Written By Simon S. Sundaraj-Keun
Section I: Introduction
Intelligence (also known as int or Intel) refers to information yearned for its application rather than its accuracy. To some extent it differs from ‘hard data or evidence’ which is precise Intel. A ‘fact’ in the intelligence community is the verification of information which can be divided into ‘active data’ or ‘raw Intel’ such as current blueprints, command and control instructions, and tactical doctrine that is considered ‘highest priority’ from the standpoint of any intelligence agency.
One can argue that ‘raw Intel’ is viewed as a variable, within a bigger picture of information gathered and thus comprehending the secrets of an opponent is to answer questions of events and movements regarded as relevant intelligence. It is important to note that intelligence agencies refer to the tool that is considered an essential factor in obtaining active data and processing the results of gathering and analyzing such information. This tool is known as the human component that forms an interconnected intelligence network of the different fields of intelligence collectivization.
This practice of Human Intelligence also known as HUMINT could be conducted at the national and international level. Some might even consider this to be associated with the concept of social intelligence. The reasoning it is notwithstanding with the idea of using technology as an intermediate surveillance that in actuality eliminates the human or social component. HUMINT emphasizes on unraveling hidden agendas by infiltrating the networks base on ideologies of nationalism, radicalize organizations, political institutions, and law enforcements. Its importance is to enforce nation-state national policies or ensure the survival of a country.
HUMINT (which this research paper will be concentrating on) is the category of intelligence gathering disciplines that is unique due to the fact it encompasses all other methods in gathering intelligence with the exception by means of interpersonal contact. In simple English, HUMINT is defined as a category of intelligence derived from information collected and provided by human sources. The question would be does HUMINT remain in the minds of military or policy planners as a kind of cloak and dagger operation or does it transcend behind a cubical of an intelligence analyst?
In reality the answer is that most HUMINT activity does not involve clandestine or covert activities in today’s technological driven society. The general populations who romanticize Spy Novels from Ian Fleming or Tom Clancy might not understand that the implementation of HUMINT takes hold on a broader level. The methodology of running a HUMINT operation is ran and dictated by official protocol and the type of source (regardless whether the source is witting, unwitting, neutral, friendly or hostile).
Here are some of HUMINT sources or information gatherers (which are not the Holy Grail or limited to list to follow) such as Allied forces or nations, Prisoners of War (POW), refugees, civilians, Non-governmental organizations (NGO), corporations, the Media (journalists or its staffs), covert agents (deep cover agents or informants), and ‘walk-ins’ (a ‘walk-in’ is someone who offers his or her service to an agency by providing information). One has to keep in mind that the line between loyalty and survival differs according to individual personality. Therefore it is important to note that a spy will always be a spy no matter the time, place, and environment (agents play the cards that they are dealt with).
There is also the existence of double agents whose main purpose is to spy on a targeted organization on behalf of a controlling organization, but in fact are loyal to the target organization. HUMINT agents can be obtain if an agent of the targeted organization that infiltrates an allied organization is captured and then turned to spy against the agency that sent him or her. This is done with the threat of execution, economic incentive, or an offer to new start in life. The benefits of double agents are the ability to enforce disinformation and to identify other agents as part of counter-intelligence operations. Then for complicating matters, the existence of triple agent who pretends to be a double agent for the targeted organization, but in reality is working for an allied agency all along. The agent’s main objective is to maintain the trust of the targeted organization by feeding information to them that is perceived to be very important but is in fact part of the disinformation operation.
The basic fundamental that all agencies should be aware of is the power of persuasion which could be detrimental to a nation’s survival. These powers of persuasions come in the form of money, ideology, compromise, and ego. Its simple money is equated to the purchasing of an agents sense of loyalty. Ideology enforces an agent to be true his or her heart by embedding the enemy. Compromise is to deceive the enemy or allies into a compromising situation. The most successful component that turns an agent rouged is Ego, which plays on one’s personality traits. Ego makes an agent feel better about his or herself when betraying and not getting caught. It makes the agents feel more important in their own eyes at the detriment of a nation’s national security.
Military, diplomatic, corporate, and environment intelligence comprises gathering, analysis, protection, and dissemination of information about the enemy or nation, terrain, and weather in a strategic area of interest. It’s important to note that intelligence activities are continuously conducted at all levels from tactical to strategic or personal to national, during peace and war. Majority of militaries and all diplomatic cores maintain an intelligence corps with specialized intelligence units for collecting information in specific ways. Even corporations and non-governmental agencies to have intelligence staff personnel or analysts at each branches or department within its infrastructure.
