Day 05 of Intelligence and Community Security: Final Thoughts on Threat Intelligence

Welcome to Day 05 — the last post in this series on the Introduction to Intelligence and Community Security. You can catch up on previous posts below:

A New Introduction to the Forward Observer Daily
Day 01: Shifting Landscapes and the OODA Loop
Day 02: What Intelligence Does for Us
Day 03: Intelligence Collection & Analysis
Day 04: The Operating Environment & You

Yesterday we talked about the Operating Environment that is your community, and the boundaries that help our intelligence efforts focus on where and what to collect. Today, I’m leaving you with some final thoughts on threat intelligence as I wrap up this series.

I’ll be back next week and each day (Mon-Fri) there after to write about past and future events, national security and community security, culture war and world war, intelligence, warfare, and defense for an uncertain future. At the bottom of this post, you can sign up to receive each of these blog posts by email, or one weekly summary.

Now that we have a good grip on some basics of intelligence and the area in which threats exist, let’s start to break down the threat environment. The are four categories of potential threats we’re concerned about. They are:

  • Conventional
  • Irregular
  • Catastrophic
  • Disruptive

The Conventional threat includes foreign and domestic armies, the police state, and other forces of state tyranny. We call them conventional because, by and large, they wear uniforms that symbolize their de jure authority. They’re acting within the authority of a recognized, legitimate government. For instance, U.S. Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan represented a conventional threat to insurgent groups there.

The Irregular threat includes gangs, looters, insurgents, guerrillas and other criminals. More often than not, although they may wield de facto authority, they are not the nationally-recognized authority. The irregular threat typically doesn’t represent a recognized, legitimate government. They typically don’t wear uniforms and often aren’t bothered with laws, either civilian or of land warfare. Insurgents posed an irregular threat to U.S. Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Catastrophic threats can be either natural or man-made disasters. Examples are hurricane, earthquakes, pandemics, and nuclear/biological/chemical weapons. These are mass casualty events and, through second- and third-order effects, can create conventional and irregular threats.

Finally, there are Disruptive threats. A disruptive threat isn’t going to kill you, although it will disrupt your operations. Things like power outages, identity theft, fuel shortages, and cyber attacks are all examples. Like catastrophic threats, these, too, can result in conventional and irregular threats.

Think about your community and what types of threats may exist, either potential or active. Snowstorms and tornadoes are examples of potential threats, thieves and gang members pose active threats.

Get out a sheet of paper and think through your community; imagine that you are at the beginning of a national emergency that has local effects, and write down all the active and potential threats that you may face. Keep this list and discuss it with your neighborhood watch, community security team, or preparedness group. Use a group approach to ensuring that we have as complete a list as is realistic.

The next step is to audit this list and determine the actual risk of each threat. Specifically, we want to look at the threat’s likelihood of threatening us and the impact if we’re threatened. Sort the items on your list according to HIGH and LOW likelihood, and HIGH and LOW impact.

For instance, looting in your neighborhood after a natural disaster may be a HIGH likelihood and HIGH impact threat. A nuclear meltdown or a cyber attack that causes bank holidays are examples of LOW likelihood but HIGH impact threats.

Ultimately, we want to determine what our HIGH/HIGH threats are because they’re the most likely to affect us and impose the greatest impact. Once you complete this step, I highly recommend reviewing the past four days of this series and begin incorporating your previous thoughts into a cumulative approach to intelligence. Bring this all together and use it to aid in security planning for the next emergency.

If you treat these exercises seriously and get this far either by yourself or with your group, you’re going to be head and shoulders over your peers, and in a good position to teach others about this approach to threat intelligence and community security.

If this interests you and you’d like go further, you do have a few options. The first thing you can do is to sign up below to receive these posts via email. My goals is to begin teaching concerned citizens how to become de facto intelligence officers during the next catastrophic event, whether it’s local or national. And with the way things are trending, I do believe that we’re going to experience significant bouts of systems disruption where this information may be extremely useful to you.

If you enjoyed reading these posts, I did write a book about this back in 2015. SHTF Intelligence: An Intelligence Analyst’s Guide to Community Security is an intelligence manual that takes students through the entire gamut of intelligence, from collection and analysis to operations. I provide very detailed and step-by-step instructions on how to use intelligence for community security planning.

If you want to take an entire course on the subject, I do offer two- and three-day courses for students. After there was enough interest, I built out an online version called the Area Intelligence Course. Through seven hours of lecture and instruction, six worksheets, an area assessment tool, and 20+ intelligence and security manuals, it’s a great option for those who want to jump into intelligence with both feet.

If you want to keep getting my daily dispatches on intelligence, security, and defense for an uncertain future, sign up by email below. Each day (or each week) you’ll get my best thoughts and ideas on what’s going, what’s going to happen in the future, and how we can start planning for it now.

Always Out Front,

Samuel Culper


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Samuel Culper is a former military intelligence NCO and contract Intelligence analyst. After 39 months of deployment time to Iraq and Afghanistan, he's now the conflict and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.

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