Human Intelligence: Main Characteristics

  • Words 1323
  • Pages 3
Download PDF

Human Intelligence

1. Human intelligence has been existing since ages. It predates all types of intelligence gathering methods. Even great scholars like Kautilya & Sun Tzu have written about its significance in various forms. Kautilya specifically speaks about various types of secret agents operating both within & in foreign countries in 29 distinct categories. Human intelligence actually means collecting information by means of human interaction. This human interaction includes talking, listening, sensing or by other means like questioning or interrogation. It has been the oldest & the cheapest method of gaining intelligence. There are following three categories for application of human intelligence:

  • (a) Strategic Intelligence. The intelligence which is required by a state about other state or non-state actors with regards to their intent & future objectives, is termed as strategic intelligence.
  • (b) Operational Intelligence. The intelligence that is required to assist in successful conduct of an operation is termed as operational intelligence. With ongoing encounters or battle, it becomes important to get first-hand information of enemy’s movement, location & exact numbers. These informations when provided by human sources comes under the ambit of operational intelligence. In counter insurgency/ counter terrorist operations, these are the intelligence required.
  • (c) Counter Intelligence. As the word suggests, it means the intelligence needed to confuse & misdirect the adversary’s intelligence operations thus making him commit mistakes.

2. Methods of Collecting Human Intelligence. In counter insurgency/ counter terrorist operations, it is generally the sources or agents who operate to collect intelligence about militants’/ terrorists movement & locations. Following methods are used: –

Click to get a unique essay

Our writers can write you a new plagiarism-free essay on any topic

  • (a) Covert Method. In this method the source either befriends the terrorist group or pretends to operate for them. Thus there is no suspicion on the source by terrorist group. With this method the best of the informations are collected by the sources.
  • (b) Indirect Method. In this method the source is not directly involved with a terrorist group. However, he gets information through those who are involved with these groups in a way or other. These could be sympathisers, OGWs or even the persons who are anti-terrorists & have been victimised by a particular terrorist or their group. In this there is always a credibility factor associated with the information received. However, with time, the same is established though with credible sources only.

3. Relevance of Human Intelligence. Humans since time immemorial, have always been the primary & most important link in the process of intelligence gathering. The process centres on the primacy of humans since they are the only species endowed with logic, reasoning, ingenuity & courage. Though technological advancements have reduced the dependence on humans as only gatherers of intelligence but still human intelligence holds great significance in this process. The 21st century has witnessed new dimensions of warfare to include asymmetric threats, use of media & cyber platform & use of multiple technologies even with non-state actors including terrorists. These are used not only to fight the wars & conflicts but also for other purposes like indoctrination & create terror through modern devices. To understand the psyche of any such entity, it is required to have a source close to him. This mandates need of a human source who can get to know the intent, methods & targets of such entities.

Technical Intelligence Versus Human Intelligence

4. There has been a big debate as to which intelligence gathering system is better out of human intelligence & technical one. Both have their own merits & demerits. However, there are certain distinct characteristics rather differences between both these types of intelligence. Same is given subsequently.

5. Reading the Mind. Technical intelligence can deal only with tangible aspects like physical movement, numbers or quantities of weapons, assets being used by militants etc. However, it needs human intelligence to know the intent, motives & methods to be used by them. A good human source who is part of such groups or who has good contact within the militant organization can only achieve such intangible information. Moreover, the correctness of such intelligence is difficult to ascertain. Therefore, a great effort is needed on part of human source to gather such information.

6. Last Minute Information. Technical gathering assets gather large amount of information. However, these informations are prone to changes due to last minute changes in plans by the militants. These changes are not always established before operations. Hence is the requirement of human sources who can confirm last minute information about militants.

7. Accessibility. Technical intelligence assets cannot reach everywhere. Human sources however on other hand have the advantage of reaching anywhere. Human sources can penetrate organizations with relative ease as compared to technical gadgets. Human sources can get these assets into the organizations which can further enhance the intelligence gathering capability.

8. Requirement of Build Up. Before gaining accurate information about militants, some amount of build-up of information is required before employing these assets. Technical assets can be employed only when some confirmed or unconfirmed inputs are received. Sources can be employed for gaining the beginning information. Unlike technical assets which are used more to confirm or gain accurate intelligence in later stage, human sources are more useful during preliminary stages of intelligence gathering.

9. Dependability. Technical assets like UAVs, radars, interceptors etc are more reliable than human sources. Being technical in nature, the chances of these assets giving wrong information is less. On other hand humans can be manipulated & psychologically trained & converted by militant organizations to act as double agents. Hence reliability & dependability is a major issue while dealing with human sources. It takes lots of time & efforts to develop a human source. But it takes more time to establish the credibility of the source & information provided by him. Hence human sources can’t be said to be dependable always.

10. Time & Efforts to Develop a Source. Developing & creating a technical assets require time & money. Thereafter they are ready to be employed in operational environment. However, it takes much more efforts to recruit, train, develop a source & then put him into use. Chances of committing mistakes by source is still high despite the efforts put in. Hence comparatively large amount of time & money is needed to develop a fully trained source.

11. Vulnerability. Despite putting time & money, a human source is still vulnerable to adversary’s actions. He may be converted to be used as a double agent by bribe or coercion by terrorist organizations. Hence he can’t be employed with complete trust as some amount of mistrust with regards to his employment by terrorist organisation against own forces, always exists.

12. Risk of Life. Technical assets are safe since their operability is by own forces. However, a human source’s life is always at risk since he has to get close to militants to gain information. Moreover, in order to gain classified information or to corroborate intelligence about aspects that need closer vigilance or surveillance by them, they do take greater risks. This put their life as well as of their close ones into jeopardy. Such issue doesn’t exist with technical assets.

13. Recognition. A human source’s identity can’t be revealed despite the operational success being attributed to him; an unknown entity. Man behind the machine is always rewarded for his excellent work in intelligence gathering, but never the human in contact with adversary. Most military cultures have identified those worthy of admiration whose speciality carried them into combat. Same is the case with operators of technical assets. Human source risks his life for mere gains & goes unidentified.

14. Handling of Assets. Handling of technical assets requires time & training. After some time, the person responsible can handle the equipment like UAV etc with ease. However, handling of source or agent needs not only time & training but more of patience & self-discipline. This is more required in case of agents who tend to use their handlers to further their self – interests. Hence an expert handler must possess self-discipline, be vigilant & have impeccable professional integrity & ability to see through such sources.


We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you board with our cookie policy.