Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Some notes on Deception by RPP Part 1

My friend RPP took some notes on Deception which he posted to the Spladdle Forum. Today's entry is the first of four in this series. Deepest thanks to RPP for taking the time to type this up and share.

I'm somewhat obsessed with deception. So, I'm gonna post various notes on Deception I've gathered over the last few years here (originally I had them on a now defunct blog, but they'd probably serve more of a purpose here). Hopefully the concepts will be useful for others.

Notes from Silent Warfare by Shulsky and Schmitt pages 116-126

Deception is the attempt to mislead an adversary’s intelligence analysis concerning the political, military, or economic situation he faces, with the result that, having formed a false picture of the situation, he is led to act in a way that advances one’s interests rather than his own.

  • Considered a form of counterintelligence
  • Deception and intelligence failure are related concepts.
  • One side’s successful deception implies the other side’s intelligence failure.
  • Deception can be applied in war or peace.
  • It is more often applied in wartime.
  • Deception ranges from tactical to strategic.

Peacetime deception operations are not common, tend to be less well known, and are sometimes harder to identify as such.

The content of the deception – the false view one wishes one’s adversary to adopt – obviously depends on the situation and on how one wishes one’s adversary to react.


(1) Situation: Wartime
  • Deception: Launch a surprise attack and convince adversary no attack is coming
  • Deception: Launch an attack with enemy knowing attack is coming by convincing adversary attack is coming at a time, in a place, or in a manner other than what is actually planned.

(2) Situation: Peacetime
  • Deception: Convince adversary that one is stronger than one really is
  • Deception: Conceal one’s actual military strength to lull one’s adversary into complacency and failure to increase his own military forces.
Blocking true signals and manufacturing false ones

If we visualize the intelligence process as the reception and interpretation of signals emitted by the activities of the side under observation, then implementing a deception operation involves blocking, to the extent possible, the true signals (those that reflect actual activities) and substituting misleading ones.

The first half of the task is the problem of security.

  • If too many true signals get through, the adversary is unlikely to be deceived, although he may be so confused by the mixture of true and false signals that he cannot form a coherent picture of the actual situation.
  • The first prerequisite of successful deception is the ability to block most, if not all, of the channels by which the adversary collects intelligence information about one’s activities.
  • This is easier to do in war than peace.

Blocking intelligence-gathering channels requires:
  • A comprehensive knowledge of the intelligence channels by which the adversary receives signals.
  • A good counterespionage capability, as one well-placed human source could reveal the actual situation or deception plan.
  • Know the adversary’s technical intelligence-collection capabilities in order to thwart them.

The second half of the task is manufacturing false signals
  • Planned with the adversary’s human and technical intelligence-collection capabilities in mind.


In conducting a deception operation, one faces major uncertainties:
  • Were all the real signals blocked?
  • Did the manufactured signals reach the adversary?
  • Did he draw the desired conclusions from them?

To answer the questions, successful deception employs some method of finding out how the adversary is assessing the situation.
  • If he is not alert enough to have noticed the false signals, or if he has not interpreted them as the deceiver wished him to, more can be manufactured to get his attention and lead him to the desired interpretation.
  • If he begins to sense anomalies in the (false) picture of the situation the deceiver has planted in his mind, new signals can be created to explain them away.
  • If enough true signals have reached the adversary to enable him to understand the situation correctly, one may wish to abandon the deception and change plans.

Feedback can be obtained in many forms:
  • In some cases (such as wartime deception, or deception in support of surprise attack), the adversary’s actions (or lack of them) may be sufficient indication of whether he has been deceived.
  • In other cases, adequate feedback may require good intelligence about the other side’s views of the situation

The more long-term and strategic the deception, the more important good intelligence feedback becomes.
  • The deceived party’s responses to such deception take longer to become manifest: thus, one needs some other way of knowing whether the bait has been taken.

Peacetime deception requires better intelligence feedback than wartime.
  • In wartime adversary is more likely to act quickly based on his understanding of the situation, during peacetime the adversary is under less pressure to act quickly
  • This is why deception is rarer in peacetime than in war.
  • The adversary in wartime is also more likely to be deceived because he is under pressure to act quickly and has less time to analyse the situation.

Deception and Self-Deception

The false view must be plausible to the adversary
  • Success is more likely if the deception scenario is based on what the adversary thinks is the case anyway.

Experience shows that defeating every attempt an adversary might make at deception is very difficult.
  • There is a strong psychological resistance to the idea that one is being deceived.

Understanding deception is the first step toward figuring out how to avoid being deceived; by understanding the factors that facilitate deception, one can at least be alert to the possibility of deception and recognize some warning signs.

One is particularly vulnerable to deception when one is dependent on a small number of channels of information and when the adversary is aware, at least in general terms, of the nature of these channels and their mode of operation.
  • When one understands the risk of being deceived that comes from heavy reliance on a single known channel, one can decide what to do about it. The best corrective is to maximise what might be called “unexpected collection,” such as collecting information at times and places when the adversary doesn’t anticipate it.

Part 2 tomorrow. HTH!



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