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The intelligence method

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Our intelligence work is driven by the intelligence cycle. This is a logical process of direction, planning, collection, processing, analysis and dissemination. In this closed circuit, intelligence requirements are generated by the client and, at the end of the cycle, they provide feedback and issue new or revised requirements.

Direction: Our intelligence manager has careful discussions with the client to develop a specific intelligence request or series of requests that address their needs. Each request usually takes the form of a question that provides clear direction from the client.

Planning: The intelligence manager assembles a team of analysts and support staff with the appropriate skill set to answer those questions. The appointed team leader develops a collection plan in conjunction with the intelligence manager, which sets out the sources to be drawn upon, the methods to be used, the resources required and the project deadlines.

Collection: The team collects data from a variety of carefully vetted OSINT (open source intelligence) and HUMINT (human intelligence) sources. Such sources might include satellite imagery, country-specific search engines, deep web search engines, social media, database mining, national news agencies, professional associations, civil society networks and our own contacts on the ground.

Processing: The collected data is processed so as to make it usable by the analytical team. This will include an assessment of its relevance and credibility and other processes such as translation, tabulation or mapping.

Analysis: The analytical team establishes the significance and implications of the processed intelligence. They create new knowledge using a variety of techniques borrowed from the intelligence community in order to respond to the client’s intelligence request(s). Such methods include analysis of competing hypotheses, cone of plausibility, linchpin analysis and alternative futures analysis.

Dissemination: Our final analysis is sent to the client in the agreed format, usually a written report. We then follow this up with a conference call, during which the client will provide feedback and issue new or revised requirements if appropriate.

We use this process to turn data (raw facts and figures) and information (context, meaning and structure) into intelligence (analysis, insight and relevance) by using various analytical techniques borrowed from the intelligence community.

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Our intelligence briefings draw on the What? So what? Now what? protocol to provide a comprehensive analysis of an event or issue:

What? The who, what, where, when, why and how of the event or issue (the 5W1H maxim).

So what? The micro- and macro-environmental ramifications of this event or issue.

Now what? Consequences of the event or issue and recommended responses.

Within these briefings, likelihood is communicated through the following specific words of estimative probability:

Almost certainly / almost certain (>90%)
Highly likely / very probable (75-85%)
Likely / probable (55-70%)
Possibly / possible (25-50%)
Unlikely / improbable (15-20%)
Highly unlikely / remote (<10%)

To avoid confusion, these terms appear in italics whenever used in this context. No other terms are used to indicate probability and weasel words (might, could, maybe, perhaps, etc.) are avoided throughout our briefings.

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