4 JULY 2002
METHODS OF INTELLIGENCE
The essential role of intelligence is not difficult to understand. It is to provide timely, relevant information to U.S. policymakers, decision makers, and war fighters. Accomplishing this mission involves a continuous cycle of steps for intelligence reporting; tasking (planning and directing), collecting, processing and exploitation, analyzing and producing, and disseminating. These five steps are commonly referred to as the intelligence cycle.
There are many ways of collecting intelligence known as disciplines. The five categories of disciplines are as follows: Human-Source Intelligence (HUMINT), Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), Imagery Intelligence (IMINT), Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT), and Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT). The different disciplines are not very useful if intelligence only comes from one resource, but when information is combined from two or more of these resources, one accurate conclusion can be identified.
The first category of intelligence is human-source intelligence or HUMINT. This is the “cloak and dagger” of the intelligence community. Agents are sent out to gather information from human resources such as disgruntled employees, money-troubled patrons, or any person with something to hide. The principle types of collections that HUMINT discipline is associated with are clandestine source acquisition, overt data collection, debriefing of foreign nationals, and official contacts with foreign governments.
The problem with HUMINT is the sometimes-unreliable source. A potentially serious quality control problem arises from the possibility that an agent has been “doubled”, or that he is secretly working for his supposed target and that the information he is providing to his supposed employer is intended to deceive (Shulsky). This kind of situation is commonly reached when an agent is captured and a decision is reached to cooperate with the captors in order to avoid punishment.
The entity responsible for providing guidance among the United States HUMINT collection resources is the National HUMINT Requirements Tasking Center. All collection activity within the HUMINT discipline is arranged through the National HUMINT Collection Directive (NHCD) and managed by the Defense HUMINT Service, under the direction of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA) National Military Intelligence Collection Center (NMICC).
The next type of intelligence gathering resource is signals intelligence or SIGINT, which can be subdivided into other categories: Communications intelligence (COMINT), telemetry intelligence (TELINT), electronic intelligence (ELINT), and foreign instrumentation signals intelligence (FISINT). The National Security Agency (NSA) is responsible for the majority of the collecting, processing, and reporting intelligence within the SIGINT discipline and receives guidance from the National SIGINT Committee within the NSA, which advises the Director, NSA, and the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) on SIGINT policy issues.
The SIGINT discipline is essentially information obtained from intercepted communications, radars, or data transmissions. One of the ways that communication has been deceived in the past was found in World War II. In order to disguise communications during radio transmissions Native Americans from the same tribe where enlisted as radio operators. The Indians would speak their native language to discuss information about opposing Japanese or German forces making it nearly impossible to translate (AFN Pacific). Other types of SIGINT can be found in radar detection devices that allow an operator to know if his unit is being scanned as well as cryptological devices placed on telephones and computers used for classified information.
Another type of information gathering resource is imagery intelligence or IMINT, which is the use of platforms that are either aerial or ground systems to take electro-optical, radar, or infrared images. The different aerial platforms are classified into two different categories: breathing and non-breathing. These images of raw photographed data may not mean much to the layman, but an imagery interpreter will be able to depict, measure, and analyze information from a single image. Although a picture is worth a thousand words, there may not be enough information available unless there is a trained eye analyzing the information presented. The imagery interpreter can also assume one of the most dangerous jobs of battle damage assessment without having to actually be at ground zero. The analyst can give information about a target’s operational capability after it has been bombarded with the use of imagery taken from a safe distance from enemy fire. Imagery interpreters can also perform beach, bridge, highway, terrain, and helicopter landing zone studies without having to travel to the site location.
The Central Imagery Office (CIO) is responsible for management of all aspects of imagery intelligence to include classified and unclassified. The CIO provides guidelines for the requirements, collection, processing, exploitation, dissemination, archiving, and retrieval for all imagery activities within the government.
Another discipline is the measurement and signature intelligence, or MASINT, which is the collection of technically derived data that describes distinctive characteristics of a specific event, such as a nuclear explosion. This intelligence field encompasses a wide variety of disciplines including nuclear, optical, radio frequency, acoustics, seismic, and materials sciences. MASINT can provide specific information such as weapon identifications, chemical compositions, and natural and man-made material content as well as a potential adversaries ability to employ such weapons (Staff Study). This type of intelligence is very new and little is known about its full capabilities, but it must be recognized and will soon more than likely fall under the SIGINT discipline. The Central MASINT Office, a component of DIA’s NMICC is the authority for all MASINT matters.
The discipline within the intelligence field that collects publicly available information is open-source intelligence or OSINT. This information can be collected from printed, verbal, or electronic resources. Printed information can come in the form of rosters of personnel, city maps, business flyers, etc. Verbal information can be collected during conventions, radio broadcasts, television broadcasts, etc. The major resource for OSINT falls in the electronic category with the world-wide-web.
With the invention of the Internet, the OSINT field has a virtually unlimited amount of unclassified information that is available to everyone and is constantly growing everyday. The problem with the Internet, and the OSINT discipline as well, is that there is an over-abundance of information that can be difficult to sift through and find what is useful and what is not.
The Foreign Broadcast Information Service and the National Air Intelligence Center are the major collectors of OSINT, and the Community Open-Source Program Office in the CIA is responsible to develop, coordinate, and oversee the open-source program.
Once intelligence has been collected and analyzed by the area experts, the information is then reported to an all-source fusion center. At this center all the information from as many different sources as possible is gathered, and a final analysis is made. The different disciplines are not very useful if intelligence only comes from one resource, but when information is combined from multiple resources, one accurate conclusion can be identified.
AFN Pacific. Narr. Unknown. Military Strategies. Okinawa,
Shulsky, Abram, et al. Silent Warfare. 2nd ed. New York:
Macmilillan Publishing Company, 1993.
Staff Study, House of Representatives. MASINT: Measurement
and Signatures Intelligence. nd. ;http://www.fas.org/