SIGINT and HUMINT – Essential Components of Intelligence Collection
Intelligence collection is a vital part of keeping this country safe from foreign and terrorist attacks. In order to do so, the intelligence community gathers information from many different areas through several different tactics. Specifically, there are six overarching categories that describe the various ways that intelligence is collected. These include:
SIGINT: Signals intelligence, or SIGINT, is the process of intercepting signals or communications transmitted electronically such as through radars, radios, or weapons systems.
HUMINT: Also known as human intelligence, this is the gathering of information from human sources. Interrogation would be classified under this heading.
MASINT: Measurement and Signature Intelligence is the use of intelligence to create detailed reports of targets. For instance, the telemetry of missiles is figured out using MASINT.
GEOINT: The collection of imagery and geospatial intelligence falls under the category of GEOINT, or geospatial intelligence.
OSINT: Open Source Intelligence is the gathering of data from sources that are open to the general public. This includes the news and internet.
IMINT: The creation of images through electronic means such as radar or electro-optics for the purpose of collecting intelligence is known as imagery intelligence, or IMINT.
Although all six of the above disciplines are necessary for thorough intelligence collection, SIGINT and HUMINT are instrumental in protecting this country against foreign attacks, including those performed by terrorists.
SIGINT– Breaking Codes and Reading Signals
The main purpose of SIGINT is to intercept foreign and terrorist signals for the use of gathering information on our enemies. The National Security Agency is the organization that is responsible for SIGINT. They provide the intelligence that is gathered to U.S. leaders and policy makers who use it to make important decisions that protect this country.
An important subcategory of SIGINT is COMINT, or communications intelligence, which deals with voice communications commonly over radios. This is used to gather information such as location, and identity.
Another subcategory is ELINT, or electronics signal intelligence, which uses sensors to gather intelligence. One of the main focuses of ELINT is to read electromagnetic radiation for the purpose of figuring out the location of enemy ships and aircraft.
One of the main tools that SIGINT employs is the use of cryptanalysis, which is the process of breaking codes in order to read encrypted information. The reason for this is that most foreign governments and terrorists protect sensitive information by encrypting it.
HUMINT– The Spy Business
Human intelligence is what is commonly thought of when people think of the intelligence community. The stereotypical spy’s main focus is gathering information from human sources. They use tactics such as espionage and interrogation. HUMINT is an extremely important function that is instrumental to infiltrating terrorist organizations and collecting information on terrorist attacks.
The Central Intelligence Agency is responsible for overseeing the majority of HUMINT operations, although the military is often involved in HUMINT as well. Both parties make use of two main tactics, gathering intelligence through interrogations and through conversations with key persons who have access to valuable information. HUMINT sources of information include diplomats, military attaches, prisoners of war, and espionage.
SIGINT and HUMINT Training
Both signals intelligence and human intelligence require training in specialized skills that are unique to each discipline. SIGINT involves technical skills including computer science and mathematics, whereas HUMINT involves a lot of psychological training.