In order to understand intelligence gathering is first to examine its methodology, which comprises such as collection, analysis, and packaging (the British Commonwealth terms may differ from the United States intelligence methodology but its overall implication are similar).
Collection consists of the most important facts that are well known, or may be gathered from public sources like newspapers to military parades. This general information can be from the economic or industrial output of a nation, resources availability, weather and terrain, technical or technological capabilities, and so on.
It is common for diplomatic and journalistic personnel to work in collation with military intelligence in collecting information. One can conclude the reason why most intelligence services attach members to Foreign Service offices is due to the low risk that goes along with it. In most cases having eyes on the ground could open up new boundaries like having an analytical team to analyze the information firsthand. In turn it would eliminate the duration to conjure a decision that would affect a nation’s national security or even survival.
Analysis is the assessment of an adversary’s or a nation’s potential and Achilles’ heel. Simple definition from a business venture would be accessing one’s potential client strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities. In a game of chess one would look for the least defended or most fragile piece in order to win the game or look for the kill in military terms. Therefore the use of HUMINT is tested against unrelated sources in order to be sure there are no fail safe. It is important to conduct HUMINT in order to obtain a better assessment of a state’s security. The reasoning is it is the only source that provides precise Intel about a nation’s objectives and motivations. It is therefore often unique variable to successfully negotiate a diplomatic crisis or peace conference.
Packaging is the final product which is made easier for intelligence personnel and policy-makers to make decisions. In turn vital assets are placed within a prioritized file based on multiple uses of sources and verified by HUMINT agents. Sources maybe obtained without the slightest sweat but to comprehend any enemy capabilities is to use HUMINT (analysis that is performed in real time gives the watcher/agency/organization a sense of control over any situation).
The methodology of intelligence assessment like collection, analysis, and packaging are fed to a higher authority or to enforce a national plan like Strategic intelligence. Strategic intelligence comprises numerous sectors like economics, military capabilities, and political assessments. Intelligence assessments could be changed based on scientific, technical, tactical, or diplomatic Intel, but these changes are analyzed in combination with known facts. If the known facts are in question from geographical, demographics, and industrial perspectives than the use of HUMINT will be necessary for verification.
HUMINT has changed over the ages with the birth of technology which added vigor and a new dimension to the espionage equation. In order to understand the human component in intelligence, on has to question where would HUMINT stand in the future? First one has to look at HUMINT’s evolution throughout history and its revolution into an essential asset in today’s chaotic international arena.
Section II: Background
History of HUMINT is well documented throughout the ages by great civilizations across the globe. Ancient Chinese and Indian military theorists such as Sun-Tzu (Art of War) and Chanakya (Arthasastra) wrote on the fundamentals of intelligence. Chanakya’s student Chandragupta Maurya (founder of the Maurya Empire) made use of clandestine operations to expand and maintain the Maurya Empire. The ancient Egyptians developed a system of collecting intelligence, and their Hebrew rivals used spies as well, which is documented in the Bible. Other examples could be found in the Torah and Quran due to the idea and practice of human intelligence then to exist and thrive throughout all civilizations, cultures, and histories across the globe.
The Ancient Greeks and Romans developed spies’ networks in order to keep taps on their rivals and maintain control over the empire. The Athenians used their commerce and trade to gather data on surrounding Aegean powers. Alexander the Great of Macedonia used sources from the exploits of Greek adventurers in Persia to plan his campaign in Asia Minor and the Middle East. The Romans rely on their diplomats and traders to gather information of different powers throughout the Mediterranean.
It is important to note that the use of informants from different professions were not a relative new thing. In the Japan, Miyamoto Musashi wrote on military strategy in the Book of Five Rings. It is based on kenjutsu and martial arts in general but General Tomoyuki Yamashita (also known as the Tiger of Malaya) used Musashi works to execute a winning strategy during his Southeast Asian campaign during World War II. Musashi’s book which is less popular that Sun Tzu works is considered a classic treatise on military strategy.
In the west, spies played a significant part in Elizabethan England. The elimination of prominent leaders like Queen Mary of Scots, traitors to the Crown, and French spies were all done with the complex network of HUMINT. The foundation of British intelligence could be traced back to that time period and continues to influence today’s HUMINT networks with the United Kingdom.
