Still straying a bit out of intelligence data sharing, but heck, it is part of the scenery on this leisurely ride on a sunny day. Hard to believe I could spew so much in parts I, II, III, and IV but not as hard as that surprise article detouring to a virtual pit-stop between Vancouver, B.C., Canada and Bellingham, Washington! Cross-border for sure, although I have met delusional people who confuse it with D.C. and who conducts international intelligence operations, makes foreign policy and national security decisions. When cobbler’s children have shoes they get to fantasize. Enough irrelevant distractions … I usually close and not open with comedy. Lets get on with the acronym porn.
The necessity for going into what seems to be a side line is that a systemic risk can not be understood without at least some understanding of its components and interactions.
I will start with a quantification framework and cite past examples in a separate section for clarity.
Direct and indirect material or financial loss can be numerically quantified. In complex systems, to quantify the intangibles, one must assess the probable magnitude of impact itself which is not the same as risk probability or cascading but the impact systemic risk in complex systems. For example the probability of a revolution in country X may be 50%. But what impact where and to whom? To the populace, foreign investors, neighbors, regional stability, price of oil, global impact? As a system is defined based on financial, utilitarian, legal, ethical, arbitrary, other criteria or a combination, impacts vary. To complicate things systems also cascade to other systems.
Same idea applies to complex systems with “too many moving parts.” While the probability of individual failures can be reduced, the number of components, relationships/dependencies to be understood and managed and cascading affects will most definitely lead to total/catastrophic failure absent strict QA, control, and monitoring processes.
Conventional thinking and risk assessments do not frame problems in that manner. In drug or OC related operations, an environment of violence against the innocent and the guilty, vocabularies of war, and testosterone dominance there is a culture of tendency to attribute preventable failures to unfortunate events and dismiss or diminish impact as justifiable collateral damage.
Here are the relevant moving parts/failure elements/contributors and impact systems.
CS/CI’s perform critical functions in law enforcement. It is not just the TV show depiction of the street cop or precinct detective’s eyes and ears and the word on the street. They can provide advance warning on criminal developments and keep investigators appraised of current on-goings (intents, plans, logistics, events, etc.) in organizations and provide psychological insights (on emotional states, reactions, etc.) on subjects.
Those functions are legitimate practices.
Investigators and agents who do not engage in open activities, whether undercover themselves or at a desk, turn people of use into informants. Notwithstanding physical, electronic and forensic evidence development, and considering MCIs, without CS/CI’s it is almost impossible to develop cases that lead to a career, salary increase or status among colleagues.
Informants are either paid or made a deal where the average non white-collar-crime turncoat possesses psychopathic, sociopathic or narcissistic traits, is manipulative, will lie or kill without remorse. They are irresponsible, lazy, dead-beats and want everything easy. They usually lack education, skills or experience to to achieve money or status which they crave. Not a surprise, that is how they got there in the first place. They are what they are in the environment but hardly team members, reliable or someone to take over and run an operation as they have in the past.
Methods (Legal and not so Legal)
Informants can also be active instruments rather than passive collectors of information.
On the level bordering on entrapment and hard to prove, by employing dual-purpose methods, they act as operatives and tools of psych ops: influence, subtle suggestions, building mental associations, invoking emotions, or changing a person’s course of actions. To protect (and legally cover) against that, in significant cases, behavioral analysts/psychologists participate to gauge states such as attitudes and predispositions and set boundaries e.g. between associative measurement and suggestion (which is BTW impossible and discredited practice.)
Safeguards, if meaningful at all, can be bypassed by use of informants to “prep” or “prime” a subject or target, frame, or at least bring the target to an indictable (albeit not necessarily convict-able) state where they can be pressured or imprisoned in a potentially fatal environment.
As double protection a second clean team/s with no prior knowledge (with full DA or DOJ participation) does the final leg (that is for case-buildings that have an end in sight vs. an ongoing stream of psych ops or concurrent independent teams.) Point being there are safeguards and procedural assumptions that rights can be easily violated, crimes can be committed and there are problems to be avoided.
Informants can also spread false rumors, set people up, instigate, provoke, influence activities of organizations, start wars and get people, including their controllers, killed.
Agents usually do not account for or document their career informants and what happens between them is not monitored. So it does not take much effort or resources to conduct an active operation couched as one of information “intelligence” gathering.
There are domestic procedural, judicial, institutional and human/cultural value controls, incentives and checks and balances that attempt to address this difficult area by prevention or punishing violations. But they completely disappear or become ineffective when operating in cross-border environments.
Operating Environments – Too Many Uncontrollable Moving Parts
Lack of jurisdiction, operating personnel and financial hurdles make cross-border operations highly dependent on foreign resources. Complicating the dependencies, domestic agencies often distrust foreign officials and suspect them (or have knowledge) of corruption. We are not even talking about legitimate competing and conflicting MCIs. So they bypass foreign governments entirely and turn to informants on whom they become even more reliant. How reliable and manageable are they? No one can guarantee but re-read the above and just guess.
