Sunday, April 14, 2013


A reader poses an interesting question . . .

Given your background, both past and current, any tips for us civilians on how to collect intel and do background type checks with open source and available resources (internet, etc)? Not quite after cyber stalker level info, but a general know your friend and enemies level of "who am i dealing with here" before foot is insert in mouth of other orifice. Enjoy the blog and your insight. - M.Heffer

S.L.: Wow thats a pretty wide-open question. What you seem to be asking is what the corporate community refers to as "due diligence". Whenever I am approaching an information-gathering task, I precede by an analysis of information requirements for due diligience, divided into two categories; primary information requirements (PIRs - circumstances, people and or things which will directly affect my client) and information requirements (IRs - any items related to the client's desired activity).

PIRs include anything which may constrain or limit the client's desired activity. The security situation will fall somewhere in between constraints and limitations:

Constraints are actual physical realities; i.e facilities, water supply situations, electrical power supply, logistics, physical security details such as fences, barriers, monitoring systems etc.

Limitations are artificial or self-imposed; i.e. rules, laws, regulations, licensing requirements, personalities and local jurisdictions to include officials and the local corruption or fraudulent activities which may directly influence and at the same time jeopardize the client's desired activity.

IRs include anything related to the PIRs, but not of direct influence. IRs include roads, routes, chokepoints, physical layouts, etc.

A start point to these kind of lists includes Who, What, Why, When, Where and How Many. Internet resources include Google searches, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and then of course investigative background services; but you'd be amazed with what you can find with a simple Google search.

Not sure if I answered your question here. Thanks for your support!

M.Heffer: Thank you. Let me digest this. May I follow up with any questions that I may have?

S.L.: Yeah sure you can reach out to me anytime - the problem is your question is so open ended and the craft of intelligence and information contains so many disciplines. I was trained as an analyst AND a collector - a combination that as far as I know only exists in US Army Special Forces. I was trained at Ft. Bragg, in Washington DC and in Stuttgart, Germany and my experience in intelligence operations includes the former Yugoslavia, the Middle East, North Africa, and Mexico; and now my post-retirement activities as a security consultant in the corporate environment, in Europe, S.E. Asia and Latin America. You can't really learn this stuff by shooting questions out there - I had formal training mixed with operational experience and was mentored by some legendary individuals. As far as I'm concerned I'm still learning.

It's a lifelong journey, and for me it continues in the private sector - this is also not common. I didn't seek it, in fact when I got out I was so sick of the Army and so done with the stress and anxiety that I didn't want to do anything the word 'security' in it. I actually tried to strike out into business on my own, just in time to catch the credit meltdown followed by the market meltdown and then one day the phone rang and I was back in the game. A leopard can't change his spots I guess.

I don't know your age or your station in life but my advice is that if you want to gain skills go into the military, intelligence or Federal law enforcement. Don't try learn the trade on your own or via business operations that masquerade as schools. We in the trade only do business with people like ourselves and there's a reason - early on in my post-retirement career I decided to do a favor to a kid who was striking out on his own, claimed a lot and represented an outfit out of L.A. for all I know is all his own creation. I directed him to a colleague who's running a training operation in L.A. and the guy showed his ass so bad, embarrassed the hell out of me and I got my fingers burned, bad. I learned from that to only do business with people who are carefully vetted, with solid military or intell credentials. The nature of this business is we all know each other - we have to. I learned from that episode - only trust people who have walked the walk, who you know their background and training, and who have paid their dues.

Do some reading, learn the disciplines of intelligence,learn tradecraft, learn analysis and planning skills, and learn leadership. There is only one way to learn leadership as far as I am concerned and that is through the school of hard knocks. Believe it or not physical fitness is as important as mental acuity and tradecraft. Interview skills are as valuable as marksmanship (if not more so); learn how to be a human lie detector and for when you are on the other side of the table learn the art of speaking for thirty minutes and saying absolutely nothing. Know what to do and where to start when you walk into a situation and there's more that you don't know than what you do know because that is more often that not. Above all you have to have faith in the people to your left and to your right, in your country and in everything you hold holy and sacred - because there will come a time when that is all you have; faith. If you don't have that, you will not survive when the chips are down. Best wishes - S. L.

BTW it ain't all cloak & dagger and guns a-blazing like in the movies - I only included the clips from Where Eagles Dare because the tradecraft is good and I like hearing Richard Burton saying "Broadsword this is Danny Boy."


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