Before a decision maker can be handed the information they need to make a choice, the information they need must be collected, processed, and analyzed. All of these tasks are pieces of the intelligence process discussed in our first intelligence series article, but the act of collecting information is one that comes in many forms. So how then does collection occur?

Within the world of intelligence, there are many methods of how we can collect the raw, unfiltered information which will be used by analysts to eventually become useful intelligence. A cell phone call can be intercepted and listened in on, this is Signals Intelligence. That same cell phone can have its location traced and tracked, this is Electronics Intelligence. A surveillance team can then visually identify who is in possession of the cell phone and take a picture or video, this would be Imagery Intelligence. An investigator may then find out more about the cell phone’s owner based upon their social media presence or public records, this is Open Source Intelligence. When someone walks up to the owner of the cell phone and strikes up a conversation though, this is Human Intelligence.

Simply put, human intelligence (or HUMINT) is the information we can obtain from people and as a discipline of intelligence collection it has two forms: open and clandestine.

Open human intelligence collection is a common tool used by people from all walks of life, even if they don’t think of it as human intelligence. Open HUMINT, most commonly, would take the form of an interview or interrogation aimed at gaining more information about an event. When a police officer interviews a suspect that is an example of open HUMINT collection. Same goes for when a soldier interrogates an insurgent or even when a reporter speaks to a witness of an event, all of these are examples of how open HUMINT collection is conducted. At Gecko Professional Services we teach ITAR compliant interview and interrogation seminars and multi-day courses in the US and EU that have been used for police officers, public and private sector investigators, and corporate security professionals. The wide variety of professionals we have taught is a testament to the importance of open HUMINT collection. We, and other reputable companies and government services, teach and use open HUMINT collection techniques to obtain information important for criminal and business investigations as well as intelligence matters.

The skills to open HUMINT involve knowing what questions to ask and how to ask them, identifying and interpreting body language to detect signs of honesty or deceit, and special questioning and approach techniques. With these skills you can, in theory, obtain any information that a human being has knowledge of. Sometimes however, it takes a special approach to get close to the people who hold the information you need for a criminal investigation or for intelligence related to national security. To obtain information from more difficult or hostile targets it may require becoming someone they would be more likely to help or work with, or to identify what motivates the person who holds the information you need. To do this work in unfriendly or hostile environments, clandestine human intelligence collectors become necessary.

The title of clandestine human intelligence collector is not one that typically exists, they may be called a Case Officer, Intelligence Agent, Clandestine Service Officer, or, quite simply, a spy. The skills necessary to such a profession begin as identical skills to that of an open HUMINT collector. They must know how to obtain and manage information within a conversation with a human source. The major divergence between the two career fields is in recruiting the source. Because of this, the major training difference comes in the use of human motivation and tradecraft in recruiting and communicating with a source. Recruitment of a source for clandestine human intelligence is taught as a process commonly known as the Agent Recruitment Cycle, it is a process aimed at identifying a source’s access to information, willingness to become a source, and their motivations for becoming a source. Once all of this has been determined a clandestine HUMINT collector can begin obtaining information useful to their mission. The motivations of a source are summarized in a variety of different training programs and acronyms, probably the most common of which is MICE: Money, Ideology, Coercion, and Ego. These four things represent what generally motivates people through what material possessions we want, what we believe in, what we care about, and how we view ourselves and our position.

While this article aims to provide a rough outline of clandestine HUMINT collection by providing very basic knowledge of human motivation and the agent recruitment cycle, these are topics widely publicized through open sources- including public articles on the CIA’s website. Tradecraft used by clandestine service officials is not something this article will discuss in any detail because of the sensitive nature of techniques used.

The first article in this series discussed the role and importance of intelligence and intelligence services as well as the intelligence cycle. Within the intelligence cycle, collection is a major piece and human intelligence is one of the common methods of collecting information. Gecko Professional Services will continue our educational articles by completing our series in intelligence and moving on to more topics in security, intelligence, and terrorism.

Related readings:

GPS: A Primer in Intelligence

CIA: Studies in Intelligence