Intelligence is information gathered within or outside the U.S. that involves threats to our nation, its people, property, or interests; development, proliferation, or use of weapons of mass destruction; and any other matter bearing on the U.S. national or homeland security. Intelligence can provide insights not available elsewhere that warn of potential threats and opportunities, assess probable outcomes of proposed policy options, provide leadership profiles on foreign officials, and inform official travelers of counterintelligence and security threats. 


The U.S. Intelligence Community is a federation of executive branch agencies and organizations that work separately and together to conduct intelligence activities necessary for the conduct of foreign relations and the protection of the national security of the United States. The IC remains focused on the missions of cyber intelligence, counterterrorism, counterproliferation, counterintelligence, and on the threats posed by state and non-state actors challenging U.S. national security and interests worldwide.


The National Security Act of 1947, as amended, defines the Intelligence Community's customers as:


Types of Intelligence

The intelligence cycle is a process of collecting information and developing it into intelligence for use by IC customers. The steps in the process are direction, collection, processing, exploitation, and dissemination.


IC products can either be based on a single type of collection or “all-source,” that is, based upon all available types of collection. IC products also can be produced by one IC element or coordinated with other IC elements, and delivered to IC customers in various formats, including papers, digital media, briefings, maps, graphics, videos, and other distribution methods.


There are six basic intelligence sources, or collection disciplines:


The National Intelligence Strategy

Read the 2014 National Intelligence StrategyIn support of the National Security Strategy, which sets forth national security priorities, the National Intelligence Strategy (NIS) provides the IC with the mission direction of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) for the next four to five years. IC activities must be consistent with, and responsive to, national security priorities and must comply with the Constitution, applicable statutes, and Congressional oversight requirements. The NIS should be read along with the National Intelligence Priorities Framework and Unifying Intelligence Strategies to inform and guide mission, as well as planning, programming, and budgeting activities.


The NIS describes seven Mission Objectives that broadly describe the priority outputs needed to deliver timely, insightful, objective, and relevant intelligence to our customers. Intelligence includes foreign intelligence and counterintelligence. The Mission Objectives are designed to address the totality of regional and functional issues facing the IC; their prioritization is communicated to the IC through the National Intelligence Priorities Framework:


Three Mission Objectives refer to foundational intelligence missions the IC must accomplish, regardless of threat or topic:



Four Mission Objectives identify the primary topical missions the IC must accomplish: