As an investigator, I am often asked to find as much information as I can about a particular subject or event. This holds true whether it is a criminal defense investigation, personal injury, digital forensic, or an asset investigation case. The initial requests are generally the same.
But what does it mean to find as much information as I can?
There is a vast difference between obtaining information and gathering intelligence.
As a former USMC combat intelligence specialist, I excelled at connecting the dots between bits of data in order to paint a complete picture of potential threats facing Marines on the battle field. I would link previous events with recent intelligence reports to help predict the location of future IED attacks and ambushes. Upon mission launches, I would continue to support Marines on the ground by accompanying them and providing them with live intelligence.
I supplemented these reports with communications from adjacent units regarding threats they encountered on their mission. Finally, I would task interpreters with gaining as much information as they could from locals we encountered during the mission. Upon returning to base, I would update intelligence and threat detection reports with the information I gained from the previous mission. These continuously-updated reports helped our commanders in their mission planning by allowing them to take a proactive approach to threat mitigation.
Which brings me to the difference between intelligence and information. Intelligence reports help guide the decision making process more quickly and efficiently than relying on information alone. Intelligence requires experience and attention to detail. Information gathering does not.
Information gathering is abundant these days. It’s right at our fingertips.
Information is merely collecting and gathering raw data.
- It does not have to be conducted by a trained investigator.
- It is usually unevaluated.
- It may or may not be true, complete, or relevant.
- It may even be outdated.
I use information drawn from a multitude of sources including; court records, interviews, government archives, proprietary databases, credit reports, social media sites, public records, to name a few. If the information is there—and if it is relevant, I will find it and make the best use of it in my reports.
Intelligence gathering forces “information” to become useful. It does this by corroborating the validity of the information collected and by explaining why the information is important and how it is linked with other bits of information. In short, intelligence tells a story.
The FBI has a published definition for intelligence: “Simply defined, intelligence is information that has been analyzed and refined so that it is useful to policymakers in making decisions – specifically decisions about potential threats to our national security.” The FBI and the other organizations that make up the U.S. Intelligence Community use the term “intelligence’ in three different ways:
- Intelligence is a product that consists of information that has been refined to meet the needs of policymakers.
- Intelligence is also a process through which that information is identified, collected, and analyzed.
- Intelligence also refers to both the individual organizations that shape raw data into a finished intelligence product. This is done for the benefit of decision makers and the larger community of these organizations.
Substitute “policy makers” for “attorneys” and “threats to our national security” for “threats to our case.”
There are significant advantages to conducting a complete intelligence analysis in every case. If performed correctly, information within a report:
- Becomes actionable
- Supports the planning of the case
- Establishes a directed priority
- Helps decision makers to better allocate their limited resources
Investigators at Pilum Defense Agency are experts at gathering—and more importantly, analyzing—real intelligence. Our goal is to understand the client’s intentions (mission) so as to tailor our investigation accordingly. The mission of our agency is to support our clients in their decision making process by producing reliable and actionable reports.
Pilum Defense Agency specializes in Criminal Defense & Civil Investigation and Computer & Digital Forensic services. Veteran-owned and veteran-run, we were founded by former U.S. Marine Corps and Navy SEAL members.
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