Friday, October 25, 2013

Writing Sample: Strategic Intelligence Term Paper

Note: This is the term paper I submitted to E for Strategic Intelligence about this time last year. As I read through it, I'm tempted to update it and correct a few formatting errors, but instead I'm publishing it as is.

* * *

"Assess the strengths and
weaknesses of technology in
comparison with HUMINT."

1 Introduction

In a sense, all intelligence is human intelligence. Regardless of the method of collection, the platform, or the system of analysis, intelligence is the focused study of inherently human factors, actions, reactions, and behaviors. At its core, the purpose of each and every intelligence operation is to discover the prior actions, or predict the future actions and reactions, of humans.

Regardless of this philosophical observation, intelligence has become an increasingly technical field, with constantly increasing emphasis placed upon intelligence disciplines other than direct interaction between intelligence professionals and human sources. As a result, intelligence is increasingly divided between HUMINT and other, more technical fields. Chief among these are several key disciplines: signals intelligence (SIGINT); geospatial intelligence (GEOINT); and imagery intelligence (IMINT), itself a subset of GEOINT. These disciplines, like HUMINT itself, are subject to a variety of inherent strengths and weaknesses, both of which place limits on their ultimate effectiveness.

In order to analyze the relative strengths of these technical disciplines relative to HUMINT, this study will analyze each major discipline in detail, and provide additional reflections drawn from case studies from the recent history of intelligence operations. Special concluding attention shall be paid to the intelligence estimates of Iraq prior to the coalition invasion of 2003, and to the May 2011 American raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan.


Assuming that one discounts such methods as mountain observation points and hot air balloons, the earliest technical method of intelligence collection is SIGINT. Military forces were among the earliest parties to utilize the new technologies developed during the industrial revolution. This included the first use of electrical telegraphy in the Crimean War[2.01], followed by the first practical use of wireless telegraphy by the end of the 19th century, and transmission of sound via radio by the end of 1900. Although terms such as "information warfare", "electronic warfare", and "signals intelligence" are generally considered modern disciplines dating back only to World War II, their genesis dates back as far as World War I, when the laying and defense of telegraph lines (or, conversely, the tapping and/or destruction of enemy lines) played an important role in the conduct of warfare for both sides.[2.02]

These early examples provide several key illustrations of the strengths and weaknesses of signals, and the corresponding weaknesses and strengths of SIGINT. First and foremost, in order to be useful to the users, signals must be accessible - a signal is useless if the recipient is unable to receive it. The result is that in order to be effective, signals require some degree of vulnerability, with puts them at risk of interception: cables can be tapped, and wireless signals such as radio and microwave transmissions can be intercepted.

These vulnerabilities demonstrate a second weakness of signals that presents a challenge to both signal originators, and intelligence practitioners: the requirement for security measures. Should parties sending signals wish to mitigate the risk of interception, the primary method (save for physically guarding closed circuit transmission lines) is encryption. Although generally used to describe electronic means of encoding signals, encryption can be more generally defined as a system whereby both sender and receiver (these roles being reciprocal in two-way communications) employ a system to convert messages from "plaintext" - plain, direct language - to an alternate form discernible only to the communicating parties.

For those attempting secure communication, this presents a complex challenge prior to, during, and following any communication. As security technologist Bruce Schneier notes, "keys have to be produced, guarded, transported, used and then destroyed"[2.03] - a time consuming and expensive process. While some methods of encryption (notably one-time pads) have been demonstrated to be entirely effective when used correctly, weaknesses in encryption methodology, weak codes, or failure to follow security procedures can introduce vulnerabilities to the system, making it possible for SIGINT practitioners to decode intercepted signals. Historical examples of this include the British government's successful cryptoanalytic efforts relative to the German Enigma machines in World War II; Operation Ivy Bells, the United States' operation to tap Soviet undersea communications cables in the Sea of Okhotsk; and the American detention and prosecution of La Red Avispa/the "Cuban Five" based upon decrypted signals from the Atención numbers station.

