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The Stratfor Glossary of Useful, Baffling and Strange Intelligence Terms

Every profession and industry has its own vocabulary. Using baseball terms to explain a football game is tough. These are some of the terms we use.


Ability of an agent to get hold of information. Difference between having someone on the ground and someone who is actually valuable is access. Having someone on the ground in Washington DC doesn’t tell you if he works for the National Security Council or sells hotdogs on the corner. In intelligence there are three things that matter: access, access and access. Rule of thumb: anyone who says they have access doesn’t.

Actionable Intelligence

Intelligence that can be used by the customer to make decisions. As opposed to metaphysical intelligence valued for the purity of its insight.


Bringing a source to life. Sources are rarely continually operational. They are put to bed and activated depending on evolving missions or deranged hunches

Active intelligence

Directly developing and operating sources in the field. Requires unique skills. Normally not carried out by analysts, but by intelligence operators. Don’t try this at home kids.

After Action Debrief

Following a completed op, everyone who had anything to do with it gets debriefed. This closes out the Ops Crypt and a sanitized version is entered into a Lessons Learned report and becomes part of the training. In the government, success and failure are equally unrewarded. At Stratfor, we do it differently.

After Action Report

The final report on the conclusion of an Op .Intended for internal use only. Never show the customer. It’s like showing someone how sausage is made. Nauseating.

All-source Fusion Cell

A trans-compartmentalized group of analysts who get to see everything and have to make sense of it. Don’t wish it on your worst enemy.


That part of the craft of intelligence which concerns itself with collating and understanding the information that has been delivered from all sources. Analysts sit on their dead asses all day long thinking deep thoughts. They know too much to risk in the field, plus they are too dumb to know when to duck.

Area of Interest

A country, region or industry in which an intelligence organization has an ongoing or current interest. The framework for source development. AOIs are given to an intelligence organization by POTUS or BizDev. Must be tiered.

Area of Responsibility

Area that an individual or group is responsible for. Usually managed by an Intelligence Officer who delegates AORs to staff. Built out of Area of Interest but sometimes designed differently depending on resources, hunches, séances with dead ancestors. For example, you might run all of your Africa ops out of your London AOR because London is the Center of Gravity of Africa intelligence. AOR design is part of the craft.


Alcohol Tobacco and Fire Arms. Rednecks with a license to kill. Never, ever, ever ask for their help on anything.

Back Brief

After the briefing, the Briefer comes back to the shop and tells everyone what happened. This is the back brief. If you don’t get back briefed, you don’t have a functioning intelligence organization.

Background Check

Check of history of someone to determine reliability. Usually meaningless. A perfect credit rating does not mean you aren’t devious scum. Does run up the client’s bill and makes it appear that you are busy. Clancy move. Pros run tests.


General analysis that gives the customer better situational awareness. The customer never actually reads the Backgrounder. Its primary use is as cover when the customer screws something up. Backgrounders are the basic intelligence tool for shifting blame to the customer.

Barium Meal

When there is a leak, feed bits of radioactive (traceable, false) information to suspects. See which bit leaks. You will know who leaked it. The leaker will know you know. Livens up a dull day like nothing else we’ve ever seen. Bring the kids.

Black Boxed

Any part of the operation that has an outcome that you can’t examine. You’re handed a report that says the Russians have invented time travel. You ask where this came from. You’re told that the source is out of your reach but you are to treat the report as gospel. You’ve just been black boxed. Your door keeper tells you to keep a careful eye on Madagascar. You ask why. You’re told that you have no need to know. You’ve been black boxed. Later, when it turns out that the Russians don’t have time travel or that nothing is happening in Madagascar, you will be blamed for squandering resources. That’s called being screwed.

Black Op

If you heard even a hint of it, it ain’t black. Anyone who tells you about a black op is a liar. Does Stratfor do black ops? You’ll never know.

Blown Op

An operation that has been compromised to the opposition or publicly revealed. The blown op is followed by the impartial enquiry. The impartial enquiry is following by the execution of those least responsible for blowing the op.


When an op gets so badly blown that pretending everything is fine will no longer work, you get a Board. A Board consists of 3 or more WOGs whose job it is to make sure that only you are blamed for what happened. Pulling a board is bad. At Stratfor, it involves talking to David, George or Don. If all three at the same time, very bad. Time to consider an exciting career in the food service industry.


