The Trump/Russia scandal has filled our heads with a lot of intelligence jargon. Unwitting asset. Agent. Active measures. But what do these words actually mean?
Someone pointed me to the CIA’s own Glossary of Intelligence Terms, created in 1989. Granted it’s a bit outdated, but it’s also quite helpful. (I am indebted to The Black Vault, an online repository of declassified documents for the glossary.)
Here’s how the CIA defines active measures:
Active measures: A literal translation of a Russian phrase that is used to describe overt and covert techniques and intelligence operations designed to advance Soviet foreign policy objectives and to influence events in foreign countries by altering people’s perceptions. Active measures should not be confused with legitimate diplomatic activities.
We often hear Trump described as a possible asset, unwitting or otherwise, of Russia. But according to the CIA’s glossary this isn’t the right use of the word.
Agent (1) A person who engages in clandestine intelligence activity under the direction of an intelligence organization but who is not an officer, employee, or co-opted worker of that organization. (2) An individual who acts under the direction of an intelligence agency or security service to obtain, or assist in obtaining, information for intelligence or counterintelligence purposes. (3) One who is authorized or instructed to obtain or to assist in obtaining information for intelligence or counterintelligence purposes.
A better word is asset.
Asset: (1) Any resource — a person, group, relationship, instrument installation, supply — at the disposition of an intelligence agency for use in an operational or support role. (2) A person who contributes to a clandestine mission but is not a fully controlled agent. (Also see intelligence asset, national intelligence asset, and tactical intelligence asset.)
We recently learned that the FBI had opened a counterintelligence investigation into Trump after his firing of James Comey. Here’s how the CIA defines it.
Counterintelligence: Information gathered and activities conducted to protect against espionage, other intelligence activities, sabotage, or assassinations conducted for or on behalf of foreign powers, organizations, persons, or terrorist activities, but not including personnel, physical, document, or communications security programs. (Also see foreign counterintelligence, security countermeasures, and technical surveillance countermeasures.)
It’s interesting to view propaganda from an intelligence perspective.
Propaganda: Any form of communication in support of national objectives designed to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes, or behavior of any group in order to benefit the sponsor, either directly or indirectly.
The dossier compiled by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele is often described as raw intelligence.
Raw intelligence: A colloquial term meaning collected intelligence information that has not yet been converted into finished intelligence. (Also see intelligence information.)
That takes us to another definition.
Finished intelligence: (1) The product resulting from the collection, processing, integration, analysis, evaluation, and interpretation of available information concerning foreign countries or areas. (2) The final result of the production step of the intelligence cycle; the intelligence product. (Also see intelligence cycle and end product.)
Let me know if this is helpful or there are any other terms you’d like to see explained.