OPSEC in Warfare and Terrorism
“The enemy aggressively "reads" our open source and continues to exploit such information for use against our forces. Some soldiers continue to post sensitive information to internet websites and blogs, e.g., photos depicting weapon system vulnerabilities and tactics, techniques, and procedures. Such OPSEC violations needlessly place lives at risk and degrade the effectiveness of our operations.” Peter Schoomaker (1).
Operations Security (OPSEC), while a relatively recent term, is an operations enabler that has been practiced in varying degrees throughout history. This document will explore the history of OPSEC as it’s ...view middle of the document...
He has been famously quoted as saying, “Even minutiae should have a place in our collection, for things of a seemingly trifling nature, when enjoined with other of a more serious cast, may lead to valuable conclusions.” Supporting this philosophy were his effective policies, such as referring to critical personnel and locations by code number (for example, Washington was “711” and New York was “727”), which allowed inaccurate information to be overheard and/or intercepted. He coupled this with using increased secrecy in movement and planning. In one case, he used easily-observable purchases and private discussions in public (meant to be intentionally overheard) to make his 3,000 strong force in Philadelphia appear to be 40,000 in number. (5/p1).
The Manchester Document emphasizes the need for increased OPSEC among governmental as well as public institutions. The Manchester Document was seized in 2000 in a police raid of an Al-Qaeda suspected member. The document is an Al-Qaeda training manual that outlines protocols for many different areas, including obtaining information from the enemy. On page 83 of the document, it reads: “Using this public source openly and without resorting to illegal means, it is possible to gather at least 80% of information about the enemy” (6/p83). It then lists multiple public sources for information gathering including news sources, official publications, radio and television, and other sources. Operatives are instructed to pay particular attention to published meetings and their agendas, present and future capabilities through photographs or other notations, arrival of foreign tourist groups, general directives, and also gauging public opinion and morale by paying special attention to jokes and comments (6/pp85-86). The Manchester Document confirms that we face an adversary that is increasingly aware of the value of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), as it details its role in planning and executing terror actions. More importantly, it validates the concept that our adversary is watching public sources of information to gain valuable information in preparation for attacks.
A more recent example occurred in 2007, when the airfield at Camp Taji, Iraq, came under rocket and mortar fire with devastating effect. Insurgents targeted helicopters by using publically available satellite imagery via Google Earth and subsequent news reports, which allowed for firing adjustments by revealing the relative proximity of “near misses” as well as the number and types of helicopters actually damaged or destroyed. As a result, several helicopters were damaged and there were multiple casualties, including one fatality (7).
The above examples are just a few of many that not only validate, but also stress the need for OPSEC and its role as an invaluable tool in our national defense arsenal. OPSEC is part of risk management processes at the operational level, and an essential part of any security posture (8). It is imperative that it...