Thomas Briggs: Reflections on OSINT in Support of HUMINT

Advanced Cyber/IO
Thomas Leo Briggs
Thomas Leo Briggs

Thomas Leo Briggs is a retired CIA operations officer with 3 years military experience in US Army military police, 3 years as a Special Agent in the Drug Enforcement Administration and 26 years in the CIA.  He tried to make use of computer capabilities to aid and assist HUMINT operations in a variety of ways throughout his last 18 years as an operations officer.  He is also the author of Cash on Delivery: CIA Special Operations During the Secret War in Laos (Rosebank Press, 2009).

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Further reflection on HUMINT and OSINT.  I see them as complementary to both operations (HUMINT collection) and analysis.  I also see that they should be looked at differently for operations and analysis.

In operations, which I know more about than analysis, there is the general need for HUMINT operators (so as to not bias this toward any one member of the intel community, I use HUMINT operators rather than case officers) to know as much as as possible about the country, region, culture, etcetera where they will be working.  Operators collect raw intelligence and it is turned into field intelligence reporting.  Someone in the field must review and vet that raw intelligence – we used to call them reports officers.  The review must be able to determine if the alleged raw intelligence is really that and not openly known information somewhere in the country or region.  Obviously, there must be one or more officers in a field office with knowledge of as much about the open source information as possible, or has the tools at hand to check open source information, and also with knowledge of the secret intelligence that has already been reported, so as to avoid duplicative raw intelligence reporting.

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2012 Thomas Briggs on The Human Factor

Director of National Intelligence et al (IC), IO Impotency
Thomas Leo Briggs
Thomas Leo Briggs

REACTION TO:  2012 Robert Steele: The Human Factor & The Human Environment: Concepts & Doctrine? Implications for Human & Open Source Intelligence 2.0

Tom Briggs is a former CIA clandestine case officer with an excellent book to his credit, Cash on Delivery: CIA Special Operations During the Secret War in Laos (Rosebank Press, 2009).  Before joining CIA he was the Acting Provost Marshal (sheriff) for 25,000 US personnel operating in Cam Ranh Bay, Viet-Nam.


As I hope you remember, I started my time in info technology in requirements after many years in operations.  I learned that when you ask someone what his requirements are he most often begins to include his solutions, e.g. we need a computer database to help us keep weapons from being smuggled into this country.  My response was you don't know if you need a computer until you tell me what data you have, what data you might be able to collect but are not collecting, and what questions you want to ask that the data might be able to help you answer.  It was hard to keep them off solutions and focused on what they knew and what they wanted to know. As I read Part IV, 01 Requirements Definition, I thought of my experience and wondered whether the definitions were being simplified to their very basics.  A colleague and I wrote the very first requirements for automating the DO.  When the IBM programmers with the contract read them they sneered and said, ‘these are high level requirements, we need to have the requirements that tell us exactly how to build the automated system'.  My colleague and I said, if you don't understand the high level requirements, how can you begin to write the specific requirements?  Thus, the first specific things that were developed for the automated DO system were faulty in many ways. The programmers excluded my colleague and I from their deliberations as THEY wrote the specific requirements, and no one in management thought there was anything wrong with that.

My colleague was the one who named the highest level requirements.  He called one ‘author'.  He didn't say we needed to write cables, or memos or whatever, he said we needed a computer based author capability and proceeded to outline in general the authoring needs.  I don't remember the other 4 or 5 categories but they were similar.

So, I wonder if we really ‘assign' requirements to humint or osint or techint?  Should we have ‘high level' requirements from policy makers or military commanders and then figure out which int can collect on them, or, let them all collect and see whose information is the most relevant and useful?  I am talking mostly about operations, but except for acquisition of which I know not much, I think I am also talking to strategy and policy.

I read through your ‘conversation' once and the above represents the one thing I wanted to say right away.  There are other things to say, but I can't do it in well ‘fell swoop' as you often do.  I need to rest to read your ‘conversation' again and see what else I might add.

Almost any problem you can name in the intel community begins with bad management.  Even if you have an excellent manager, it is only until he moves on, and the odds are good he will be replaced with a much lesser manager.  I guess I tend to have a negative attitude.

That's all for now.


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Thomas Briggs: No, China Does Not Have 3,000 Nuclear Weapons (Nor Does CIA Have Clandestine Assets Anywhere Relevant)

02 China, 10 Security, Academia, Budgets & Funding, Corruption, Director of National Intelligence et al (IC), DoD, Government, IO Deeds of War, Military, Peace Intelligence
Thomas Leo Briggs

Here is another posting related to this topic to balance the earlier piece from the Washington Post.

No, China Does Not Have 3,000 Nuclear Weapons

A study from Georgetown University incorrectly suggests that China has 3,000 nuclear weapons.The estimate is off by an order of magnitude.

By Hans M. Kristensen


According to the International Panel on Fissile Materials, China has produced an estimated 2 tons of plutonium for weapons. Some has been consumed in nuclear tests, leaving roughly 1.8 tons. The estimate is consistent with what the U.S. government has stated and theoretically enough for 450-600 warheads.

