Australian Security and Intelligence Conference

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


secau Security Research Centre, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia


Originally published in the Proceedings of the 4th Australian Security and Intelligence Conference, Edith Cowan University, Perth Western Australia, 5th -7th December, 2011


A central focus of intelligence is the identification, analysis and assessment of threat. However, as acknowledged by intelligence practitioners, threat assessment lags behind the related field of risk assessment. This paper highlights how definitions of threat currently favoured by intelligence agencies are primarily based on threatening entities alone. Consequently, assessments of threat are almost singularly concerned with understanding an identified enemy’s intentions and capabilities. This ‘enemy-centric’ approach to intelligence analysis has recently come in for criticism. In particular, the shortcomings of the current approach become apparent where the focus of intelligence analysis is on threats from difficult-to-identify sub-state or non-state actors. This paper argues that a model of threat singularly focussed on threatening entities overly simplifies what is an inherently complex, inter-related phenomenon between multiple entities. A more comprehensive taxonomy of threat is proposed which identifies various entities covered by the concept of threat. This taxonomy provides a starting point for developing a more rigorous approach to threat assessment which better reflects the complexity of the phenomenon of threat.