Signal analysis falls into the larger category of intelligence analysis which is a discipline devoted to collecting, understanding, and advising others on the information being sent and received by various entities.
There are several different careers available in this discipline with the NSA and various military organizations. This collection and analysis of various signals is highly criticized and controversial.
Modern technology has allowed agencies such as the NSA to store any individual’s conversations or messages which has raised the question about the potential for abuse. According to several big politicians including the president signal analysis is a necessary technique that will provide safety to our nation and our allies.
What is Signal Analysis?
Signal Analysis describes the field of study whose goal is to collect, understand, and deduce information and intelligence from various signals. Signals intelligence involves the interception of signals. Often analysis involves cryptanalysis to decipher the encrypted information. It usually also includes traffic analysis which studies the quantity and source of various signals to deduce information about the signals.
Security Careers in Signal Analysis
The National Security Agency provides an opening in the discipline of signals analysis. The NSA is the primary group responsible for conducting United States signals intelligence activities. These security agents are responsible for recovering, understanding, and discovering information and intelligence from foreign signals. These types of security careers require a strong and extensive background in Engineering, Computer Science, and Mathematics. These individual’s unique skill sets are combined with the NSA’s top-notch computing technology and laboratory equipment to analyze different types of advanced signals. These security fields have access to some of the world’s most advanced supercomputers. Extensive training is continuously offered throughout employment to keep agent’s skills sharp and their knowledge up to date.
The U.S. Army offers the position of Signals Intelligence Analyst in order to understand foreign information. The job requires the analyst to organize the intercepted Intel and isolate the valid messages. They must identify patterns, maintain analytical databases, assist in the camouflage and recovery of surveillance systems, and produce intelligence reports which include combat, strategic, and tactical information. The career is considered entry level and will require active, enlisted duty. The individual must pass a series of tests to identify their personal strengths and excel at job training. The training is a 10 week Basic Combat Training course and 18 additional weeks of Advanced Individual Training. This career can provide you with valuable knowledge and experience to help prepare you for future careers as well.
The Air Force also offers a position for those interested in signal analysis. As a Communication Signals Intelligence specialist the individual is expected to operate complicated equipment to intercept communication and electric signals in order to deduce information for the Air Force and United States government. These security fields require a special level of classification for any intelligence agents may learn on the job. Agents are expected to be knowledgeable and fluent in Morse code. They will also need to locate signals from various locations by determining the proper antenna to use, utilize typewriters, perform repairs and maintenance on electronic equipment, and use classified materials to interpret and analyze information. One can expect 8-9 weeks of Basic Military Training followed by technical training for about three months.
The Marines offer similar security careers under the title of signals intelligence officer. These individuals are responsible for a ground unit dedicated to signals intelligence and electronic warfare. They are expected to gather information about the enemy and present any and all findings to their commander. They are also required to make a security assessment listing the information into context. This prestigious position is only available after completing an Intelligence Officer course and three years experience within the marines.
Words from President Obama
Over the past few years the United States Government has put all signal intelligence programs under serious review. The White House led this unprecedented review with input from Congress, civil society, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, foreign partners, the tech community, and the Review Group on Intelligence and Communication and Technologies. The main conclusions that were drawn during the review were that we can successfully use our intelligence capabilities in order to support our foreign policy and protect our nation while also protecting individual’s rights as well.
The president brought up some very important factors about the nation’s use of signal analysis. He noted that the technology has some serious potential for governmental abuse. Not only do these signal analysis databases contain bulk data but there are few legal safeguards and no public discussion over these agency’s decisions or behavior. President Obama has ensured the nation that the NSA is following protocol and explained that Americans should have a greater confidence about the programs. He insists that citizens need to believe that their rights are being protected.
Nearly everyone can agree that the intelligence that such programs gain is vital in order to protect our nation’s security. After his review of these programs, Obama created a new directive for all such intelligence activities. He called for the strengthening the oversight of such activities and greater transparency.
This controversial and interesting discipline has become so advanced that coupled with new technologies the potential for abuse increasingly worries citizens around the globe. President Obama quotes, “Our intelligence agencies will continue to gather information about the intentions of governments—as opposed to ordinary citizens—around the world,” (whitehouse.gov) and continues to insist that such signal analysis is necessary and not infringing on any individual rights. The military, which has signal analysis positions in nearly every branch, finds this discipline necessary to keep themselves and the government informed on the enemy’s intelligence and plans. Throughout recent history this field of study has basically become the modern-day form of spying and espionage. Today’s James Bond is now sitting behind a computer analyzing the enemy’s different types of signals.