Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Some notes on Deception by RPP Part 2

Following up on yesterday's entry of RPP's notes on Deception from Silent Warfare by Shulsky and Schmitt, here is Part 2, which he posted to Spladdle Forum. If you missed Part 1 of the series, please read Some notes on Deception by RPP Part 1.

Notes from Deception in War by Jon Latimer

"Surprise is a principle of war … It should primarily be directed at the mind of an enemy commander rather than at his force. The aim should be to paralyse the commander’s will." ~From Design for Military Operations: The British Military Doctrine
Surprise is the great ‘force multiplier’ – it makes one stronger than is physically the case.
  • The most important factor contributing to the achievement of surprise is deception.

It might be argued that security is an even more important concern, but in battle it is not sufficient for a commander to avoid error; he needs actively to cause his enemy to make mistakes through deception.

To be successful in the art of deception a deceiver needs to know and understand the mind of the enemy commander.
"Rashness, excessive audacity, blind impetuosity, or foolish ambition are all easily exploited by the enemy and most dangerous to any allies, for a general with such defects in his character will naturally fall victim to all kinds of stratagems, ambushes and trickery." ~Polybius in The Rise of the Roman Empire
The place of self-deception in this process is an important one. Our perceptions develop through the process of learning, but are overlain by a sociological and cultural baggage that correlates to our prejudices.
  • We view our experiences through these mental templates, and whatever does not fit our prejudices tends to be overlooked or discarded.
  • All deception in war should be based on what the enemy himself not only believes, but hopes for.

Skilfully conveyed false information on an information-flooded battlefield often has great influence on the mind of an enemy and the course of operations.

Since military organizations look through doctrinal and physical templates as well as the mental templates of its individual members, it is this that provides the basis for deception. The information an enemy requires to make decisions can be manipulated, if one understands the templates he is using.

A reputation for being crafty and deceptive will enhance the anxiety and uncertainty of one’s opponent.

War is not a gentlemanly pursuit but often a matter of survival requiring ruthless measures in its pursuit.
  • It is often times of weakness that commanders first think of deception as a means of evening the odds.
  • In the West, deception is seen as immoral and counters military honour.

The most effective deceivers display unorthodoxy of thought that is usually little appreciated in a peacetime army.
  • Successful deception is an art not a science.
  • Many of the best practitioners have had backgrounds in both the visual and the performing arts.

The art of deception is most successful when applied patiently, with proven techniques guided by solid principles.

The Intelligence Process

A general who knows his opponent’s intentions has an advantage. Knowledge of the enemy’s intelligence capabilities and weaknesses will facilitate feeding him false information and help ensure that he accepts it.

If the enemy has a predilection for particular sources of information, deception planning can be tailored accordingly.

It is important to distinguish between information and intelligence.
  • Information is fact.
  • Intelligence is the significance of the fact after it has been processed.

The business of collecting information about the enemy is reconnaissance.
  • Surveillance, a part of recon, is the systematic observation of selected areas.

The specific purpose of military intelligence is to forecast what the enemy will do, where and when he will do it, how and in what strength. To be of any use, this must be disseminated to decision makers as quickly as possible.
  • Always bear in mind that there is a distinct and important difference between an enemy’s capabilities (which are relatively easy to define) and his intentions (which seldom are).

"If there are three courses of action open to the enemy, he invariably chooses the fourth." ~Helmuth Graf von Moltke
Prediction inherently involves a measure of informed guesswork, and as a result some commanders have felt their guesses to be as good as their staff.
  • A commanders snubbing of intelligence staff can be useful to deceivers

"A great part of information obtained in war is contradictory, a still greater part is false, and by far the greatest part is of doubtful character."
Things which inhibit accurate intelligence assessment include:
  1. Contradictory indicators
  2. Missing data
  3. Fast moving events
  4. Time lags between data collection and analysis
  5. Pure chance

The aim of the intelligence officer is to watch the picture take form and predict what it will become.

In attempting to create a misleading image the deceiver is not trying to fool the opposing intelligence officer so much as the opposing commander, a process that requires an understanding of both the opponent’s intelligence processes and the enemy commander’s attitude towards it.

The intelligence process takes the form of a simple cycle.
  1. Direction: The commander must tell his staff what he needs to know so that they can allocate resources to collect information.
  2. Collection: Information comes in from sources and collection methods.
  3. Process: Information then processed into intelligence.
  4. Dissemination: Intelligence disseminated to those who need it. By constantly re-evaluating what is known by what is not, the cycle then continues.

From a deceiver’s point of view, the critical phases of enemy’s intelligence cycle are the collection and processing phases.

It is directed towards the enemy’s sources and agencies that false information must be directed, and a knowledge of what he is looking for during processing will assist in sending the ‘correct’ wrong information, since it is by reading ‘signatures’ of operation that intelligence staffs make predictions.

Each army has its own characteristics, which must be carefully studied, and knowledge of one’s own characteristics immediately opens up deceptive possibilities for the display of false ones.

Sources and Agencies involved in the process

An intelligence source is anyone or anything from which information can be obtained.

An intelligence agency is any organization or individual dealing in the collection of information for intelligence use.

Sources of intelligence throughout history include:
  1. HUMINT: Spies, prisoners, locals and other people. Captured enemy documents and prisoners of war. Although the reliability of both is very questionable: documents can easily be plated and prisoners are not always trustworthy.
  2. Reconnaissance: By foot, horseback or armour.
  3. SIGINT: radio intercepts, electronic warfare
  4. IMINT: Aerial photography, imagery analysis


Security is as fundamental a principle of war as intelligence.
  • Detailed knowledge of enemy’s reconnaissance and intelligence capabilities are vital if one’s secrets are to be preserved.

Field or operational security involves the concealment of one’s own strengths and intentions from the enemy.

For the purposes of both security and deception Napoleon was in the habit of continually altering the composition of his major formations.

The larger a proposed operation, the more difficult that concealment becomes.
  • Operational security is most effective when applied systematically; it must be directed from the highest level and must concentrate on critical activities, identifying what indicators an enemy will look for and what information these might convey to the enemy.
  • It must also take account of the enemy’s reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition capabilities; so that measures can be designed to neutralize these. There is no form of camouflage more effective than putting out the enemy’s eyes.
  • Assessments must be made before and during an operation and continuously revised, since any protection measures taken must appear a normal part of activity: routines can thus both aid security and provide a basis for deception.
  • The plan must be capable of change at a short notice.

The very identity of a general must be subject to security, and deception can aid this.
  • A general’s personal routine can be an indicator of forthcoming operations.

Before offensive deception measures can be planned, friendly surveillance effort must be directed towards establishing the type and density of the enemy’s sources and towards looking for weak spots.
  • As an aid to security and an integral part of the information battle, counter-surveillance, involving all those active and passive measures taken to prevent hostile surveillance of a force or area, forms the first category or level of deception.

An enemy deprived of all intelligence or faced with ambiguous information may react unpredictably, and his actions may not necessarily be exploitable. Nevertheless, denial of genuine information is always an important objective and confusion may in some cases be a useful method of supporting deception by undermining the enemy’s intelligence effort.

Active counter-surveillance measures include attacking enemy reconnaissance forces and passive ones.
  • The priorities for defensive deception measures should be related to the enemy’s reconnaissance priorities and capabilities, underlining again the need to understand as far as possible the enemy’s intelligence cycle.

Camouflage is a key element of counter-surveillance.
  • Deception, not concealment, is the object of camouflage.

The penultimate installment tomorrow. HTH!



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