HUMINT Reform – Norbert Schulz

"I have thought of that in terms of what might be sensible to have for the German Army today. I recall that our counter-espionage wing asked to be given authority to operate spies in Afghanistan but that was turned down due to reasons of redundancy with our BND.
That is an old story the US army had with the CIA as well. And I don’t think it’s an accident that the British army created their FRU instead of calling in the MI5 and MI6. I am confident they did but that it was insufficient.

I think one problem is that there is a genuine risk of ‘fracticide’ from inter-service rivalries that invites exploitation by an opponent. There needs to be unity of command and information sharing. All units are modules that form an army. If SOCOM needs to have an independent intelligence wing, good, but then it must be under one command coordinating their efforts with the regular intelligence units, just like Special Forces need to be under one command (as opposed to a separate chain from Florida or DC). There is no way around it. That iirc was one of the things Sir Templar’s reforms made sure in Malaya.
It should also be made clear that the military is subordinate to political decisions in Iraq, made by say, the US ambassador. I believe in Klausewitz dictum that war is the continuation of politics with violent means. Without a realistic political approach determining the military objectives the US can win a thousand skirmishes and still not win the war. The unity of command issue extends well up to the White House level.

The analysis section <i>must</i> get input from all other information gathering sources and services – starting from intercepts, info from interrogation, field reports, reports from other services, access to databases. I also think that that, just like interservice rivalries, can be resolved if there only is the will.

So that means service A needs to know what service B thinks of their common source. It is desirable, I think, that one source is handled by one handler. I also think that there must be ensured that the intelligence gathering focus is right. I think a central service, and in the US that would apply to the DIA as much as the CIA, will be interested in a more strategic picture, wheras army commanders will be interested in tactical and operational informations to help them plan and conduct their operations to achieve their objectives. An army unit will reflect and deliver on army requirements, in that sense it is quite straightforward to have an army unit doing this.

That said, in a cold-war/ defense-of-the-homeland setting where your troops operate on your soil against an outside enemy there is hardly a need for this sort of capability. This requirement exists mostly for expeditionary purposes, peacekeeping or internal unrest.

I think Arun made a good point<blockquote>Presumably, one would want this clandestine HUMINT capability even if there is no overt threat at the moment?</blockquote>You need to have the skills available from the start when you go on such missions. Of course, that we can lament now, but things are they way they are. Question is what lessons you draw.

You need experienced handlers, spies. It takes time to build such expertise. There are few ‘natural spies’ I presume. That is a good argument for having a permanent capability. That also invites centralisation. Maybe such HUMINT units could be formed alongside the Green Berets, as genuine military intelligence HUMINT teams mirroring the regional focus of the Special Forces Groups, ready to be plugged into a regional command, reporting to a G2’s ‘spymaster’, who would also head the analysis section? It would have the benefit of sharing regional expertise and training with recruiting opportunities and cooperation, after all, Green Berets working with locals are also doing HUMINT work, albeit from a slightly different angle. That would decentralise such capabilities to where they are needed while still maintaining coherence.

With the chain of command issue and under the above premise it might be sensible to abolish SOCOM and to replace it by a Special Forces Equipment and Training Command, leaving tasking to regional commanders or task groups while ensuring that the specialises forces get the equipment they need (which that I don’t exactly mean the MV-22). Even though special forces are specially trained, likely every commander needs their unique capabilities when fighting an unconventional campaign. Insofar the current structure apparently seems to reflect cold-war requirements. If a regional commander cannot use specialised forces properly, replace the commander rather than taking the troops out of the chain of command.

Another point is how to keep the handlers ‘sharp’ in peacetime. Domestic use is fraught with peril, legal issues ignore. How do you make use of them without wasting their talent on spying on something as menacing as domestic peacegroups like ‘Grannies knitting for peace’ in war time and and ‘potentially violent undesirables’ in peacetime?
There needs to be perspective which I think is lost to some degree in America when I think about police and military spying on peacegroups and frankly political dissidents. I speak of the 1000+ personnel gizmo happy CIFA/TALON program, and the apparent infiltration of ‘groups of interest’. QED, there is a clear potential for misuse of such assets that bears the seed of scandal to undo even the sensible application of such tools.