Numbers stations provide an excellent object lesson in the relative strengths and weaknesses of signals and SIGINT. In fact, the case of the Cuban Five is an excellent illustration of these phenomena. As noted by Brent Sokol of the Miami News Times:
[T]he simplicity of a numbers station also is its strength. Unlike telephone, e-mail, and Net connections, receiving a radio signal leaves no fingerprint, no hint as to where the recipient might be physically located. And with the numbers-to-letters code known only to the spy and his handlers -- and with that code changing with each broadcast -- the secret messages they contain are theoretically unbreakable. Unbreakable, that is, unless you were able to make a copy of the same computer decryption program, which is exactly what FBI agents did in 1995 as they surreptitiously broke into at least one of the spies' apartments, allowing them to subsequently decipher the shortwave broadcasts the unknowing Cubans continued to receive until they were arrested in September 1998.[2.04]
In fact, even if the FBI had not identified and surveilled the Cuban Five, the operators of the Atención station have made mistakes that undermine even the best tradecraft of field agents. Most notable among these are playing the audio intro from Radio Havana Cuba (RHC) on Atención; or playing Atención on the same frequency as RHC, and vice versa.[2.05][2.06] While these mistakes alone would compromise neither signals nor field agents, poor attention to detail by signallers suggests systematically sloppy tradecraft, the surest way to compromise the security of otherwise strong signal encryption. Thus, while perfect tradecraft can prevent (or substantially complicate) decryption by SIGINT practitioners, perfect tradecraft is rare, offering SIGINT practitioners an occasional advantage.

Long-term study of numbers stations around the world betrays another weakness of signals: triangulation. Wireless signals, and particularly radio signals, can be triangulated, allowing SIGINT practitioners to determine the location in which signals originate. In the event that field agents are called upon to transmit signals from their positions, the host nation's ability to triangulate a signal's point of origin can lead to a compromise of either the agent or the signal itself. In fact, this vulnerability formed a central story element in John Le Carré's 1965 novel The Looking Glass War[2.07]. This phenomenon has become even more useful to SIGINT practitioners with the advent of mobile telephones.

At the same time, triangulation betrays another drawback of SIGINT: while some signals can be intercepted from great distances, most require the surreptitious listener to operate - or, at very least, position equipment - in relatively close proximity to the point of transmission. One can imagine the sheer logistical challenges of deploying, operating, and maintaining listening equipment in even a relatively small theater of operations, such as Afghanistan or the Balkans. Given the likely wheat-to-chaff ratio from such a gargantuan endeavour, the analytical requirements alone would be staggering. This serves to reiterate the previous point: when combined with solid tradecraft on the part of those under surveillance, SIGINT practitioners will find themselves at a disadvantage with respect to the collection, interpretation, and analysis of signals. One recent example of this is the April 2001 Hainan Island incident, in which a U.S. Navy EP-3E ARIES II signals reconnaissance aircraft was forced to make a crash landing on the Chinese island of Hainan after a mid-air collision with an overzealous Chinese J-8IIM interceptor. Although the American aircraft was flying in international airspace, its mission required it to fly near Chinese territory in order to collect its signals.

For intelligence agencies and officers, encryption - whether by tradecraft or by technology - is challenging and resource-intensive. In the case of encryption based upon technology, it can also be extremely expensive, particularly if an opponent overcomes the encryption system, requiring it to be abandoned. One illustration of this is the 2009 revelation that insurgents in Iraq had been able to intercept the unencrypted video feeds from UAVs.[2.08] While this vulnerability was allegedly known by military, the sacrifice of encrypting the high-bandwidth feeds[2.09], beyond posing the aforementioned challenge of credential management[2.03], would have caused significant operational drawbacks:
For years, the video from UAV was unencrypted. This was to save communications capacity ("bandwidth"), which was always in short supply. To encrypt the video would require more bandwidth, and specialized equipment on the UAVs and ground receivers. There would also be a slight delay for the guys on the ground using the video. For all these reasons, the video remained unencrypted.[2.10]
Conversely, decryption by SIGINT practitioners is also difficult, resource-intensive, and extremely expensive, as evidenced by the infrastructure and staffs employed by the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in the United Kingdom.