The Cold War involved intense espionage activity between the United States of America and its allies and the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China and their allies, particularly related to nuclear weapons secrets. Recently, espionage agencies have targeted the illegal drug trade and those considered to be terrorists.
For a couple of decades the United States has cultivated its best and brightest to pre-eminence in what is now known as the field of communication and control. As technology has advanced, the means and methods of espionage have advanced from Nixon era wire tapping, through Reagan era programs like ECHELON and Carnivore, to surveillance of all electronic transmissions including cell phone logs, voice mail, email, packet sniffing, trace routing and wireless transmissions.
However, the Soviet Union has been said to have had fielded the largest and most advanced spy networks during its time, infiltrating some of the most secure places on the planet, which has caused many scandals. The Soviets relied heavily on their HUMINT networks to obtain information in order to further technological advancement and to eliminate foreign spies within its borders. In reality behind any technology there has to be a human component and by corrupting or turning that component would by default neglect any technological advantages.
Religious organizations, corporations, and NGOs like the Vatican maintain vast records of intelligence on numerous items or people on this planet. The Vatican intelligence network is one of extreme secrecy and complex to comprehend. It is not an organization that would let any individual to walk in and read its exploits. Plus its HUMINT (also know as missionaries) could pass undetected in most situations in contrast to a United States diplomat or agent walking through the jungles of Africa (this is not a conspiracy theory but a known fact). For example, the Vatican managed to smuggle numerous individuals from being captured by the Nazis in World War II. The reason for the Vatican successes is its secrecy, deep pockets, loyalty (which answers to a higher authority), and one of the largest support networks.
The numerous threats have been defeated from one era to another, but its fundamentals for destruction to a nation-state or society remains and continuously evolves. It is essential to look at the problems in order to seek a possible solution before it’s too late. In this post 9/11 world the lack of HUMINT is evident as the number of civilians and Allied soldiers deaths began to add up. If a superpower relies heavily on technology but an enemy places its bet on HUMINT, how would an advanced power defeat an opponent that uses relatively simple means to execute its hard hitting terror operations?
Section III: Problems
HUMINT in the 21st century has changed dramatically from the days of the World Wars. The Cold War was an era that revolutionized numerous sectors within the world’s technological industries that created new outlets to gather intelligence. One major hurdle faced by HUMINT is technology advances in communication, surveillance, satellites, the information age, and so on, which made human intelligence seem obsolete.
Intelligence gathering disciplines other than HUMINT began to assert its priority as a high value and low risk method in obtaining information. The development Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) provides optical information which is gathered from satellite, aerial photography, and terrain data. It gives an organization a bird’s eyes view of a targeted area or country instead of risking the lives of human assets on the ground. Imagery Intelligence (IMINT) also enforces the collection of images by satellite with aerial photography like Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or spy planes.
There are methods of obtaining intelligence like Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) which is the gathering of information from open sources. Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Communications Intelligence (COMINT) is the gathering of sources from interception of signals, and Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) is the gathering of Intel from non-communications electronic emissions. For the most part the method used in obtaining intelligence does not place the human component in a high risk situation.
The risks of losing an operative is as real as it can be because the targeted nation can deport, imprison, or even execute a spy. Some nations will deploy counter agents in order to roll up several clandestine networks and even hire agents to infiltrate into other nation’s agency. Sometimes it is not easy to imprison a spy because he or she is given diplomatic immunity by the home nation. The targeted nation can declare persona non grata in order to evict the spy from its borders. It takes a long time to train a HUMINT agent than it takes to replace a broke computer or replace a spy satellite.
For cost effectiveness and risk free the United States has placed its emphasis on the development of technologies in order to have command and control in the field of communication. One has to understand that the advancement of technology brought the means and methods of espionage to a new level. The days of agents running around a nation-state has evolved to an era of surveillance of all electronic transmissions including cell phone logs, voice mail, email, packet sniffing, trace routing and wireless transmissions.
In reality the prioritization of most intelligence agencies today has been to control and monitor financial transactions, the information corridor (internet and communication lines), and the spread of technological advance weaponry (weapons of mass destruction). In the post-Cold War world numerous agencies have been data mining the world’s stock exchanges and this program was formalized on October 26, 2001 in the form of the Patriot Act. This helps track the financing of people who might be laundering money and continues to be done without any warrants.
