The Nature of Intelligence Analysis
In an increasingly globalised world, there’s a high demand for security analysts, intelligence officers, and law enforcement authorities with a significant level of training in security and terrorism issues. This field is highly competitive, so it’s important to begin with a greater understanding of what a career in intelligence or counter-terrorism entails.
How to plan a Career as an Intelligence Analyst/Intelligence Officer
The area of Terrorism threats to National Security has once again featured in the media. Governments, both state and federal, are committing significant resources to this area. As a result many people are considering if a career in the field may be of interest to them.
Some Definitions may help
What is Security and Counter-terrorism?
The ASIO Act defines “security” as the protection of Australia’s territorial and border integrity from serious threats, and the protection of Australia and its people from espionage, sabotage, politically motivated violence, the promotion of communal violence, attacks on Australia’s defence system, and acts of foreign interference.
Security and Counter-terrorism Intelligence is information compiled, analysed, and/or disseminated in an effort to anticipate, prevent, or monitor illegal activity.
There are two basic roles in Security and Counter-terrorism – Operations and Intelligence.
Mostly Security and Counter-terrorism Operations are carried out by either the police or the military (the exception are perhaps the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Employment in Security and Counter-terrorism with the military or police forces is via standard employment in these branches – i.e. as a soldier or police officer. Special operations sections such as the SAS or with state police branches are from within these services. Direct employment in such roles is not normally available.
What is Intelligence and Analysis?
Intelligence gathering is undertaken to understand, assess and counter foreign or domestic entities. It includes human activities and electronic methods. Intelligence analysis refers to the activities used to analyse the available data and convert it into useful information.
The Intelligence Community works for policymakers and military leaders.
Intelligence analysts work for a variety of organisations, most notably federal government agencies, but also state government (police)*. The tasks involved in this line of work entail the extensive research into and collection of information from many sources. Intelligence analysts then sort, target, and identify relevant data, which is reported to key officials.
* Private Sector Analysts There are intelligence analysts working in the private sector but these are usually ex government folk or academics with a specialist interest
Intelligence broadly comprises Intelligence Gathering and Intelligence Analysis (and Reporting)
Intelligence Officers (IOs) engage in the collection, collation, analysis and dissemination of intelligence to support the organisation’s intelligence objectives. This includes managing specific intelligence cases/projects. IOs are responsible for ensuring a flow of intelligence to and from key stakeholders and clients, and supporting the production of strategic, operational and tactical assessments in accordance with the requirements of the organisation.
Some people feel attracted to a possible career in Intelligence because of its “secret agent or spy” depictions in films and novels. However, if you want a real career in intelligence, you need to get past that superficial concept and know that desk jobs that are the common reality.
Intelligence Analysis is a Research Job
The work may be dramatic sometimes, but most of the time, the day to day work and impact of analysis is routine and ordinary.
Your job focus may not even be a matter of current public interest. You might work on directly on, say extremism and counter-terrorism topics, or you could be working what seems a peripheral area.
Why would the government devote resources to peripheral areas when the current focus is largely on counter terrorism? The primary point of intelligence analysis is not just to defeat current threats. It is also to foresee, prepare for, and prevent future threats.
Leaders and policymakers need good access to knowledge and expertise. This is gained through years of background work to ensure good data, information and assessments are available.
Strong Writing and Reporting Skills
Intelligence is a research and analysis job. This means you have to be able to pass on information effectively. That means writing well. Part of your work will be to distil lots of information into an argument, and structure that argument so it is properly understood.
If you want to be an intelligence analyst, try to focus your undergraduate curriculum on classes that require you to do individual research and analytical work (as opposed to exam-driven courses). The exact subject matter is less important. History, political, ethnography research even chemistry research all have potential interest to the Intelligence Community. If you can gather facts, assess their significance and communicate that assessment mean, you can be an intelligence analyst.
Having said that, it can help if you have expertise in a subject of current importance. There are going to be more jobs currently available in Islamic extremism than in Italian ethnography. It’s also likely to be beneficial if you have a skill that’s both applicable to a current threat and unusual in Australia, like high level language skills or cyber-security/warfare.
Some subjects–particularly highly technical ones – are also likely to be in demand with particular agencies. To get some idea of what skills and eligibility requirements are expected of an Intelligence Officer, you can read this sample description from the ASIO.
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation – ASIO
A career as an Intelligence Officer with ASIO is unique and will challenge your intellect and ability to make sound judgments under pressure.
You will drive ASIO investigations and be responsible for the overt and covert collection of significant information relevant to national security.
Your interpersonal skills will be invaluable in maintaining regular contact with a variety of people, including members of the public who volunteer information. You will also work with technical means of collecting information.
Your analytical ability will allow you to assess information to produce security intelligence and provide regular written and verbal briefings and advice to a range of stakeholders across government.
Your resilience will be tested as you respond to fast moving challenges and solve complex problems in an environment where no two days are the same.
The Intelligence Development Program commences in January and July of each year.
It is a fast paced adult learning environment that provides all the specialist training you will need.
Your first six months will be in Canberra, where you will undertake class-based and practical training introducing you to the methodologies and concepts of intelligence work. You will learn to plan, develop and manage intelligence operations and practice the tradecraft required of an Intelligence Officer in ASIO.
The second six months is a structured workplace program to increase your skills through on-the-job development working with experienced Intelligence Officers. After completing the Intelligence Development Program, you will graduate and commence your first posting.
Posting cycles are typically three to five years with posting decisions based on organisational requirements.
There will be opportunities for you to identify preferences and scope to move between a variety of interesting and stimulating roles throughout your career.
To be eligible for this diverse and interesting role you must:
- Australian citizen
- Degree qualification in any discipline
- Relocate to Canberra for the training period and thereafter any Australian capital city, including Canberra, for the duration of your career
- Hold at least a Probationary Drivers Licence for a C Class Vehicle
Candidates will need to show the intellect, commitment, expertise and talent required through high achievement in their current profession or field of study. Candidates with qualifications or work experience in fields that demonstrate critical thinking such as, but not limited to, International Relations, Law, Science or Counter Terrorism will be highly regarded.
Candidates who have applied for the Intelligence Officer role within the preceding two years or are currently residing outside Australia will not be considered.
Interested candidates currently residing outside Australia on a short-term basis or who are planning overseas travel during the assessment period should delay their application until they return.
Selection and assessment
The selection and assessment period is lengthy and candidates must be prepared to undergo various selection and assessment stages over an extended period of time.
In addition, candidates must be assessed as suitable to hold a positive vet security clearance, which will involve extensive background checking
With a broader understanding of the day-to-day tasks and skills involved in the intelligence analysis field, you can become better prepared to undertake the right training. In the next article in this series, explore academic courses that prepare students for a career in intelligence.