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26 June 2007

Denial and deception for beginners

In the wake of recent discussions over the future of imagery constellations, we note the following item of interest over at Arms Control Wonk. While we often disagree with the learned Herr Doktorprofesor on matters of interpretation and intent, we respect the analytic rigor with which he approaches problem sets.

It is somewhat distressing to see this same rigor applied towards determining optimal activity scheduling windows for counter-IMINT denial and deception. (We will not comment whether we believe he is right or not in his tables, but we do note there are other variables in these equations.) But, as he notes, adversaries are very much capable of accomplishing the same thing using the efforts of Western hobbyists, commonly available open source software, and myriad open source publications both online and in the gray literature.

D&D is insufficiently appreciated nor considered, especially by policymakers who, no matter how often they may be briefed, confuse “The adversary is concealing critical information” with “I don’t know” - two branches of the same tree, but with very different fruit. It is too rarely taught in the academic environment, nor introduced into exercises and simulation. It can challenge the best planned effects based operations, and frustrate every attempt at operational net assessment.

But it is never perfect, and it can be defeated by aggressive collectors and good analysis. There is quite a body of deception and counter-deception literature in the public domain, which is well worth the reader’s time.

But most importantly, it is vital that the next generation of collection programs be accelerated in order to ensure that the adversary is never able to consistently defeat US technologies and approaches. It is the intelligence version of the age of race between armor and bullet, and in this case our bullets must always be capable of piercing any shield. Too often this is forgotten in the day to day fights over acquisitions and policies, when the realities of limited capabilities and high demand / low density assets still loom large in our thinking.

h/t: Image above is from Analytical Graphic’s excellent STK product, which we highly recommend for those that have a need to do real space operations and GEOINT analysis on a more than occasional basis.)

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