This assignment is a research paper of 8-10 pages including research and
analysis designed to test knowledge and assimilation of the course
objectives. It focuses on the effectiveness of various intelligence
collection disciplines applicable to the U.S. counter-narcotics mission.
The exclusive use of required texts and readings from this course is
preferred, but you can use properly vetted outside resources to
supplement your analysis. In this assignment, you will show that you
understand and are able to evaluate the coursework.
Address the following question. Be sure to use at least 7 sources to
support your argument and use the proper citation format. In reviewing
course materials for your paper, be sure to consider the videos as well
· Evaluate the effectiveness of various intelligence collection
disciplines applicable to the U.S. counter-narcotics mission by
developing a counter-narcotics strategy against a drug trafficking
organization. Choose a DTO (either a specific one such as “the Sinaloa
Cartel” or a general one such as “a DTO operating in Colombia”).
develop a counter-narcotics plan that incorporates the use of each of
the intelligence disciplines, being sure to discuss which agencies will
participate in the operation for each discipline.
Second, look at the
plan from the viewpoint of the drug trafficking and delineate how you
(as a DTO) will change your methods of operation to avoid the law
Intelligence Collection Disciplines
Intelligence agencies in the United States collect and analyze information regarding threats to national security. External and internal criminal elements threaten the American people, property, or other interests. Therefore, the agencies are created to prevent dangers, such as proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction, drug and human trafficking, and terrorism. Thus, United States intelligence has two major functions: collecting and analyzing information to identify and deter national security threats. The agencies also engage in another function —counterintelligence, which is integral to the entire intelligence function. Intelligence offers security agencies available and valuable information related to opportunities and threats thata could affect the country negatively. They use the insight to design policies and programs to counter crime in the country and abroad. Although the national intelligence collection disciplines operate to address crime and threats to international security in general, they have focused on specific roles, such as pursuing a counter-narcotics mission, which has been regarded as effective and ineffective in equal measures.
The United States faces a major threat from drug trafficking and narcoterrorism, increasing the value of intelligence and intelligence collection disciplines in the country to counter the threat. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration uses the disciplines to collect and analyze intelligence applicable to dealing with the crime in the country and stopping the operations of drug trafficking organizations, such as La Familia Michoacana. In the United States, the counter-narcotics mission involves various agencies, locally and internationally since due to the complexity of the drug trafficking and related crimes. The work involves agencies in the country, such as “the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection”, all of which collect information to deal with the crime. The multi-component nature of the Department of Homeland Security counter-narcotics mission develops important operational synergies in using intelligence collection disciplines to provide mechanisms of dealing with complicated criminal operations. Department of Homeland Security counter-narcotics doctrine provides the basis for achieving the mission by coordinating efforts and operations.
The Department of Homeland Security counter-narcotics mission is achieved by adopting effective intelligence collection approaches since information is key in identifying the criminal elements and designing an effective strategy for dealing with them. The counter-narcotics strategy takes advantage of some of the six intelligence sources or collection disciplines to collect and analyze the intelligence to fight crime. Each of the classifications of intelligence is necessary to address a criminal challenge, such as drug trafficking. A proposed strategy should integrate multiple intelligence collection disciplines to have adequate evidence to address the problem.
Signals intelligence (SIGINT) is one of the intelligence collection disciplines that the Department of Homeland Security counter-narcotics mission uses to deal with the complicated challenge of drug trafficking in the country and globally. When collecting intelligence using the discipline, officers intercept signals, such as electronic intelligence (ELINT). They also intercept other signals, such as foreign instrumentation signals intelligence (FISINT) and communications intelligence (COMINT). To collect, process, report, and manage this type of data, the National Security Agency plays a key role. A committee within the agency, the National SIGINT Committee, provides advice regarding policy issues and management of the intelligence collection systems. The counter-narcotics strategy could use communications, electronics, or foreign signals to fight against drug traffickers, such as La Familia Michoacana. For example, they can tap into communication signals to collect information and messages sent by members of the organization and use it to fight against their criminal activities. Besides, they can learn about possible drug consignments through such communication signals. Overall, the information can help to halt current and future plans as part of the counter-narcotics strategy.
