Intelligence Collection and the Need for Accurate Information in a Time of Anarchy
According to Lowenthal and Clark (2016) “Intelligence collection is one of the earliest recorded organized human activities, along with war” (p. 1). Additionally, “the earliest writing about intelligence collection dates from the seventh and sixth centuries BCE: Caleb the spy in the Book of Numbers and The Art of War by Sun Tzu” (p. 1). Intelligence collection evolved as society became more complex and sophisticated, and today intelligence collection is divided into five distinct disciplines known as Open Source Intelligence, Human Intelligence, Signals Intelligence, Geospatial Intelligence, and Measurement and Signature Intelligence (OSINT, HUMINT, SIGINT, GEOINT, and MASINT).
Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) is defined by Jardines (2016) as “the source of first resort due to its ubiquitous nature and its ability to be shared broadly” (Lowenthal and Clark, 2016, p. 5). Human Intelligence (HUMINT) is described by Althoff (2016) as intelligence commonly linked with information ascertained through espionage. It is also “the clandestine acquisition of secrets by a human source…” (Lowenthal and Clark, 2016, p. 45). Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) is defined by Nolte (2016) is intelligence that is collected electronically. SIGINT has several components known as Communications Intelligence (COMINT), Electronic (ELINT), and Foreign Instrumentation Signals Intelligence (FISINT). COMINT is data collected from “human language material” (p.81). It also includes material emitting from electronic devices. Radar is a primary source of this type information known as ELINT, Electronic Intelligence. Internationally, Foreign Instrumentation Signals Intelligence (FISINT) is that intelligence gathered from “the interception of telemetry and other instrumentation signals” (p. 81).
Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) is somewhat new as an intelligence field, but the concept of GEOINT has been around for decades. The impetus for GEOINT was maps and aerial photography which is suggested by Murdock and Clark (2016). While maps provided some intelligence, the accuracy of the maps was of paramount importance to international traders and later by the military. Balloons were the first vehicles used to gather such intelligence from the air during World War I. Later during World War II, “modern photogrammetric and image interpretation techniques were developed” (p. 111).
Morris and Clark (2016) provide an excellent explanation of Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT) in Chapter 6 of Lowenthal and Clark’s, The 5 Disciplines of Intelligence Collection (2016). For the sake of brevity, a single quote is the best method to explain this highly complex intelligence method because it is unique.
Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT) is technically derived intelligence that enables detection, location, tracking, identification, and description of unique characteristics of fixed and dynamic target sources. MASINT embodies a set of sub-disciplines that operate across the electromagnetic, acoustic, and seismic spectrums, and material sciences. MASINIT capabilities include radar, laser, optical, infrared, acoustic, nuclear radiation, radio frequency, spectro-radiometric, and seismic sensing systems as well as gas, liquid, and solid materials sampling and analysis. MASINT is an integral part of the all-source collection environment and contributes both unique and complementary information on a wide range of intelligence requirements. MASINT is highly reliable since it is derived from the performance data and characteristics of actual targets. (Lowenthal and Clark, 2016, pp. 160-161).
OSINT, HUMINT, SIGINT, GEOINT, and MASINT each have their own strengths and weaknesses but the United States intelligence agencies that perform these intelligence collection methods are aware of them and know how to avoid inherent biases related to the information collected.
Since the terrorists’ attacks of the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and two other locations September 11, 2001 (a.k.a. 9/11), the United States intelligence community, along with their international partners known as the “Five Eyes” (Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States,) have been collecting intelligence via OSINT, HUMINT, SIGINT, GEOINT, AND MASINT. Their combined efforts have reduced international terrorism and threats from Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other international threats. In fact, since the election of the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, ISIS has been mostly destroyed due to the excellent work of the intelligence community with support from the United States military and its allies. What remains are small factions of lone wolves and small groups, but these pose little threat to the United States and others. According to Simcox (2018) of the Heritage Foundation candidate Trump made a commitment to the American people that he would diminish ISIS quickly once he was in office. Because President Trump made tactical adjustments with the military and “delegated authority to the right level…” (para. 5), ISIS safe havens were eliminated, and the ISIS fighters were forced to leave territory they had held such as a dam located at Taqba. According to Col. Wayne Marotto (2017),
ISIS has lost nearly ALL the territory they once held. More than 7.7 million people are now free, but this does Not mark the end of the campaign. We know this enemy is as adaptive and savvy as it is cruel and evil. We will continue to support our partners & keep pressure on ISIS. (Glenn, Rowan, Caves, and Nada, 2019, para. 5).
Tomlinson (2017) reporting from the Pentagon stated that there were 1,000 or fewer ISIS combatants remaining in Iraq and Syria. This is a decline from 45,000 who were fighting in the area in 2015. The United States and its coalition partners conducted almost 30,000 airstrikes and between airstrikes and ground troops more than 70,000 of the enemy were killed.
