What is intelligence? Answering that question is slightly more difficult than you might think. You’ll often hear the word used in regard to information of all types, and from all kinds of sources. You’ll see the term tossed around in social media groups, at rallies, and in various patriot groups. People talk about “intel,” but what they really mean is “information.” People often believe that raw information is intelligence — and that’s a pretty pervasive myth. Information is NOT intelligence, and if you don’t know the difference, you’re cutting yourself and your group short.

The distinction between information and intelligence isn’t semantics, and it’s not a small thing. In fact, some people use the word “intelligence” to cover their hunches, gut feelings, and even gossip they’ve heard about someone or some situation. To put it bluntly, gossip is not intel, and information means nothing until it is converted to intelligence. Knowing a piece of data doesn’t do you any good unless that information is processed INTO intelligence. If you know something, it’s not intelligence unless you can do something with it; it needs to be actionable. And no, passing it on to someone else is not considered action.

The Intelligence Cycle

The point of intelligence is to set up a stage for action. Information answers questions like Where, When, How, Why, or What, but intelligence does so with a view for what you should do next. It’s not enough to know something; you need to know what to do with it. That’s where the intelligence process comes into play.

The parts of the intelligence cycle are as follows:

  • Planning and Direction
  • Collection
  • Processing/Analysis (sometimes split into two steps)
  • Dissemination

Most people get stuck in a never ending loop of collection and dissemination. There’s no planning, no analysis — and that means there’s no actionable intelligence and no answer to the question of what you should do next. Today we’ll talk about this first step.

Planning and Direction

A lot of folks think that intelligence begins with collecting information, but it actually begins with understanding what you need to find out and why. If you don’t know what your goal is, how do you even know what’s important information? If everything is critical, if everything has the same level of importance, then nothing is important. If you are constantly collecting and collecting with no idea what your purpose is or what you’re working toward, then you are spinning your wheels and wasting your time.

Before you start collecting, you need to have a purpose. You need intelligence requirements. In other words, you need to first know what you are looking to find out and why.

Let’s say you know that there is a new ANTIFA group in your area. Great. What now? Do you send out a mass email or text to all your group members telling them about the amazing new intel you know? Nope. Not even close. Now is when the real work begins–the planning phase.

  1. What’s your goal? Are you planning to infiltrate them? Disrupt their operations? Mess with their funding? Cause discord among members? Do you simply want to keep track of them and their activities?
  2. In order to meet your goal, what do you need to know?

Those two questions are critical. If you don’t know what the point is, why are you collecting? If you don’t know what to collect, how will you even know you’ve collected the information necessary to achieve your goal? The answer is simple — you won’t. You’ll be running around like a headless chicken, accomplishing nothing but a bunch of talking among yourselves.

Here is a sample list of information you might need in this scenario, depending on your goal:

  • What does the group want?

You need to know what they want — and I don’t mean some broad thing like “well, they want communism.” What are they working toward in the here and now? HOW are they working toward that goal? How effective are they? What is their short-term/long-term plan? You may start out thinking you just want to track their movements but based on your work, you may end up changing your own goal. Keep in mind that the intelligence cycle is a constantly perpetuating one; as you move through the process you’ll distill information into actionable intelligence, and once you’ve done that, the resulting work may force a shift in your priorities, which then will be reassessed in the next iteration of the planning phase. You might decide that you need to put a guy into their group to get a closer look. You might step up your efforts because you think you’re on a time constraint.

  • Member information: names, addresses, phone numbers, workplaces, backgrounds, education, military experience, financial history, social media accounts, criminal records, relationships, etc.

All of that is pretty much public information, if you know how to get it. If you don’t, well, then you’ve just identified a training gap for yourself and should probably be looking for instruction in that area. Better yet, start reading — everything you need to know is already on the internet. You should be figuring out who’s who in the group. Who’s the official leader? Who’s the unofficial leader? What’s their hierarchy? Who are they outside the group? What vulnerabilities do the individual members have? Where can you put pressure on them?

  • Funding sources and alliances: who’s paying for them to exist? Are there other groups sponsoring them? Allied with them? Working with them? What are those groups working toward?

If you’re still laboring under the assumption that ANTIFA is always just a random group of malcontents in a given area, you’d be missing a big part of the picture. Someone pays for the posters, the flyers, the social media ads. Someone helps with organizing, handling the logistics. Someone serves as a liaison between them and other groups.

  • Where is the group’s vulnerability? Where are they weak?

If your goal is to disrupt, infiltrate, etc., then you need to find a hole. How will you get in? Is infiltration feasible? If so, can you do it or do you need to get someone else? [For the record, when we talk about infiltration, we don’t mean getting into their Facebook group so you can troll them repeatedly while chuckling from your couch. We’re talking about getting off your rear end and putting in some actual face time in their meetings, being part of their group, burrowing your way into a place where you can sabotage their operations.]

  • Who’s going to be in your way?

Who could be an adversary in your efforts and why? How could they disrupt your goal? You need to understand the full picture of what you’d like to accomplish, and what can go wrong.

This isn’t even everything you need to know; you’ll need to write your own requirements and figure out what you plan to do based on the situation you’re in. Keep in mind, however, that this step cannot be skipped. It can’t be ignored, or done in a shoddy manner. Planning is everything. If you’re reading this thinking, “Gee, that’s a lot of work,” then you’d be correct. Most people play checkers; they grab the info, run down the board, and yell “KING ME!” Intelligence is about playing chess; it’s about finding the right moves, the right time to make them, and the right way to set up your opponent in a checkmate. If you’re not willing to plan, you will lose every time.

Next we’ll talk about the Collection phase, and how to get the information you need.

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