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I saw active service in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Force. I was the founder of the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes in 1989 and its chairman until I left in 1997. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime. EO also operated in South America and the Far East. I believe that only Africans (Black and White) can truly solve Africa’s problems. I was appointed Chairman of STTEP International in 2009 and also lecture at military colleges and universities in Africa on defence, intelligence and security issues. Prior to the STTEP International appointment, I served as an independent politico-military advisor to several African governments. I am a contributor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

THE PRINCIPLES OF INTELLIGENCE COLLECTION

I have spoken a lot about the importance of intelligence and how we seem to be constantly getting it all wrong. As proof of this, we need only look at how current conflicts are going awry.

The focussed collection of information, the transformation of that information into intelligence, the interpretation of the intelligence and the dissemination thereof to the correct people at the correct time is an art we seem to have somehow lost.

It is, however, the lack of intelligence that leads to poorly formulated strategies based on guess work. This is something strategists cannot ignore, regardless of the dimension of war they are expecting or fighting. An inability to identify threats in the medium to long term compounds the inability to acquire and position the necessary sources beforehand, thus paving the way for intelligence failures.

As previously discussed, there ought to be a continuous flow of collected information from various overt, covert and clandestine sources into the intelligence system, a system that can be likened to a large machine; the information being the fuel that drives the machine. However, for the machine to use this “fuel” correctly and effectively, the information needs to be collected.

In order for the collection effort to be channelled, focussed and managed in a correct manner, certain principles must be applied. These principles are tried and tested truths and to ignore them will certainly lead to a sub-standard collection effort. A sub-standard collection effort will most surely impact very negatively on any political or military strategy.

The principles of collection (not in order of priority) can be briefly listed as follows:

1. Planning: Correct planning will ensure that the correct information is received at the correct time and place. Planning will also ensure that the intelligence requirements are met. This assumes the 5 Ps of planning – Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Planning is an action which needs to be considered well before any deliberate action is planned. Planning will furthermore assist the collection effort in identifying strong and weak points as well as opportunities and strengths.

2. Exploitation of all Sources: All overt, covert and clandestine sources available must be exploited. These sources need to be carefully considered in order to prevent one source compromising another. Additionally, it will allow collection planners to confirm if they have sources that can provide the necessary information or if sources need to be identified and recruited. This includes all forms of liaison with outside bodies and agencies. TECHINT and SATINT are sources that require consideration but should never be viewed as the primary sources as they can effectively be used to feed disinformation into the intelligence process.

3. Time: The adage “Time spent on planning is never wasted” holds true. In essence, this requires planners and analysts to be “forward looking” and pro-active and not wait for a negative situation to manifest itself before any effort is launched. Time is required to ensure the following actions can realistically be achieved:

• Planning
• Identify, recruit and train covert sources (agents)
• Tasking of covert and overt sources
• Deployment and/or positioning of TECHINT and SATINT sources
• The collection of information
• The feedback/reporting process
• The interpretation of information
• The dissemination of the intelligence product

4. Relevancy: The collection effort must be relevant to the intelligence requirement. This will ensure that time, effort and resources are not wasted. When relevancy becomes discarded, collection for the sake of collection can lead to a wastage of assets and funds. Furthermore, irrelevant information and intelligence can mislead strategists and planners.

5. Control: The collection effort must be carefully controlled to ensure economy of effort, prevent unnecessary duplication of effort and minimise compromise. Control is a prerequisite for directing sources correctly and efficiently.

6. Access: Without access, there can be no collection. Access needs to be well-planned in advance with back-up access points positioned in case of source compromise.

7. Flexibility: Flexibility will allow the collection effort to rapidly switch from one target to the next. However, without planning and access, there can be no flexibility – or at best, only limited flexibility.

Intelligence planners need to be very familiar with the grand strategy of the nation as well as the subsequent military strategy. Only then, will they be able to apply their craft efficiently and with accuracy.

To ensure this, the principles of intelligence need to be applied.

40 comments:

Monkey Spawn said...

A good article on an important subject.

