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.