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Intelligence in the United States of America has undergone a series of drastic changes that has seen it advance both technically and technologically. It is only a few decades after the full implementation of intelligence in the United States yet the notable improvements made are conspicuously salient. The various threats to national security and rapid growth in terrorism are some of the factors that have necessitated such an increase in the level and expanse of intelligence.


In the recent past, there has been a notable drift from the predominant use of human intelligence to the technologically oriented intelligence. This can be attributed to the recent technological developments that have taken the planet by storm. It is naturally evident that the intelligence sector has been caught up in the wake of this storm. However, whether this move from human intelligence to modern technologically dependent intelligence has been a desirable and worthy one is still a debatable point.

This paper will present facts about both human intelligence and technologically oriented intelligence and attempt to explain why the move from human intelligence to the later was desirable. The paper will also discuss the various aspects of the art of collecting intelligence since the cold war to the present war on international terrorism.

Furthermore, the paper will look at how and why the United States of America has drifted from human intelligence and started relying heavily on modern technological intelligence. Lastly, the paper will explain the different types of intelligence gathering in relation to human intelligence and discuss the role of intelligence in welfare.

Human Intelligence In The United States Of America

Human intelligence was not considered as a serious weapon of national defense in the United States of America until the first half of the twentieth century. Although localized groups had been put in place by various leaders to assist in gathering information about matters of national interest, it is the Second World War that highlighted the need and significance of human intelligence in the United States.

The leadership of the nation at that time came to the shocking realization that the United States was by no means secure from external attacks and other security threats.

Franklin Roosevelt, the then president of the United States of America, can be regarded as the pioneer of human intelligence in the nation. The development of human intelligence in the United States began when he selected William Donovan to survey and determine the feasibility of meeting the intelligence needs of the nation through an independent intelligence body.

After some time, President Roosevelt was quick to implement Donovan’s suggestions about the implementation of a body that exclusively dealt with intelligence. The body was to gather information and present it to the president. This act is the one that signified the commencement of human intelligence in the United States of America.

Ever since the step taken by President Franklin Roosevelt was adopted, human intelligence was extensively used in the United States of America as well as in dozens of countries overseas (Theoharis, 1978).

One notable use of this intelligence was during the Second World War when it was used to encourage an allied bombing against Germany after carefully surveying and analyzing the vulnerability of the Nazi industry. The intelligence was successfully used in many other projects where it was able to achieve its objectives as well as suffer great losses which will be discussed in this paper.

Human intelligence is therefore a mature practice in the United States in the sense that it has been in use for many decades now. The fact that human intelligence is still used in the United States even with the advent of technological intelligence portends the significance of the former cannot be disparaged. Even though human intelligence has suffered a number of shortcomings that have led to a miss or two in the fight against international terrorism, it is also responsible for countless other victories in the same fight.

Technological Intelligence In The United States Of America

With the introduction and rapid growth of modernization and computerization, it was not a question of if but that of when technological intelligence will surmount human intelligence in the United States of America. Technological intelligence has been in place in the United States ever since the faults in human intelligence were discovered and laid bare.

Currently, technological intelligence can be described as the face of intelligence in the United States. More resources are being spent on this type of intelligence compared to human intelligence. The viability of technological intelligence in the United States cannot be doubted.

According to Donner (1980), this is because the nation has been successful of maintaining a war-free atmosphere within its internal borders. The nation has also gone as far as intervening in the conflicts of other countries in a bid to restore peace and stability. An example of this is the US-Iraq war. The United States has also been on the forefront of tracking down international terrorists such as Obama Bin Laden who was successfully killed last year.

The two bodies which have been the face of technological intelligence in the United States of America are the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The use of technological intelligence has seen the two bodies carry out major security operations both internally and externally.

The bodies have put in place sophisticated equipment which are effective in carrying out the intelligence process. Technological intelligence is responsible for the two bodies’ worldwide acknowledged as renowned intelligence bodies (Blackstock, 1988).

Shortcomings Of Human Intelligence In The United States

The move from human intelligence to technological intelligence by the United States was a favorable one that has stabilized the security of the nation at large (Boyer, 2012). Other than the infamous bombing of the World Trade Center, no other major security issue has been witnessed in the United States.