GEOINT and its subset, IMINT, saw their effective genesis in World War II following the use of hot air balloons in the 19th Century and early aerial reconnaissance in World War I. Aviation having matured substantially during the interwar years, aerial reconnaissance in World War II was increasingly sophisticated, with armed and eventually fighter-escorted bombers re-equipped with cameras to provide aerial reconnaissance of potential target areas. These were succeeded early in the Cold War by specialized reconnaissance aircraft - "spy planes" - such as the U2 Dragon Lady and the SR-71. These and other aircraft, while unarmed, were designed for extreme high altitude flight. Their capabilities were eventually complemented, and ultimately overtaken and largely succeeded, by reconnaissance satellites, although the U2's capabilities and a lack of viable gap-filling replacements continue to prolong its operational lifespan.

As with SIGINT, GEOINT offer specific advantages and disadvantages to producers and consumers of strategic intelligence. For the potential subjects of GEOINT, GEOINT is exceptionally difficult to escape from. While the actual products of GEOINT are generally classified, some are known publicly. A few prominent open source examples from the last several years include:

  • In 2007, an open source satellite photographed a new Chinese Type 094 ballistic missile submarine.[3.01]
  • In 2007, Microsoft's Virtual Earth mapping service revealed an aerial image of an Ohio class ballistic missile submarine's exposed propeller, the design of which is classified.[3.02]
  • Open source satellite imagery has been studied extensively since the September 2007 Israeli air strike that destroyed a suspected Syrian nuclear facility. Open source analysts have compared pictures of the facility both before and after the attack, as well as subsequent open source GEOINT resources that suggest a hasty demolition, cleanup, and burial at the site.[3.03][3.04]
  • In 2008, an open source satellite photographed a Chinese Type 094 submarine, as well as new features at a Chinese naval base on Hainan Island.[3.05]
  • In 2009, Google Earth alerted open source GEOINT practitioners to the presence and new construction of Iran's previously clandestine Fordow uranium enrichment facility, located near the Iranian holy city of Qom.[3.06]
  • In 2012, publicly available satellite imagery revealed exterior water drainage and additional changes in appearance at Iran's Parchin nuclear site, suggesting that the Iranian government had carried out some type of testing at the site before cleaning it to eliminate evidence of illicit, possibly nuclear-related activities.[3.07]

    These cases represent a mere handful of publicly known cases of open source GEOINT betraying the national security secrets of a variety of major players in international affairs. If one considers the resources, including manpower, training, and equipment, that are available to the American National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and extrapolates the resources that are likely available to such other nations as Russia and China, the obvious conclusion must be that very little of strategic importance must take place on the face of the planet without first- and second-tier international powers finding out about it in due course of time. This betrays two of the challenges faced by GEOINT practitioners: location, and time.

    The case of the Iranian nuclear program is an excellent demonstration of the former, as the Iranian government has elected to tunnel deep into mountains and underground in order to protect nuclear sites from aerial bombardment, but also to protect those same sites from the prying eyes of Western GEOINT assets. A second example took place following the aforementioned Hainan Island incident, when the Chinese military used shrouds to obscure their exploitation teams' efforts from American GEOINT assets. In addition, orbiting satellites are observable from the Earth's surface, allowing their orbits to be determined - a phenomenon dramatized in the 1992 film Patriot Games. Accordingly, parties who expect attention from rival GEOINT practitioners are likely to adjust to the expectation that someone is trying to observe their movements and actions, potentially catching them in the midst of hostile acts.

