Intel Wars

Sorry for the lack of free ice cream, but Tuesday and to some extent Wednesday were rough. Weather changes take a toll on me, one of the reasons I beg for people to hit the tip jar or the fundraiser so I can get to a better place. I’m also having to do preparation to prepare for the test/procedure next week. Joy.

That out of the way, I want to at least start saying a few thins about the Intel Wars. No, nothing to do with chips or with the interactions between various intelligence agencies both within countries and in different countries. If you don’t think there isn’t some fighting and sniping going on between agencies in the same country, I have a bridge for sale. Cheap.

What I want to get into a bit is the war that started back in the Carter years over the use of HUMINT resources versus what used to be called National Technical Means (NTM) which apparently is being replaced with NOS for NRO Overhead Systems for reasons about which I don’t have a clue. Kamil Galeev sparked this with some interesting discussions on Twitter that I don’t (yet) see on threadreader.

Back in the Carter years, someone finally realized that various intelligence agencies had been consorting with some most unsavory characters. In fact, I would agree that some of those regular contacts and sources should have been sent to take a dirt nap; but, I will also note that the people who know about bad things or are willing to share information against their own country or to rat out other bad people are not likely to be saints.

In fact, it was somewhat of an axiom with J.J. Angleton and others that the more pro-America/screw Russia/USSR they were, the more likely they were a plant. The reality is just a bit more complex, and in many ways defectors were and are far different from those who agree to provide information.

With defectors, you have people who defect for any number of reasons. Problem is, they can be a plant designed to give you false information and/or to gather information that they can then send back home. They can also be quite sincere and then turn around years later and try to go back home, usually gathering data to prevent prison or death. Even the most sincere defectors can/did have a hard time at some point, simply because the world as they knew it was gone, and they could never go home again.

Which means that no matter what, defectors are never fully trusted again. Some have built good lives, some others have had problems. Even after talking with some, I won’t begin to suggest that I understand all they have gone through.

Sources, whatever appellation you apply to them, are quite a different breed of fish. Some are doing it for ego, some for money, some for other things. There is a difference between those who are acting for political reasons versus say someone ratting on a terrorist group. As I discussed with a friend the other day, some of them are not wrapped very tight.

For example, check out the story of Vladimir Ippolitovitch Vetrov, aka Agent Farewell. Recruited by the French (who have him a code name that pointed at the CIA, nice touch!), he provided the intelligence that allowed Reagan, Thatcher, and Mitterrand to bring down the USSR. He was blown after he realized that he had told his mistress he was working against the USSR and stabbed them as they were parked in an area used for sex. He did a poor job of it, but did kill the off duty policeman who came up to check on things/shake them down for money (take your pick, shakedowns are a big part of cops in Russia being able to eat/have nice things).

Of course, this led to his arrest and conviction. In fact, word is that instead of the usual one page confession most gave, he provided around sixty pages gloating over all he had done. If you haven’t read about him, take the time to do so as it is interesting. Also, if you want an easy check on if someone or some publication is spreading Russian disinformation, just look to see if they try to claim Reagan and/or Thatcher betrayed him. Hint. It’s a lie. Sadly, he did himself in with his own actions.

In short, HUMINT is messy and you can’t take anyone at their word. Worse yet, from the viewpoint of the second-worst President in our history, most of them just weren’t the type you would introduce to mother or take to church down in Plains. As a result, he began an effort to reduce the use of HUMINT across the board. Instead, we would use our technology to gain information.

The fact is, using satellites, intercept gear, and other means you can gather a lot of information. You can track troops, vehicles, see where people are going, what unit is doing what, and more. Just look at all the open-source intel available on the war in the Ukraine.

To my mind, the problem is that you lack context. Yes, Russia has 10,000 tanks parked in various depots. As someone noted on Twitter the other day, the problem is that only about 3,000 of those run, and it is doubtful that many or any of them are combat ready as many are missing crucial electronics and other parts that have been sold on the black. That context was and is missing from the analysis of many.

NTM/NOS/Whateverthisweek can tell us quite a lot about what an enemy has and were it is. Careful analysis can even give you some clue about how much of it actually works or is truly combat ready. Where we can intercept communications between leaders and others, you can get an idea of what they are going to do with them. Where we don’t have that penetration, you really do need HUMINT in all its messy glory.

And all of it depends on politicians and others keeping their mouths shut. The current group in DC is particularly bad about it, from the demented Meat Puppet blowing up attempts to provide Vladimir with an exit to other sharing information on capabilities or that we are doing things that can be seen as an act of war by Vladimir. When they blab and HUMINT is revealed, people die. When they blab about NTM/NOS, we often lose that penetration.

A good example was Carter, who to show how much he knew and was in control of the situation, revealed to the public that we were listening to the Soviet leadership talk to each other over their car phones/radios. His revelation that he had heard Brezhnev discussing the apparently superior assets and skills (cough) of a masseuse named Olga if I remember correctly, seemed to offend Carter’s sensibilities. Needless to say, that bit of showboating resulted in the immediate loss of that penetration.

This needs fuller discussion, but that’s it for today. Depending on who you talk to, Carter either initiated some long-overdue reforms, or let his sanctimonious side try to eliminate the use of HUMINT as much as possible. Elements of truth to both, to be honest. That said, it bears on what is going on today as we have a lot of technical info. What we lack is the ability to analyze it in context because we both don’t have HUMINT in areas where it is needed nor do many of our analysts realize that the people involved are from a different culture with different ways of doing things. Nor have they updated in the face of new data coming in, and have not done so for a long time.

More on this sometime soon I hope.

Some Previous Posts:

Vladimir And The Ukraine

Answers, Ramblings, And A Bit More On Vladimir And The Ukraine

Your Must Read For The Day On Russia

The Puzzles In Play, And The Missing Pieces

Quick Thoughts On Ukraine/Putin

The Thing Behind The Curtain

Missing Pieces And Surprise Pieces

Thursday Update

Not A Lot To Add


Monday Update

Burn Notice

Accuracy, Reliability, And More

Putin, Trump, And The Coming Storm

Three Futures For Russia

Quick Thoughts

Saturday Update

Mismatched Locomotives

War, Ag, Demographics, And The Worst Is Yet To Come

Past, Present, And A Hungry Future

Huge Grain Of Salt

The Moskva

Retribution Inbound

Uncertainty And Preparation

Honest Question

Monday Morning Quick Brief

War Of The Memes

A Little Free Ice Cream

Rumors Of War

Three Times Is…

If It’s Wednesday, This Must Be Moldova

Going Nuclear

How To Spy On The Russians

Here’s Hoping I’m Wrong

Pins And Needles Time

Mock Away


If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, feel free to hit the tip jar in the upper right or the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo. Getting hit by lightning is not fun, and it is thanks to your help and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

One thought on “Intel Wars”

Comments are closed.