I want to start by saying, this is by no means an end all be all to intelligence gathering. There are many books and online sources that cover this topic in much more detail. This post is designed to help the beginner get started in a skill that is sometimes very confusing for those who have no prior experience.


First we will start with the acronyms, you must understand these before moving forward.

  • SIGINT: Signal Intelligence;  This is the act of intercepting signals. Those signals can be voice or data. Everything below falls under this heading.
  • COMINT: Communications Intelligence; This is the intercepting of voice transmissions.  These signals could be encrypted or non-encrypted. This is what you will be doing most of the time.
  • ELINT: Electronic Intelligence; intercepting signals that are not voice or text (morse code). This could be telemetry (data) signals etc.
  • MASINT: Measurement and Signature Intelligence;  This is specific details relevant to a specific entity. Such as: CTCSS tones, NAC codes, signal strength, voice characteristics etc. This could help you identify a particular radio set or operator. (individual persons, specific radio etc.)
  • HUMINT: Human intelligence; This is information gathered from human sources. This could be information you get from your fireman buddy who knows the local police tactical channel frequency that is not commonly know. Simple info gathered from other people.
  • TRAFFIC ANALYSIS: The process of intercepting and examining messages in order to extract patterns and information. This is where you look at what you wrote down and try to make sense of it. Even if it’s encrypted, you can still see patterns and MASINT. Is this information pertinent to my situation?  Will this information effect my mission? After this you can use this information to make better decisions. Maybe you want to avoid that side of town. Maybe you need to move your family to a safer place. Analyzing the information you have collected is sometimes not a easy task. This is why you should be practicing now. Some people are better at this then others. Pick someone on your team who is best suited for this job.

That’s alot of terms to remember, reread and understand the difference. If a term or word does not make sense, Google it. Just remember, we are doing this to gather information. Not all information is important but we don’t know what is important until we analyze it. If you do this regularly you will establish a baseline for your AO (Aera of Operations, where you live). Some places are different then others. You will be interested in deviation from the normal flow. If radio traffic increases or unused channels become active maybe you should pay closer attention? These are indicators, patterns or change in patterns should alert you. When observing MASINT, do you notice a urgency in the operator’s voice?  Maybe different 10 codes? These are the finer details that will set aside the good intercept operator from the fair intercept operator. As you practice,  start off with easy things. Write down the frequency and time. Maybe write down a brief description of what you heard. Then, as you progress you can note things like CTCSS tones or signal strength. The more factual information you include in your report, the better it can be used. Don’t guess, facts only! Observe and report! In the collection stage, you are just a sensor. Keep a note book handy and write stuff down!! This is why I ran the Home work exercise. You should be doing this regularly. The RF spectrum in you AO could be challenging all the time, map it out, know it. At best the information you collect will help keep your family safe. Maybe it will help you make a smarter decision about where your kids hang out? Maybe it will help your wife make that decision about that job downtown?  So much information in the air waves, be pro-active. You can get hands on experience in class, there is still time to sign up. We will be doing this in the field. Come and learn with us before it’s too late.





  1. Three points to consider when doing intelligence collection:
    1) What do I know?
    2) What do I not know?
    3) What do I think?

    As highlighted, it is important to separate FACT from INTERPRETATION, especially if you are passing intel to another decision-maker. Also want to be aware of what may be missing from your observations… do operators make reference to switching to another channel, but you are unable to locate it in published materials? Do you hear only one side transmitted of a conversation? Who else may have an interest in doing the same type of observation you are doing, and why?

    Also noted that a logical opposite of the -INT terms in many cases are the -SEC terms… how you keep yourself secure from those who may be attempting to intercept your activity. OPSEC, COMSEC, TRANSEC… all good terms for Googlage.

    Good info, thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Additional comments about Traffic Analysis on communications, especially on trunked communications systems were Comm traffic is encrypted.

    Even though the voice traffic on a trunked talkgroup is encrypted, you can still glean a few tidbits of data. Especially the unique “LID” (logical ID number) of the transmitting radio. From tracking these LID numbers, you can determine WHO the number belongs to when they transmit on an unencrypted voice (unencrypted digital or clear analog) talkgroup.

    Unless the radio system technicians who created and programmed the user radios knew to check a few additional boxes in programming to suppress the Cryptographic Key ID Number and/or encrypt the group call’s parameters, the full information about the group call (IE: Metadata) will be transmitted in the clear!


  3. Reblogged this on InterMod and commented:
    regarding identifying a specific radio over the air, a measurement of their frequency accuracy and the (in case of FM) the deviation of the radio. These can vary widely and are a very good identifier as they are very difficult for most people to adjust.

    good article


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s