    The latter factor - time - is another potential weakness of GEOINT. One of the reasons why the aforementioned U2 aircraft are currently expected to remain operational for at least another decade is that despite the strengths of satellite-based GEOINT, U2 observation flights can be scrambled to an area of interest in short order, whereas altering a satellite's existing orbital pattern can be cost- or operationally-prohibitive. Even unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which boast much longer "orbital times" (airborne time on station), are incapable of lingering forever. In a limitation similar to the need to position SIGINT assets within proximity of a signal in order to capture it, GEOINT assets must be above a position of interest in order to capture events there; by way of illustration, an orbital observation platform passing over Severomorsk at 13:00 UTC is incapable of observing a ballistic missile test launch at Tonghae at 13:05. The result is a complex and imperfect dance in which GEOINT platforms overlap in their routes as well as possible, otherwise leaving gaps in coverage.

    GEOINT products also tend to be time-sensitive. In some ways, this can be helpful: for example, GEOINT products showing the aforementioned Syrian site on 05 September 2006 might be useless on their own, but would become substantially more relevant when compared to imagery from the same location on 05 September 2007 (the day before the Israeli air strike), 07 September 2007 (immediately following the strike), and six months thereafter. By contrast, however, GEOINT products showing the location of a Taliban encampment on Monday might be worthless if planning a military strike on the same location for Wednesday. While significant investment in GEOINT resources since their rise to prominence has allowed for a substantial improvement in the capacity for maintaining strategic, operational, and tactical situational awareness, limitations endure.

    Another historic strength of GEOINT platforms - their relative invulnerability - may also be coming to an end. Three nations (the United States, the Soviet Union, and China) have worked to develop anti-satellite technology. To date, the United States has destroyed two satellites in what amount to proof-of-concept tests: a U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle destroyed the P78-1 Solwind satellite using an ASM-135 ASAT missile on 13 September 1985, and the U.S. Navy cruiser USS Lake Erie destroyed the USA-193 satellite using a modified RIM-161 SM3 missile on 21 February 2008. The second event is believed by some to have been carried out in part as a response to China's own 11 January 2007 test of a modified DF-21 ballistic missile repurposed as a kinetic kill vehicle, which was used to destroy the Chinese FY-1C weather satellite. Given that USA-193 and FY-1C could both have been considered GEOINT assets (USA-193 by design, FY-1C by overall capability), the prospects for the future targeting of GEOINT-dedicated satellites for destruction by hostile rivals is obvious.

    GEOINT also suffers from a sort of ad hoc dichotomy: while photographs do not lie, their interpretation can indeed misinform the GEOINT analyst tasked with deciding what a photograph entails. By way of illustration, one virtue of orbital photography is that it prevents a covert agent from having to infiltrate an enemy ballistic missile base to count delivery vehicles; but this separation could potentially allow said enemy to fabricate false "Quaker Missiles" in the same vein as the American Civil War practice of creating so-called "Quaker Guns" by painting logs black to make them appear to be artillery pieces. An amusing real world example of this phenomenon is a former building at the center of the courtyard within the Pentagon that Soviet intelligence once speculated may have been the entrance to an underground bunker, but which was actually the Ground Zero Cafe, a snack bar for Pentagon employees.[3.08] Although GEOINT platforms include additional capabilities, such as infrared, thermal, and radar, the added capabilities of these systems are not entirely capable of eliminating the fog of war. Not unlike reading the Bible, GEOINT products require careful interpretation, and misinterpretation can be extremely costly.

    GEOINT, like SIGINT, is exceptionally costly. Reconnaissance satellites are among the most sophisticated machines ever created by man, and their launch alone can cost billions of dollars. According to some estimates, launching a satellite costs between $10,000 and $13,000 per pound, and the aforementioned orbital reconnaissance satellite USA-193 was reputed to be as large as a bus. When one factors the cost of the satellite itself, plus fuel, infrastructure to operate the platform, and staffing costs, the overall cost of operating a single satellite comes into stark focus. (That having been said, some overlap is likely - for example, operators and infrastructure are likely used for multiple satellites operating as a network of surveillance assets, vice independently.) Given the cost of such programs, one can only assume that intelligence agents and lawmakers alike are keen to rely on such resources to justify their overwhelming cost. Such reliance on any method, discipline, or function of intelligence gathering will prove necessarily problematic.

