An intelligence agency is a government agency responsible for the collection, analysis or exploitation of information and intelligence in support of law enforcement, national security, defence and foreign policy objectives. Means of information gathering are both overt and covert and may include espionage, communication interception, cryptanalysis, cooperation with other institutions, and evaluation of public sources. The assembly and propagation of this information is known as intelligence analysis or intelligence assessment.
Intelligence agencies can provide the following services for their national governments.
- Provision of analysis in areas relevant to national security;
- give early warning of impending crises;
- serve national and international crisis management by helping to discern the intentions of current or potential opponents;
- inform national defence planning and military operations;
- protect sensitive information secrets, both of their own sources and activities, and those of other state agencies;
- may act covertly to influence the outcome of events in favour of national interests, or influence international security; and
- Defence against the efforts of other national intelligence agencies (counter-intelligence).
There is a distinction between "security intelligence" and "foreign intelligence". Security intelligence pertains to domestic threats (e.g. terrorism, espionage). Foreign intelligence involves information collection relating to the political, or economic activities of foreign states.
Some agencies have been involved in assassination, arms trafficking, coups d'état, and the placement of misinformation (propaganda) as well as other covert operations, in order to support their own or their governments' interests.
Famous quotes containing the words intelligence and/or agency:
“Given for one instant an intelligence which could comprehend all the forces by which nature is animated and the respective positions of the beings which compose it, if moreover this intelligence were vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in the same formula both the movements of the largest bodies in the universe and those of the lightest atom; to it nothing would be uncertain, and the future as the past would be present to its eyes.”
—Pierre Simon De Laplace (17491827)
“It is possible that the telephone has been responsible for more business inefficiency than any other agency except laudanum.... In the old days when you wanted to get in touch with a man you wrote a note, sprinkled it with sand, and gave it to a man on horseback. It probably was delivered within half an hour, depending on how big a lunch the horse had had. But in these busy days of rush-rush-rush, it is sometimes a week before you can catch your man on the telephone.”
—Robert Benchley (18891945)