One can always ‘lend them’ to other services when they are not required to maintain expertise, that will also help to create links between the institutions. Germany arranged for the GSG-9 counterterrorism force service in local police SWATs to (re-)gain practical expertise after they badly botched a terrorist capture in Bad Kleinen. I can imagine that a theoretician spy can be just as disastrous.

It would help to have a sort of MI5 service that could use such folks, without exposing them for law enforcement (in the sense that their work wouldn’t result in them having to testify in court). In Britain I would suggest the MI5 as a ‘parking station’. They can observe and are not forced to intervene when law is being broken. I don’t know which US intelligence gathering service would be comparable. If they need to temporarily leave the military to meet the standards of Posse Comitatus, so be it. If there is the will, there is a constitutional way to do it.
Maybe the US with their ‘global footprint’ has such requirements on a more regular basis. In that case they could be stationed overseas to build local contacts, and so contribute to base security. Considering the deployment periods to make such units work, develop sources, I think that such a HUMINT capability as an organic part of a deploying unit is not feasible.
Generally, handlers should receive language training and gain regional expertise, preferrably by sending them to the on ‘training assignments’, say, under pretext of Special Forces training missions to friendly countries.

The MI5-like organisation would also provide for a template from where to take expertise needed to create an army analysis capability. That could be done on the same ‘parking station’ basis as with the handlers.

As it is now the US would need to recruit folks who after initial selection and training learn on the job. For analysis they probably need to recruit historians, sociologists, indeed, Arabists, empiricists – I do not believe one can train soldiers in such a way quickly. For the handlers, I would search in formations with language skills and regional knowledge, probably, but not neccessarily, in the Special Forces. It is in my view more economic a use of effort to find someone who has the right mindset and skills and teach him to do the job and survive."  Norbert Schulz (Confused Ponderer)

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10 Responses to HUMINT Reform – Norbert Schulz

  1. jon says:

    Nice pot. Covers a lot of ground.
    The FBI is the appropriate intelligence agency to monitor enemies on US soil. They tracked Soviets during the Cold War, Nazis during WWII. They are not perfect, but have generally performed adequately to exceptionally. There have also been notable failures, whose lessons may not have been adequately internalized by the FBI or all of its personnel.
    Posse Comitatus is one of those ‘quaint’ rights that should be inviolable. What would be the point of fighting bin Laden, if we then bestow sharia law on ourselves? Thanks, no thanks. When needed, there are ample ways to delegate federal officers to local jurisdiction, and military personnel to civilian control. It seems that there is far too much interest in sidestepping Posse Comitatus recently – it should send chills down the spine of any democracy to hear such contemplation.
    What is not needed is yet another proliferation of intelligence agencies, or another layer of bureaucracy. If anything, more people with more capabilities out in the field and analyzing the data, and moderation on the technology front.
    The CIA was/is supposed to coordinate foreign intelligence gathering among all the different players. Interservice rivalries have not been tamed sufficiently. We can already see that Homeland Security is not forging better integration. Beyond lack of sharing, this can lead to duplication of effort, diffusion of resources, counterproductive work, and greater confusion.
    There seems to be a real need to sharpen up and discriminate among all of the potential domestic targets. The Earth Liberation Front may not be your cup of tea, but they are not in the same league as al Qaeda; therefore they should not be the primary target and receive the level of resources they currently do.
    Similarly, I can understand wanting to take a look at ‘Grandmothers Knitting for Peace’ to see what’s up, but once you realize they’re as advertised, maybe you could delete the files on their personal info, and not try to turn their old library fines into a conspiracy charge. I’m sure they would welcome the occasional, declared, visit to remind them to be aware of potential infiltrators who might subvert their legal activities.
    Finding a ragtag group of malcontents, providing them with some bullshit political theories, pointing them at some targets, then supplying them with arms and explosives, is also a very poor use of resources. For one thing, they might get lucky. I certainly hope that counter terrorism through agents provocateurs isn’t the primary game plan here. And certainly not on American soil, entrapping citizens.
    Overseas, the examples of SOF assisting democratic culture formation while simultaneously fighting authoritarian forces should yield good results. Any individual is a potential ambassador. Their actions, all of them, will be judged. Even sub rosa conduct may be exposed at some point; how has been carried out may affect the relations between nations, as well as public mood.
    As you say, ultimately it comes down to the people you send out to do the work. Iraq and al Qaeda seem such failures in large part because of poor intelligence, as well as our choice of whom to work with.
    In Iraq, we didn’t trust the quality defectors we had – and burned them, then we trusted the INC which was demonstrably trying o play the US, and then turns out to have deeper links to Iran! Of course Saddam was our guy once, too. We also enable the rise of both al Qaeda and the Taliban, but cut ties once the Soviets left Afghanistan.
    The US needs to see its intelligence missions as a long term endeavor, rather than mission specific, hit and miss jobs. If we had paid more care in recruiting, in strategizing, in the care, education and management of those we interact with, we might now be able to discuss the finer points of the legislative process or cultural exchange with many who are now our sworn enemies. It might be naive to try to turn over a new leaf, but can more of the same really lead to success?

