Secrecy News

Identity Intelligence and Special Operations

“Identity intelligence” is a relatively new intelligence construct that refers to the analysis and use of personal information, including biometric and forensic data among others, to identify intelligence targets of interest and to deny them anonymity.

The term began to appear a few years ago and was included, for example, in a 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency briefing package. Since then it has quickly propagated throughout U.S. military and intelligence operations.

Identity intelligence (or I2) was included for the first time in published U.S. military doctrine in the October 2013 edition of Joint Publication (JP) 2-0 on Joint Intelligence, which elaborated on the concept. Identity intelligence is used, JP 2-0 said, “to discover the existence of unknown potential threat actors by connecting individuals to other persons, places, events, or materials, analyzing patterns of life, and characterizing their level of potential threats to US interests.”

(“Identity intelligence” also appeared in an undated Top Secret document that was disclosed by Edward Snowden and published in excerpted form by the New York Times on May 31, 2014.)

Most recently, an updated U.S. Department of Defense publication on special operations noted this month that “Identity intelligence products enable real-time decisions in special operations worldwide.”

The new DoD doctrine on Special Operations — Joint Publication 3-05, dated 16 July 2014 — includes further discussion of identity intelligence (I2) in the special operations context:

“I2 is the collection, analysis, exploitation, and management of identity attributes and associated technologies and processes. The identification process utilizes biometrics-enabled intelligence (BEI), forensics-enabled intelligence (FEI), information obtained through document and media exploitation (DOMEX), and combat information and intelligence to identify a person or members of a group.”

“I2 fuses identity attributes (biological, biographical, behavioral, and reputational information related to individuals) and other information and intelligence associated with those attributes collected across all intelligence disciplines….”

“USSOCOM [US Special Operations Command] exploits biometric, forensic, document and media data collections and integrates the data with all-source intelligence to locate and track unattributed identities across multiple or disparate instances. Intelligence collections are processed through the appropriate DOD and interagency databases, exploited to produce intelligence, and then disseminated to deployed SOF and throughout the interagency. I2 products enable real-time decisions in special operations worldwide.”

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Identity intelligence aside, the new Joint Publication 3-05 provides an informative account of the role of special operations, along with some notable changes from previous special operations doctrine.

“Special operations require unique modes of employment, tactics, techniques, procedures, and equipment. They are often conducted in hostile, denied, or politically and/or diplomatically sensitive environments, and are characterized by one or more of the following: time-sensitivity, clandestine or covert nature, low visibility, work with or through indigenous forces, greater requirements for regional orientation and cultural expertise, and a higher degree of risk,” JP 3-05 says.

The previous edition of this publication (dated 2011) had identified 11 core activities for special operations: direct action, special reconnaissance, counterproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, counterterrorism, unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, security force assistance, counterinsurgency, information operations (IO), military information support operations (MISO), and civil affairs operations.

The new edition adds a 12th mission that up to now had not been considered a core activity: hostage rescue and recovery.

“Hostage rescue and recovery operations are sensitive crisis response missions in response to terrorist threats and incidents. Offensive operations in support of hostage rescue and recovery can include the recapture of US facilities, installations, and sensitive material overseas,” the new JP 3-05 states.

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