Burnt Out Case: “Tony got back from Nigeria fried. Two bullet wounds, a blown op and a board. He realized that he’s making $78,000 a year and that his wife is real ugly. He was given non-classified Iceland traffic for his next tour. Doesn’t give a damn. He’s doing AMWAY on the side. Total BOC.”


An intelligence report delivered to the customer. Frequently delivered as an oral briefing with power point and leave behind materials that are never read. The Brief is where the intelligence process meets the customer. A bad Brief can sink the best Op. A good Brief can make shit smell good. Frequently has to.

Brief the Times

When the Briefer has obtained zero valuable intelligence from analysis, he finds something in the inside of the morning paper, powers up a view graph, and “Briefs the Times.” Customers are frequently impressed. It’s a hoot.


The person delivering the Brief. He has the ability to rapidly assimilate complex material, deliver routine news as if it were reports of the second coming, and generate a re-task from the customer, guaranteeing larger contracts. He reports back on the satisfaction level of the customer, clearly defines new missions and guides the customer on the path to reality. When the customer says “I want to know everything about….” The Briefer explains that no one knows everything about anything, certainly not for what the customer is paying. He does offer the “Know Almost Everything Package” if the contract is tripled. The Briefer makes or breaks an intelligence operation. The occupational disease of the Briefer: he starts to believe that the purpose of an op is to make him look good in the briefing and truly believes that he is the only one of value in the company. Great briefers are narcissists and must be bitch slapped regularly.

Burning Bridges

If an operation is being compromised, a plan called Burning Bridges must be activated. You burn bridges by cutting the links in your operational chain, so that none of the parts can find each other again. Effective, low-cost way to divorce your spouse.


A source that does what he does for money. Businessmen will sell out to the highest bidder so are considered temporary employees. You must find a way to make them scared shitless of you. A high SS quotient is the foundation of a warm, lasting relationship with a Businessman.


Bright Young Man. Doesn’t know shit. Doesn’t know that he doesn’t know. Likely to burn you the first time out. Try to get him killed as quickly as possible.

Case Officer

The person who manages an agent in the field. The management of an agent is a craft in itself, requiring the skills of a psychologist and the morals of a pimp. Highly prized in the business.


The place to locate an operative at the lowest cost with the maximum return on information. COG is frequently counter-intuitive. The best source of information on Nigeria is not to be found in Nigeria. The COG for Nigeria is in London. This theory was created by people trying to get sent to London instead of Lagos. COG is not a hard and fast rule. There ain’t no handbook for the amateur spook on this.


Central Intelligence Agency. Also called “Langley” or “up river.” Owns human intelligence (directorate of operations) and analysis (directorate of intelligence). Director, CIA is supposed to oversee all of the intelligence community. Isn’t that a joke? Imagine the Post Office with a foreign policy.

CIA Appetite/Botswana budget

A customer with limited resources asking for enormous amounts of intelligence. Defines most of Stratfor’s customers.

Circle Jerk

Analyst’s Disease. “A” releases a bit of dubious information. “B” reads the claim and puts it in his report. “A” reads the information in B’s report and decides that his information may actually be true. “C” picks up “A’s” and “B’s” reports and expands on it creatively. “A” and “B” now both believe their original piece of bullshit is absolutely true. Actually, there’s not a word of truth to any of it. IT’S A CIRCLE JERK.


Somebody who has read a lot of Tom Clancy novels and thinks he knows the Craft. Total moron. Really dangerous if he is the Customer. Never let a Briefer be a Clancy.


Operation that has no open connection to anyone. Israeli maxim: “If you’re captured, we don’t know you. If you’re killed, we won’t bury you. So…don’t get captured and don’t get killed.” Clandestine is synonymous with suicidal.


Right to see a certain class of information. Being cleared to see a class of information doesn’t establish need to know. It simply establishes the level of trust you are held in. In Washington, clearances are primarily about social standing. Really cool clearances are so secret you can’t tell anyone you have one.

Code Crypt

The code name and control of a source in encrypted form. If this confuses you, it’s working.

Coerced source

Someone who is a source because you have him by the balls. The most rare and prized variety of source. The key here is to make sure that the source thinks that working for you makes more sense than shooting you. Keep an extremely close eye on changing moods.


The general term for collecting information from all sources. Normally, the heart of operations. At Stratfor, we shift passive collections to the analysts. Somebody else handles active intelligence. There’s a whole other Stratfor out there—somewhere.