Imagery Intelligence (IMINT) is another intelligence collection approach that the U.S. security agencies use in dealing with the drug trafficking menace in the country. The intelligence covers representations of objects produced or generated electronically. The type of information collected using this method include media images, including electronic display films and optical data. The technique also captures information from visual photography, electro-optics, and radar sensors. NGA is the agency responsible for imagery intelligence processes, such as collecting, processing, exploiting, disseminating, archiving, and retrieving intelligence. Imagery intelligence is critical since it provides a perfect intelligence picture that agencies can use in addressing crime, such as drug trafficking. For example, the law enforcement agencies fighting involved in the counter-narcotics process can take photos of members of La Familia Michoacana, engaging in offloading drugs from a track to a warehouse. The visual evidence is critical in apprehending suspects and prosecuting them to dilute the impact of the crime in the U.S. Law enforcement officers implementing the counter-narcotics strategy should have adequate skills and knowledge of how to collect the imagery intelligence since it is one of the most effective in the court.
The third type of intelligence collection discipline is Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT). The method involves the collection of data other than SIGINT and imagery. Links emanate from the use of the data to locate, identify, or describe the characteristics of a certain target. The approach uses numerous disciplines to collect data and analyzing, including radiofrequency, material science, and nuclear. An example of the data used in obtaining MASINT is specific radar signatures of an aircraft system used to transport drugs or the chemical elements of a specific illegal drug. The Directorate for MASINT and Technical Collection (D.T.) are the agencies responsible for collecting and analyzing this type of intelligence. The intelligence collection discipline can help inter-agency operations to address criminal activities in a target area. Hence, they can collect a wide range of data from the target area to fight against drug trafficking and organized crime.
Human intelligence (HUMINT) is another type of intelligence that the counter-narcotics strategy can use to address the challenge of drug trafficking in the country. The type of intelligence is derived from human sources, leading to the assumption that it is espionage and clandestine actions that security agents engage in to collect data. Nonetheless, various overt strategies, such as strategic debriefers and military attaches, are useful in collecting human intelligence. The department of national security is the body responsible for the collection and analysis of human intelligence. Human intelligence is useful in counter-narcotics due to the involvement of intelligence officers, who connect with the criminal elements to collect intelligence for use in dealing with the crime. For example, the anti-narcotics strategy involves a law enforcement officer working clandestinely with a drug trafficking organization, such as La Familia Michoacana, to collect data related to their operations. Although it is a risky operation, especially if the cover is revealed, the approach enables the security organs to collect critical information to deal with the crime. Humans provide critical information to support counter-narcotics strategy implementation because they can see and hear a lot of information from the target organization.
The fifth type of intelligence collection method is Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT). Intelligence officers collect data from information available in open sources, such as electronic and print. Some of the sources that provide the data are the TV, radio, the Internet, and newspapers and journals. The discipline is largely distributed across agencies. However, the main collectors are the DNI’s Open Source Center (OSC) and the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC). Security agencies can take advantage of publicly available information upon request, observation, or purchase. Although criminal operations of drug trafficking organizations, such as La Familia Michoacana, are not publicly recorded to prevent arrest, security agencies keep keen track of their activities in electronic media. For example, they can legally obtain communication between members of the organization on the Internet to track their operations and probably apprehend drug traffickers. While the discipline can provide critical information, it is difficult to obtain due to the clandestine nature of drug trafficking operations. A criminal organization will rarely leave information behind for intelligence officers. However, when obtained, the information plays an important role in the counter-narcotics mission. Open sources have increased during the current information age, where data is available in numerous electronic and print sources.
Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) is the last discipline in collecting intelligence to deal with crime. The method collects, analyses, and represents security-relates activities around the world. The national agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security, collect intelligence by integrating imagery, imagery intelligence, and geospatial data. Security agencies involved in gathering Geospatial Intelligence should identify the target location of drug trafficking activities to collect as much information as possible from the area. GEOINT projects require collecting images of a target area and processing and using the images to provide the evidence necessary to fight crime. For example, since La Familia Michoacana is based in the Mexican state of Michoacán, law enforcement agencies can obtain considerable information from the region to understand its operations and counter its involvement in drug trafficking and organized crime. The information on the ground helps counter-narcotics strategy since it provides sufficient knowledge of the target organization.
