Inscribed on the CIA’s original headquarters in Langley is a passage from the Gospel of St. John: “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” This unofficial Agency motto alludes to the truth and clarity that intelligence provides to decision-makers, similar to the “knowledge is power” mantra.

But what happens when the craft of intelligence is disrupted or diluted by the politics (read: politicians, journalists, sensationalists, etc.) and policymakers it is designed to inform? What happens when it is dismissed, falls upon deaf ears, or is blatantly ignored?

Below is a quick list of the top four issues with intelligence I have encountered as an intelligence professional, along with completely hypothetical examples of how these issues materialize. Armed with this knowledge, you will have four keys to help you better understand the craft of intelligence.

Disclaimer: The concepts here are all 100-percent true — it is the specific examples and stories that have been altered for their sensitive and ongoing nature. And no, this list is not comprehensive.

1. Intelligence is an extension of politics, which suck.

As SOFREP has previously discussed, the purpose of intelligence is to inform decision-making, plain and simple. People or technology gather the information. That information is then processed and analyzed, disseminated to the consumers, and decision-making is informed. For more on how that works, see the Intelligence Cycle.

Roughly paraphrasing Clausewitz here, “War is politics by other means.” Well if war is politics and intelligence is an extension of politics, then intelligence is total political war — or something like that. Point being, the practice of managing intelligence (or information writ large) can oftentimes be a bit of a monstrosity.

I have observed that the problem with intelligence is not that you do not have it — although that oftentimes is the issue. Rather, what is critical is intelligence’s proper management: who to share it with, how to share it, when to share it, etc. These considerations are what I would consider appropriate “coordination” of the information. Not only managing it but providing the necessary context for the information (as an analyst, this is paramount) and emphasizing what must be emphasized. Some do this well, others not at all — even when they should.

The scenario