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Odin the Aldafadr

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An understanding on the gathering of intelligence

Spying and other key concepts about intelligence services

“Only those who are sagacious and wise can successfully use intelligence. Only those who are benevolent and just can direct and manage informers. Only those who are detailed and subtle can obtain and decipher the truth in intelligence.”
 
Sun Tzu, The Art of War (490 B.C.)


I made this guide as a conclusion to my minor 'Applied Intelligence' that I took at my school, the 'The Hague University of Applied Sciences' of which more info can be found here. I am not here to advertise my school, however my school is known for offering a lot of international classes (including mine) that might be interesting to some of you people that are interested in studying abroad. My program is called Safety and Security Management Studies. As a short briefing, I made this guide after summarizing my course, and so naturally, this is part of a learning process for me that helps me study for my exam. Therefore for a more detailed look, you'll have to do some research of your own!




Ch. 1. What is intelligence?


Intelligence, as a word on it's own, is used interchangeably with the word 'information' and this is clearly visible in popular public media. Similar intelligence lingo is used, such as 'we have received reports of..' or 'our sources indicate that..' where as this is technically not true. Although popular media insists that it is, these word-by-word quotes of what bystanders have seen do not qualify as intelligence or reports, nor are the bystanders technically sources. Not yet. For a source or a report to have credibility there needs to be status attached to it. As such, a quote from a bystander with no name, occupation, or otherwise relevant details is simply put an opinion, eye-account witness or at best, non-analyzed information.

The definition of intelligence differs per branch of intelligence gathering services, however it is generally agreed upon that intelligence is the outcome of the process of analyzing information. Simply put, intelligence is information with added value due to analysis and careful examination. As such, information that is not analyzed can not be seen as intelligence, since there is no added value.

The analysis can contain a multitude of things, from cross-referencing it with other sources, information and known databases, but also analyzing what the effects of the information can be. For example, information received about an impending financial crash could be used to analyze what the effects could be.

Another important aspect for intelligence services is the fact that intelligence is gathered for the sole reason of allowing decision makers (presidents, generals, policy-makers, congressmen, etc.) to make informed decisions that maximize the profits and minimize the risks.

The key difference with conventional criminal intelligence is that the goal is very different, as in criminal intelligence the goals are based around tracking criminals, tracing their activities and finding the linkages with other criminal elements, as well as predicting possible criminal activities and where these activities would happen.

Most importantly however criminal intelligence is based on the concept of gathering evidence as the most important thing in criminal intelligence is the persecution of the criminals, where as in military intelligence and/or intelligence services this is not the case at all. More often than not the purpose of intelligence in military and/or intelligence services is to obtain information that can be used to decide how to act - which does not necessarily equate to action being taken at all, nor does it equate to persecution in all cases. For example, if intelligence is received by the USA that a Kenyan high-ranking politician is committing fraudulent, human-rights harming crimes, it could be decided that no action is to be taken at all because of diplomatic implications.




Ch. 2. Ancient Intelligence

Possibly useful for roleplaying spies in ancient settings

Below are some historical examples of intelligence gathering. As is evident from this type of intelligence gathering, cloak-and-dagger spies with James Bond-like escape scenes are not exactly realistic. Most of the intelligence gathering is the subversion of your enemy - tricking them, making them think one thing while you are doing another thing, and generally outsmarting them. Generally, a smart, wise character that understands psychology well will fare better at spywork or doing spymaster themed work than a rogue with a cloak and a dagger. It also shows how effective spymasters make use of unlikely sources - prostitutes, locals, disguises and forgery, prisoners, dead people. But also: releasing fake information (a practice perfected by the Soviet Union, called 'disinformation'), double agents, and diplomacy.

