By David E. Hubler
Contributor, In Homeland Security
When former CIA Director Allen Dulles wrote his classic treatise, “The Craft of Intelligence” in 1959, spying and espionage were indeed crafts. Prominent among those crafts were hidden microphones and recordings, tapped telephones, miniature cameras to photograph enemy documents, secret mail drops to pass along purloined information, and high-altitude spy planes to photograph military installations in denied areas. These were rudimentary tools and dangerous exploits honed in World War II and throughout the Cold War.
Called “the father of American covert operations,” Frank G. Wisner described “The Craft of Intelligence” as an encyclopedia of the terminology, concepts, and craft of the trade. It is, he said, “abundantly illustrated by cases and anecdotes drawn from the author’s own treasure-house of experience, and highly readable in form.”
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Now, 60 years later, Erik Kleinsmith, an author and expert in spycraft, has written a worthy successor, “Intelligence Operations: Understanding Data, Tools, People and Processes.” If Dulles’ book could be considered a primer on what the super-secretive Central Intelligence Agency was all about, Kleinsmith’s book makes excellent required reading in college courses for aspiring intelligence gatherers and analysts. Kleinsmith now serves as Associate Vice President for Strategic Relations in Intelligence, National Homeland and Cybersecurity at American Military University.
Kleinsmith Pioneered in the Development of Asymmetric Threat Analysis Using Data Mining
As Chief of Intelligence for the U.S. Army’s Land Information Warfare Activity, Kleinsmith pioneered in the development of asymmetric threat analysis using data mining technology. He was also the military lead on a team of analysts profiling and mapping Al Qaeda prior to 9/11. So he can expertly discuss contemporary methods of spy tradecraft, most of which now involve information technology (IT), artificial intelligence (AI) and other 21st-century tools. They’re all laid out in 12 clearly labeled and illustrated chapters.
‘Intelligence Operations’ Makes Excellent Required Reading for Aspiring Intelligence Analysts
Kleinsmith’s book is not a primer for would-be James Bonds (although the very first photo in the book is that of Sean Connery on location filming “Diamonds Are Forever” in 1971).
Rather, “Intelligence Operations” is excellent required reading for current and aspiring intelligence analysts. Kleinsmith includes some personal anecdotes as well as revelations about a few former practitioners of spycraft who gained fame in other endeavors. For example:
- African-American entertainer Josephine Baker spied for the French Resistance during WWII. She used invisible ink on sheet music to carry vital information.
- Actor Sterling Hayden parachuted into Yugoslavia during WWII to provide weapons to partisans battling the occupying Nazis.
- Major League catcher Moe Berg collected intelligence while playing in exhibition tours in Japan in the 1930s and later served in the OSS during the war.
Each chapter begins with a series of Learning Objectives, usually four to five key points, and ends with several Key Summary Points. In other words, here’s what I’m going to cover in this chapter and at the end, here’s what you should have learned. It’s a neat pedagogical device that facilitates active learning.
The Transition from Human Intelligence to Machine-Driven Technology
Chapter 3, “The Once and Future Intelligence Community,” is a clearly delineated history of the transition from an emphasis on human intelligence collection (HUMINT) to the several machine-driven technological innovations that were born during or soon after the Cold War ended.
As Kleinsmith explains, “The primary emphasis of intelligence-related technology development throughout the Cold War was in collection systems and platforms. The United States spent enormous amounts of money on satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) photoreconnaissance systems, among other systems…. As the U.S. Intelligence Community employed new types of collection systems, they also created new categories of intelligence information.”
Those new categories included SIGINT, COMINT, ELINT and IMINT, or signal intelligence, communications intelligence, electronic intelligence and imagery intelligence. As any intelligence analyst will attest, these intelligence categories can produce far more valuable data than the spies on the ground (HUMINT).
Have the ‘INTs’ Caught Up or Overtaken the Intelligence-Gathering Capabilities of Manned Aircraft?
Later in the book, Kleinsmith touches on the current debate in intelligence circles whether the “INTs” have either caught up or overtaken the intelligence-gathering capabilities of manned aircraft. “The popular catchphrase that encapsulates this debate,” the author notes, “is that the last fighter pilot has been born,” – a reference to what some in the intelligence community see as the ebbing value of HUMINT.
Kleinsmith refutes such a pessimistic outlook.
As Chapter 4, “Intelligence Operations and Centers,” makes clear, humans are still needed to collate, analyze and produce actionable intelligence for their clients. In most cases, those clients include the White House, federal agencies and U.S. allies.
Kleinsmith writes that “intelligence collection is also an operation in itself as it involves a complex set of processes, techniques, and tradecraft to collect data, information, or finished intelligence as a feeder for further analysis and production.”
“Intelligence Operations” offers concrete proof that intelligence collection has evolved from a craft – albeit a dangerous one to pursue – to a highly structured, invaluable technology.
The good news is intelligence as a career path is not coming to an end any time soon. Quite the opposite.
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