The Technical Collection of Intelligence

  • Published

The Technical Collection of Intelligence by Robert M. Clark. CQ Press, 2010, 294 pp.

The Technical Collection of Intelligence provides a concise review of technical collection platforms, capabilities, and management for a nontechnical reader associated with or interested in the intelligence profession. The study covers capabilities ranging from radar imagery to the exploitation of material, but its descriptions of principles of optical and radar imaging (the book’s strength) reflect author Robert Clark’s experience as an Air Force electronic warfare officer and intelligence officer. The organization as a textbook allows the reader either to review a wide range of technical collection methods or investigate a specific concept of collection.

The author effectively offers lay readers a baseline understanding of his topic, making extremely difficult matters easy to understand. In nearly every chapter, he explains the “how” behind a technical collection capability and then, most importantly, proceeds to detail “why” the collection is critical within the context of national defense. He examines each capability’s strengths and limitations, thus facilitating immediate application of the concepts. Clark allots 20–30 pages for each topic and includes a number of useful illustrations that enhance his explanations.

The book’s broad-brush, nontechnical approach is not designed for every reader. Technical operators, likely the first to be drawn to the study, will find the limited instruction or lack of specificity disappointing. The mathematical and technical examples rarely exceed definitions of basic facts about the electromagnetic spectrum or rudimentary discussions on calculating the sensor footprints of collection platforms. The inclusion of intricate formulas or technical concepts, however, would have defeated Clark’s purpose of making his subject accessible to newcomers.

The Technical Collection of Intelligence is an ideal text for the novice intelligence professional who seeks a single-source explanation of collection capabilities or the policy maker who wishes to understand these principles. Unfortunately, the author limits his discussion of the critical task of managing technical collection to a single chapter, forcing the reader to consult additional sources to understand the proper leveraging of collection. However, his ability to succinctly articulate the methods, processes, strengths, and limitations of key intelligence collection capabilities makes the book a useful resource for nontechnical readers who have a connection to or curiosity about the subject.

Capt Kyle Bressette, USAF

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."