The Five Disciplines of Intelligence Collection

Title:                      The Five Disciplines of Intelligence Collection

Author:                  Mark M. Lowenthal

Lowenthal, Mark M. (2016) and Robert M. Clark, eds. The Five Disciplines of Intelligence Collection. Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ Press

LCCN:    2014046175

JF1525.I6 F58 2016


Date Posted:      October 5, 2016

Caveat. Perpendat itaque lector cavendum (civilis).[1]

Reviewed by Peter C. Oleson[2]

Two veteran intelligence scholars and textbook authors have joined together to produce what is sure to become a standard text about intelligence collection. Mark M. Lowenthal, author of Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy[3], a standard university political science textbook now in its sixth edition, and Robert M. Clark, author of Intelligence Analysis: A Target-Centric Approach, now in its fourth edition [sic. The book is now in its fifth edition], The Technical Collection of Intelligence and Intelligence Collection have gathered five experts to explain in understandable English the details of the five collection disciplines. Chapter authors are recognized experts in their disciplines: open source intelligence (OSINT), human intelligence (HUMINT), signals intelligence (SIGINT), geospatial intelligence (GEOINT), and measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT).

Each expert defines precisely his INT, overviews its history and development, describes who conducts the collection, identifies the types of targets most relevant to the INT, and identifies future trends. One of the most instructive aspects of the chapters are the discussions of how each INT is managed, a topic largely overlooked in books about intelligence. The authors conclude the book with an instructive explanation of how intelligence collection is managed overall.

Open source intelligence is explained by Eliot A. Jardines, the former Assistant Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Open Source who oversaw the DNI’s Open Source Center, managed by CIA, the National Media Exploitation Center, managed by DIA, and the National Virtual Translation Center, managed by the FBI. He explains how OSINT is an enabler of other INTs but is the only INT that is “acquired secondhand” from published materials. Of particular interest is his explanation of gray literature and cyber-acquired OSINT. He draws the distinction in the cyber world between open source and SIGINT and notes the contributions of YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Commercial imagery from space is OSINT, and as he rightly points out, part of the GEOINT discipline too.

Jardines traces the roots of the US Government’s interest in OSINT to the Foreign Broadcast Monitoring Service of WWII, which became an important source for the OSS. He describes the shortcomings of CIA’s Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) and the fits and starts experienced developing a concerted Intelligence Community OSINT effort. The DNI’s Open Source Center (OSC), established 2005, has recently been integrated into the new CIA Directorate of Digital Innovation. Jardines explains that many elements of the Intelligence Community conduct their own open source exploitation for their own specialized purposes. And it is a major source of intelligence for the private sector.

Jardines emphasizes the importance of language skills and cultural understanding for open source analysis, as well as having the expertise to understand the inherent or explicit bias of sources or attempts to plant information for the purposes of deception.

Human intelligence is addressed by Michael Althoff, a former CIA operations officer and Russian specialist who served as a collections management officer, analyst, and senior manager in the National Clandestine Service.

The critical contribution of HUMINT relates to revealing intentions. He cites the critical intelligence from Oleg Penkovsky during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Interestingly he also relates the 2009 betrayal of Hermann Simm, an Estonian spying for Moscow who Althoff calls the “most damaging spy in NATO history.” And Russia had to be pleased with the espionage of Jeffrey Delisle, the Canadian Navy sub-lieutenant, who, from 2007 to 2012, provided top secret SIGINT reports to the GRU.

Althoff calls HUMINT the oldest form of spying and notes that the US first used large numbers of foreign agents during the Mexican War of 1846-48. Looking to the future, he cites the many challenges for HUMINT in the digital world and the need to rebuild trust with other intelligence services with whom the US cooperates, after the Manning and Snowden affairs.

Signals intelligence is covered by Professor William N. Nolte, a former NSA analyst and executive who served on the National Intelligence Council. He addresses both the cryptologic base of SIGINT and the system built to collect and process its various types [communications intelligence (COMINT), electronic intelligence (HUNT), and foreign instrumentation signals (FISINT)].

He traces the history of SIGINT from Morse code to modern packet communications and provides succinct summaries of SIGINT related to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the US naval victory at Midway. He also describes the VENONA project, in which the US deciphered Soviet intelligence messages exposing Moscow’s extensive espionage network in the US during WWII.

Of particular value to students of US intelligence is Nolte’s explanation of the processing and exploitation phase of SIGINT and how it was impacted by the information revolution.

Geospatial intelligence, the newest INT, is explained by the team of Darryl Murdock and Robert M. Clark. Murdock was a remote sensing scientist and geographical information systems expert at Eastman Kodak, ESRI, and now works for the US Geospatial Intelligence Foundation. Clark is a former Air Force electronic warfare officer and CIA analyst, and educator.