    4 HUMINT

    SIGINT and GEOINT can be compared and contrasted with HUMINT by breaking the aforementioned strengths and weaknesses of the two selected technical collection methods down into a simplified list, and addressing each item in relation to HUMINT.
    1) SIGINT exploits the inherent vulnerability of signals: signals must be accessible/vulnerable in order to be useful to the recipient, putting them at risk for interception.
    HUMINT displays corresponding strengths and weaknesses. The virtue of signals is that they allow two parties to communicate without physical proximity to one another - an advantage lost when conditions require two people to meet in person. However, by meeting and dispensing with the use of signals altogether, an added degree of security can sometimes be gained, particularly if two parties (for example, an intelligence officer and an asset) employ tradecraft to preclude the possibility of being monitored. If tradecraft is impossible or neglected, the two parties could still be vulnerable to clandestine monitoring by opposing agents or adjacent recording devices.
    2) SIGINT can be defeated by security measures such as technical or procedural encryption; however, SIGINT practitioners can gain an advantage because maintaining perfect signals tradecraft is difficult, repetitive, and contrary to human nature.
    The same strengths and weaknesses exist in HUMINT, although in different forms. Excellent and meticulously executed tradecraft can theoretically protect intelligence officers and their agents from security risks, though tradecraft is often difficult, repetitive, contrary to human nature, and sometimes time-consuming. As with SIGINT, HUMINT security tradecraft may still be unable to deter the efforts of a similarly meticulous opposing force, or one that is well resourced.
    3) SIGINT can triangulate signals to determine their point of origin.
    Although no legitimate corollary exists within HUMINT, humans are vulnerable to counterintelligence and clandestine observation efforts by opposing forces.
    4) SIGINT requires large networks covering a wide geographic area, or else large gaps in coverage will limit its effectiveness.
    In a similar fashion, HUMINT can be challenging based upon the existence and mobility of billions of human beings worldwide. This can be both an advantage and a challenge to HUMINT practitioners. The fact that, once found, each human responds to a unique set of motivations and values further complicates HUMINT efforts.
    5) SIGINT assets tend to intercept unrelated signals in the process of looking for relevant ones; this high "wheat-to-chaff ratio" is sometimes referred to as the "Vacuum Cleaner Problem".
    HUMINT practitioners are unlikely to encounter an exact corollary of this problem: the entire point of running HUMINT assets is that they will be recruited in the first place due to their special access to a program or location of interest to the presiding intelligence officer - in other words, the fact that a particular city may boast fifty thousand residents does not require an intelligence officer to hear from every individual resident. However, this does not preclude supposed insider agents from providing inflated credentials, nuanced or exaggerated information, or pure fabrications to the HUMINT practitioner. HUMINT practitioners may find themselves obligated to bestow unwarranted trust on their assets for lack of any capacity to corroborate their assets' reports.
    6) GEOINT is difficult for targets to escape from; conversely, parties expecting to be observed by GEOINT are likely to adjust their operations accordingly.
