New club offers insight on intelligence gathering

Attention UM students: Big Brother is coming. Actually it’s the Intelligence Awareness Organization, a new organization for students interested in learning more about the intelligence field.

“A lot of people have misconceptions that when you hear the word CIA or ‘intelligence,’ you think a lot of James Bond type of stuff and the Hollywood glamour of everything and it’s not really like that,” Josh Stern, president of IAO, said. “I would like to make people aware of what actually goes on.”

Although Stern already has a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology, he had always been fascinated by the intelligence field. After working as an account executive for government contracts in the technology field, he realized that a career in intelligence was something that he had wanted to do, but had been afraid to pursue.

After encouragement from family friends who work in the field, Stern decided to go back to school and pursue his life-long dream.

“For a few seconds of every day I always thought about [working in the intelligence field],” Stern said. “I got to a point in my life where I could get stuck in a place where I don’t want to be, or do what I want to do.”

Pending approval from the Committee on Student Organizations (COSO), Stern plans on inviting authors with expertise in the area as guest speakers to provide students with an inside look into the field of intelligence.

Part of his inspiration for the club stemmed from James A. Kilpatrick, an actual CIA officer-in-residence and faculty advisor for IAO.

Kilpatrick, a visiting political science professor, defines intelligence, or intelligence gathering, as part of an ongoing process. Basically, policy makers send requirements for information to intelligence agencies such as the CIA. The agencies gather the information either through human sources (espionage), interception of communication signals or through imagery, provided either by satellite or by aircraft. The intelligence is then compiled, analyzed and sent back to policy makers who may or may not ask for more information, starting the process all over again.

The intelligence field includes more than just information gathering. A significant portion deals with counter-intelligence, protecting the government’s secret information as well as protecting the country from foreign intelligence. Intelligence also includes covert activity requested by the president.

The diversity in the field of intelligence lends itself to a wide array of backgrounds. Kilpatrick, who received a doctorate in economics from the University of Michigan, suggests that students should have skills that relate to business or economics as well as technical skills such as an understanding of computers. More importantly, he recommends a strong interest in foreign affairs and public service.

Kilpatrick believes that UM students should be aware of the field of intelligence.

“Americans generally benefit from public discussion of all the issues relating to intelligence and how it relates to U.S. foreign policy,” Kilpatrick said. “The more students and citizens engage in that discussion, the better we will all be.”

This organization is still in the developmental stage but both Stern and Kilpatrick are confident that the Intelligence Awareness Organization will benefit the university community.

Shelley Rood can be contacted at