Information so sensitive that it is broken into pieces with few given access to all the pieces. The more you compartmentalize, the less you can be compromised. The more you compartmentalize, the more difficult it is to figure out what the hell is going on. Finding the sweet spot is part of the Craft.


General term referring to a disastrous condition. Your own op can be compromised. You may compromise a potential source to make him work for you. Your source may be compromised by someone else. Interchangeable with abgefukt.


Communications Security. Basic rule—don’t ask, don’t tell. The Case Officer’s rule: don’t tell anybody. BizDev’s rule: tell everybody. This is where the CEO and CIO really need to be on the same page.


A source that has been placed under contract by the intelligence organization. The contract spells out what he gets, when he gets it, what he must deliver, and where he will find various parts of his body if he jerks you around. The contractor can work for $50 a month or $5 million a year. Contractors are never covered by health insurance.


Other term for Case Officer.

Cover for Status

Your story as to why you are a pale white guy not associated with an NGO, living in a village in Africa. Transcends mere legend in its implausibility.


British intelligence


The identity you give an officer in the field or a contract agent being inserted. Frequently not intended to be convincing, like a 45 year old guy who reads Car and Driver and Hustler, but carries the title of Cultural Attaché at the Embassy. Sometimes really important—Really.

Covert Operations

Two uses. One is the collection of information without letting the world know it is being collected. The other is active political action designed to achieve certain ends. It’s the difference between intelligence and solutions. Or the difference between knowing what Castro is doing and the Bay of Pigs.


Intelligence is not an art or a science. It is referred to by the professional as The Craft, after Alan Dulles’ (a founder of CIA) book “The Craft of Intelligence.” Craft covers all of the skills and abilities of intelligence from writing to briefing to spying. People are said to have “good craft, or “bad craft” or “no frigging craft at all.” A man with good craft can go into a bar, meet a beautiful woman assigned to seduce him, get seduced and wake up in the morning with the woman working for him. That’s great craft. Or a man is picked up by a beautiful woman, convinces himself that she really likes him in spite of the fact that he is fifty, balding and overweight. After two drinks he comes to feel that they really are soul mates. He describes his latest operation in detail and never gets laid. This is a total lack of craft. All operatives, like all fighter jocks, think they’ve got great craft. A man’s got to believe in himself, right?


Each source has a credibility ranging from LSOS to the Word of God. Some organizations have numeric values for credibility. We think credibility is more subtle than that, varying on the subject to the time of the month. Key trade craft is evaluating credibility. Basic cause of ulcers in the profession. Meeting someone face to face does not increase your ability to judge credibility. Depending on glandular issues, it can decrease critical faculties dramatically. Intelligence would be great if it didn’t involve people.

Criteria of success or failure

Every op must have a clear definition of what success or failure would look like. Requires interaction with customer. Without these, op success depends on the Briefer’s ability to spin like a mother.


The real user of intelligence. A decision maker who uses the intelligence to make real decisions. Also the one who decides to blame intelligence when his stupid plans blow up in his face. Must be kept happy at all times until he is executed. Avoiding being executed with him is a key part of the Craft.


To facilitate security and deniability, many ops use cut-outs. These are individuals who manage sources. Ideally, they do not know the organization they are working for. They know only the person they report to—someone who can disappear without a trace if need be, leaving the cut-out hosed. Very nasty thing to do to your own people. That’s why you use contractors. If you are using your own person, make sure that he can disengage without a trace. And make sure he isn’t in love with one of his sources—literally. That can be a bad business, I tell you, like chewing gum sticking to your shoe.


A lure to trap someone, all too often you. Usually a bit of information designed to make you trust a source that is doubled. Sometimes the little bit of information is very cute. Dangle also stands for what happens to you if you bite.

Debriefing the Customer

Customers usually have no idea what they really need. Some are Clancies who think they know what they want. Some are just clueless. Debriefing the customer is the start of any operation. Debriefing the door keeper is kissing your sister. Deciding not to debrief the customer is called “contract cancellation.” If the customer doesn’t want to be debriefed, get a big up front payment—and make sure the check clears.


Some ops are too ugly to be owned. They need deniability. The craft teaches the means of deniability. Not having deniability is like tightrope walking without a net. It can be done—for a while. Then they scrape you up with a spatula.


Need to shield identity of customer’s organization. Stratfor’s interest in the operation can be known.


Can allow target to know that someone is watching but must hide that it is the customer or Stratfor.


Target must not know that anyone is looking at all. Pray for a stupid target.