The bigger threat for the United States is the growing discontent with American politicians who have become divided to the extent that Congress is unable or unwilling to work across the aisle to improve the American condition. Some states too find themselves in terrible condition fiscally and from a law and order standpoint (California, New York, Oregon, Washington). For example, in the early part of 2020 when the COVID-19 virus paralyzed the United States, Congress provided some financial support to ordinary American citizens, and lots of it to large corporations through the Payroll Protection Program. But Congress knew that this was a quick, shortstop measure and more financial support would be needed.
The Republican members of Congress put forth proposed legislation that:
- Expanded federal unemployment
- Expanded deductibility for charitable contributions
- Target educational funding
- Provided for a second Paycheck Protection Program (although smaller in scope)
- USPS loan forgiveness
- Liability protections for employers and healthcare providers.
At the same time, the Democrats were pushing the HEROES Act which provided for much more spending. The Republicans countered with the HEALS Act. Finally, after the election, Speaker Pelosi “admitted she let businesses die and families struggle for months all because of the election. Democrats see this entire crisis as leverage to play politics” (Scalise, 2020, December 4).
On January 6, 2021 the United States experienced what nearly every member of Congress described as anarchy and an insurrection which is an act or acts of revolt against civil authority, (similar to that which has been occurring in Seattle and Portland), at the United States Capitol and that it was the fault of President Donald Trump for which they have impeached him for. Former President Trump is scheduled for trial in the United States Senate in the second week of February. Did the intelligence community (DHS, FBI, State Fusion Centers, etc.) fail as they did on other occasions, such as Pearl Harbor, Oklahoma City Bombing (1995), World Trade Center (1992), 9/11, or was there a failure to act on the intelligence that was collected (ODNI, n. d.)?
The FBI, DHS, and Intelligence
On September 17, 2020 FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before the Committee on Homeland Security at the House of Representatives he stated “preventing terrorist attacks remains the FBI’s top priority. However, the threat posed by terrorism—both international terrorism (“IT”) and domestic violent extremism—has evolved significantly since 9/11” (Wray, 2020, p. 2). Director Wray continued by stating that Racially/Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists (RMVEs) “were the primary source of ideologically-motivated lethal incidents and violence in 2018 and 2019 and have been considered the most lethal of all domestic extremists since 2001” (p. 3).
In October 2020 the Department of Homeland Security published their “Homeland Threat Assessment October 2020.” In that report the DHS stated, “Ideologically motivated lone offenders and small groups pose the most likely terrorist threat to the Homeland, with Domestic Violent Extremists presenting the most persistent and lethal threat” (p. 17). The report also points to existing and projected violence from “lone offenders and small cells of individuals including Domestic Violent Extremists (DVEs) and foreign terrorist-inspired Homegrown Violent Extremists (HVEs)” (p. 17). The report also points to social and political tensions in 2020, “which will drive an elevated threat environment at least through early 2021” (p. 17).
The anti-government movement is one motivating force behind domestic terrorism. “These violent extremists, sometimes influenced by anarchist ideology, have been associated with multiple plots and attacks” (p. 18) which resulted in increased violence perpetrated against law enforcement and “government symbols in 2020” (p. 18). Assuming that the FBI, and State Fusion Centers constantly monitor social media and use their HUMINT sources on the ground, they knew or should have known that there was the possibility that violence could happen based on Director Wray’s testimony in September 2020 and the Homeland Assessment Threat October 2020 because according to the Homeland Assessment Threat 2020:
Anti-government and/or anti-authority violent extremists are likely to be emboldened by a perceived success exploiting otherwise peaceful protest movements and concealing violent tactics. These violent extremists are increasingly taking advantage of large protest crowds to conduct violence against government officials, facilities, and counter-protests. (pp. 18-19). According to the House of Representatives in their second impeachment of President Donald J. Trump, the President is impeached for Incitement of Insurrection. Specifically, the President:
He also willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged—and foreseeably resulted in—lawless action at the Capitol, such as: “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore”. Thus, incited by President Trump, members of the crowd he had addressed, in an attempt to, among other objectives, interfere with the Joint Session’s solemn constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential election, unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured, and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts. (H. Res. 24, para. 24).
While the evidence suggests the President did not tell his supporters to invade the U.S. Capitol, it is clear that some violent extremists did in fact do so. Again, the Department of Homeland Security Threat Assessment Report 2020 stated, “These violent extremists, sometimes influenced by anarchist ideology, have been associated with multiple plots and attacks” (p. 18).
