This Article Will Teach You How To Write Intelligence Briefs That Get Read and Actioned.
- Learn to write influential Intelligence briefs with actionable outcomes!
- How do we Share Intelligence Reporting?
- So, How do you write Intelligence Reports?
- Writing Intelligence Reports (Structure and Format)
- So, How to develop an Intelligence Report (INTREP) – Template
- Intelligence Report Template (Word Version For Download)
- Tips and Tricks For Writing Intelligence Reports
- Intelligence Report Quick Edit Cheat Sheet
- Intelligence Reports are just ways to convey Intelligence.
Rumour is back in 1961 Present Kennedy refused to accept any classified briefing longer than a single page…
Apparently, President Kennedy told CIA Director Allen Dulles not to bring him any long-winded Intelligence Reports, or he wouldn’t read them out of sheer principle.
The President eventually extended the same rule to the President’s Daily Brief. Requiring only a single page for any issue of National Security or Political Intelligence.
So how does the CIA fit the latest intelligence about the Soviets’ October Revolution anniversary, Sino-Soviet developments, tensions in the Taiwan Straits, Chinese nuclear tests, the French-Algerian impasse, King Hussein’s delicate position in the Middle East, the unsettled situation in the Congo, and possible action by Cuba against Guantanamo Naval Base onto a single page?
(Arguably they probably should have spent a bit more time on the Cuba Intelligence…)
Answer: Learn to write influential Intelligence briefs with actionable outcomes!
So, What is an Intelligence Report?
An Intelligence Report, also known as an INTREP, is just a document or brief used to convey the findings of the Intelligence process.
Intelligence reports are written to answer Information Requirements.
Intelligence staff develop Intelligence Reports (INTREPs) to update the Commander and prompt further action.
Here’s an example:
Why are Intelligence Reports Written?
Intelligence Reports are written to convey Intelligence. They’re produced when new events or new information comes to light.
Let’s imagine you’re an all-source Intelligence Analyst. One of your Information Requirements might be Operational Security for deployed troops.
Any information relating to the enemy’s use of Improvised explosive devices (IEDs), or the enemy’s possession of Armed Drones for example would prompt an Intelligence Report.
In short, they’re written to convey Intelligence.
Who Writes Intelligence Reports (INTREPS)?
INTREPs are the product of the Intelligence process and are written by Intelligence Analysts.
Different Intelligence Agencies and Organisations can contribute to larger more strategic Intelligence briefs – but they’re all written by Intelligence Staff.
Who Receives Intelligence Reports?
Intelligence reports are received by the leadership, policymakers, or executives in charge of strategy.
They’re used to shape operational initiatives and provide a ‘decision advantage’.
In the military context, INTREPS are received by the Commanding Officer who decides the best course of action based on the latest information and updates.
All-Source Intelligence Reports
As an all-source intelligence analyst, I was responsible for developing Intelligence Reports on a daily basis.
Depending on the operational events, I’d write five, maybe six Intelligence Reports daily which would be included in the daily Intelligence Summary.
Are there different types of Intelligence Reports?
Intelligence reports are sometimes referred to as Intelligence Summaries, Intelligence Estimates, or Intelligence Briefs.
Some Intelligence reports are long detailed assessments, and others a smaller, designed to convey tactical Intelligence or updates.
There’s a list of Intelligence Reports and Returns at this link here.
All Intelligence reporting is similar in its goal: to convey Intelligence to the customer.
How do we Share Intelligence Reporting?
Intelligence reports are compiled and shared usually by electronic means.
Back in the 1960s, Intelligence Reports would have been typed and typically hand delivered by a classified messenger.
Today, however, most Intelligence reporting is delivered electronically. Even the President’s Daily Brief got an electronic update during the Obama administration.
So, How do you write Intelligence Reports?
Intelligence reports all seek to do the same thing – share Intelligence.
The easiest way I was taught to write Intelligence Reports was to use the following three-part format:
- Information Obtained,
- Context, and,
Part 1 – Information Obtained
Part 1 is the new information. Provide the 5’Ws (Who, What, When, Where, and Why).
Part 2 – Context
Part 2 is any additional information that the audience needs to know to understand the situation or the assessment.
It’s the other information that might be relevant (i.e. is this the second or third time this has been reported?).
Part 3 – Assessment
Part 3 is the ‘So What’?
This is what Intelligence Analysts get paid for – their Assessment.
- What does the new information mean?
- How can/does it affect us?
- What is likely to happen next?
Writing Intelligence Reports (Structure and Format)
Here’s the typical structure of an Intelligence Report:
- Executive Summary (Bottom Line Up-Front),
- Information Obtained (Who, what, when, and where),
- Context (other relevant information),
- Assessment (So what? What does it all mean?)
Click the images of the declassified FBI Intelligence Brief below:
The summary, also sometimes referred to as the ‘executive summary’ delivers the ‘what’, and ‘so what’ of the Intelligence report within a few lines.
The Bottom Line Up Front gives the ‘guts’ of the intelligence report to the customer up-front.
In fact, the BLUF format was designed to provide the key points up front. As you’ll see in this example.
So, How to develop an Intelligence Report (INTREP) – Template
U.S. Army Doctrine Provides the basic structure for an Intelligence Report in this image. They’ve used the S.A.L.U.T.E format for Tactical Intelligence Reports.
Below, we’ve created an Intelligence Report template for you to download and use.
If you’re starting from scratch, here’s a quick guide to developing an Intelligence Report Template (download is also available).
Step 1 – Security Classification & Document Details
With a blank word document, insert your organization name, logo/image, and security clearance in the heading of the document.
Step 2 – Title that summarizes Intelligence Report
Give the Intelligence report a title that summarises the message. Use a numbering system to track INTREPS, i.e. 00X/2023 (for example).
Step 3 – Information Obtained, Context & Assessment
Provide a date of the report, and then create three headings: Information Obtained, Context, and Assessment (explained above).
Step 4 – Number Paragraphs and Include Security Classification
Step 4 is to number your paragraphs and provide security classification at the beginning of each paragraph.
Step 5 – Write Your Report
Now, write your Intelligence Report according to the format above, and include supporting images, links, and references as you write.
Step 6 Provide a Detailed Assessment
When it comes to the assessment, really dig deep and provide an assessment that helps the customer make informed decisions.
Step 7 (Final Step) – Edit
Read, re-read, PDF, and password-protect (if required) before sending to those with the need to know. See the final copy in the PDF text box below.
Intelligence Report Template (Word Version For Download)
Here’s the template we created above for you to download and use.
Tips and Tricks For Writing Intelligence Reports
So now you know how to put the Intelligence Report together let’s remember a few golden rules:
The 80% solution on time is better than the 100% solution too late. Intelligence Needs to be timely. Deliver on time, you can always update your assessment later.
Keep it simple. Don’t lose yourself in the data, or demonstrate every step of your analysis. Most the time commanders don’t have time and want you to tell them what it means!
Use images. Images help to convey your message. They’re used to break up walls of text and add bucketloads of context to your Intelligence Reports.
Intelligence Report Quick Edit Cheat Sheet:
Here are some editing tips and tricks courtesy of Copywritting Course. Originally intended for copywriting – I felt these were all very appropriate for writing better intelligence reports also.
Intelligence Reports are just ways to convey Intelligence.
The product is not the Intelligence. So, remember to focus on the process first.
Questions, Comments, and Feedback?
So, how do you write Intelligence Reports?
Do you have any tips, tricks, or recommendations for the Intelligence101 Audience?
Place your ideas and any questions you’ve got in the comments section below.
If you’ve got links to INTREP examples from the internet, let us know as we love to share resources with everyone.