, and police organizations. There are significant semantic differences in what the term “officer” means within these different organizations. Some define the Intelligence Officer as a person employed to deliver all kind of intelligence activities such as collection of information (from Open Sources, Human Sources, etc.), undercover operations and analysis. Analysis is a highly specialized role. An intelligence officer is a more generic term and generally involves more generic and more flexible type of work in the intelligence arena. Those who specialize in the different INTs (HUMINT, SIGINT, MASINT, IMINT, etc) collect the raw data and the analyst puts it all together to turn it into intelligence, if (s)he’s an all source analyst. An analyst may have contact with a source depending on the assignment (in most cases no), but it is very little and mostly for screening/vetting purposes, not interrogation or interviewing because that is up to the HUMINT collector to do. Contractors aren’t allowed to recruit and run sources because of laws on intelligence collection, it has to be done by a government entity (i.e. an agency person or member of the military).
Therefore, an Intelligence Analyst is an official skilled in understanding and interpreting intelligence reports received from field agents. By being able to place specific reports in a broader context, an intelligence agent can help evaluate the importance of reports. Intelligence analysts most often work with government agencies, although some positions in the private sector do exist as well. Analysts analyze, Officers operate. The difference is between the analysis and collection objectives of the intelligence cycle. Interestingly, the analysts are the catalyst for action as they produce the product, intelligence. Sometimes a field analyst has to make immediate decisions that impact an ongoing or developing situation and can involve life/safety of others. The analysts’ role is crucial and requires the sharpest and most interesting minds. The analyst can have the best circumstances to process information and still be wrong some of the time. The intelligence officer has to perform with a unique set of decision making skills that must ensure success and survival in an environment of pressure, uncertainty, and more eminent result.
There is also the term Intelligence Operative, meaning any higher level engaged in intelligence work, which may include running HUMINT assets, using technical tools to gather information, whereas the Intelligence Analysts are the people making sense of the gathered information or one can say turning the Information into Intelligence. Reports Officer (or Program Manager in other agencies) may be found as the link between analysts and collectors. Collectors rarely have the opportunity to communicate directly with their customer, the analyst. The Program Manager could also personally meet with the analysts who are being serviced to get follow-up on a timely basis. Successfully completed collection operations need to be brought to the attention of command so that the lonely collector gets positive feedback and appropriate comments on their performance reports. Intelligence Officers in the military are the supervisors of enlisted analysts, HUMINT/SIGINT/IMINT collectors and counterintelligence agents, which refers specifically to the commissioned officer rank. In the civilian world, Intelligence Officer is a working title to refer to all in the intelligence profession; it isn’t limited to CI/HUMINT trades nor is it limited to rank. Intelligence Officers manage and usually are in charge of programs, analytic groups, or CIs. It is their job to offer guidance and direction and make sure that all are focused on the mission. Both functions are critical in today’s intelligence environment. In some ways, intelligence agents are the Sherlock Holmes of the intelligence community, looking at all the gathered pieces in the hopes of reaching some conclusion.
The work of an intelligence analyst can be vital to the security, both national and foreign, of citizens and military personnel. Army analysts, for instance, may prepare reports for combat commanders that can influence troop movement or strategy. They may also be in charge of interpreting enemy movements, actions, and intercepted communications. Good intelligence analysis can save lives, while a mistake in gathering or analyzing can lead to serious consequences.
Nowadays, private sector intelligence analysts tend to work with defense contractors or large corporations that use intelligence-gathering techniques to predict the behavior of their rivals.
Most government agencies want to hire a person who can do it all.