It is important for any nation to gather the political and economic information that might be of advantage to its Strategic Intelligence. The United States is no exception to the rule and monitoring of foreign communications is essential in maintaining its national interest. In 2002, new programs of satellite surveillance and unmanned low level drones armed with missiles made it possible not only to perform surveillance in real time, but to respond with force. Thus proving that unmanned drones could be used for elimination operations without the lost of Allied forces.
One has to understand that out of the advancement of technology, chronic problems begin to emerge in the shadows, which would in turn create an intelligence blind spot that would leave a state’s national security in the dark. This blind spot is the lack of balance between the use of HUMINT and technology as a symbiosis component in force multiplication. The lack of investment in HUMINT could lead to disaster as experience during World War II and currently on the War on Terrorism demonstrates.
There is a serious problem faced by HUMINT, which is the lack of time and effort to learn the multiple languages that are spoken by the various ethnic groups within the nations around the globe. Languages transcend beyond the physical boundaries of nation-states and reflect the unique multiracial heritage of a nation. There a firm belief that appreciation of languages should take priority in order to address the intelligence problem, it will help to promote one’s national security, which is unfortunately lacking in today’s global arena (especially in the United States Intelligence community).
Section IV: Analysis of the Future and a Plausible Solution.
Therefore where is the HUMINT heading to? Is there an end result to the prioritization of HUMINT? One possible end is with the infiltration and dismantling of terror cells. HUMINT is essential part as the first line of defense against terrorists. In order for intelligence agency to change and implement reforms is to have an idea of today’s global reality that intelligence agency would be required to pool or surrender sovereignty over some areas. In effect, an intelligence agency would provide coordination and cooperation by sharing information which other agencies are not capable of adequately acquiring Intel sources.
In this day in age, there have been a couple of nations that has put forward comprehensive plans for enhancing HUMINT with a combination of technology. An intelligence organization comprised of political appointees will not be able to break the mole that has been the norm within an intelligence organization. To improve an agency is to promote intelligence officials based on merits and it will improve the scope and intensity to experiment with new strategies. Capitalizing on the growing importance of World Wide Web is essential but individuals adhering to ideologies are difficult to comprehend if there is no one to report within the group.
There are many often contradictory visions on the use of HUMINT due to its undemocratic view within the United States. It also rests on the culture and environment of a nation along with a nation’s technological advancement in comparison of the global environment. Countries tend to rely on HUMINT based on its ability to produce multilingual speakers and are culturally diverse. It is also based on the position of its nation-state in a geographical sense. Take Bhutan, it has to rely on reconnaissance in order to keep taps on Maoist forces from intruding on its border.
Today’s threats come from religious fundamentalists that will do whatever it takes to push for an apocalyptic event. Fundamentalist or radicals in religions would rather see the whole world burn than acknowledging a secular global change that would challenge their authority. HUMINT is needed to unearth this terror cell who consider the only plausible form of government is to be ruled only by religion/theological leaders.
The lack of cultural understanding is one reason why HUMINT is essential to unravel threats to a nation-state. The United States intelligence apparatus over the decades fails to allocate a grand strategy in gathering intelligence. It has to put the time and effort to learn the multiple languages that are spoken by the various ethnic groups within the country. If an intelligence agency is able to comprehend the strategic value of cultural intelligence through HUMINT then the war on terror will be over sooner than later.
Strategic interest in languages transcended the physical boundaries of a technological driven intelligence environment and it reflects the uniqueness of a multiracial world, which needs to be addressed. The firm believe that appreciation of languages should take priority in dealing with adversaries who are culturally different is essential in HUMINT. It helps intelligence agency to become culturally sensitive, which is useful in getting out or through tough situations and by analyzing data firsthand, thus enhancing reaction time during a field operation.
HUMINT’s growing importance is evident in economic, diplomatic and military implications which stretch across the world. The reason is that the global community is increasing volume and variety of cross-border transactions through communications. This transaction includes goods and services, free international capital flows, and more rapid and widespread diffusion of technology. Globalization is a complex and comprehensive assortment of phenomena which in turn leads the United States to place more assets in technological based intelligence.