  2. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “What is not needed is yet another proliferation of intelligence agencies, or another layer of bureaucracy. If anything, more people with more capabilities out in the field and analyzing the data, and moderation on the technology front.”
    What I am talking about is not “another layer of intelligence bureaucracy.” There is no god damned capability there for this. Can’t you read? pl

  3. Cold War Zoomie says:

    I’d like to comment on these points:
    1. “There needs to be unity of command and *information sharing*.”
    2. “The analysis section must get input from all other *information gathering sources and services* – starting from intercepts, info from interrogation, field reports, reports from other services, access to databases.”
    3. “So that means service A needs to know what service B thinks of their common source.”
    There are two huge programs underway in the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) to meet these requirements: Net-Centric Enterprise Services (NCES) and Net-Enabled Command Capability (NECC).
    NCES is supposed to allow users to push and pull all sorts of data across the entire DoD “Global Information Grid.” Bascially, a DoD Google allowing anyone (with proper authorization) connected to the DISA network to access reports, video, audio, maps, and more as well as collaborate using tools such as chat. There is an UNCLASS NCES network and a SECRET network. NCES is consuming huge amounts of cash and resources without being a resounding success. It is not a failure (yet), but there are issues as with any huge IT undertaking, worst of which is that the top leadership pushing the “net-centricity warfare” buzz has left for greener pastures in industry. One particular engineering meeting in 2005, pulling together users from all branches and agencies, got really ugly. I was there. It wasn’t pretty.
    NECC is not as far along in the development stages, bogged down in the cumbersome DoD aquisition process. Since NECC hasn’t evolved past the Vaporware stages, I can’t comment on it much other than it is supposed to improve command and control information sharing much like NCES. It is being developed as a joint C2 tool.
    Down here in the trenches, my coworkers and I get the impression that the services are being forced to buy into these systems developed by DISA against their will, especially NCES. NECC may be in a better position since it is being developed as a joint program with DISA only providing program management and not development.
    Just another factor in the already complicated mix.

  4. Barry says:

    Also, remember how we got here – the administration wanted something, and intelligence was just an obstacle to be overcome.
    Once we were in Iraq, the military leadership joined the administration in refusing to see what was happening.

  5. McGee says:

    Great discussion.. Not sure if I’m to post this comment here or over at TA, but will let the good Colonel decide…
    Think there is a real danger in attaching this now non-existent HUMINT capability to SOCOM or SF units as Norbert Schulz suggests. (Not that the Army will in fact be tasked with this mission any time soon, but for the sake of this discussion.) Too many cowboys of the David Hackworth in his Colonel Kilgore salad days variety there – very little of the charisma that Sid Smith describe in his post. (I should add here for Colonel Lang that I admired and respected the SF I worked with in my day – just rarely agreed with them as regards tactics) As Smith points out it’s the reason Blackwater, CACI, DynCorp, et al will never produce much in the way of actionable intelligence. Cowboys don’t do subtlety very well – and HUMINT requires alot of subtlety, time and patience. The Colonel may or may not agree with this based on his Vietnam experience, but I think he is the exception that proves the rule.
    This entire topic, which I think most of us find fascinating, is probably a moot point as regards the short-term outcome in Iraq. But if our presence in the ME is going to be a lengthy one, and involve military units in active peacekeeping roles there and elsewhere (particularly Africa), then I think a HUMINT capacity is vital. Not sure on a personal note if we should be there or not – in fact I would probably argue against – but if we are then it’s insane to continue to go in blind like this.