The United States Army and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
On January 4, 2021 the Secretary of Defense wrote a response memorandum to the Secretary of the Army related to “Employment Guidance for the District of Columbia National Guard” related to the “planned demonstration from January 5-6, 2021” (Miller, 2021, para. 1) (see Addendum). According to a timeline provided by the Department of Defense Mayor Muriel Bowser and Dr. Christopher Rodrigues, D.C. Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency made a request to the D.C. National Guard for supplemental assistance to help the D.C. Metro Police Department and other services. The following Saturday (January 2, 2021) the Acting Secretary of Defense met with the Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) and the Secretary of the Army regarding the request. Strangely, the DoD contacted the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) who confirmed “there is no request for DoD support” (DoD, 2021, p. 1). On Sunday, January 3, 2021, the Acting Secretary of Defense (A/SD), and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff met with the President of the United States; the President “concurs in activation of the DCNG to support law enforcement” (p. 1). On Monday, January 4, 2021 the United States Capitol Police state again that there “is no requirement for DoD support in a phone call with SECARMY” (p. 1).
After the Sunday meeting with the President, the A/SD acting in concert with the CJCS, SECARMY, and DoD General Counsel (GC), those leaders made their own plan for support and “approves activation of 340 members of the DCNG to support Mayor Bowser’s request” if made. On Tuesday, January 5, 2021 “Mayor Bowser delivers a letter addressed to the Acting Attorney General, A/SD, and SECARMY confirming that there are no additional support requirements from the D.C.” (para. 6). January 6, 2021 “1305 A/SD receives open source reports of demonstrator movements to U.S. Capitol. 1326: USCP orders evacuation of Capitol Complex. 1334: SECARMY phone call with Mayor Bowser in which Mayor Bowser communicates request for unspecified number of additional forces” (p. 2). Later in the day, the SECARMY, Chief of Staff of the Army, and others verbally approved the full activation of the DCNG. All DCNG were deployed and calls were made to the Adjutant Generals of Virginia and Maryland for their support. Those two states provided 3,079 additional troops.
FBI and Intelligence
In hindsight, the FBI stated after the January 6, 2021 chaos at the Capitol that: In the weeks leading up to the January 6 rally, the FBI worked internally with every FBI field office to ensure they were looking for any intelligence they may have developed about potential violence during the rally on January 6. We developed some intelligence that a number of individuals were planning to travel to the D.C. area with intentions to cause violence. (D’Antuono, 2021, para. 8). D’Antuono stated further that the FBI shared their information with the Metropolitan Police Department the night before the rally.
Extremist Groups & Social Media
Social media, the Internet, encrypted chat rooms and video-game platforms offer venues for radicalization and calls to action by groups such as Antifa, BLM, Boogaloo Bois, Proud Boys, and other left-wing and right-wing extremist groups. Antifa is described by von Spakovsky and Walsh of the Heritage Foundation as “an affiliation of radical activists and left-wing groups who name, ironically enough, is short for “anti-fascists” (2019, para. 1). Black Lives Matter (BLM) is described as an “international social movement, formed in the United States in 2013, dedicated to fighting racism and anti-Black violence, especially in the form of police brutality.” Britannica, n. d., para. 1). Chase (2018) relates that the BLM movement rose out of the verdict in the George Zimmerman verdict. Zimmerman was accused of killing Trayvon Martin in 2012 in Florida. The BLM movement was started by Opal Tometi who had become aware of social media posts by Alicia Garza and Patrisse Cullors. Tometi’s vision for the potential of a new Civil Rights movement collaborated with Garza and Patrisse to create “social media pages on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter” (p. 1098). Subsequent police involved shootings resulted in international attention and Tometi, Garza, and Patrisse’s project became known world-wide.
The Proud Boys are “self-proclaimed chauvinist organization that supports a far-right, neo-fascist ideology” (Newhouse, Arlett, and McClintock, 2020, p. 1). Their membership is all-male and were founded by Gavin McInnes who happens to be the “co-founder of Vice Media and Vice Magazine. The organization is now led by Miami native and congressional candidate Enrique Tarrio, the group’s anointed international chairman” (p. 2).
The Boogaloo Bois are according to the United States Department of Justice (2020, December 16) a “loosely-connected group of individuals who espouse violent anti-government sentiments. The term “Boogaloo” itself references an impending second civil war in the United States and is associated with violent uprisings against the government” (USDOJ, para. 4). The “Boogaloo Bois” are also known as “Boojahideen.”