Denial Plan

Specific plan for managing security breaches. In some intelligence organizations, multi-volume regulations. In others, the plan consists of running around circles, waving your arms and blaming everyone else. Which one are we?


Defense Intelligence Agency. Also called “down river” Owns military intelligence, sort of. Its basic job is to justify increased defense budgets. These guys actually try to run agents. Oy vey.


A plausible story designed to confuse the other side or to create an uncomfortable political situation. Sometimes confuses your side more than the opposition. Most times, everybody leaves shaking their heads.

Door keeper

The real customer always has a door keeper. The door keeper has no power and little knowledge. Satisfying the doorkeeper is like kissing your sister. Getting to the customer is the difference between a successful op and a failure. Use the door keeper to get to the customer. Champagne is nice. Whatever it takes. We don’t need to know.


A way, physical or digital, for two people who don’t know each other to pass information and instructions back and forth. Key to Burning Bridges.

Duplicitous little bastards

Israeli Intelligence


Thinking about the world the way the other guy thinks about the world. Essential to both operators and analysts. Both have to put themselves into the other guy’s shoes to figure out what he will do next. Definitely not about warm fuzzies.


Citizen of one country who chose to live his life somewhere else. Usually has extremely compelling reasons for doing so. Occasionally useful as a source. Frequently used only because he speaks the native language of the Case Officer, and is therefore the only person in the country the CO can talk to. Frequently useless because the only thing the expat can say in the local lingo is “Bring me another gin and tonic boy.” This is the guy people are referring to when they say they have a source “on the ground.” Highest and best use: picking up the gossip from people at the Hilton poolside.


Taking advantage of information or a source. Not to be used in the hearing of the source.


Federal Bureau of Investigation, aka the Downtown Gang. Very good a breaking up used car rings. Kind of confused on anything more complicated. Fun to jerk with. Not fun when they jerk back.

Field Officer

The poor dumb bastard who gets to manage an operation in the field. Always fighting for access to the sources of other FOs, always blamed by the Analysts for their screw ups. FOs are prime candidates for MLC or BOC.


Heart of the analytic craft. Also called fortunetelling. The prediction of what will happen in an area of interest is the hardest part of the craft. The area of interest could be the future of the world, or someone’s negotiating position at tomorrow’s meeting. The Craft teaches that it’s all the same.


Two operations, unaware of each other, collide in the field, causing fratricide. The blame almost always belongs with senior management. It always winds up on the poor dumb bastard in the field.


Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition. This is the phase of an operation gone so bad that even people in meetings know it ain't gonna happen. This phase is immediately followed by the determination of blame. Always placed on whoever was not invited to the Place the Blame Meeting

Fucking French

Fucking French

Going Native

Dread of all Intelligence Officers. A Case Officer is managing sources in a guerrilla movement. The CO falls in love with a beautiful guerrilla and decides to join in the just struggle of the oppressed masses. Going Native sucks. One part of the Portfolio Audit is taking the temperature of the Case Officer. Occupational disease with very bad prognosis. Best known argument for euthanasia.


A source working for you because he believes that you will take him to America where he will own a Seven-Eleven. Try not to disabuse him until after you’ve squeezed his sorry ass.

Ground Truth

Term used by field operatives to imply greater insight than analysts. Someone on the ground usually see about 40 feet, depending on the size of the bar. Imagine someone talking about the ground truth In Washington, DC. Kind of silly. Ground truth is why field personnel can’t be trusted to do analysis.

He won the Cold War

Egomaniacal bullshitter

He won the Vietnam War

Deranged egomaniacal bullshitter

Heroic Son of a Bitch

He’ll get us all killed if we don’t do something about him

Honest source

Someone who, once bribed, actually delivers the goods. Very rare. Must be preserved if found.

Hoover’s Dress

Yes, Jedgar liked to pop a dress on once in a while, just to kind of kick back and relax with Clyde. The dress is classified Top Secret and kept in a vault in the basement of the Hoover Bldg. Play with that thought for a while and then decide if this profession is for you.


Human Intelligence. Not as impressive as it sounds. Another word for it is gossip. Most passive activities tap human sources. Most analysts read the New York Times, and claim they are using humint through intermediaries. It’s totally true. Clancies love it. Real humint is tough. Getting people to tell you what you need to know without them realizing what they are doing is not easy. Fun—but not easy.


Imagery Intelligence: pictures, from satellite photos of missile silos to snapshots of your ex with a kangaroo. Hard to get, harder to exploit. Probably avoid, except for the entertainment value.