Then there is the even-then factor. Even with trusted foreign officials, informants and solid TTPs, there are other foreign interests who operate and assert themselves in those environments. TCOs and TOs are known to have connections to foreign intelligence entities, contract with or be controlled or highly influenced by them.
Disaster is guaranteed without tight operational integration in a JTF since domestic agencies are not designed and tooled to cover those blind spots. With JTFs there is a 360 view and the risk is better managed but not completely eliminated. As an inherent function, they enforce boundaries and limits on domestic agencies where the mission of foreign policy, goals and national interests overrides any single of a few agencies. They also serve, as they should, to keep a check on regional bureaucratic ambitions and empire building tendencies.
MLA and MLATs are often frowned upon due to the procedural requirements, documentation, monitoring and accountability they impose. Official routes and JTFs are also hated as much because they are linked to specific investigations with start and end states or dates subject to reporting and accounting whereas “routine,” stings and off-the-books operations allow for money, drugs, and guns to be diverted and not be accounted for.
Cross-border operations also provide easy, financial, career, ego-stimulating, and status incentives in field or satellite offices where advancement options are more limited than larger cities with increased competition, peer and systematic monitoring, and meritorious performance rewards.
Regional alliances can also be propped up and kept under the radar at levels that do not rise to qualify for JTFs and under pretexts of: the other side has information on … throwing ideas around … lets do a quasi-coordinated sting, independent but keep in touch. Lo and behold a few of those undercover and cross-border informant-operatives come up with more supporting information, aggravate and agitate people and groups against each other, and the empire building ambitions and hormones smoke and shoot out of every supervisor and bureaucrat’s orifice on both sides of the border where they have a mutual interest of promoting each other.
Domestic agencies are getting to operate in a complex environment that is within the purview, mission and expertise of external and foreign outlook such as State, CIA, NSA and DOD where applicable. Such operations can have an element of or quickly take on a counterintelligence nature.
Bypassing foreign governments entirely, or keeping things within regional allied (or axis for that matter) pockets of power has extremely high impact potential. Any of the following impacts can result in domestic violation of rights, constitutional guarantees, ethical and criminal violations, and is simply bad governance.
- It violates domestic laws
- It violats foreign laws and treaties
- It causes death and suffering on both sides
- It causes misery, unnecessary violence, wars and brings them back home to places and doorsteps of people who had no part in nor asked for it
- These arrangements are illegitimately clandestine within their own circles and are not communicated up or horizontally in inter or intra agencies. As a result information has to be distorted, triangulated and man-in-the-middle handled until and in case the shit hits the fan and superiors, watch-dogs, internal investigators, and DOJ start asking questions. Now another person, group, organization, agency or country has to take the blame and it goes on and on
- It diverts resources from real solutions to real and betrays people and communities who have legitimate needs
- It encourages corruption and permits money, drugs, and guns to be diverted to preferred organizations, gangs, informants, friends, family and agents themselves
- It will run afoul, overlap and clash with ongoing foreign operations with national security implications — that is assuming CIA and other foreign operations will not start registering with and reporting to these 🃏s and 🤡s any time in the foreseeable future
- It clashes with foreign interests that assume sanctioned behavior by the government and causes miscalculation of intent
- It cascades distrust internally in each system and to other systems
- It creates undocumented dependencies that exposes agents and supervisors to blackmail and influence by TCOs, TOs, foreign officials and intelligence entities. Of course they can register as a foreign agent, resubmit or update SF86 … but then … never mind
- It causes diplomatic incidents and erosion of trust in relationships where trust and credibility are the jewels
- It enforces the stereotypical image of Americans as loose canon cowboys who do not respect other people and plays into propaganda and information warfare material of adversaries
Another side note way off the map of the ACLU’s FOIA request but within their area. In layman’s terms, if the Russians get to influence elections in the U.S. and try elsewhere, knock the lights out in Ukraine, cruise missile ISIS, spend millions of dollars in every major city in the world, and have an FSB and alpha dominated motorcycle club in Miami, you (for a lack of better indirect addressing, linguistics or acronym) and your willingly participant team/s and cohorts must be — using layman’s terms again with subject-context appropriate language — abso-fucking-lutely delusional crazy no-brain bureaucrats and apes with inflated egos to even think of running off-the-books regional cross-border operations and not be totally smoked by them, cause death, national embarrassment and diplomatic havoc … or you are an enemy-traitor.
That is only with the Russians.
That is assuming no other agenda or nefarious intent.
All these problems ultimately lead to further erosion of confidence and makes every one including the rest of world wonder who is running this fecal theater?
Leaving examples and conclusions to the next post — comme d’habitude! (Part VI)