A comparison between the security threats posed to the nation when it solely relied on human intelligence to when it is engrossed in technological intelligence will reveal that the later has fewer such cases. The following are other reasons that point to the fact that the move from human intelligence to technological intelligence was a viable one:


A good percentage of the information gathered through human intelligence was mere postulation. In most cases, there was no tangible evidence that could lend credence to whatever was being claimed by those who provided the evidence. It therefore became hard to determine whether the nation was to be warned or not.

It is this dilemma that often led to premature judgments that could be wrong. Human intelligence can therefore be regarded as a primordial method that has the potential to misinform the authorities about the situation on the ground.


Human intelligence is not a suitable method of gathering information in foreign hostile countries because the personnel face the risk of being discovered and being subjected to purgatory. Apart from the personal security of the personnel, the nation also faces a security threat.

This is because those captured while carrying out intelligence activities can be coerced to reveal confidential information about the security details of the United States. Unlike human intelligence, modern intelligence is not subject to this threat because it uses few or no human involvement.


Another shortcoming of human intelligence is that it is subject to policies and acts put in place by authorities (Theoharis, 1999). Those taking part in the intelligence of restrictions that they are not supposed to go beyond. These policies hamper effective intelligence work from being carried out.

This hindrance can prevent important intelligence information from being found out. Bureaucracy is also another challenge when it comes to human intelligence (Davis, 1992). The information collected must follow an established chain of ranks. There is a high possibility of loss of information or distortion of the same in the process. Unlike human intelligence, technological intelligence is suitable because the information passes through fewer people. It is therefore secure from loss or distortion.

Information Gaps

According to Kate (2004), human intelligence often furnishes analysts with insufficient information that can’t be effectively put together to arrive at a perfect conclusion. Most of the information found out through human intelligence may be sketchy or with lots of missing explanations.

Analysts are therefore left with the formidable task of arriving at a suitable conclusion without all the information. This is a risky process especially in cases where delicate issues of national interest are involved. Unlike human intelligence, modern intelligence provides information that has been fully collected and analyzed for easy interpretation by the analysts. The use of modern intelligence is therefore unlikely to lead to cases of lack of enough information.


Human intelligence can have a limitation if the people gathering the intelligence are opinionated. This is because this will hinder them from asking other vital questions. This is especially the case where the subjects being investigated have a history of a constant character trait that is known to everybody. Human intelligence is therefore subject to bias. Unlike human intelligence, technological intelligence is not subject to bias because there is lesser human involvement.

Expertise Building

There is a big problem in human intelligence when it comes to finding the right people to carry out the intelligence. The intelligence requires smart people who are in a position to put mundane and small details together in order to unravel a hidden meaning or strategy. Such people may not be easy to come across. The intelligence may therefore be forced to take people who are unable to deliver desirable intelligence, which may undermine the security welfare of the country.

Apart from the hiring of people who cannot perform to the required standards, human intelligence also faces difficult task of training these people. The training may take several months or even years. Human intelligence training is among one of the hardest because some aspects of intelligence are not easily expressed in words. That is why the sector is best served by people of high intellectual capacity because they are able to discern things with the slightest effort.

Unlike human intelligence, technological intelligence does not necessarily need people of extraordinary intellectual capability. An averagely smart person can perform the duties found in technological intelligence because most activities are automated by machines. The nation therefore spends lesser revenue on hiring and training personnel. This is probably one of the reasons why the United States has drastically laid more emphasis on technologically oriented intelligence as opposed to human intelligence.

The Role Of Intelligence In Warfare And Terrorism

Intelligence has gone a long way in supporting the fight against terrorism and during warfare. In fact, it can be argued that intelligence has played a bigger role in this fight compared to military combat. It should however be noted that the two depend on each other for success. Military combat will achieve little if any without intelligence.

In the same manner, intelligence will not contribute to world peace and termination of terrorism without military combat. This symbiotic relationship between the two mean indicates that the country that effectively merges them will have success in the combat against terrorism and national security threats. On the contrary, a nation that predominantly relies on one of them or inadequately uses them will not achieve national security and get rid of terrorism.

Intelligence has played a big role in warfare and in the combat against terrorism internationally. The United States of America made good use of intelligence during the cold war. The USA used organized intelligence that was collected by a professional team of high intellectual capability. The nation had a strategy that had the intelligence as the major basis and determiner of its moves in the course of the war.

During the cold war, the United States of America was keen to make maximum use of its intelligence, which had now grown to maturity. The intelligence bodies comprised of other smaller functional units that made it easy for them to access the information easily. With the Central Intelligence Agency in full function, chances that the United States would emerge victorious were high.