  • Battle of Jericho (ca. 1400 B.C.): “Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. ‘Go, look over the land,’ he said, ‘especially Jericho.’ So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.”
  • Punic Wars: Hannibal’s campaign against the Roman Empire (ca. 218 B.C.) was successful due to use of well-trained spies utilising disguises and forged documents
  • Frumentarii (200 – 300 A.D.): official wheat collectors that functioned as a ‘‘secret service’; used their position to gather intelligence on locals and natives in particular territories.
  • Crusades (11th – 15th century): the Church employed spies to report on defenses of Constantinople and Jerusalem; infiltration of prisons, sabotage of rival palaces etc.
  • Battle of Trenton (1776): turning point in the war for the Americans; John Honeyman informs Washington of the conditions at the garrison in Trenton, NJ
  • Ben Franklin ensures the assistance of the French against the British after the battles of Saratoga (1777) Ben Franklin was a diplomat that was loved by both the English and the French court despite being an American. Using his likeable personality he convinced the French to help the Americans against the British.
  • Japanese Ambassador in Berlin, Hiroshi Oshima, sends encrypted messages back to Tokyo regarding German deployments and movements along the coasts of France and Belgium; transmissions were intercepted by Allied Forces (“…our main basis of information regarding Hitler's intentions in Europe“ – G. C. Marshall)
  • Operation Fortitude: Germans expected landing in Calais; Allies built fake headquarters across the channel and deliberately leaked details about the invasion
  • Operation Mincemeat: Creating the legend of Major William Martin. Possibly the most intricate creation of lore for a fictional man. This video shows more about him.





Ch. 3. Recruitment


When you think about who you want to use as a spy, most people will consider sending one of their own men/women to spy on the enemy. If your countries are of similar culture, language, appearance and such this could be a viable option, however consider this: most people are extensively aware of their own culture, the habits people around them have, cultural values, norms and such things that anything that stands out can arouse suspicions.

For example: when East Germany sent spies to West Germany during the period of the DDR, the East Germans spoke German and the West Germans spoke German. However the East Germans were unaware of their own lingo and jargon and as a result ended up giving away their position by the way they called certain things - something as simple as chicken soup was referred to by a different name due to local and cultural differences. These things are important to keep in mind when selecting possible sources and recruiting them. It is often better to hire natives, even if they reside in your own country, and then training them to be a spy, rather than hiring a person from your country and trying to teach them to be like the enemy country.

“There are five kinds of spy: The local spy, the inside spy, the reverse spy, the dead spy, and the living spy. […] Local spies are hired from among the people of a locality. Inside spies are hired from among enemy officials. Reverse spies are hired from among enemy spies. Dead spies transmit false intelligence to enemy spies. Living spies come back to report.”
Sun Tzu, Art of War, XIII

Secondly, consider who you want to hire as a spy. Do you want to hire locals? If so, why would you hire them as full-time spies rather than just offering them some money whenever they give you information? Certain individuals require different tactics. Think about who you need for your operation and what professions are interesting to what you are trying to find out.

Possible examples: doctors, policemen, bureaucrats, military personnel. Usually, the higher rank this person has, the more information they can supply you with but the more risk this spy will carry.

It is important to note, also, that the investment in human intelligence sources can often be questionable, and it can take a long time before a source has information that is useful, if they ever have such information at all. (Google: Cambridge Five)

Finally consider what will motivate your source. It can be useful to obtain information on your possible recruited spy to estimate what you can use to 'lure' them into spying for you. Certain people require different approaches, for example, seduction might work for a lonely, unmarried man, but it would not work for a man with a happy marriage and a lack of sexual libido. Money generally works on everyone, but obviously a poor man or someone in debts would find money more attractive than a top-class businessman. Here are some suggestions as to what some might find appealing:

  • Money or other material rewards
  • Promises of resettlement
  • Ideology and/or idealism
  • Leverage (blackmail, debts, criminal charges, point of no return)
  • Malcontent and frustration
  • Revenge against individuals or institutions
  • Personal rapport and/or seduction
  • Plain adventurism and thrill-seeking


Finally you have recruited your spy. But now another issue comes up: how do you prevent detection, and how do you prevent them from being 'taken out'? One solution to prevent detection is creating a legend. A legend is, simply put, organizing dressing of the person to blend them in as 'regular' people. Essentially, consider when you write a roleplay character sheet, you're essentially creating 'legend' by giving these people details. Legends may be entirely fictional (as a roleplay character) but for more convincing legends you will assume the character of a (recently) deceased person. These persons are referred to as 'ghouls' by the intelligence community as they continue 'living' even after they are dead.

To work as intended, a legend requires several things:
  • Proper bona fides (often the work of a good cobbler). Bona fides refers to 'good faith' documents like legal paperwork, name registry, church registries, essentially anything that can be found out about this person publically through bureaucratic means and investigation.
  • Convincing window dressing (including pocket litter). Nobody walks around with nothing in their pants. Adding items that seem important and realistic will improve the realness of the character. For example a picture of a (non-existant) wife, or faked photographs of a vacation. Perhaps a pocket knife, generally random junk that is carefully selected to match the person.
  • Careful memorisation of the agent or officer. In short: don't mess up and lie about two things then get caught in the lie.
  • Compatibility with linguistic features, ethnic heritage, outward appearance and social demeanor.





Ch. 4. Transfer of Information


The transfer of the information is, most obviously, the most vital but also the most dangerous moment in the life of a spy. Face-to-face meetings are bad and to be avoided, as they offer a significantly higher amount of danger both to the spy and the spy-handler. To avoid these, several methods of information transfer are available.

  • Dead drops, timed drops. This is, essentially, agreeing on a spot to 'drop off' information in a bag, or other container, so that the person taking the information can take it without having to meet the spy. This is preferable because using this technique can hide the spies' identity even when he transfers information. Here is rare footage of a dead-drop performed by KGB operatives.
  • Brush passes. These are face-to-face dead-drops where you walk past each other and somehow hand each other the information/payments. Here is rare footage of a brush pass done by KGB operatives.
  • One of the few 'James Bond' type methods you will see is the use of encryption and decryption. These vary largely, and can be high-tech like chips underneath the skin, or simple, using a decyphering tool.
  • Some 'go betweens' that indicate a middle agent. Simply put, they will take the information and 'run' it to the other agent so that there is no trace of one person ever meeting another.


As you could see from the footage, these methods are somewhat clumsy and hard to do, which is why most of these would be done in locations that are empty or quiet. The other methods are slightly more refined but require more work, which is not always possible when doing field work.




Ch. 5. Different Intelligence Types


A short chapter discussing the different types of intelligence. As strange (though, in modern days, not really quite as strange) as it seems, you are constantly exposed to intelligence. Any serious business transaction you make will be superseded by heavy amounts of intelligence work, for example American insurance companies have extensive intelligence networks to test their possible clients. Without realizing it, you are subject to intelligence gathering every day. When you hand in files to file for a certain type of document at the government, your files may be used by intelligence services (whether domestically, internationally, or by a compromised bureaucrat working for 'the enemy') without your consent. This is not a question of 'if' but 'when' because it happens every day.

The reason for this is that there are numerous types of intelligence with numerous types of interests. It is unlikely that your personal details are used for military intelligence, but for financial intelligence it might be interesting.

  • Military intelligence. The most interesting, James Bond-esque field of intelligence you will find. These guys do everything, but are very clandestine and typically operate internationally, or domestically in the field of counter-terrorism.
  • Political intelligence. Simply put this is the gathering of anything of use or interest in political situations. There's a war in Syria - what do we do, who are the main actors, who should we talk to? These things are interesting but not always clear and as such, it is wise to gather intelligence on them.
  • Criminal intelligence. The gathering of intelligence for the purpose of analyzing crime and persecuting criminals. It is possible you might have been subjected to these type of investigations if you applied for a firearm permit (a declaration of good behavior is technically intelligence gathering on a small scale) or something similar.
  • Financial intelligence. The largest intelligence scene, this one is often overlooked because it isn't precisely intelligence gathering. If we look past the intelligence gathering on financial trends and competition, corporate espionage is a very real threat and is a form of intelligence-gathering, even if it is illegal. Insurance companies also favor this, to make sure they give people with higher risks a higher fee.


When using this for your character, consider that nobody is an expert in all these fields. It would be wise to pick one certain type of intelligence and base him/her around that skillset. Similarly, financial intelligence expertise can be used in criminal intelligence, and vice versa.