Retrospectively contemplating the shame of Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations Security Council, waving the little vial of chemicals, then verification by independent, non-associates sources should feature as one of the most important intel management tasks. With counter-intelligence an equally important aspect of waging war, conducting political manoeuvring or being prepared therefor, one needs constantly to be on guard against misinformation or fables created by over zealous or unscrupulous intel sources with have ulterior motives. Similarly, to prevent against incorrect extrapolation of limited intel.

Tango said...

Great Article.
Nice to see the real Eeben again.
Regards
Tango

Robby said...

Although we can debate the fact that for the past 8 years US Intelligence was directed to fit the misguided religious ideology of George Bush ...here's a article from 2001

The failure of American intelligence
By John C. K. Daly
WASHINGTON - On Feb. 7, 2001, CIA Director George Tenet told the Senate Intelligence Committee Osama bin Laden was the "most immediate and serious threat." His prediction became grimly true Sept. 11. America's multibillion-dollar intelligence system has failed, and failed badly. There are no quick solutions.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2001/0919/p11s1-coop.html

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A good comment, Monkey Spawn. I remember Colin Powell waving the vial as though he had made some great scientific discovery. This was a classic case of bending fiction to match supposed reality. The results will sadly be felt for years to come.

Your point on CI is well taken. Not only do we need to acquire the information we need, we need to prevent – at all costs – the enemy from acquiring our secrets and intentions.

Analysing the motives of sources and agents is another aspect that creates some cause for concern. There have been well documented cases in the UK recently of just what happens with shoddy motive analysis and the result of knee-jerk recruitments. Likewise, the two recent cases in Moscow show how vulnerable staff can be to blackmail operations by a determined intelligence service.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks Tango. Nothing like a good shave and shower...

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Robby. Intelligence operations can never be run as knee-jerk operations. Although failures are bound to occur, one needs to place every possible measure in place to prevent exactly that.

Likewise, all sources are subject to misinformation and confusion but to rely purely on TECHINT/SATINT is a dangerous approach to follow. This ought to be very obvious to everyone in the intelligence community as these have been very expensive lessons to learn.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

I guess the best way to reform the "Intelligence Community" is to stop using the term "Intelligence"

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

There is no easy way to reform the intelligence community, Robby, despite the humour of your comment. There are many good intelligence operatives out there who are hamstrung by incompetent analysts and commanders – and an unbelievable belief that political correctness will triumph. It never has and it never will. When politicians interfere with intelligence operations, expect the worst.

I still believe that many of the failings stem from inadequate training, poor planning, lack of focus, no direction and a misguided belief that the “enemy” is not very smart.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

belief that the “enemy” is not very smart.

Very true there is no question that a supremacist mind set is very pervasive within the US it's called "American Exceptionalism"

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Self-belief is an admirable quality, Robby, as is self-confidence. It is when it becomes “over-belief” and “over-confidence” that it becomes dangerous. When arrogance overrides reality, we find ourselves in deep trouble.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

That's exactly what happened “over-belief” and “over-confidence” I guess it is very tough to accept that with that unique position come a enormous amount of responsibility and even a little dose of humility.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

We all make regrettable mistakes, Robby, but the secret is to learn from them.

Rgds,

Eeben

TCO said...

Excellent points Eeben. Good read.

This ties in nicely with a recent post you had on Military Strategy. In particular the need to have a clear and cohesive 'grand strategy' which will help drive the intelligence collection efforts.

It seems that at the national level the lack of a clear strategy allows collection of intel that either does not directly support a strategy or it allows various bits of information to BECOME the strategy.

Destination first. Where are we going? When do we need to get there? Intelligence is talking ot everyone you can along the journey in an effort to reach the predetermined destination.

I have no experience with intelligence at the national level, but I know enough to know that it is a difficult business. I do have experience from a tactical military level (Regimental and below) and that is often a more strait forward business.

SF

Jake

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Welcome back, Jake.

Without a clear grand strategy, intelligence collection becomes a haphazard activity that serves no purpose as it is directionless information gathering. As you correctly point out, there is a danger of the information/intelligence becoming the strategy. This in itself poses a huge danger.

I like your analogy of the journey. Where, what, how, when etc…

At the immediate tactical level, intelligence can be less complicated, especially when one has access to good reconnaissance elements.