No intelligence flow is complete. The analyst’s art is inference. Anyone who ever claimed to have a completely sourced analysis is an LSOS. The heart of the Craft is inference. Only Clancies think inference is a weakness. Smilies live on inference. When your customer demands that you source every one of your assertions, avoid laughing in his face and send in the Briefer. It’s his job to introduce reality in the dull life of a Clancy customer.

Intelligence Officer

Individual charged with overseeing all aspects of an intelligence operation. Senior intelligence officers can manage multiple operations. Chief Intelligence Officers manage thousands of operations, all leading to disaster. In the CIA, the Intelligence Officer belongs to the Directorate of Operations while Analysts belong to the Directorate of Intelligence. At Stratfor, Intelligence Officers oversee both intelligence operators and analysts. That way no one knows what is going on.

Intelligence Process

When used by intelligence professionals, a useful aid to the craft. When used by management specialists who want to make intelligence organizations operate with the effectiveness of, a guide to taking casualties. In the latter case, run, do not walk, to the nearest exit.


Key Craft. Most interrogations occur without the subject knowing they were interrogated. Interrogations need careful planning as to both personnel and queries. Hardest part of an interrogation: remembering what the subject said the next morning.


Joint Terrorism Task Force, an inter-agency group created to completely confuse all conceivable issues related to terrorism in a variety of metropolitan areas.

Keeping lines straight

Making sure that one operation doesn’t interfere with others. In a multi-op environment, the dangers of getting lines tangled is real and dangerous. The CIO’s job is to keep the lines straight among all the operators or have a patsy to blame for his failures.


What we call Russian intelligence no matter how often they rename themselves.

Kissing Your Sister

Briefing the Doorkeeper. You go into the White House ready to brief the President. Instead, a 23 year old called Kimberly, who works on the appointments desk, tells you that the President is busy. However, the President has personally asked Kimberly to take the briefing and relay the information to the President. You’ve just Kissed Your Sister. Go back to the office and back brief your team that you just briefed the White House. Lie and say that it was with a senior Presidential advisor who asked for deniability.

Leasing a source

Going to another organization to borrow a source. Payment is in cash or swapping spit.


A cover that makes the agent legal in the country he’s working in. Highly flexible concept—almost metaphysical. Sometimes refers to someone with diplomatic cover, which means the agent can only be expelled and not tortured and killed. Legal is a good cover for Americans In Russia. The worst that can happen to them is that they can never go back to Russia. Legal is a tough cover for Russians. They go back to Russia, never return to the United States and get reassigned to Chad.


The heart of a cover. The legend describes who you are, why you are there, what you are doing. It is a very complex job to craft a good legend. Failure to craft a good legend requires a high degree of deniability or an independent income.

Lessons Learned

The more screwed up the op the more you can learn from it. The tendency after a blown op is to get incredibly drunk and try to forget. The task of the CIO is to make sure a debrief is done before execution of inebriation.


Precursor of: go Google. Analytic tool, in which an analyst prowls through Lexis putting together tiny bits of information to paint a picture. Key part of the analyst’s passive craft

Loving a source

Never fall in love with a source. Tougher to say than do. The source is me. I am my source. He would never lie to me. He will never become useless. He will never betray me. Yeah. Sure.


Lying Sack of Shit: Applied to sources, is the reason why IO’s get grey hair. Lowest rating on the credibility scale.


Megawatt: Israeli term for CIA. Kilowatt: Israeli term for themselves. They don’t really mean it.


Mid-Life Crisis. Usage: “Tony got back from Nigeria fried. Two bullet wounds, a blown op and a board. He realizes that he’s making $78,000 a year and that his wife is real ugly. He was given non-classified Iceland traffic for his next tour. Fucker went rogue and sold out to the Chinese.” MLCs are dangerous creatures unless they become BOCs


Someone planted in your organization to gather information and screw up the works. Moles are real and the more active we get, the more we attract them. That’s why code names and compartmentalization are so important. We’re watching YOU.


Codename for legendary CIA chief of counter-intelligence James Jesus Angleton; to some, a true American hero. To others, a whacked out lunatic. To the select few, he was both. After a few decades in the business, the lines blur.

Need to Know

Basic, difficult concept. Part of compartmentalization. Limiting information to those who need to know, regardless of clearance level. Different organizations handle need to know in different ways. Briefers usually don’t know sources. Case Officers may not know customer. Dizzyingly difficult to manage. Usually ignored until everyone is fired because of a leak.