Total production of HEU is thought to have been approximately 20 tons. Some has been spent in nuclear tests and research reactor fuel, leaving a stockpile of some 16 tons. That’s theoretically enough for roughly 640-1,060 warheads.

Another critical material is Tritium, which is used in thermonuclear weapons. China probably only produces enough Tritium at its High-Flux Engineering Test Reactor (HFETR) in Jiajiang to maintain an arsenal of about 300 weapons.

The U.S. intelligence community concluded in 2009 that China likely has produced enough weapon-grade fissile material to meet its needs for the immediate future. In other words, no vast warhead expansion is in sight.

Read more, several excellent images.

Click on Image to Enlarge

Phi Beta Iota:  We are reminded of how the British government sacrificed its intelligence and integrity in copying from a university paper to inflate the Iraq WMD threat, and we continue to believe that the “restricted” papers the students were given are both grounds for an investigation of their professor, and grounds for an Inspector General if not a Department of Justice inquiry into illegal PSYOP funding influence from the Pentagon to Georgetown University.  It merits positive comment that neither the CIA's “all source” Directorate of Intelligence nor the CIA's Open Source Center are capable of this level of work–the students, and their professor–have done a great deal of good.  They simply cannot combine — as the CIA and DIA cannot combine — open sources in all languages; deep analytic tradecraft; and rigorous personal integrity….nor does the CIA have any clandestine assets in China relevant to this particular inquiry, nor does the US Intelligence Community have leadership capable of focusing all-source collection and requisite (non-existent) processing on this vital question.  On the one hand, the Pentagon is correct to say that the US intelligence community stinks on all questions Chinese; on the other, the Pentagon and the White House are telling impeachable lies to Congress and the public on all matters relating to the Chinese threat and the Pentagon budget.  Our personal speculative estimate of China's nuclear capability is closer to 30 operable weapons, to which we add that the US has never actually tested any of its nuclear weapons–we literally do not know if they will work as advertised.

Thomas Briggs: Georgetown Students Scoop Secret World on China’s Tunnel System for Nuclear Weapons – or a PSYOP Against US Public?

02 China, 04 Education, 04 Inter-State Conflict, 07 Other Atrocities, 10 Security, Academia, Corruption, Government, IO Deeds of War, Military, Peace Intelligence
Thomas Leo Briggs

A wonderful example of what can be done with open source material!

Georgetown students shed light on China’s tunnel system for nuclear weapons


Washington Post, November 29, 2011

The Chinese have called it their “Underground Great Wall” — a vast network of tunnels designed to hide their country’s increasingly sophisticated missile and nuclear arsenal.

For the past three years, a small band of obsessively dedicated students at Georgetown University has called it something else: homework.

Read full article.

Phi Beta Iota:  The ability of students to excel in relations to spies is not knew, even with hard targets such as China.  For decades this web site and its antecedents have been saying “Do not send a spy where a schoolboy can go.”  HOWEVER, in this specific case, with China as the target and the Pentagon budget on the line, there is a very high probability that the students are unwitting dupes in an illegal PSYOP being used to create an unethical justification for an ideological and political build-up against China, while protecting the bloated and extraordinarily corrupt Pentagon budget from the mandatory reductions agreed to in relation to the crisis at hand.  Bottom line:  the students have earned an A but the integrity of this endeavor is suspect.

Review: Democracy as Problem Solving – Civic Capacity in Communities Across the Globe

4 Star, Democracy, Public Administration
Amazon Page

Xavier N. De Souza Briggs

4.0 out of 5 stars 5 for Academics, 4 for Isolation from Corruption, June 25, 2011

I am stunned to not see a review of this book published in 2008. It certainly merits attention and inclusion in any dialog about democracy.

The author caught my attention immediately in the preface, observing that US democracy “looks awfully stunted and stymied.”

The author does a first rate job of summarizing the book in advance, the core focus being on democracy as civic capacity.

QUOTE (ix): “This blurring of the traditional divide between direction setting (policy making) and outcomes (implementation) is at the heart of the story…”

I am less interested in the case studies (urban growth, restructuring economy, and investing in youth), and much more interested in the author's concise presentation of his findings.

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Review: Cash on Delivery–CIA Special Operations During the Secret War in Laos

5 Star, Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Biography & Memoirs, Insurgency & Revolution, Intelligence (Government/Secret), War & Face of Battle
Amazon Page
Amazon Page
5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Deal–Gripping Details & Lessons Learned & Lost
November 21, 2009
Thomas Leo Briggs
I served with the author in the clandestine service, saw the galley of this book in its early form, and was delighted when I received a copy of the finished book in the mail.

This is an absorbing detailed reference work, professional lessons learned document, “oral history” of the hidden war in Laos and Cambodia, and above all a patriotic “after action” report that should be–but has not been–absorbed by both Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Special Operations Forces (SOF) “leaders” and program managers.

Portions of the book are somewhat numbing in *necessary* detail, and other portions of the book gave me goose bumps. The book is something of a counterpoint to Blond Ghost, about Ted Shackley and his war in Laos, the most famous quote being his deputies, “We spent a lot of money and got a lot of people killed,” Lair remembered, “and we didn't get much for it.”

I take this officer at his word, and have absolute confidence in this book and its details. The two most important points: