How Insurgencies are Broken

This is another re-post from our ongoing tribute to our friend Kevin OBrien , AKA “Hognose”.  Who was the owner and primary of weaponsman.com  who passed away   much too early in the spring of 2017.

 

"Is it safe?"

“Is it safe?” Torture makes for great entertainment, but it’s seldom needed to roll up an insurgent network.

We bumped into an interesting post at a blog called The Lizard Farmer on the subject of COIN intelligence TTPs. He uses the example of an imaginary Texan resistance cell and describes how intelligence practitioners would roll up a would-be “militia” unit. They do this without even a State of Emergency, or tapping the NSA liasons’ at the fusion centers’ direct warrantless access to domestic mass phone and digital surveillance. They just apply the tactics, techniques and procedures that police use now to close criminal cases, which are very close to what intelligence organizations use to unravel, expose, and annihilate insurgent entities.

His specific example begins with a dead body found after a small unit contact. The decedent was sanitized of serial numbered equipment, electronics, ID and identifying marks, and had even defaced his fingerprints. But he still was the thread they pulled to unravel his entire cell. In the end, modern technology (and psychology) have made no man an island — not even a dead man.

He concludes:

These tactics are how insurgencies are broken.  They’re what enabled the system to pin Bin Laden down, catch the Tsarnaevs, and identify drone strike targets in the middle east.

We have to interrupt here to say two things about the Tsarnaevs — they were not caught until after they acted, and there was no great effect of the intelligence effort to hunt them. They were caught because they got in a gunfight with the cops; one (Speedbump) was killed, finished off when his brother ran him over, and one (Flashbang) wounded badly enough that a citizen found him and turned him in, after a botched Gestapo-style house-to-house razzia failed to find him.

Networks are deadly to an insurgency.  Even operating in meatspace can be deadly without the right precautions.  All it takes is for one person to use that phone to call or that debit card to pay and they’ve been nailed in time and space.   Sure you may be using your regular phone (and not your disposable one) to call ma but you’re there and the records show it.  And if your battle buddy does something similar he’s fixed at that time and place as well – so now both of you are associated.  The key is discipline.  When you meet you go completely off the grid.  Completely.  No phone use, no debit card use, nada in and around the geographic area and  timeframe you meet.  Recon and identify how you could expose yourself.  Does a certain route have license plate readers?  Then don’t use it.  Convenience stores?  They all have cameras at the counter and pumps. Nearby ATM machine? Cameras and transaction records.  The golden rule at all times (and I mean all times)  is to ask yourself: How will what I’m doing at this second expose myself and others to identification?

via How They Hunt | The Lizard Farmer.

Emphasis was in the original. Note that already the police work around legal restrictions on using “forbidden” or warrantless unlawful surveillance by the fiction of “parallel construction,” which means, quite literally, presenting false records to the court that were generated to plausibly explain government possession of illegally collected data. Parallel Construction is not a novel GWOT era technique but was used at least as early as the early 1990s in drug cases, both running warrantless wiretaps against organized crime figures and using military intelligence assets against domestic crime groups. In those cases, it was justified in part by a drug case carve-out to Posse Comitatus engineered into being in the 1980s, but once they began doing it they were on the slippery slope of doing it whether they had a drug nexus or not.

The 1990s-vintage botched raids at Waco and Ruby Ridge both used military assets (physical and human) acquired by ATF and FBI agents simply lying and manufacturing a nonexistent “drug nexus” to get what they wanted. They were coached in this by DOJ lawyers (which should be a reminder to you that a lawyer is a man who is trained to lie for a living; that’s why they do so well as politicians). And these seemingly extreme measures of the 1980s and 1990s were taken in the face of routine and small-time crime. You may rest assured, you would-be revolutionaries, you, that the gloves would come off in a shooting insurgency, and you haven’t seen gloves-off yet.

In some ways this is new; in others, it is as old as the Roman suppression of the Jews 2,000 years ago. A good overview of the techniques, minus the modern technology, can be found in the movie, The Battle of Algiers, and that puppy’s over 50 years old.

Even now, in the FBI, which is increasingly redefining itself as the Sword and Shield of The Party1, monitors what it calls “extremists” and is making long lists of who it would like to round up, when The Party lets slip its leash. Erdogan isn’t the only one who had an “enemies list” cued up for neutralization.

So, if you are, say, an antiauthoritarian personality, if the will to resist is strong in you, what can you do without winding up on a slab like “Bob” in Lizard’s post, or in a death-row holding cell like his brother, or having his kids passed to the probable molesters of the state’s Child “Protective” Services like Bob’s brother’s kids?

One notes that the FBI has been extremely poor at detecting troublemakers who act alone. This is a general truism of police work. Criminals get caught because they interact: they talk, and seal their fate; they associate with other criminals, and the capture of one gives investigators a powerful lever with which to pry loose the rest.

Or, to put it in the words of an old western movie, if you’re going to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.

Notes

  1. You may have heard that phrase before. We were reminded of it by the Bureau’s reluctance to support a prosecution of Mrs Clinton for a more egregious version of an offense that it has arrested and helped imprison several for every year of the last decade, while snapping-to immediately in pursuit of the hackers that embarrassed The Party. The former alone might simply have been a case of how the Beltway operates increasingly on a Code of Hammurabi type law, with “different spanks for different ranks.” But in conjunction with the second, and various other activities, it’s clear that FBI is increasingly comfortable viewing itself as a partisan political police. People fear a military coup in the United States, but that is very unlikely; however, the Bureau’s higher echelons are starting to see themselves as the Praetorian Guard.

About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).

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