Net Assessment

An intelligence product produced by analysts that summarize the view, at any given time, of what is going on in an area of interest. Some intelligence organizations call this simply an Intelligence Assessment. The IA is normally a fat book. The NA is usually the summary. We do the NA and keep the book in our heads. NAs cause huge amounts of infighting between departments and between operations and analysis. You can tell when Stratfor is holding a net assessment meeting by the screams and crying.


A set of interactive agents. Very rare in reality. Networks have very high failure rates because penetrations take everyone down. Operating sources in isolation is the preferred method. Anyone who says “we have a network of agents/sources around the world” is a full of shit. He really means we have a bunch of sources around the world and if he really does, he won’t tell you that. He’ll ask what you need to know and will supply you with that. If you’re really running a global op, you don’t tell people that—ever. Most people claiming a global net mean that they have sources they can activate if they need to in a couple of places, usually expats. Unless they are totally full of shit, which is more likely. The more they brag about networks, the less likely they are to have them. Use network only if you don’t mean it.


National Reconnaissance Office. Owns Imint along with whatever NIMA is being called this week. They all sort of hang out at Ft. Belvoir and a few non-descript but incredibly expensive buildings around DC. Mostly out to lunch.


National Security Agency. Also called The Fort. Owns Sigint and Elint. Completely out of control. It is so compartmentalized they refer to other offices as B1 or D8 and genuinely don’t know what anyone else does.


An employee of the intelligence service. He works the field in various ways and various roles including Intelligence Officer, Case Officer, Operations Officer and so on. He gets health insurance and government pay. He is NOT an analysts and thinks that all analysts are pencil necked geeks. Thinks he can do a better job at analysis than the analyst. He still thinks the Bay of Pigs was a good idea.

On the ground

I have an agent on the ground. Meaningless statement even if true. “I have an agent on the ground in Washington” means that I know a guy who works at the Burger King on K Street. Or it means that I’ve got a man in the White House. If the former, what good is it. If the latter, he wouldn’t be telling you. Basic rule: anyone who says they have an agent on the ground is trying to impress you.

Op Center

Location where operation is being run. Area where there is no compartmentalization. Accessible by only highly cleared/highly vetted personnel. Frequently cannot leave during a sensitive op. Bathroom is bought to them.

Open Source

USG definition: everything in the world that we haven’t classified secret and above. Real definition: stuff that’s on the internet. Sometimes cheaper than humint. Frequently much more expensive and less reliable.


A discrete intelligence activity designed to achieve a certain task, from gathering a piece of information or overthrowing a government. The time frame can vary from a few hours to years, and resources might be shared, but it is seen as s distinct mission. Always has an Intelligence Officer in charge. Or no one is in charge.


Normally refers to field operatives collecting intelligence through active operations and heavy drinking.

Over the Transom

Transoms used to be those things over doors where air circulated. Sometime, during the night, someone would toss an envelope over the transom, containing plans to a Soviet time machine. Every officer’s dream—a gift of priceless intelligence with no strings, no effort, no work. Also a great way to spoof the enemy.

Passive Intelligence

Intelligence that flows into you on its own. It’s usually cheap and it is highly secure, in the sense that no one knows that you are looking at them. In recent years, the internet has vastly increased the ability to do passive intelligence. The flow of passive material decreases the cost of intelligence and increases the time for analysis. Problem-the same intelligence is available to everyone. Stratfor’s strength is efficient gathering of passive intelligence, rapid patterning, superb analysis. Or so we tell our customers. Better to have a few sources in your pocket as well.


A source who is betraying his country for ideological, religious, patriotic or other unreliable beliefs. Very dangerous person. He could change his mind.

Photo Opportunity

Chance to get information or compromising information on a target or source. Includes all sorts of electronic recording.

Pinging the System

Emitting information that is designed to be intercepted by the other side. Usual purpose: figure out their response patterns. Other uses, confusing the other side, figuring out if one of your people is doubled, wasting time and money while looking busy.


First question to ask about a potential source. Placement refers not to his geographical position but to his location relative to information. The information that Hitler was going to invade Russia was located in Tokyo. U.S. intelligence in Tokyo found the information. No one in Berlin could access it. Being on the ground is not as important as having access and access depends on placement.


Sources owned by a Case Officer.

Portfolio audit

Every COs dread. He has to review each source’s performance, including the ones he made up.