    Again, a corollary from the world of HUMINT is difficult to derive. In the event that an agent is voluntarily meeting with an intelligence officer, the two must employ careful tradecraft at all times in order to avoid compromise by opposing forces. Conversely, if an potential asset does not want to provide information - for example, a terrorist being pursued by HUMINT agencies for the purpose of detention and interrogation will likely employ strong operational security measures to avoid detention. In the event that the subject is eventually detained, information may still be difficult to obtain, particularly if the agency in question is restricted in its conduct by regulations or laws governing the treatment of detainees.
    7) SIGINT and GEOINT assets have a massive geographic area to cover, resulting in challenges for the positioning of listening assets and the timing of overflight and observation.
    HUMINT practitioners likely encounter similar challenges. The world is a big place, and coordinating location and timing to secure the desired results is likely challenging for HUMINT practitioners.
    8) GEOINT products tend to produce time-sensitive data that can be useful for trend analysis, but may be limited in utility for long-term mission planning. GEOINT is also vulnerable to potentially flawed interpretation despite the objectivity of actual images - for example, the Ground Zero Cafe. Despite the additional GEOINT capabilities of infrared, thermal, radar, and others technologies, these can not eliminate the fog of war entirely.
    The same can be said of intelligence data produced from HUMINT sources: information is likely to be time-sensitive, or in some cases incomplete. While GEOINT assets have the virtue of presenting an objective picture that must then be interpreted, HUMINT assets are capable of either providing false information of their own volition, providing false information as a result of external counterintelligence and deception operations, or providing incomplete information owing to limited or flawed knowledge of the situation in question.
    9) The traditional invulnerability of GEOINT platforms may be coming to an end.
    HUMINT assets are inherently vulnerable - in fact, even excellent tradecraft may fail to protect HUMINT assets in the event that their exploits are discovered by hostile opposing forces. In this case, the advantage goes to GEOINT platforms.
    10) SIGINT and GEOINT are both exceptionally costly in terms of equipment deployment, maintenance, collection, and analysis. Intelligence professionals and lawmakers may subsequently be motivated to rely on technical platforms in order to to justify continued expenditure for their maintenance.
    When available as an option, HUMINT tends to be considerably less costly than technical methods, as demonstrated by several cases involving payment for intelligence information. One example of this is the Robert Hanssen case, in which an FBI counterintelligence officer was convicted of having accepted payment of $1.4 million in cash and diamonds over the course of twenty-two years - an average of only about $64,000 per year[4.01], substantially less than the annual operating cost of most SIGINT assets and considerably less than the cost of a single GEOINT asset. Similarly illustrative is the case of Ronald William Pelton, who betrayed Operation Ivy Bells - the U.S. Navy's operation to tap unencrypted Soviet communications cables in the Sea of Okhotsk - for a mere $40,000.[4.02] Assets from developing nations with low per capita income might be motivated by far less money, and those assets providing intelligence due to personal motivation of one sort or another might be willing to provide that information at cost, or even without compensation.

