The term “intelligence” in the activist community immediately brings up fears of agent provocateurs, COINTELPRO, paid informants, and general government surveillance run amok. However, the proper exploitation of intelligence is something that the activist community could benefit from greatly.

Intelligence gathering differs from investigations in one critical detail. Investigations are conducted to determine what already happened, while intelligence operations are conducted to determine what will happen. Intelligence work is about establishing the opposition’s intent. Many activists engage in intelligence gathering on a daily basis and don’t even know it. Anytime a group tries to determine how an elected official will vote on proposed legislation, it is conducting intelligence gathering. Every time a group tries to determine why a particular corporation is buying up land or elected officials, it is conducting an intelligence operation.

There are several types of intelligence gathering operations, most of which are highly illegal in the United States, and therefore will be left out of the discussion. The two types of intelligence gathering the activist community can engage in to better prepare themselves for future political battles are

Open Source Intelligence: This is the type that most activists are familiar with. It is commonly known as “Doxing.” It is the gathering of every scrap of publicly available information available about a person, event, organization, company, or area in the hopes of painting a picture of what will come next.

Human Intelligence: Human Intelligence is the practice of establishing confidential sources, known as “assets,” within a particular organization to exploit at a later date. The secretary in your representative’s office that tells you just a little bit more than he should is an asset. The cop that runs a driver’s license check on somebody for you, which by the way is very illegal, is an asset.

The problem is that activists engage in these activities carelessly without a plan or strategy. Too often, the activist is playing catch up. A politician or company engages in some offensive behavior, and only then do activists show up on scene to demand a change. Imagine the effect of a CEO receiving phone calls and letters before the company breaks ground on its new project that will destroy a pristine wilderness. Imagine the dismay of a police chief when he begins to receive protests before he ever even orders the tank he plans on rolling down your street.

This type of preemptive response can only be achieved if the activists know the opposition’s intent. How to determine the intent of the opposition will be the main focus of the upcoming series of articles about intelligence operations and the activist.

 The Solutions Institute only takes one position: good ideas do not require force. Otherwise, each article published at the Solutions Institute is chosen for its focus on the process and how-to instruction. Any opinions expressed on any other issue, by any author or commenter, are strictly their own. Learn more.


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