One form of communication for the aforementioned extremists’ groups is through social media and while Facebook, MeWe, Twitter, Parler, and other such social media sites are commonly used, these groups often use the dark net, just as criminal perpetrators have done for some time. Extremist groups use the dark net because it is that “portion of the Internet that uses encryption and anonymizing technologies that are intentionally designed to frustrate tracking efforts” (Goodison, Woods, Barnum, Kemerer, and Jackson, 2019, p. 1). Goodison et al. (2019) defines the dark web “as the hyperlinked services on the dark net that can only be accessed using The Onion Router (or TOR) protocol or other equivalent technologies (e.g., https://3g2upl4pq6kufc4m.onion/, which is DuckDuckGo.com’s dark web site” (p. 1). The National Science Foundation (2007) published an article “Scientists Use ‘Dark Web” to Snag Extremists and Terrorists Online.” In the article the author(s) (unknown) state, “because of its vital role in coordinating terror activities, analyzing Web content has become increasingly important to the intelligence agencies and research communities that monitor these groups…” (para. 4). Dr. Hsinchun Chen of the University of Arizona and his Artificial Intelligence Lab created the Dark Web project to research, support, and provide vital information to law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Part of their project is a technique they call “Writeprint.” The project or technique uses “Web spidering, link analysis, content analysis, authorship analysis, sentiment analysis and multimedia analysis. Chen and his team can find, catalogue and analyze extremist activities online” (para. 4). Dr. Chen states further:
Writeprint, automatically extracts thousands of multilingual, structural, and semantic features to determine wo is creating ‘anonymous’ content online. Writeprint can look at a posting on an online bulletin board, for example, and compare it with writings found elsewhere on the Internet. By analyzing these certain features, it can determine with more than 95 percent accuracy if the author has produced other content in the past. The system can then alert analysts when the same author produces new content, as well as where on the Internet the content is being copied, linked to or discussed. (National Science Foundation, 2007, para. 6). The dark net, extremists’ groups and social media have been studied at the Network Contagion. The Network Contagion is a research institute in the Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience of Rutgers University. Finkelstein et al. (2020) writing for the Network Contagion stated: three tactics characteristic of extremist online communities have allowed them to become influential in recent years: 1) they use memes as propaganda 2) they employ sophisticated communication networks for both planning and recruiting, making use of both fringe and private, online forums, 3) they organize militias, and inspire lone wolf actors for violent action. (p. 2)
In Finkelstein et al.’s report, “Network-enabled Anarchy: How Militant Anarcho-Socialist Networks Use Social Media to Instigate Widespread Violence Against Political Opponents and Law Enforcement,” they explained how they used ten million plus social media postings in their analysis. (see NCRI-White-Paper-Network-Enabled-Anarchy.pdf for examples of social media postings.) They found that the same or very similar extremist themes were used on Twitter and Reddit which focused on Jihadi, Boogaloo, and Anarcho-Socialist extremists. They found that each of the three groups mentioned shared the same characteristics (apocalyptic beliefs, Utopian legends/narratives, use of private or fringe Internet forums, organized militia, use of creative memes and online propaganda, martyr narratives, cell-like terror attacks, Lone Wolf terror attacks, and highly strategic recruitment/operational security measures) (p. 3). Perhaps what is most interesting is the fact that before the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, “anti-police terms were not widely used on Twitter” (p. 5).
However, after that incident there was a significant change which included the acronym ACAB used in a meme (all cops are bastards). The authors point to the fact ACAB has it roots in the British anarchist movements of the 1960s. Other codewords or slogans used by these groups to ignite unrest include “F*** 12” FTP (f*** or fight the police) and a numerical code 1312 (a substitute for ACAB).
Again, the question becomes why the FBI, JTTF, and local and state law enforcement agencies have not done a better job collecting, assessing, and acting upon intelligence they certainly have. The intelligence capability of the United States is perhaps second-to-none, except for perhaps the capabilities of the Israelis. After all, groups such as the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI) has done analyses on the issue at hand and has provided a treasure trove of information that would certainly benefit the DHS, FBI, JTTF, and state and local law enforcement agencies.
Clearly, under Executive Order 12333 which was signed by President Reagan in 1981, the NSA cannot be used to spy on domestic activities. EO 12333 was created to promulgate and extend powers and responsibilities of United States intelligence agencies. One of the provisions of EO12333 ensured that intelligence agencies would cooperate and provide information to the CIA (National Archives, Federal Register Executive Orders).
However, in 2002 President Bush signed a secret Executive Order that did in fact allow for spying on American citizens via their electronic communications. The purpose was identifying and stopping terrorism before it happened. As stated earlier, domestic terrorism is regarded as a “secondary status” issue, but since the attempted anarchy, coup, or insurrection of January 6, 2021 and the treat of nationwide violence and insurrection planned for January 20, 2021, is domestic terrorism still viewed in that secondary status mode? Recent troop movements around the United States indicate that domestic terrorism and anarchy are now viewed in a different light. According to news reports whose sources are anonymous or Government Officials (2021) the nation’s capital is expected to have 25,000 armed troops, with the authority to use deadly force. State capitals are also calling in troops to prevent chaos and anarchy. Let us hope the FBI and its partners are issuing Joint Intelligence Bulletins.
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Areas: Criminal Justice
Categories: Criminal Justice