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17 April 2012


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William R. Cumming

The enemy probably largely the Taliban seem to have quite excellent HUMINT!

Pirate Laddie

Col. -- The tribal and religious nature of the conflict makes assessment by "modern" western observers even more problematic. Three years in Pakistan (a less tribal and somewhat more up-to-date collection of cultures) led me to believe that the USG is being led by the nose as the locals pick Uncle Sam's pockets of whatever the Pak military finds useful.
All players will be better served when the Pak overlords finally opt for a long term alliance with the Chinese.



True about the idiocy of our policy, but my post is not about that. It is about the very specific skills involved in recruiting and running espionage agents. These are portable skills and we do not seem to have them. BTW heartfelt feelings are only one set of motivations for recruiting and controlling agents. pl


When you take sides in a civil war, don't you loose access to valuable HUMINT?

Didn't the same thing happen in Lebanon?



No. It does not work that way. People are endlessly "corruptible" and espionage is about exploiting the vulnerabilities of individuals. What you are talking about is liaison with various groups. Those groups will never tell you what you need to know about enemy operations. they either do not know or do not want to tell you. pl

The Twisted Genius

From what I've seen of HUMINT operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the case officers were too willing to believe what their sources were saying. Too often they relied on recruiting new sources from leads provided by other sources. Use of spotter-assessors is a valuable tool, but I got the impression that there was a "source zero" from whom all other sources were derived. I blame this on management's view of agent operations as business transactions rather than mental knife fights.



In Re HUMINT (clan), some people are good at thi sand others are not. We need more Smileys and fewer Allelines.

In Re GZ's injuries,there is a medical report somewhere from the day after. pl


I think Umberto Eco got it right in L'isola del Giorna Prima

Learn this prime rule: A good commander wins battles by using agents well, and this second rule, an agent, since he is a traitor, is prompt to betray those who pay him to betray.



Is Claude a traitor and if so, to whom? pl



Perhaps Claude would say he is a traitor to himself. He has two or maybe more sides to his psyche and he does things that he knows are destructive to one of more of his loyalties all the time.

Truthfully though, I think Eco's quote refers to agents with financial motives. Claude could never fit that pattern. I am not certain, however that he is the purely ideological agent either. He hates the men who run him, he hates the Yankees, one would wish to say he is only loyal to his family, and yet. . . .Claude is a puzzle.

In my recent experience I have never seen an agent (for us) motivated by ideology. We called it "in by nine, out by five." Express a requirement and Presto! there was an agent source that could fulfill your wildest night dreams.

I shouldn't think about these things, I'm trying to become less cynical.



I have known several agents who were completely un-motivated by money. I recruited them. This was in the context of the Cold War. That counted for something. There were others for whom my charm sufficed.

I think authors should not do "criticism" on their characters and I won't. pl


A wise choice. No doubt, in some ways, Claude is you through a kaleidoscope. It wouldn't do to be too introspective.

The Cold War, now those,/i> were the days!


If you want to read about craftmanship, the final volume of the official British history of Intelligence in WWII is very interesting reading, especially the bits between the lines.

The mastery of some of those Oxford Dons - they even took the time after the end of hostilities with Germany, not just to "mop up" - checking for the possibility of English traitors, but to investigate exactly why the Germans believed their disinformation.

But then again, they were oblivious to enemy action from "one of us". I mean how could the son of St John Philby be so beastly? The absolute trust within such a priesthood is a Two edged sword. Perhaps we do need one or Two Allelines.


It seems like a lost art - tradecraft that is.

I cannot count the number of "dry holes" I encountered thanks to CIA types in shemaghs and short barreled M4s insisting that this was the high muckety muck of this organization or that one.

Medicine Man

... italics begone.

(thus concludes the Basilisk janitorial service)

The Twisted Genius

Long before I became a case officer, I participated in a Flintlock exercise in Germany where we tested out underground operations as an SF team. We were operating split team with Italian Incursores. After parachute insertion, we split into cells and recruited local farmers to allow us to live in their barns and cellars. We wore "gummiboots" and overalls while taking on the persona of gastarbeiters. The local children were our eyes and ears, watching every move of the mech infantry battalion trying to hunt us down. They were essentially trying to perform a COIN mission with us as the insurgents. Several times we used the local children to plant false information among the troops as diversions and just to get them to react. Once we watched two companies perform a cordon and search of a small village looking for us. They basically performed a massive night raid on bogus information that we fed them. All they did was piss off the local villagers. Thirty years later, we're making the same mistakes... except it's not an exercise this time.

Those were simple and carefree times those thirty years ago.


I have no direct experience of the intelligence world. All that I know comes from spy novels, a few books and tuning in to what you folks have to say. The one feature of the discussion that stands out for me is the value of HUMINT - for which there is no substitute. The OBL saga is a powerful case in point. We deployed the most advanced technology and untold resources for the better part of a decade to no avail. During this period, the prey was able to trek across the Hindu Kush, traverse hundreds of miles of Pakistan, live in several quarters, and then take up residence in Abbotabad for six years. His family accompanied him through most of this safari. He did all of this as a very sick man who was carried in a litter or on horseback for most of these movements. There is no evidence that he received ISI assistance during the period in transit and the preponderant evidence is that the Pakistanis in fact did not know he was in Abbotabad. (If you want to avoid your expired auto sticker being noticed while parked overnight, what better place to put it than across the street from a police station)?

The story of how he eventually was tracked down by the dogged, skillful efforts of American intelligence is a self-serving myth. He was betrayed - by al-Qaeda associates, or a rogue Pakistani who stumbled across his location, or both separately in parallel. I cannot speak for the latter possibility. As to the former, it was summarized in the New York Times a few weeks ago in a story by Declan Walsh that drew from the account of a retired Brigadier, Shaukat Qadir, in Islamabad. I have the entire 30,000 page manuscript. I'd gladly make it available to anyone who may be interested - although I do not know what the appropriate "logistics" might be.



"The story of how he eventually was tracked down by the dogged, skillful efforts of American intelligence is a self-serving myth."

No. You are wrong agan. pl


... inverse begone ^^

Medicine Man

I can't help but smile. I bet those local children thought it was a great game. I bet it frustrated your fellow soldiers to no end.

Alba Etie

Col Lang
What is your best 'guess' why we did not kill Sheikh Usama bin Laden at Tora Bora ? And do you believe that the ISI helped in the evacuation of the AQ fighters from Tora Bora ?



Just not enough US infantry across the back side of the "encirclement." In re the ISI at TB, I don'tthink so. So far as I can see the ISI have been allied to some of the Taliban but not AQ. pl

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