In the U.S. system there are various documents that reflect intelligence appreciations, each with different standing. With knowledge of the generic type of an analysis, the observer can better understand the importance of intelligence.
National Intelligence Estimates The national intelligence estimates (NIEs) represent the highest category of intelligence document (or "product"). The director of central intelligence (DCI), the official who heads the entire American intelligence community, is responsible for the NIEs. He is advised in this by the National Foreign Intelligence Board, a committee on which sits the head of each U.S. agency in this field. The NIEs are drafted by a subordinate unit on the basis of "contributions" from the member agencies. Since 1973 the drafts have been written by area specialists known as national intelligence officers, who collectively constitute the National Intelligence Council. Before 1973 the drafters were generalists in an office subordinate to the Board of National Estimates. Some DCIs (including all since 1973) have had the council/board within their own office; a few earlier intelligence leaders subordinated the board to the CIA's Directorate for Intelligence. Either way, the director has always had the power to require that specific language (and therefore particular substantive judgments) be included in an NIE. There is also a procedure whereby agencies belonging to the National Foreign Intelligence Board can take exception to a conclusion in the NIE, usually expressed as a footnote to the main text. (At times these dissents have appeared as footnotes or as appendices to a paper or have been written in the main text, depending on the preferences of the director, but the colloquialism for a dissent in an NIE remains to "take a footnote.") A change in intelligence appreciations that occurs after an NIE has been issued is reflected in a paper known as a "memorandum to holders" of the NIE. A more important change can require a fresh estimate. Presidents, national security advisers, and top officials have varied in the amount of attention they pay to NIEs. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson accorded them great importance; Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush paid little heed; others have been somewhere in the middle. Perhaps the main significance of NIEs has been political—these documents represent the considered opinion of the U.S. intelligence community; their substance can be expected to leak if presidents take actions contrary to them, embarrassing the senior policymakers. The NIEs also have a more formal role in weapons system acquisition decisions and military budget planning that should not be ignored.
Special National Intelligence Estimates Like the NIEs, special national intelligence estimates (SNIEs) are created by the interagency process of drafting and review. Their scope and content differ, however. The NIEs tend to be long-term studies of large subjects, for example, the NIE 11/3-8 series, which were five-year predictions for the evolution of Soviet nuclear forces. The SNIE is an analysis of the near-term impact of a specific course of action. For example, in July 1965, when the United States intervened in South Vietnam with massive ground forces, SNIE 10-9-65 analyzed foreign reactions to the new deployment. Similarly, in July 1961, when the United States considered military intervention in Laos, SNIE 58-2-61 predicted probable reactions to this and several other possible courses of action. The national estimates tend to be produced following set schedules, and the SNIEs most often at the request of the president or other senior officials. Partly for this reason the SNIEs can garner more attention than the NIEs.
President's Daily Brief President Harry S. Truman was the first chief executive to demand daily intelligence on key subjects. Since then every president has gotten this kind of reporting, though the form has varied. For Eisenhower, the reports went to his staff secretary, Colonel (later General) Andrew J. Goodpaster, who created summaries he related to the president. John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson were provided a president's intelligence checklist, and the president's daily brief (PDB) nomenclature was in use by 1968. During the Clinton administration a vice president's supplement has been added to reflect that official's special concerns. The PDB is an example of "current," as opposed to estimative (predictive), intelligence. Because it reflects immediate events and concerns, the PDB tends to get the most attention. For example, Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to President George H. W. Bush, related that Bush devoured the PDBs but had little time for the NIEs.
Other Current Intelligence Publications In the United States, intelligence has long supported the government with daily, weekly, or other periodic reports containing the latest data. These range from daily briefings for directors (the CIA takes care of the DCI; the Defense Intelligence Agency, of the secretary of defense; and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, of the State Department), to newspaper equivalents to digests of communications intercepts or photo imagery. The Central Intelligence Bulletin, published since the 1950s, and the National Intelligence Daily, started in the 1970s, are classic examples of the genre. At the turn of the millennium, excluding the PDB, intelligence published about ten different dailies containing current intelligence items and at least as many weeklies or monthlies, including such titles as Terrorism Review, Narcotics Monitor, Organized Crime Report, Illicit Finance Review, Proliferation Digest, and Arms Trade Report. Burgeoning U.S. interest in global trade is reflected in the daily (five times a week) started under the Clinton administration, Economic Executives' Intelligence Brief . In general, the current intelligence field is characterized by increasing specialization, which follows from explosive growth in interagency centers focused on single issues or sets of issues.
A further initiative of the 1990s, a product of the computer age, is a distributed information network connecting intelligence analysts and policymakers. Originally called Intelink, this system gives users immediate access to current data on subjects of interest. The system also permits officials to rise above the simple database and contact analysts directly for the most current knowledge. This kind of distributed network has the potential to change the way current intelligence is disseminated, modifying the intelligence cycle by reducing the importance of publication of reports as part of intelligence production.
One more type of intelligence product from specialized intelligence agencies or staffs also bears mention. The National Security Agency produces a paper, The SIGINT Digest, which describes daily developments, the knowledge of which is derived from signals intelligence. Similarly, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency produces World Imagery Report, which serves the same function, although it is produced in the format of a television news broadcast. In terms of format, the television news approach for delivery of intelligence information has gained in popularity in recent years, and the Defense Intelligence Agency and Central Intelligence Agency both now create some film-type reports.
Warning Intelligence A significant type of intelligence, usually ignored because of its similarity to current intelligence, is data intended to warn policymakers of sudden major developments, such as the outbreak of wars, military coups, or comparable crises. The director of central intelligence employs a national intelligence officer (NIO) for warning who is specifically responsible for this function. The NIO is backed by an interagency committee of second-tier officials from the intelligence community that meets weekly. Both the committee as a group and the NIO have the authority to issue warning memoranda that activate crisis management efforts by the U.S. government. The warning committee also maintains a checklist of potential hot spots and troublesome situations anticipated in the next half-year or so. The committee reports twice a month on the countries and issues carried on the list. An example of warning occurred in the Gulf War of 1990–1991, when the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990 included a military buildup along the Kuwaiti border that caught the attention of the NIO and led him to issue a warning memorandum some hours before the invasion began.
Basic Intelligence Much analytical work builds upon data maintained and updated on a constant basis. Economic statistics; biographies of foreign leaders and officials, not to say adversary intelligence officers; and information on nations' populations, political parties, transportation infrastructures, and the like are all necessary from time to time. The intelligence agencies all utilize research libraries and have units that produce such basic intelligence. At the CIA the Office of Support Services (formerly the Central Reference Service) performs this task. Its best-known publication is called The World Factbook, though it also produces monthly statistical collections and biographical registers.