The purpose of this report is to determine the best intelligence collection methods that can be used to counter terrorist attacks from the terror group ISIS. The paper will also discuss the most qualified members of the IC team to collect the data on the terror group as well as the most effective analytical strategies that will be used to analyze the information collected. As shall be seen from the discussion below, the most appropriate data collection programs on this particular organization are HUMINT programs and active military specialists as well as specialists from the Department of Defense will be the most appropriate data collectors and gatherers.
Data Collection Programs
For the most part, data collection on ISIS future terror plans has been difficult owing to the mystification of the group. The group operates using the psychology of terror and it is often difficult to know when they are the perpetrators of the terror attack or not. The psychology of terror that the group uses can be seen through the random shootings, suicide bombings, car bombs, and homemade explosives throughout the world (BBC 2014, 1).
The members of the group are difficult to track because they are always under the radar. Some of the faces of the terrorists from this group only become known once they have participated in a terror attack. These individuals are usually the low cadre members of the group making it difficult to track the true leaders of the Islamic State. Furthermore, the group uses random shootings and car bombs all over the world to demonstrate their significant presence around the globe. These small organized crimes are difficult to track and even when arrests are made, the true organizers are never caught.
To aid in the collection of this time-sensitive data, it has been determined that human intelligence programs are best suited for the task. Such programs use people on the ground to collect information about a group, in this case, the terrorist group ISIS. The terror group often conducts surprise attacks, which can be difficult if not impossible to predict. Thus, human intelligence can be useful in providing pertinent details such as time and place of the next attack (Nygaard 2014, 5). The law enforcement agencies can then use this intelligence to prevent the planned attack from occurring.
HUMINT can be described as the intelligence derived from information collected from and provided by humans (NATO 2015, 2-H-5; Sullivan 2012, 7). The information is gathered through interpersonal contact as opposed to other data collection techniques that are more technical including imagery intelligence, signals intelligence, and measurement and signature intelligence. Human intelligence can take many forms including espionage, military contacts, refugees, traveler debriefing, friendly diplomats, prisoners of war, traveler debriefing, as well as non-governmental organizations.
For ISIS, the ground HUMINT sources will be essential during the preparation and collection phases of intelligence gathering. The ground sources have direct contact with members of the terror group and can gain access to critical information about the structure of the group, the leaders of each terror cell, as well as plans for future attacks in different parts of the world. The information gathered using such sources is considered high profile and can be directly used in military operations against ISIS.
In-depth reports indicate that majority of funding for ISIS originates from the northeastern regions of Africa as well as Southwestern regions of Asia. For data collection to be most effective, it is imperative that HUMINT sources be placed in Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq. Geospatial imagery confirms that these areas have high volumes of ISIS militant activities. Human sources placed in these areas can extract crucial information that could lead to the capture of the leaders of the group as well as the prevention of future terrorist attacks around the globe. The human sources set up in these areas need to be highly trained in dealing with difficult terrain as most of these regions experience extreme temperatures (Sanchez 2015, 1).
As with other data collection programs, HUMINT programs have several limitations. Most of these limitations are linked to psychological connotations. For instance, perception, a psychological principle, affects the way a human source will receive and process firsthand information. The reason the source is providing such information to the law enforcement officers can also affect the credibility and reliability of the information provided (Nygaard 2014, 35). Other limitations include gaining sources that can provide information that fulfills intelligence requirements as well as the time and financial resources required to target, recruit, and operate the human sources on the ground.
Collectors of Intelligence
HUMINT collectors need to be able to manage a large number of human sources while at the same time attempt to gain personal access to documents, conversations, places, and information that qualify as integral intelligence (Sullivan 2012, 12). Furthermore, these collectors need to understand political psychology extensively in order to effectively ‘target, recruit, and obtain information from a human source (Sullivan 2012, 12). HUMINT programs require the collectors to exercise political discretion especially when operating in hostile territories such as ISIS controlled regions. In addition, the collectors of the intelligence need to be aware of why the human source is providing the information in order to judge the source’s credibility as well as the credibility of the information provided.
The best collectors of intelligence on the ISIS terror organization would be private intelligence specialists contracted using the Department of Defense as well as intelligence specialists from the military. These specialists need to be experts in Arabic and Farsi languages and cryptology. They also need to demonstrate high level expertise in communication signals.
For most espionage cases, locals are usually targeted and recruited to offer information to the law enforcement agencies. However, it will not be prudent to recruit local nationals as human sources when attempting to gather intelligence on ISIS. HUMINT spies operate under US law among other international treaties. Thus, the way they extract information on the ground needs to be legal and ethical. The ISIS counter spies do not operate under such laws and they use extreme methods to get information on their enemies. Recruiting local nationals as human sources will only expose the intelligence collectors to the ISIS counterspy operatives, putting their lives and the success of the mission in serious jeopardy.
Intelligence Analysis Strategies
The analysis process should begin by translating the information received by the intelligence collectors. Several linguists need to be contracted to cross translate the information to ensure that it is accurately translated. Cross-translation reduces the chances of mis-interpretation of the intelligence collected. Other types of information sources such as film or electronic data also need to be transcribed into document format for more exhaustive analysis.
Different strategies may be used to analyze the intelligence gathered. One of these strategies is the analysis of competing hypotheses, whereby the intelligence personnel evaluate competing theories on observed data. The main benefit of this analytical strategy is its unbiased take on different theories and observations. The method also helps the collectors and other personell to overcome cognitive traps, which are a common occurrence in the field of intelligence gathering on terrorist groups (Thomason 2010, 12). Furthermore, the method is auditable as it requires the analysts to create a matrix. Mistakes can be noted easily every time the analysts go through the matrix to check for accuracy.
1. The Department of Defense and other concerned agencies need to dissolve the policy of using local nationals as HUMINT operatives in the areas controlled by ISIS. It has been discovered that ISIS recruits hundreds if not thousands of counter spies to gain information on US undercover military operations targeted at the terrorist group.
2. A law should also be put in place to increase the signing bonuses of military recruits who are proficient in Farsi and Arabic languages and cryptology. Such recruits will be instrumental in the intelligence collection and analyses phases owing to their familiarity with the languages used. The directive will act as an incentive for more military students to take up Arabic and Farsi courses during their training periods.
3. The Homeland Security Budget for the next year needs to be created before the current fiscal year ends. Preparing the budget in advance will help the Homeland Security department to consider all the human, time, and space resources needed to effectively carry out intelligence programs in different regions controlled by ISIS over a one-year period. Budget constraints often hamper the effectiveness of the HUMINT programs in hostile nations.
British Broadcasting Corporation (2014). A history of modern jihadism. BBC. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-30436486. (Accessed October 7, 2016)
NATO (2015). AAP-06 Edition 2015: NATO Glossary of Terms and Definitions (English and French).
Nygaard, R. L. (2014). How can Human Intelligence Enhance Collection in an Era of Un-manned Technology and Reduced Personnel? ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLLEGE FORT LEAVENWORTH KS.
Sanchez, R. (2015). ISIS, ISIL, or The Islamic State? CNN. http://edition.cnn.com/2014/09/09/world/meast/isis-isil-islamic-state/ (Accessed on October 7 2016).
Sullivan, P.J. (2012). Redefining human intelligence for the modern age.
Thomason, N. (2010). ‘Alternative Competing Hypotheses’, Field Evaluation in the Intelligence and Counterintelligence Context; Workshop Summary. National Academic Press.