When COs shift, portfolios transfer. Can be a tricky business. Requires lots of craft to explain to your girl friend why you are moving out and the other guy is moving in.


Moving an agent into position to become useful. Can take hours or years. Sometimes, positioning is done blind, not knowing if the intel will ever be valuable. As in: who the hell cares about positioning an agent in Afghanistan? Waste of money if you ask me (former DCI in 1997).

PowerPoint Presentation

An efficient means for turning complex and sophisticated analysis into half-witted bullets. If you can’t read a 50 page analysis before invading a country or buying a company, you probably shouldn’t be in the business. Single most destructive invention known to man.

PowerPoint Ranger

Member of intelligence team whose primary contribution is the making PowerPoint presentations. Usually assigned to least competent member of the team to keep him out of trouble. Winds up controlling the operation because management keeps promoting him because he makes neat animations.


Analyst who thinks he is so skilled he no longer needs intelligence to do his work. As in, “Friedman used to be a good analyst. He’s turned into a Pundit.” Not bad work if you can get it.

Rattle his cage.

Scaring the living shit out of a source in order to get a read on whether he is jerking you around

Real time operational support

Intelligence that supports the customer in an ongoing negotiation or criminal arraignment.

Remote Control

Managing sources without actually meeting them. Tricky but cheap. My preference, actually. I’ll tell you about it.

Retired agent

No such thing. The stupid sonofabitch can never stop. Always dreams of one last op to make up for the ones he screwed up.

Rigorous interrogation

Subject definitely aware that he is being interrogated. Not part of business intelligence operations unless extremely high budget

Safe house

A place to go where no one, not even your wife, will suspect that you are. Good place for rigorous interrogations. Soundproofing, for all uses, is essential.


When a case officer brings home a recruited agent he has collected a "scalp” in military intelligence. Very rare. Requires multiple meetings with Power Points. In the meantime, the Case Officer is killed, which is what makes it rare.

Secret Service

They catch counterfeiters, break up child pornography rings and guard the president. Continual identity crisis. Very nice people. Not, shall we say, the most sophisticated crew you’ll ever find.


All operations must be carried out under certain security conditions known as OPSEC. No op exists without an OPSEC level and tasking. The target also maintains security. All operations evaluate the target set’s security features and make plans to penetrate it. A plan without OPSEC is like walking down the street naked. Sometimes interesting, frequently disgusting, rarely enlightening. Can get you arrested.

Semi-Active Intelligence

This involves making contact with the outside world, either to contact existing sources or to ping people who make their living being sources (State Department Country Desk.) Carries a minimal risk of revealing the mission. Sometimes requires masking and a cover. Always requires more effort that browsing the internet. Too bad.

Sigint and ELINT

Signal intelligence and Electronic intelligence: from wiretaps to satellite intercepts. Usually expensive, dangerous and requires physical effort. Good first mission for BYM. Suggest that he try planting a bug in the Israeli Embassy in order to get good first hand experience in elint. You can find him the next morning at the curb in a plastic garbage bag.


Short for Situation Report. First report on an event from any source. A very junior person receives sitreps from all sources and delivers them to wherever they are supposed to go, internal or external. Sitreps generate tasking for Analysts and form the basis of some analysis. A key piece of the Craft, some say the heart of it. The point where collections and analysis meet. Like basic training only more boring.


A positioned agent, too valuable to use until a high value event requires that he be activated. With luck, he gets so valuable, he is never used, but his Swiss Bank Account grows and grows and…


A man who is much smarter than he looks. He’s schooling you all the time you thought you were doing him. From John LeCarre’s George Smiley. Never screw with a Smiley. If a man looks too dumb to reproduce, first check his Smiley quotient.

Sold the Op

What you say when you’ve come back form the customer announcing that you’ve convinced the clown to fund your latest demented idea.


Someone who provides you with information. Anyone who has ever talked to an intelligence agent is considered a source. An agent who says, “I have a source in the White House,” can mean anything from having once been told to move on by the guard at the gate to screwing the President’s wife. Source is an interesting but meaningless phrase. Reliable source is nicer. Always ask the agent why he thinks the source is reliable. This will give you time to read your newspaper while he thinks up an answer.

Source Development

Every CO has to have a plan to find sources. Every source should have a development plan attached to him. COs, like salesman, hate this, but it’s the Craft.


A source that was blown in the process of being used. Every source gets burnt. The Craft is in the how and when. They’re all dead men boys; make ‘em count.