Rgds,

Eeben

eet kreef said...

Good article this. I agree that good strategic planning is critical. With the huge amount of data available these days through automated email and cell-phone logging, data overload is also a problem. You need a well planned system to sort,collate and verify all the data. I think this is where the US sometimes falls flat on its face, especially with inter service rivalry also thrown in.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You make a very valid comment regarding information overload, Eet Kreef. However, this overload often occurs due to unfocussed collection planning and incorrect use of sources of agents, especially those with poor access.

Whereas healthy inter-service rivalry is a good thing, when it becomes unhealthy, one service often works against the other. Somewhat childish given the stakes.

Rgds,

Eeben

W.C.H. Miller said...

This is my first comment, so please bear with me.

I cannot agree more regarding the use of TECHINT, SATINT, SIGINT, and that while helpful, cannot be taken as gospel. In my reading regarding the history of modern espionage/intelligence, the emphasis on HUMINT appears to have become watered down.

The one point that I would bring up is the restraints governments, bureaucracy, and advocacy groups have put on agencies. It appears that intelligence can no longer be conducted unfettered. Bureaucrats in some instances with limited or no field experience hold positions for which they are unqualified. And the constant desire by the public to know what work is being performed by the Intelligence Community is contrary to the clandestine/covert aspect of intelligence.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A good observation WCH Miller.

In much the same way as “gadgetry” has become “strategy”, TECH/SAT/SIGINT have become the primary sources of collection. Whereas their value is undisputed, especially on the battlefield, we cannot rely purely on these sources from a strategic point of view. HUMINT has a definite role to play in collection but for some reason it is neglected.

The restraints imposed by governments and advocacy groups is a very valid point in all military spheres, not only in intelligence collection. Unqualified or limited experience of bureaucrats can be disastrous. Yet this cronyism in appointments seems to be a trend that has become unstoppable as governments seem to want “their man” controlling matters and not a specialist.

I believe that it is due to these very appointments that things have gone so horribly wrong – and will continue to go wrong. It is these disasters that cause concern to the public especially when they are advertised in the media, leading to people to questioning the methodology of the military and intelligence services. When this happens, the unqualified bureaucrats in charge are quick to blame those under their leadership and cast doubt upon their competence.

Ultimately, “covert” operations are exactly that – covert. To conduct true covert operations, training and leadership are essential – both of which seem to be in short supply.

Rgds,

Eeben

hardnose said...

Eeben,
It would seem that,
'Intellegence' is not just the collection of information or data, but rather the synthesis of key elements of that information into knowledge, a 'knowledge' of the 'mind' of our opponent, and so by it's nature an intangible. Through the 'product' of intellegence we attempt to assess the enemies courses of action, but intellegence is always an uncertain product, and dependent on interpretation of the end user. Hence the failure of tactical operations even when good information is available.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Well pointed out, Hardnose. Intelligence can at times be delightfully vague and this vagueness can lead to the incorrect application of the intelligence. As you correctly point out, this in turn can lead to tactical failures.

Ultimately, we aim to get “inside the head” of the enemy commander to be able to read and predict his intentions. As such, the intelligence is intangible. That is why we ought to identify key EEIs and the collection cycle is never-ending, allowing us to make adjustments to the plan, in turn, giving us flexibility.

Tactical failures, despite having good intelligence, can occur. Usually however, these failures are the result of bad planning and a lack of flexibility.

Rgds,

Eeben

Pierre-Marie said...

Sir,

I am working on the counter-insurgency and specially on the French experiency in Indochina and Algeria and on the South-African one. I read carefully your blog and your book "Executive Outcome, Against all Odds" (a part of my paper is about the Private Military Companies too). I would be very interested in publishing the appendixes of your book (Galago editions) about the costs of the operations of EO. Can you give me the authorization to use them with mention of the source ? I would be very grace with mailing you a summary of my current work if you are interested in.

Respectfully,

Lieutenant Pierre-Marie Léoutre
Entry COL Clostermann of the French Air Force Academy

borr1945 said...

