Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Again, the terminology

Click for larger imageby Rick Francona

Once again, the media has confused the terms used to describe various players in the intelligence game. On the face of it, that is not surprising - it happens virtually every day in the mainstram media. What is surprising is the use of the wrong term on the cover of an magazine associated with the intelligence community.

The March/April issue of Military Geospatial Technology, a publication focusing on military and DHS intelligence, features a cover article about Lieutenant General Michael Maples, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. The title of the article: Intelligence Agent. (You can read the online version here.)

As any professional human intelligence (HUMINT) officer will tell you, the term "intelligence agent" is not the correct term to describe LTG Maples. The general may be called an intelligence officer, although his background barely qualifies him for the title. That's not to slight his career, it's just not a professional intellgence career. In any case, he is not an intelligence agent.

An intelligence agent is an asset who is working for an intelligence officer, usually a clandestine arrangement where a person agrees to provide intelligence information in response to taskings from a HUMINT case officer. That agent can also be called a spy. Intelligence officers are neither agents nor spies.

For one of my earlier pieces on this subject, see "CIA Agent - Let's Get the Terminology Straight."