Ch. 6. Gathering Disciplines


There are many different ways of gathering intelligence, the most famous (and also the most well known, if not the only known) discipline being HUMINT (Human Intelligence) otherwise known as spying. There are numerous other intelligence gathering disciplines, however there are 6 main ones that the others are divided into as sub-disciplines.

  • HUMINT. Human Intelligence, surrounding the art of spy-handling, and using human information sources to learn about a specific subject. The most dangerous but also the most exciting, and furthermore also often the only type of gathering that can yield insight into more complex situations. Requires a lot of work, knowledge and effort, and is very expensive.
  • SIGINT. Signal Intelligence, surrounding the art of intercepting signals, and then translating them and decrypting them. Radio signals, cellphone signals, all of these can be intercepted and listened in to, giving a good indication on what is going to happen (or not going to happen.)
  • MASINT. Measurement and Signatures Intelligence, surrounding the art of using high-tech equipment to measure signatures. For example, some helicopters/planes are equipped with heat-measuring cameras, radio-activity measuring equipment and other tools that can be used to give insight into what is going on in a certain area. Very expensive, very new and very, very niché. An application can be measuring radioactive materials in North Korea, to see if they have nukes, for example.
  • FININT. Financial Intelligence, surrounding the art of 'chasing the money' and following money streams to figure out who is funding who. Rather than taking down a terrorist cell, you can follow the money and dismantle their funders too, taking down possibly more terrorist cells in the process, for example.
  • GEOINT. Geo-spatial Intelligence, surrounding the art of obtaining intelligence on the layout of an area, such as a military base, or an AO (Area of Operations) to help the troops acquire knowledge on what the area looks like. This can be useful to prevent ambushes, set up ambushes, decide on where you will land a helicopter, etcetera. Endless possibilities, but can be quite expensive depending on the tech used.
  • OSINT. Open-source Intelligence, surrounding the art of acquiring information from public sources like newspapers, public reports, etcetera. Overlooked very often, this gathering discipline is actually very important. It is estimated that 70% of any intelligence report consists of intelligence acquired by OSINT.


For the purpose of roleplaying, FININT and HUMINT seem most interesting. Applying these can be hard, and it might be best to ignore these all together, but it might help you understand what the difference is between a spymaster, and a intelligence expert.




Ch. 7. Interrogation


Interrogation remains a touchy subject and it is generally agreed upon that interrogation provides unreliable information, if not straight up lies. But this is not entirely true. Interrogation typically occurs between semi-willing subjects, and not always on hardened criminals that are resistant to everything except torture.

There are considered to be two types of interrogation in the intelligence world - coercive and non-coercive. Generally speaking the term coercive refers to the use of force, fear or 'aggressive methods' to obtain information. This can range from enhanced interrogation (using tools, such as the use of music, light, and other such things) to enhance the interrogation to outright torture (physical violence, massive threats (threats of a large caliber aimed at him or his relatives, loved ones or other important people) and more 'refined' techniques like waterboarding).

Coercive interrogation is more like what you would find in CSI. These interrogations are based around the psyche and typically revolve around mentally playing with the subject, so that he would give you what he wants. Examples can be good cop-bad cop, psychoanalysis, offering him money/sentence reduction, offering protection, or otherwise doing anything that does not require physical force, aggressive threats or aggressive behavior.

Typically information gained by non-coercive methods is quite reliable, and it can even be the beginning of a work relationship if you decide to 'turn' this person and make them an agent/spy of yours. However, information obtained by coercive methods is definitely considered unreliable at best and requires you to check the information with another source to see if it is legitimate.




Ch. 8. Different scopes of intelligence


Comparable to war, there are three (four) different scopes of the gathering of intelligence. (Four) is between parentheses, because there is a fourth important factor however this one does not relate specifically to the gathering of intelligence. This article perfectly explains these scopes in terms of warfare, and the scopes are similar for intelligence. Here are the scopes, from big to small:

  • Political
  • Strategical
  • Operational
  • Tactical


I have come up with two scenario's, each with an application of these scopes.





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