The Information Militia


…it was really great to see former Chief of Army, Lou Gardiner, fronting for the recent launch of Crimestoppers NZ (0800 555 111). This initiative is the silver lining from the cloud of the December 2007 Army Museum VC theft that brought General Lou and Lord Ashcroft together and got the  idea fermenting (‘though the head of Crimestoppers NZ probably won’t have his own jet!!).

Initially I was a bit dubious about the whole idea of anonymous reporting and the opportunities to play ‘Dob Thy Neighbour‘ but I’ve been following the news reports this week and even if the Kiwi version is only half as effective as the UK one, that is still a 10% dent in the crime stats which is pretty respectable by anyone’s standards. More power to Crimestoppers and it will be interesting to visit in a few months to see  how the stats are panning out. In the meantime, I exhort everyone to pop across to Crimestoppers and plant a few words of encouragement on the Crimestoppers Blog. Consider this your personal contribution to domestic Info Ops for 2009: the more obvious public support there is, the more likely it is that ordinary people will use the site….away you go…

Defence Capability Centre 033 small

This mobile signpost is in one of the display areas at the Defence Capability Centre at Shrivenham – it was in this complex, which is absolutely packed with big boys toys for ambient effect, that the CLAW was conducted this year. At first, I thought it looked kinda dumb and just a big invite for a couple of rounds of ‘Dob Thy Neighbour‘ and other forms of neighbourhood score-settling and mischief. But then I thought about it some more from an information perspective. Clearly in any COIN, Irregular Threat or Stability environment – and when you get down to it, domestic crime-fighting is as much about stability ops as is providing security in an operational theatre – there is a very real risk or kickback and retribution for ‘narks‘ and ‘informers‘ thus anonymity is not only good but essential.

This is probably easier to effect in an operational theatre where the onus of evidence might not be as rigid as in a civil courtroom even though the process of analysis and decision may be no less rigorous or difficult. I’m about 2/3 of the way through Australian General Jim Molan’s Running the War in Iraq (top read – highly recommended!!) and he goes into considerable detail on the rigour that his staff applied before approving prosecution of a target, often under very tight time imperatives (which is why it’s called Time Sensitive Targeting). Instead of having to satisfy a judge a a jury of his/her ‘peers’, the operational requirement is to satisfy a specific decision matrix based on four considerations: (from Running the War in Iraq) proportionality, humanity, discrimination and necessity. So in this environment, the painting of a picture based upon all source information, including that from anonymous sources, is more directly linked to an actionable result.

In a domestic criminal environment, there remains an equal or possibly greater burden of analysis and validation on information from anonymous sources which ultimately may have to satisfy a formal legal evidential chain. But over time, what we develop is a complex and detailed picture of a society and its environment that is constantly enhancing and evolving. The key to this, is the reliance upon informal, part-time, intermittent information sources…uh-oh, it’s THE PEOPLE again and these are whom I am starting to think of as the Information Militia…they are often not formally organised, particularly reliable, or often even that useful but every little titbit they provide adds to the picture, even (possibly not even intentionally) their place in it…a resource that supports the campaign, even while perhaps attempting to further its own myriads of ends…

And then I thought, wow, what if you took this model and applied it to Afghanistan – could this be where the support of the people might actually make a difference? It is not realisitic, although we keep on doing it, to expect ‘the people’ to just wake up one day and decide ‘Enough!’ and turn in all insurgents and their supporters. Not realistic at all, and we’ve all seen it happen one place or another, where the insurgents/criminals  (the same or another mob) come back and dish out retribution. But what if we had Crimestoppers Afghanistan? Very specifically Crimestoppers and not any play on words like Talibanbusters, etc etc…the objective is to focus on crime and by very clearly unstated inference, insurgents because they are nothing but criminals…the Information Militia provide leads, feeds, rumours and whispers – all anonymously – which paint a picture which then informs counter-criminal operations – reducing crime is always a good start to getting the people onside – and as the picture evolves, oopsy-a-daisy, a counter-criminal feed ‘accidentally’ knocks off some insurgents…and on it goes…

Over time, as occurred in Northern Ireland, some insurgents will tire of the constant harassment in the face of growing public (‘the people’ again) confidence in government forces and disdain for the insurgents. I refer to ‘insurgents’ deliberately in order to decriminalise the Taliban associations, to encourage THEM to consider one by one coming to the talking table…

One thought on “The Information Militia

  1. Pingback: The COIN drops… « The World According to Me…

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