A source you think is working for you that is really working for someone else


A source who you know is working for you even though the other side thinks they’ve doubled him


A source who you think is working for you who is actually working for the other side, even though you knew he was working for the other side…. Too fucked up to think about. Shoot the bastard and start over again.


Providing extremely credible information that contains a kernel of error that will lead the recipient in catastrophic directions. One of the real pleasures of the intelligence professional. As in “I spoofed his ass good. He bought the whole shit and about a year later, I rolled up his ass.”

Squeeze a source

All sources need to be squeezed. The means of squeezing the source is making threats. Showing 5x7 glossies of certain unfortunate incidents to his wife is one way to squeeze him. A Case Officer must always have the means for squeezing a source.

Station Chief

The head of operations in a given country. Always operates in-country, usually on the Embassy staff. Russian equivalent is “Residenzia.” Russian Residenzia in DC usually is a limo driver with the embassy. American is usually a cultural attaché or something. More powerful than the ambassador


The Craft of tracking the movements of an individual to find out what he’s doing. Very inefficient, very pointless, usually leading to long waits outside his house or office, and a trip to K-Mart. Good way to increase your customer’s bill.


From the Soviets. A young lady (or gentleman) of a certain level of attractiveness whose job it is to entertain potential sources while artistic photographs are taken. Make sure that the target gives a shit what his wife thinks. Otherwise, you’ve just given the SOB a night to remember and nothing else.

Swapping spit

Making a deal for information. I’ll give you intel in Venezuela if you lend me your sources in Nigeria. Let’s swap spit.


The intelligence that is being pursued. If there is no clear target, you aren’t ready for the op. The target must not only be defined, but it must be realistic. Figuring out whether the target is doable is Craft.

Target Hardness

How hard it is to get the information that is required.


An easy shot. The library or a drunken congressman looking to get laid.


A tough target. A thirty year veteran of Israeli intelligence who has gone totally paranoid


A really tough target. Someone who expected an operation to come after the information. They’ve built protection systems. A scientist who is under constant surveillance, for example. Real nasty if you’re briefed that it’s a soft target and it turns out to be hardened. Error frequently results in Rigorous Interrogation---for you.


Oy. This target is waiting for you and is ready to react. You go to a Moscow park to pick up a package. You get the package and all the nice people with strollers open fire on you. Very bad. Usually leads to a board and a funeral.

Targeting the Zone

Stratfor term. Figuring out where the Center of Gravity is likely to be defined in terms of zones of information. Keeping it as near the electronic as possible is critical for cost-effective ops.


Method for determining sources credibility. For example, you arrange for someone to feed the source something that you’ve made up. If he gives you the information, he’s passed the test. If you read it in the New York Times the next day, he hasn’t. Part of the Portfolio Audit.


Different levels assigned areas of interest. Usually ranges from Tier 0 (al Qaeda) to Tier 5 (Tuvalu). Tiering is the responsibility of political/marketing managers not analysts. There is no AOI without a Tier, and no AOR unless there is a Tier designation.

Time sharing

Two organizations operating the same source. Nasty.

Trail your coat

Looking to identify potential sources or enemy agents, you “trail your coat” in some appropriate way, hoping to pick up some action. It can be hanging around a bar in DC where Congressional staffers drink, or putting out an article on Stratfor with a slight error, something that only someone in a key position would recognize, and hoping that he can’t resist the opportunity to “grab hold of your coat.”


A source who absolutely believes in something whether it is saving whales or the Koran. Usually completely whacked out but sometimes useful. Always remember to agree with whatever insanity he is peddling.


An operative that turns on you. You are usually the one blamed while he relaxes in lovely downtown Riga (old days), beautiful suburban Riyadh (new days)


Evaluation of the reliability of an individual, either working for you or a source. Key part of the Craft. Who knows?

Walking Back the Cat

Effort to determine what went wrong in an operation. Walking back a cat is like herding them, only harder.

Wants to know everything about…

Intelligence organizations worst nightmare. Guaranteed failure. No one can know when they know everything. No one can know everything period. Disastrous basis for an operation. If it’s in the op order, run.

War Wagon

Follow car on protective details that carries the shoulder weapons and counter-assault or CAT team. If the War Wagon is needed, intelligence has failed.


Wise Old Gentleman: Had a great success 30 years ago. Hasn’t done shit since then except for reminiscing about his one success. Too smart to go into the field so he can’t be killed. Hope for a heart attack.

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