    Worthy of note, and similar in nature to limitations inherent to SIGINT, is the potential language barrier. As organizations such as the NSA and GCHQ employ translators to convert intercepted visual and audio signals into comprehensible English, HUMINT-oriented agencies such as the CIA and SIS employ both interpreters and case officers with foreign language capabilities.

    5 Conclusion: Combined Arms

    These comparisons gain from an examination of how intelligence operations work under real world circumstances. In warfare, the concept of "combined arms" unifies infantry capabilities with other methods of fire and maneuver, such as armor, artillery, mortars, air support, and naval fires. The subsequent result is that forces employing combined arms, particularly in symmetrical operations against similar forces, are likely to prevail by, in essence, trapping the enemy through the limitation of his options for fire and maneuver. In a similar manner, the intelligence community employs a system similar to combined arms known as all-source intelligence or all-source analysis. The result is a system whereby multiple assets and disciplines are combined to overcome the limitations of each individual asset and/or discipline. The recent history of intelligence provides two prominent examples: the pre-2003 assessment of Iraq is an object lesson in the failure of intelligence, while Operation Neptune Spear is an object lesson in its success.

    In February of 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell, himself a retired U.S. Army general and the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed the United Nations Security Council on the topic of Iraq. Secretary Powell's remarks addressed a number of topics relating to Iraq: weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs; denial and deception operations aimed at UN inspection and verification teams; WMD delivery systems; ties to terrorist groups; and human rights violations. Secretary Powell's remarks, built on the best available all-source intelligence derived in large part from a number of controversial Iraqi informants or defectors, reflected the best available estimation of the CIA, SIS, and the rest of the intelligence community. This estimation was used to demonstrate the Iraqi government's material breach of multiple United Nations resolutions requiring it to disarm, and submit to verification procedures to demonstrate the disarmament process to the international community.[5.01]

    While much of the evidence provided about WMDs was legitimate, it suffered from both falsifications and incorrect interpretations. Of particular note was one source, Rafid Ahmed Alwan al Janabi (pseudonym "Curveball"), who provided now-discredited intelligence about mobile biological weapons laboratories. Other information, such as SIGINT intercepts, were misinterpreted by SIGINT practitioners. Once coalition forces had occupied Iraq and conducted comprehensive inspections of the country, the original estimates of the strength and maturity of the regime's WMD programs were found to be incorrect. When he was captured in December of 2003 and subsequently interrogated, Saddam Hussein revealed that although his WMD programs were in a precursor state, he had considered Iran a greater threat than the international community and orchestrated the deception operation in an effort to keep his long-time Persian enemies at bay.[5.02] In the case of the intelligence estimates of Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion, the best information available from HUMINT sources combined with technical platforms failed to provide intelligence professionals and policy-makers with the information they needed to make an appropriately informed decision regarding military intervention.

    The converse example is that of Operation Neptune Spear, the May 2011 operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden. Operation Neptune Spear represented the culmination of years upon years of all-source intelligence exploitation, but the trail began with a single piece of HUMINT data:
    The name Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti was first mentioned to authorities in Mauritania by an al-Qaida operative, Mohamedou Ould Salahi. It was obviously a pseudonym. The name meant "the Father of Ahmed from Kuwait". It was just one name among thousands that were daily being entered into what would become the Terrorism Information Awareness database.[5.03]
    HUMINT sources, particularly a series of high-ranking al Qaeda leaders who were detained and interrogated by American intelligence professionals, proved indispensible in providing the leads necessary to refine the search for bin Laden. These included Abu Faraj al Libi, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. According to Marc Thiessen, speaking at The Heritage Foundation in February of 2012 on the topic of enhanced interrogation:
    Leon Panetta, the then-CIA Director confirmed, quote, "Obviously there was some valuable intelligence that was derived through those kinds of interrogations." Now, if intelligence from CIA interrogations was not critical to the greatest achievement of the Obama administration, don't you think they'd be shouting it from the rooftops? Of course. Panetta's predecessor, Mike Hayden, was more explicit. He said, "Let the record show, when I was first briefed in 2007 about the brightening prospects for pursuing bin Laden through his courier network, a crucial component of the briefing was information provided by three CIA detainees, all of whom had been subjected to some form of enhanced interrogation." [...] And he... moreover said, "It's nearly impossible for me to imagine any operation like the May 2 assault on bin Laden's compound that would have not made substantial use of the trove of information derived from CIA detainees, including those on whom enhanced interrogation techniques have been used", unquote.[5.04]
    These quotes from Leon Panetta and Michael Hayden indicate the criticality of HUMINT to the successful raid. However, HUMINT alone would have been useless. In order to complete the picture, SIGINT was required to locate and track "Abu Ahmed al Kuwaiti" (whose real name was Ibrahim Said Ahmed), and to identify that the compound was itself conspicuously bereft of signals since its residents did not have amenities like cable television or Internet access. This was combined with GEOINT from satellites and UAV platforms, which allowed analysts to determine the peculiar traits of the compound. The pseudonymous "Mark Owen", one of the U.S. Navy DEVGRU personnel involved in the raid, makes note of analysts who studied UAV footage of "The Pacer", a figure meeting bin Laden's description who would pace in circles in one of the compound's courtyards.[5.05]

    The natural conclusion is that technical intelligence collection provides unprecedented capabilities to policy-makers, military personnel, and intelligence practitioners. However, despite the increasing reliance on technical collection methods, HUMINT will continue to provide capabilities that SIGINT, GEOINT, and other technical methods are incapable of replicating. Because intelligence is an inherently human endeavour, HUMINT will continue to be the core of successful intelligence operations for the foreseeable future. In the same way that combined arms ultimately assists the infantryman with boots on the ground, technical intelligence will continue to provide ultimate assistance to the HUMINT core, rather than becoming an independent alternative.


