Free Essay Sample: Intelligence and Counterintelligence

Published: 2019-11-04
Free Essay Sample: Intelligence and Counterintelligence
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Law Intelligence services Terrorism
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 936 words
8 min read

There are many similarities and a few differences in information-gathering techniques used by the U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies to monitor threats from domestic and international terrorists. The September 11th terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York City necessitated the enactment of laws broadening the scope and intensity of information gathering by law enforcement and intelligence agencies (Granhag, Vrij, and Meissner, 2014, p.815). Many techniques were added to the already existing ones with an advanced application of technology and surveillance. Both the Law Enforcement and intelligence agencies use conventional methods of information gathering whereas only the intelligence agencies are allowed to use covert approaches.

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Conventional methods of information gathering are supported and regulated by law. They include; interviewing victims of terror or witnesses of a terrorist attack. Interrogating suspects of terrorism and questioning their relatives and friends. Mining, through a court order, the communication records of suspected terrorists such as their phone calls, emails, and social media postings. Searching, through a court order, the residences of suspected terrorists. Compiling immigration and crime records of people accused of terrorism, arrested or convicted, to isolate individuals and groups whose activities point out to a trend of terror. Lastly, both sets of agencies analyse CCTV footages that have been set up in public places such as roadsides and malls to get the facial identity of terrorists after a terror attack (Theodore Cooperstein, 1997). The conventional methods of information gathering are applicable only in the United States, and so the law enforcement agencies are limited to operate within the U.S. borders.

The intelligence agencies mandate covers both the homeland and foreign territories. It is necessary for them that intelligence gathering methods be both conventional and covert because the jurisprudence of some states is weak on terrorism or there may be no laws regarding international terrorism. They have the authority to tap communication lines of suspected terrorists and terrorist associates secretly. They can store metadata of internet searches and online financial transactions to identify people exhibiting habits and interests that paint a picture of terror. They use informants such as spies and agents posted domestically and overseas to collect intelligence on terrorist operations (Granhag, Vrij, and Meissner, 2014, p.815).

Covert operations conducted by intelligence agencies allow certain techniques such as interrogation of terror suspects to be more intense hence extrajudicial. For instance, questioning may lead to torture. This application should be in the interest of national security and by executive order. There is a slight difference in policies and regulations that oversee domestic and international intelligence gathering. The significant difference in policies and regulations that manage local and international intelligence gathering is intensity. It is easier to gather more information domestically because the laws are favourable and relevant to the issues affecting the country. On the other hand, gathering intelligence internationally is limited by foreign laws and practices that may be hostile or unsupportive of these intelligence-gathering techniques or agencies.

The office of the attorney general, therefore, offers guidelines for intelligence gathering to be used by intelligence agencies when operating outside the U.S. borders. For instance, the intelligence agencies have to liaise with foreign law enforcement and intelligence agencies to avoid violating laws of the land in which they find themselves. Upon obtaining sensitive information, they are supposed to retain and disseminate this information in line with the interest of the country they are occupying. This procedure is to be followed whether or not this furthers or narrows their investigative objective (Office of the Attorney General, 2008, p.16). Classification of intelligence ensures better diplomatic relations and hence promotes secure conditions for consuls and the U.S. citizens to live in anywhere around the world.

Domestic intelligence gathering is different in the sense that it has its oversight in the Department of Justice. Information-gathering techniques are intense but at the same time, they are required to be non-intrusive and observing of the rights and freedoms of the persons under the law. These methods include; obtaining publicly available information, checking government and law enforcement records and requesting information from citizens. Investigations that comprise a threat to national security might not be consistent with certain statutes in the constitution and therefore the agencies conducting them must obtain a supervisory request from the office of the attorney general or the office of the President (Office of the Attorney General, 2008, p.18).

The observation of the rights and freedoms of individuals, not citizens of the U.S. such as people holding temporary visas, work permits, and undocumented migrants may not be strict depending on the sensitivity of intelligence gathering. Assessment of information about these groups may be undertaken proactively with the objective of detecting criminal activities to counter possible terror attacks. (Office of the Attorney General, 2008, p.17).

This approach in intelligence gathering is applied to this select population because foreigners are most likely to have shipped ideologies from overseas that conflict with the culture and social system in the United States. Dangerous beliefs such as the need to define and implement state laws by religion are the principle breeding mentality for terror.


Granhag, P., Vrij, A., & Meissner, C. (2014). Information Gathering in Law Enforcement and Intelligence Settings: Advancing Theory and Practice. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 28(6), 815-816.

Office of the Attorney General. (2008). The Attorney General's Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations. Investigations and Intelligent Gathering. 17-18. Retrieved from

Theodore Cooperstein. (1997). The Emerging Interplay between Law Enforcement and Intelligence Gathering. International & National Security Law Practice Group Newsletter - Volume 1, Issue 3. Retrieved from

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