As they explain, GEOINT is not simply a collection discipline. Rather it is a hybrid discipline involving the collection of imagery, open source geographical information, and aggregating analysis to produce maps, charts, and geographically-oriented intelligence products.

They trace the evolution of US mapping, charting, and geodetic efforts into today’s GEOINT, and explain the organizational transition from the National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC) and service-unique organizations to the Central Imagery Office (CIO), National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA), and finally to today’s National Geospacial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). They also identify the involvement of non-Intelligence Community elements in GEOINT, for example, the US Geological Survey (USGS).

They survey the multiple sources of GEOINT-relevant imagery, including commercial satellite sources, such as WorldView. They also explain in easily understandable terms the contributions of the more exotic sources of imagery multispectral, hyperspectral, video, and LIDAR. Not limited to US systems, the authors also survey foreign remote sensing/GEOINT systems.

Measure and signature intelligence has always been the “most difficult of all INTs to define.” But the team of John L. Morris and Robert M. Clark define it in ways that arc easily understandable. Morris was the Intelligence Community functional manager for MASINT and Director of the Central MASINT Office (CMO). MASINT has “always been considered to be more of an in-depth exploitation and analysis discipline” than a pure collection discipline. MASINT collects much of its raw data from different INTs—SIGINT and imagery intelligence (IMINT), now considered ,a subset of GEOINT, as well as from some unique collectors.

The history of MASINT is closely tied to the strategic threat of ballistic missiles. Early MASINT collectors were giant radars developed to detect ballistic missile trajectories, such as Cobra Dane at the end of the Aleutian chain in Alaska. Other MASINT systems were developed to gain better understanding of missiles and warn of their launch, such as the Rivet Amber and Rivet Ball airborne systems to collect imagery on ICBMs, the Advanced Range Instrumentation Ships to collect radar images of reentry vehicles, and the Over-the-Horizon-Forward Scatter (OTH-F) launch warning radars. The authors detail the evolution of space-based infrared warning systems from the early MIDAS satellite to the Defense Support Program (DSP) to today’s Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) that provides overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) warning and other IR intelligence.

Morris and Clark detail the various MASINT sub-disciplines—electro-optical, radar, radiofrequency, geophysical, nuclear radiation, material sampling—and their intelligence uses. Their chart on the electro-optical spectrum shows the breadth of sensor coverage.

They also cover the history of the development of MASINT within the Intelligence Community and the 1992 establishment of the Central MASINT Office. They describe the INTs turbulent history as part of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the complex management of the discipline, the definitional (and bureaucratic) conflicts with SIGINT and GEOINT, and its increased tactical use by the military.

Managing collection within the Intelligence Community overall, the concluding chapter by the editors, is particularly enlightening as little is written on this subject. Lowenthal and Clark address the issue of stovepipe management of INTs: “[t]he stovepipe approach is necessary at some level because each INT functions and behaves differently. For each to operate at maximum utility, knowledgeable people need to be in charge.” They then explain the evolution of “functional management”—a hybrid management model intended to enhance sharing, integration, and allow all stakeholders a voice in managing the INTs. They explain the role of the DNI in orchestrating the various INTs.

The section on TPBD (tasking, processing, exploitation, and dissemination) of the various INTs is a valuable primer in itself. They explain the National Intelligence Priorities Framework (NIPF), the role of the new National Intelligence Managers (NIMs), the challenges of processing the glut of data collected, and the political issue of “ownership” of an INT by a collection agency, a cultural artifact that the DNI is trying to erase, emphasizing instead the stewardship of intelligence information and the need to share.

The 5 Disciplines of Intelligence Collection is an important book for analysts to understand the broad dimensions and limitations of the INTs upon which they rely for their raw information. For students of intelligence it is the most concise and clear explanation of the complexity associated with the collection of data and its transformation into intelligence.

[1] On occasion, personal loyalties and opinions can be carved in stone and defended with a vengeance — at times with some venom thrown in. In these situations, the actual importance of the subject matter is dwarfed by the amount of aggression expressed. Retain a sense of proportion in all online and in-person discussions. [From The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies.]

[2] Oleson, Peter C. in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (22, 2, Spring 2016, pp. 136-137). Peter C. Oleson is the editor of Association of Former Intelligence Officers’ (AFIO’s) Guide to the Study of Intelligence, a member of the AFIO board, and the Chairman of its academic outreach. Previously he was he Director for Intelligence and Space Policy for the Secretary of Defense and Assistant Director for Plans and Policy of the Defense Intelligence Agency. He was CEO of Potomac Strategies & Analysis, Inc., a consulting firm on technology and intelligence and an associate professor in the graduate school for the University of Maryland University College.

[3] Lowenthal, Mark M. (2009). Intelligence from Secrets to Policy (4th ed.). Washington, DC: CQ Press

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