While I’m awaiting publication of an article that I wrote on the escalating violence in Nigeria (due out on theoildrum.com, probably tomorrow), I’ll vent for a moment about an intelligence-related problem that I’ve continually run up against—as recently as yesterday.
The problem is collecting intelligence on our own forces—“Blue Force Intel.”
It’s a symptom of the deeper sickness of secrecy within our military. Open source warfare—the kind of thing increasingly practiced by outfits like al-Qa’ida—has far less of an issue with this. But the
My most memorable experience with this occurred during the invasion of
Sure, at some central operations center (actually only a few miles from my tent, but on an entirely different base that required driving a half hour through downtown Doha) there were people representing the exact units that I needed information on, but they didn’t know what precisely their own units were doing any more than our own representatives knew what we were planning—it was a simple issue of information processing burden I hierarchy. We had enough time to plan our own missions, or communicate all the fine details of those missions to our representatives, but not both.
So, it turned out that the most effective way to get the information that we needed was to engage in our own, unsanctioned intelligence collection on our own forces. This may seem wasteful, but it involved significantly less information processing burden in a hierarchy the size of the US military than actually asking our army units where they are now and where they plan to be tomorrow. Plus, they wouldn’t tell us anyway. Sure, we were on the same side, but specific operational details of the kind we needed are on a “need to know basis,” and no matter how much we explained that we need to know to protect *you*, we still didn’t have the right kind of “need to know.” So we would debrief our own flight crews on their observations about our own units locations, we would deduce our own military plans from information that we could access about locations for our own satellite collections, UAV flight paths, etc., and we would scour the secure internet looking for ways to access other units mission planning files. It worked out OK.
Which reminds me about my favorite part of the TV show “24”: the utter fantasy of how easily and fluidly they access information and electronic systems that magically tell them what they need to know. Trust me, it doesn’t work like that.
Fast forward to the present. I’m still dealing with the same issues when I work with domestic infrastructure security matters. Consider the following scenario: assume for the moment that there is a possibility that we will attack