Collectively, the agencies and departments of the National Intelligence Community (NIC) collect, analyse, disseminate and action intelligence information to support government decision making in accordance with Australia’s national interests and security priorities.
In 2018, the NIC was formed to address the increasing complexity of Australia’s geostrategic environment, the rapid pace of technological change and the need for a more integrated and connected intelligence community.
It’s all about Intelligence
Intelligence is the collection, processing and analysis of all types of information about our nation and external environment. It helps inform government to ensure our national interests are protected and that Australia remains a safe and prosperous country.
Nowadays we have access to vast quantities of intelligence. We utilise all kinds of tools (human and technological) to collect and analyse this intelligence. Some intelligence we collect from the internet (open source intelligence), and some we collect covertly. This is done within the laws that govern the NIC and its agencies.
Here are just some of the types of intelligence we collect and analyse:
- HUMINT – human intelligence. Any information we get from human sources. This is the oldest form of intelligence.
- SIGINT – signals intelligence. It comes from electronic signals and systems, such as communications systems, radars, and weapons systems.
- GEOINT - geospatial intelligence. Intelligence found from the analysis of imagery and geospatial information about features and events.
- OSINT – open source intelligence. Information found from publicly available sources.
- TECHINT – technical intelligence. Intelligence about weapons and equipment used by the armed forces of foreign nations.
- FININT – financial intelligence. Intelligence collected and analysed from financial reports.
- IMINT – the exploitation of data to detect, classify, and identify objects or organisations. It can be produced from hard-copy (film) or digital imagery.
- MASINT – scientific and technical intelligence information obtained by quantitative and qualitative analysis of data derived from specific technical sensors for the purpose of identifying any distinctive features associated with the source emitter or sender.
- FISINT – intercepts of telemetry from an opponent's weapons systems as they are being tested.
As you can see, there are lots of different types of intelligence that our agencies consider, access and analyse.
The Intelligence Cycle
The intelligence cycle is a good way of understanding the broad range of work done in the NIC. It goes like this:
- The government determines what information and intelligence it needs to support its policy outcomes. It works with the NIC to plan and prioritise intelligence collection.
- The collection agencies collect intelligence according to their specific mandates.
- Intelligence is collated and processed using a variety of tools (based on the type of intelligence – as above).
- It’s then analysed by humans and machines using technologies such as AI and machine learning and then put into formats for customers to use.
- The final product is distributed to our customers through a variety of channels based on its classification and who our customers want to receive it.
- This then helps inform government decision making.
- The cycle is completed when its value has been assessed and any gaps identified (and on goes the cycle).
It sounds simple, but actually involves a lot of work at each stage. We need people with all kinds of skills to make the cycle work!