MYTHS, FEARS, AND EXPECTATIONS
I ONCE BEGAN a public lecture by asking members of the audience, “How many of you collect or analyze intelligence?” When no hands went up, I asked, “How many of you interpreted the question as ‘Which of you is a spy?’ ” That prompted a few to raise their hands and enabled me to ask, “What if I ask the question somewhat differently? How many of you check the thermometer before deciding what to wear? Or how many tune in to traffic reports before deciding what route to take during rush hour? Who checks the newspaper to find out what movies are playing and when they start before heading to the theater?” The answer, of course, is that we all do these things. We do them—as we do many other things—to inform our decisions and to make better choices. That, in a nutshell, is what intelligence is all about. The world’s “second oldest profession” and our multibillion-dollar intelligence budget exist to reduce uncertainty, provide warning, and inform decisions, especially those related to the security of our nation and the safety of our citizens.
The questions I posed to my audience were intended to demonstrate that we all collect, analyze, and use intelligence. If you are uncomfortable using the word intelligence, you can substitute information, but that does not change the purpose or the process. Pro football teams, venture capitalists, epidemiologists, and many others routinely collect, analyze, and apply intelligence to increase the likelihood of success in whatever they are trying to accomplish. All such examples have much in common with the Intelligence Community, but there