    2.01 BACK Lambert, Andrew; The Crimean War; BBC; London; 2011;

    2.02 BACK Westwood, James T., Lieutenant Commander, USN; Electronic Warfare and Signals Intelligence at the Outset of World War I; NSA; Fort Meade, Maryland;

    2.03 BACK Schneier, Bruce; Intercepting Predator Video; Schneier on Security blog; 2009;

    2.04 BACK Sokol, Brett; Espionage Is in the Air; Miami News Times; 2001;

    2.05 BACK Poundstone, William; William Morrow; Big Secrets; New York City, New York; 1983

    2.06 BACK Grabow, Ryan; Long Island University; Numbers Stations; Brookville, New York; 2003;

    2.07 BACK le Carré, John; The Looking Glass War; William Heinemann; 1965

    2.08 BACK Shachtman, Noah; Insurgents Intercept Drone Video in King-Size Security Breach (Updated, with Video);; 2009;

    2.09 BACK Ackerman, Spencer and Shachtman, Noah; Almost 1 In 3 U.S. Warplanes Is a Robot;; 2012;

    2.10 BACK Strategy Page; Israeli UAVs Encrypt The Signal; 2010;

    3.01 BACK Kristensen, Hans M.; New Chinese Ballistic Missile Submarine Spotted; Federation of American Scientists Strategic Security Blog; Washington, D.C.; 2007;

    3.02 BACK Hutcheon, Stephen; Oops, another top secret exposed; The Age; Melbourne; 2007;

    3.03 BACK Broad, William J. and Mazzetti, Mark; Photos Show Cleansing of Suspect Syrian Site; The New York Times; New York City, New York; 2007;

    3.04 BACK 06 September 2007 Airstrike;; Alexandria, Virginia;

    3.05 BACK Kristensen, Hans M.; New Chinese SSBN Deploys to Hainan Island; Federation of American Scientists Strategic Security Blog; Washington, D.C.; 2008;

    3.06 BACK Geens, Stefan; Hunting for Iran’s secret nuclear plant near Qum on Google Earth; Ogle Earth blog; Stockholm; 2009;

    3.07 BACK Swaine, Jon; Iran suspected of clean-up operation at nuclear site; The Telegraph; Washington, D.C.; 2012;

    3.08 BACK Smith, Steven Donald; Pentagon Hot Dog Stand, Cold War Legend, to be Torn Down; American Forces Press Service; Washington, D.C.; 2006;

    4.01 BACK Wise, David; Spy: The Inside Story of How the FBI's Robert Hanssen Betrayed America; Random House; New York City, New York; 2003

    4.02 BACK Drew, Christopher and Sontag, Sherry and Annette Lawrence Drew; Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage; PublicAffairs; New York City, New York; 1998

    5.01 BACK Powell, Colin L.; Remarks to the United Nations Security Council;; United Nations, New York City, New York; 2003;

    5.02 BACK de Sola, David; FBI interviews detail Saddam Hussein's fear of Iran, WMD bluff; CNN; 2009;

    5.03 BACK Bowden, Mark; The death of Osama bin Laden: how the US finally got its man; The Guardian; London; 2012;

    5.04 BACK Thiessen, Marc; The Obama Doctrine at Year Three: An Assessment; The Heritage Foundation; Washington, D.C.; 2012;

    5.05 BACK Owen, Mark and Maurer, Kevin; No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama bin Laden; Dutton Penguin; 2012

  • No comments:

    Post a Comment