For pretty much ever people have wanted to know what was going on in and around their area. The daily paper, News, gossip circles and what not have evolved over time to fulfill this curiosity. Situational Awareness (SA) simplified is Intelligence – it satisfies our innate curiosity and requirement to know. Think the 5 Ws: WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, and WHY?
So how can we find out beyond the obvious WTF is going on? Well don’t discount the sources I listed above. We take that intelligence from a variety of sources and I’ll break these sources down into area that most .mil folks will understand and explain each one in brief to help give you some insight. These aren’t all of the areas but the ones most commonly available to Joe Rancher.
HUMINT (Human Intelligence) is just that – Intelligence gathered by humans either knowingly or unknowingly through interpersonal contact. Gossip, witness reports or eyewitness accounts, etc. A report of vehicle movement down that pipeline or evidence of people being where they shouldn’t are HUMINT. That Deputy mentioning a group of outlaw bikers having moved in five miles down the road while having a casual conversation – that’s HUMINT.
OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) is intelligence gathered through publicly available sources. There’s more sources than I care to list here but think about these for example: Newspapers, Radio and TV news broadcasts, Social Media, Press Releases, etc. The web has revolutionized OSINT collection. I’ll give a brief example of how to exploit OSINT. On Monday morning you flip on the local news and find out there was a pretty brutal robbery last night and it’s being attributed to a local radical group. A quick check on the web finds this groups website – there you might read a mission statement, vision, or their press releases. Another quick check on the FBI or DHS website might yield estimates of their strength, locations in the state, etc. SO what we’ve come up with is the following:
WHO – we know who (or what group) to watch out for.
WHAT – What kinds of activities said group is known for or who they target.
WHERE- Their suspected locations (clubhouses, charters, etc.).
WHEN – How long they have been operating, how often they popup on the radar.
WHY – Reports (including Police reports) often speculate on motivation.
Now I’ll caveat this up front – 90% of any given OSINT is more often than not pure speculation. Intel guys are notorious for never using action words. You’ll never hear they say “Will”, “Are going to”, and especially “definitely”. They use words like “Possibly”, “Suspected”, “Probably”, etc. That’s the nature of Intelligence – especially OSINT.
IMINT (Imagery Intelligence) is the use of images to facilitate building your SA. Google earth and the USGS provide terrain and topographic information that you can freely use to develop your understanding of your terrain. Look ’em up, download them, print them off, whatever but study your AOs terrain. Terrain is a whole area in and by itself. IMINT also can include pictures of individuals, vehicles, and equipment.
SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) is info gathered by monitoring electronic means. Radios (CB, HAM, Scanners, etc..) all provide normally near real time information. SIGINT is usually time sensitive – which means it’s not normally something to sit on. Wiretapping also falls under the prevue of SIGINT. Simple eavesdropping on radio transmissions can yield tons of information. That trucker on his radio that bitched about being passed by a group in a truck with a bunch of dirtbags riding in the back of it with rifles laying in the bed, that SO call down the road for a break in, or even monitoring things like FRS/GMRS radio bands. Hint: A lot of gangs are using cheap FRS/GMRS band radios to communicate in the city to pass their HUMINT around. They quite possibly will use them also if they decide to conduct any kind of OP in your AO.
There are some tools to help establish things like patterns later on that will help you gain an understanding to the threats practices. But for now work on digesting this. And one thing to remember: Not only are you the guy trying to gather intel and build your SA, others might be quite possibly trying to do the same on your AO. Look at the above areas and incorporate them into your OPSEC routine.