So, the bottom line is, intelligence is like a hammer and
hammers are used to drive nails or
or smash thumbs.

regards,
ken

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Well put, Ken. However, we first need to find the hammer before we can use it.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

Off topic sort of...what's new :-)...every now then Jan over at AfricanCrises connects the dots ...what's your take?

Did Henry Kissinger & the CIA trick Apartheid South Africa into the war in Angola?

Date Posted: Wednesday 12-Aug-2009

[There is a thought that occurred to me some weeks ago that I've kept to myself until now. I received an email from a flight engineer who bought THE COVERT WAR from my website and who was mentioning his experiences. Then in an email to him I mentioned something that I've been thinking about quietly. It is something that makes me EXTREMELY ANGRY when I think about it, but I think it is well within the realm of possibility.

Let me explain something: A friend of mine in the Middle East some years back awakened me. He said to me: "The Americans/CIA do not wage wars - they MANAGE WARS". Often they aren't participants... they are managers... funders...

http://www.africancrisis.co.za/Article.php?ID=56964&

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you for visiting the blog, Lt.

You are very welcome to use whatever you wish from the book. All you need to do is give credit to the source.

I would love to get a copy of your work and I look forward to reading it. Good luck with your research.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Jan and his few helpers slave to keep that site current, Robby. I have nothing but admiration for someone who works so tirelessly to keep people informed. And yes, I believe he connected the dots correctly as it is well known that South Africa went to war in Angola at the request of the US.

What the politics were behind it I do not know but one thing is for sure: the US asked us, we complied and then the US threatened us if we did not pull out. Of course, Jan’s take makes sense to an extent. But, there was a lot more behind that war. As a proxy force (initially) the situation got out of control and we ended up fighting Cubans, Russians, East Germans plus the Angolan Armed Forces, SWAPO and whoever else wanted to join in. That was on the military front. Beyond that was the political front driven by the US and the UK.

Where I think Jan got it wrong was that although the US initially promised to fund the war, they didn’t. The SA taxpayer carried the majority of the burden.

And people wonder why we don’t trust the US?

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

I have noticed over the past few years I have become very anti-American very tough to do while living here :-)

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I must qualify what I said previously, Robby, and that is by referring to the US I am referring to the various administrations and not the common citizens. Whereas we all make our own beds and are expected to lie in them, I do not regret having been a soldier. Even if I know then what I know now I would still have served my country as best as I could. To me, it had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with being a soldier.

But given the manner in which the US treated SA, I must confess that if an American government were to say it is raining, I would need to look out of the window.

Going back to the initial post, this was most probably one of SA’s greatest intelligence failures – not knowing what was to come, we never prepared for it.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

Yes hind sight is a wonderful thing looking back Kissinger did the same thing to Rhodesia that should of raised all kinds of red flags for SA....as for America today it's coming apart at the seams recent town halls concerning national health care has exposed a growing discontent between the people and it's government...almost feel I'm living behind enemy lines :-)

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Yes, I suppose it all goes back to the first principle of “Planning”, Robby. We simply assumed certain things and acceptance of assumptions can be deadly.

Rgds,

Eeben

Morne said...

Good day Eeben,

Are you still residing in Pretoria East. I am not from a military background, Am an industrial psychologist (or aspiring to be one) but was wondering if you would grant me 20 minutes of your time?

Kind Regards

Morné

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I still live in Pretoria, Morné. I shall contact you soon.

Rgds,

Eeben

hardnose said...

Eeben,

Since the enemy always gets to 'vote' in any engagement could you better explain the application of these principles as a function of countering the enemy's intelligence.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I don’t think the enemy always get the vote, Hardnose. I think we give the enemy that chance by betraying so much of what we intend to do.

Looking at current conflicts, I note that troops no longer debus their vehicles but want to drive right up to the objective. This gives the enemy the opportunity to see them coming – from far away. Apart from that, we don’t seem to apply positive vetting thus allowing enemy agents in our employ – who report back on what we are up to. All of this allows the enemy to plan what he will do and where he will do it. We, in turn, have become predictable and fall right into the trap.