The use of intelligence in warfare has a long history which dates back to the Second World War. Intelligence was used and is still being used to find out the weaknesses of opponents between warring parties. One party then relies on the intelligence to capitalize on the weakness discovered. This has been a common feature in almost each and every single war fought in the second half of the twentieth century and the twenty first century.

Intelligence is being used today to monitor the military actions of countries that are feared to disturb international peace. For instance, intelligence has been used to reveal those countries that are in the process of manufacturing atomic bombs.

This intelligence is useful because such issues have been brought to the attention of the United Nations and an amicable solution is set to be reached before it is too late. Intelligence has therefore been instrumental in watching the moves of countries in order to avoid a repeat of the First and Second World Wars and the Cold War.

Intelligence has also gone a long way in helping to reduce the level of terrorism (Ramana, 2012). For instance, intelligence has revealed information about strong terrorist strongholds which has enabled the relevant authorities to capture them. The information about these strongholds in acquired in the following two ways.

First, intelligence officers may infiltrate terrorism cells and seek to gather information from arrested suspects. In some case, however, the suspects may be reluctant to share any information with the officers. This may make the officers to decide to use force or infliction of physical pain in order to make the suspects cooperate. There are reportedly a few rare cases where the suspects refuse to utter anything irrespective of the pain inflicted on him or her.

Secondly, the intelligence officers can go as far as buying some members of terrorist groups in order to get the information they want. Such deals are normally conducted with a lot discretion so as to avoid the prior knowledge of the rest of the terrorist group members about the deal. Members of terrorist groups who manage to discover the undercover operation being carried out on them end up killing those who are in the process of betraying them.

Intelligence has also helped to discover the roles of prominent people in the activities of terrorist groups around the world. The intelligence is normally gained from members of the same terrorist groups or by intelligence officers who masquerade as members of the terrorist groups but are quick to withdraw as soon as they obtain the information they need.

The information collected is then relayed to the concerned authorities who take the necessary legal measures. It is through such intelligence that a number of political leaders have been successfully prosecuted at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Human Intelligence And The 9/11 Bombing

The 9/11 bombing was as a result of a laxity in the intensity of human intelligence. It happened due to a small degree of negligence on the part of the intelligence officers. It is an act of irresponsibility that although some officers were aware of the presence of wanted suspects the United States, they did not report the same to the relevant authorities so that appropriate security measures can be taken. Instead, they treated it as a triviality that will have no significant effect on the nation’s security.

This act of negligence on the part of intelligence officers points to the fact that human intelligence be subject to errors committed by intelligence officers. It is therefore not a reliable method of collecting intelligence because the success of the entire process depends on the discretion of those involved in it.

This can be regarded as yet another reason why the United States’ drift from human intelligence to technologically oriented intelligence was desirable. The latter is less prone to errors because machines conduct most of the analysis. The only possible errors can arise if the machines being used have grown obsolete or have a breakdown.


In conclusion, it is evident from this research paper that human intelligence was born in the United States of America with the onset of the Second World War. It can also be seen that then President Franklin Roosevelt played a big role in pioneering human intelligence in the United States.

Furthermore, it can also be established that from the discussion that the shortcomings of human intelligence and the advent of modern technology have seen the emergence of a more technologically oriented form of intelligence. Finally, it can be concluded that the 9/11 bombing of the World Trade Center was as a result of failed human intelligence.

Reference List

Blackstock, N. (1988). The FBI’s secret war on political freedom. New York: Pathfinder.

Boyer, P. (2011). Intelligence gathering and espionage. Retrieved February 5, 2012, from: http://www.encyclopedia.com.

Davis, J. (1992). Spying on America: The FBI’s domestic counter-intelligence program. New York: Praeger.

Donner, F. (1980). The age of surveillance. The aims and methods of America’s political intelligence system. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Kate, M. (2004). Domestic intelligence and public liberties. ProQuest, 24(2), 7.

Ramana, S. (2010). The role of human intelligence in counter-terrorism. Retrieved

February 5, 2012, from: http://www.ipcs.org/article/defence/the-role-of-human- intelligence-in-counter-terrorism-3280.html .

Theoharis, A. (1999). The FBI: A comprehensive reference guide. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press.

Theoharis, A. (1978). Spying on Americans: Political surveillance from Hoover to the Huston Plan. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.


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