However dealing with a terrorist network which is based on ideology than the value of HUMINT is undeniably essential. HUMINT can be broken down into separate aspects such as industrialization and expansion of multinational enterprises, financial globalization, emergence of international markets, spread of political sphere of interests around the world, information networking between geographically remote locations, and the growth of cross-cultural contacts. The reality is most intelligence networks within the Western Hemisphere do not see it as an important factor to invest in HUMINT.
Some may argue differently but the globalization phenomenon is related to the importance of HUMINT on curving the radical movement that is occurring on a global scale. Others argue it is an old profession which holds no value in a technological driven world. So it makes one to implement HUMINT due to the fact most of the world population live in an environment that is less technologically advanced. In order to achieve a sense of security it is important to place eyes on the ground. Would we accept these growing interlocking HUMINT networks which would bring security? It is tough to say in today’s ever-changing geopolitical game of multi economic superpowers that is run by flip-flopping bureaucrats.
After all many individuals of today’s society distrust the government generally and the rest of the world fears a predominance of American power on the global arena. There are some in the United States who go as far to say that any HUMINT is a grand conspiracy for the U.S government to control the freedoms granted by the U.S Constitution. Americans see the idea of security but its implication is felt as a threat to their personal freedoms. While some Americans risk their lives to keep this nation safe. To see the world in the eyes of HUMINT agent is to comprehend that there is a greater importance for freedom and democracy is national security.
Section V: Conclusion
HUMINT throughout the ages left civilizations with a sense of collectivization of security. It influences governments to implement a national security in order to survive in an era of uncertainty. Today that uncertainty remains but the ability for intelligence agencies to their assets into HUMINT still exist. The more intelligence agencies realize that there is more to just a line drawn in the sand by a network of satellites than progress could be made.
Diplomacy will remain the effective tool in gathering intelligence since it will be the first to access and analyze threats prior to other services. There will always be problems ranging from cultural, economics, political, religion, and so on that would hinder the efficiency of HUMINT. It is by far a system that performed surgically would prevent major conflicts from occurring. One has to remember that HUMINT for a nation is important to provide that check in order to ensure an adversary does not become a threat.
It is solvable if the basic human factors are addressed such as religion, economics, culture and identity along with law. Intelligence agency should maintain a constant source of HUMINT in order to receive information from the enemy camp. If democratic nations can agree on the terms that the world has changed then HUMINT could be allocated by region within the global political and cultural framework.
If multiple intelligence agencies unite then the interaction between HUMINT and other intelligence disciplines would be easier to assess and disseminate to policy makers. Intelligence makes the concept of statecraft more relevant than ever in solving the issues of that threaten national security. Culture will always remain with humanity because it is part of what makes a person different from any other person. It is also a display of where an individual came from and who he or she represents in life. Then it is essential investment by any intelligence agency into the knowledge of understanding cultures, ideologies, and languages.
HUMINT will work as a component that promotes solidarity among fellow mankind by interacting as equal partners in the global environment. This concept is much needed in today’s society as there are unforeseen forces that are trying to destabilize the global peace that had been fought for after the Cold War. The only way HUMINT could be effective is its ability to be a preventive measure against acts of terror. In reality only acts of terrorism on a global scale like 9/11 would be the catalyst to change. Take 9/11 as an example, when the multiple intelligence agencies cooperated for a brief moment to support the United Sates Justice Department and military to crack down on global terror networks.
Then how would HUMINT maintain that drive of supportive network among fellow intelligence agencies? Is there the need for one disaster after another in order to keep them united? Maybe that is required until Intel agencies learn to place their differences aside and talk their problems instead of undermining each other. That is why HUMINT works because it allows intelligence agencies to give up some power for the greater good of the nation.
If HUMINT is to be considered essential it would require a catalyst to jump-start the process like 9/11 or a continuous jump-start due to the sense of relative peace. The best way for anything to come into being is the long process of intelligence integration among agencies and subornation to a single entity (like the National Intelligence Agency and Homeland Security) which would take time. HUMINT is an evolutionary process of politics, economics, and diplomatic needs over the annals of history which continues to revolutionize military thinkers and influences political leadership of today’s global security.
Only time will tell if HUMINT would continue to be relevant as a tool in the world of espionage. After all whatever happens to HUMINT down the road, it will not prevent adversaries of the Free World to continue from trying to inflict death and destruction because the end justifies the means. The Human factor will always be an important asset in unraveling the puzzle piece in any intelligence operation. The human mind will always remain the deadliest arsenal in existence.
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