Whereas intelligence services need to focus on the enemy (and CI services on the enemy’s agents in our midst), we need to look at what makes the enemy “tick”, what he has at his disposal and how he will most likely use it. If we have that intelligence, commanders can do a thorough appreciation and determine the most likely and most dangerous enemy options. Taking that into account, we can modify plans and be more adaptable and unpredictable.

But all of this requires a focussed collection effort utilising every possible source at our disposal.

Rgds,

Eeben

hardnose said...

It certainly appears true, Eeben, that we have become technology weighted. Very few troops in the field understand terrain anaylysis or how to apply that information to a topographic map, let alone how to plot grid coordinates with out a GPS ('anybody got any extra batteries?'). A buddy of mine who used to teach at West Point always had students place their High Speed/Low Drag satallite recievers in a bag until after the class was completed. There were so many complaints that he no longer teaches that course. It's easier to travel channeled lanes of approach and let the high tech wizbangs create a 'protective field' for all around security. Though if you listen to guys on the ground some of them want to move 'lighter' and 'faster', they seem to understand that 'everything new' and 'risk adverse' isn't really working, and they want to go back to taking the fight to the enemy in ways he least expects it. By the way I like my GPS as much as the next guy, but when the batteries fail I still know where I am and how to get where I'm going. Today, Commanding Officers view the battlefield through video screen imagery which loses something in the translation. Outside of passing in review how many Battalion or Company Commanders sit outside their tents and talk with their troops? There was a time when that was a learning experience for both the CO and the Pvt.

Rgds,

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Well put, Hardnose. I believe that we have lost touch with the basics of soldiering in many ways and have become so technology reliant that we are moving backwards instead of forwards. Map reading is one issue I see being thrown out the window. Some troops have no clue what a bearing is, declination, how to plot a 6-figure grid and so forth. As you rightly point out, how on earth will they ever know where they are when the batteries on the GPS go down?

Likewise, one sees that troops enter a hostile area – in soft-skinned vehicles. Whatever happened to basic drills at defiles, in urban areas, movement across open country?

Many commanders lead from the TV monitor nowadays. Indeed a worrying state of affairs.

Some of these tactics are fine for conventional actions but the types of conflicts we are witnessing require some out-of-the-box thinking. If the thinking does not change, the enemy will always have the vote. But we gave it to him.

Intelligence becomes vital in these modern conflicts and without intelligence we will always be blind.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Eeben and friends:

No more evidence needed, Washington has indeed gone bloody MAD!

From The Washington Post, 14 August 2009. Selected excerpts follow:

U.S. Boots On Congo Ground
A New Kind of Force Could Provide Security

By Michael O'Hanlon
Friday, August 14, 2009

When Hillary Clinton visited eastern Congo this week, she stepped into a land of fairy-tale beauty and incredible potential. I remember vividly the day in 1982 when my incoming "class" of Peace Corps volunteers made the same trip. Eastern Congo may be the most magical place on the planet; I remember thinking it did not even belong on this planet, so surreal were its mountains, lakes, volcanoes, and lush forests and farmland.

The notion is this: Ask for volunteers to join a peace operations division for two years. They would begin their service with, say, 12 weeks of boot camp and 12 weeks of specialized training and then would be deployable. They would receive the same compensation and health benefits as regular troops, given their age and experience. Out of a division of 15,000 troops, one brigade, or about 3,000 to 4,000 soldiers, could be sustained in the field at a time.

This type of training would be modeled after standard practices in today's Army and Marine Corps. To be sure, soldiers and Marines in regular units usually go beyond this regimen to have many months of additional practice and exercise before being deployed. But the peace operations units could be led by a cadre of experienced officers and NCOs -- perhaps some of whom would be drawn back to military service after leaving (or being booted out because of the obsolete "don't ask, don't tell" policy).

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/13/AR2009081302900.html

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I saw this on Matt’s blog (www.feraljundi.com) Alan and also expressed my surprise at the suggestion. I am not sure the author of the report has an idea of what he is suggesting.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Colonel:

Thanks for forwarding Matt's excellent site. If you don't have it already, here's one for you.

Alan

http://www.michaelyon-online.com/the-kopp-etchells-effect.htm

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Many thanks, Alan. I shall certainly check it out.

Rgds,

Eeben