What is an Intelligence Analyst?

The task of the intelligence analyst is to collect and analyze raw information discovered through various sources and translate it into "finished" intelligence. Translation in this context does not mean that the analyst has to translate the information from one language to another. For example, intelligence analysts must piece together all the information they find, interpret the data, and form judgments and/or predictions to provide decision support to end customers.

Intelligence analyst roles are found in both the public and private sectors. The public sector includes, for example, organizations and government agencies at the federal, state or local level. The private sector includes think tanks and corporations.

Intelligence analysts are specialized.

1. Source-based, which means focusing on specific types of sources of information. HUMINT (human intelligence) refers to intelligence gathered from human sources, OSINT (open source intelligence) comes from open sources such as the Internet or more specifically social media intelligence (SOCMINT), SIGINT (signal intelligence) comes from the interception of signals, GEOINT (geographic Space Intelligence) from satellites and maps.

2. About a specific topic, such as a geographic area, or a type of group (non-state actor or terrorist group), or a type of threat (nuclear, strategic, or tactical).

3. About a discipline, such as military, science, weapons intelligence, economics.

Senior officer and career analyst Douglas MacEachin defines intelligence work as "a cognitive profession." It refers to finding anomalies and patterns in someone's behavior, which can explain past events and can point to future developments.

In government and political environments, intelligence analysts must gather information from disparate sources to prevent attacks, identify new challenges, or assess threats. The ultimate goal is to advise policymakers on a given topic, making them better equipped to respond and thus supporting their future planning.

Dave Hagen, an assistant teaching professor at Northeastern University, better describes the intelligence analyst's role as one that "must research carefully, consider multiple sources, and make fact-based analysis and judgment, thereby informing decision makers in the public or private sector".