  6. confusedponderer says:

    I picked the Green Berets for the sole reason of them having some of the skills neccessary, regional knowledge especially. I do not see spies as part of the Special Forces, but rather see them in the MI branch, or as reconaissance troops, be it only to underline that what they do is reconaissance, far far away from any glamour.
    I said, along the lines of the Special Forces Groups, not as part. With that I mean one group focusing on central America, one on East Asia, one on the Middle East, one on Europe, whatever.
    I was about to write something about avoiding ‘shock troops’, ‘door kickers’, but deleted it before posting. But you are of course right. If there is a navy cook having the right skills, fine, teach him self defense, CQB and pistol shooting. There is little point in trying to ‘transform’ one John Rambo into something subtle.

  7. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I think you have a strange idea of what SF is. pl

  8. confusedponderer says:

    you want to tell me folks like you were not the role model for Stallone’s character that movie? I’m shocked! Shocked!
    Our navy combat divers state they ‘suffer without complaint’, and our KSK describes the folks they seek as the ‘quiet professional’. They are very good at what they do, and are very tough. That doesn’t mean these folks are natural spies.
    Now add to that a worldview limited to ‘good guys’ vs. ‘bad guys’, a buzzcut, group-prayers, football playing Hoo-aa! and there you have a non-spy, but perhaps just the right guy to storm an ‘enemy hideout’. I know I’m badly stereotyping, but that’s what I mean with ‘shock troops’.
    And as for ‘door kickers’, from what I read after 9/11 the emphasis of US special operation forces had shifted to ‘direct action’ at the expense of other missions.

  9. confusedponderer says:

    The most important part in my post is in my view the issue of decentralisation of HUMINT intelligence gathering. I think the special forces, Green Berets that is, allow the quickest ‘generation’ of such an ability because of their pool of available talent. These units would be a good place for ‘Heldenklau’, ‘stealing’ qualified personnel to man tactical HUMINT units. I stand with that.
    The regional focus (SFG 1 Pacific, , SFG 3 Horn of Africa, SFG 5 Middle East etc.) of the respective groups allows to find folks with local and cultural knowledge and perhaps even experience and language skills, and quickly. I now think it might be an easier sell if the personnel is left inside the SFG’s but retasked and put in new units. Leaving them there would also allow to better perpetuate them, and prevent such an ability from being built for Iraq only.

  10. Charles says:

    All the experts and brainiacs can argue about exactly what is required of who, wherever, – PL said below that if there’s a will, there’s a way. Presumably, there’s still a few old codgers out there besides PL who know and can do.
    It will be adamantly resisted by the likes of Aegis. The contract for Baghdad intel discussed in the weekend WAPO article, was for almost $1/4 billion. These people are connected and now flush with dough. Their reason d’etre is money and influence, not duty and country. All this privatized, hived off government is a gigantic non-accountable, very profitable, private slush fund, poorly serving the Republic on the taxpayor’s dime. It is positioned just as many of the people who brought you to the present pass wish.
    Interestingly, the head of that op in Bagdhad, one Mr. Lewis, admits near the end of the article that after ginning up their reports, Aegis just dumps the whole collection on the local commanders, without any commensurate “scholarship” resources to deal with the take.
    Still, given the will, what intel reform will require is what is seemingly in shortest supply: an unbroken chain of wisely informed, rightly decided, implementable(politically and financially)decisions up a long line across many political/military/bureaucratic divisions.
    Good luck with that.

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