The Viewpoint of the DTO
Mexican drug trafficking organizations and cartels have ceased control in the United States market in recent years, with effective measures to evade law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The groups are operated effectively with clear leadership and organizational structures that facilitate their business operations. The success of such organizations in the market is the interplay of numerous national and international factors. They have taken advantage of weak law enforcement and a high demand for illicit drugs and weapon regulations in the country. Besides, the lack of a coordinated international strategy to address drug trafficking and related crimes has fuelled the operations of the drug trafficking organizations. They collect their intelligence about the local status of law enforcement to increase their power and counter government policies and strategies. Historically weak institutions in the country have provided the La Familia Michoacana cartel the opportunity to thrive and create its effective structures and systems to support operations. The organization has sufficient knowledge of law enforcement and security activities in the country, which provide an opportunity to shift their command structure to make it more organized with decentralized cells to facilitate their activities across the country. The agency has compartmentalized and use advanced communications and security techniques, and gather intelligence to operate unabated.
To have operated in the country since the 1980s, the La Familia Michoacana cartel must have devised a plan to counter the intelligence strategies that security agencies have designed to fight them. The masterminds understand how security agencies and law enforcement function through intelligence collection to counter their operations. As a result, they also use intelligence to avoid traps laid by law enforcement officers and continue their operations successfully. One of the ways the organizations can counter the counter-narcotics strategy is to use their intelligence to evade law enforcement. The organizations could have their intelligence gathering resources and capabilities to collect law enforcement intelligence. For example, they can tap communication signals from law enforcement to realize their plans and evade their traps. They can change the course of delivering their drug consignment if they learn of a trap in their usual route. Since they operate multibillion-dollar organizations, they have the financial capacity to use such intelligence.
Drug trafficking organizations, such as the La Familia Michoacana cartel, have established the operational mechanisms that help them counter any law enforcement efforts to prevent them from growing their business. They go as far as establishing their operational “borders,” which defines and defends the “turf” or territories within their control. One way they can counter the counter-narcotics strategy is to prevent law enforcement officers from accessing their defined “turf,” such as collecting human intelligence. They understand their members well enough to prevent clandestine operations that allow law enforcement officers to penetrate their organizations. Investigating such organizations to collect information becomes challenging, especially when law enforcement officers are unable to penetrate the territories to collect intelligence. Therefore, even when they know that a particular organization operates in a specific region, they lack adequate evidence, in the form of intelligence, to apprehend and prosecute them. Consequently, criminal operations continue unabated without reliable intelligence.
As is evident from the discussion, drug trafficking organizations in the United States are a cause for concern among law enforcement and national security agencies. The government has instituted mechanisms to control their operations through intelligence collection and analysis to understand their activities, and potentially lead to their apprehension and prosecution. The country has six intelligence collection disciplines, SIGINT, IMINT, MASINT, HUMINT, OSINT, and GEOINT, which are used to collect different types of information from criminal organizations as part of counter-measures to stop their operations. A counter-narcotics strategy should integrate the use of different intelligence collection methods, locally, nationally, and internationally to prevent the growth and advancement of the organization. However, a drug trafficking organization, such as La Familia Michoacana, continues to grow and affect the country’s security regardless of the advanced intelligence collection techniques. The organization and others are strong enough to counter government data collection mechanisms. They have effective structures that enable them to collect their intelligence and use it to evade law enforcement and security organs. Besides, they have successfully operated as such since the 1980s and continue to threaten the U.S. government. Hence, policymakers should rethink their strategies to counter the organization and deal with international drug trafficking menace.
Department of Homeland Security Counternarcotics Doctrine, June 2010.
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 Department of Homeland Security Counternarcotics Doctrine, June 2010
 Weinbaum, Cortney, Steven Berner, and Bruce McClintock. SIGINT for anyone: The growing availability of signals intelligence in the public domain. No. PE-273-OSD. RAND Corporation Washington United States, 2017, 1.
 Cook, Paul J. Imagery and Measurement and Signatures Intelligence Support to Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain. Army Command and General Staff Coll Fort Leavenworth Ks School of Advanced Military Studies, 2003, iii.
 Keith, Cozine Ph D. “Teaching the Intelligence Collection Disciplines: The Effectiveness of Experiential Learning as a Pedagogical Technique.” Global Security and Intelligence Studies 2, no. 2 (2017): 38.