Source Operations: MICE/RC – Forward Observer Shop

Source Operations: MICE/RC

On the first Forward Observer Podcast, we talked very briefly about some MICE/RC factors.  MICE/RC comes into play when we have an intelligence requirement – a piece of information that we need but don’t have – and then consider which sources or potential sources we could recruit, or encourage their providing us with that information through elicitation or questioning.

At any rate, we’ve identified information we want to collect.  The next step is identifying who has placement and access to that information we want, and recruiting them to collect for us.  We’ll call this our source nomination process.  When we analyze potential sources, our first step is to identify their placement and access: what information are they likely to know, or likely able to collect?  If we determine that a potential source wouldn’t be able to satisfy our intelligence requirement, then he falls of the list for that requirement.  So if we’re identifying threats in our AO, my list of potential sources would include law enforcement officers, local news reporters, elected officials (city board, county commission, mayor, etc.), and other civil service workers.  A law enforcement officer might not know about potentially weak bridges and other infrastructure, but the county engineer likely would.  If there’s infrastructure in need of repair or upgrade (a bridge, electrical grid, etc.), while it’s not a kinetic threat, it might pose a threat to future operations and I want to know about it.

MICE/RC factors specifically refer to Human Intelligence (HUMINT) collection and source recruitment, but they apply to all realms of influence.  When we discuss HUMINT collections, whether it’s tactical questioning (TQ), interrogation, or source operations, we should consider our sources’ motivating factors.  Whether we’re direct questioning a witness after a firefight (TQ), attempting to elicit information from a detainee (interrogation), or recruiting a source with unique placement and access to information we want (source operations), we will do so in light of MICE/RC motivating factors.  It’s rare that we can just directly ask for information, or task collection, without giving something in return.  In MICE/RC, we offer tangible goods, feelings, problems, and solutions.

Material.  The traditional MICE/RC factors use Money here; however, since this is for post-SHTF we can no longer consider just ‘money’.  While money is an option, post-SHTF there will be a myriad of individuals willing to trade information for material goods that ease their suffering: food, water, medicine, toiletries, firewood, and the list goes on.  This is essentially a negotiation but don’t promise anything you can’t provide.  If you recruit a formal source and you task that individual to get involved in and collect on the Leroy Jenkins Gang in return for moving his family into your community (protection), then be sure that you can follow through.  One downside to the Material motivator is that individuals may fabricate information in return for payment.  When sources begin to question their usefulness – say, after they’ve been exhausted of intelligence information – it’s time to consider their recourse: what will they do to continue keeping the rewards coming?  If you suspect that they’re fabricating information, then it’s time we stop dealing with that individual.  Not only is it a waste of time and resources, but continued meetings with them no longer justify the risk.  Another downside is the law of diminishing returns.  As an individual accepts more risk in order to collect information for you, the more they may want in return.  Is the potential collection worth their desired reward?  Are they asking more than you can deliver?  It bears repeating: follow through on your promises.  You might burn more than just yourself.

Ideology.  The Soviet defector in 1989 who provides US intelligence with information on the Soviet nuclear program or air defense systems.  A neighbor who calls the police and then you to report that your house is being broken into.  An employee of a three-letter agency who reports a deliberate and malicious trend of spying on innocent Americans.  (Just look at how Snowden burned NSA because his ideology was stronger than his fear of reprisal.)  These are examples of source reporting based on ideological motivations.  We share the same ideology, and we want all Patriots to be safe and protected from threats and unconstitutional activities.  In a post-SHTF environment, there will be known or unknown Patriots in positions of authority, and with placement and access to sensitive information.  We want this sensitive information, so we might play to our shared ideology.  Our first step is to identify these people, and then identify which of our intelligence requirements they might meet.  A sheriff’s deputy and Oathkeeper might be willing to tell us that the County Sheriff doesn’t believe that the Second Amendment applies to all citizens.  This deputy just answered an intelligence requirements- threats in the AO – because the Sheriff is now identified as a threat.  Or maybe, hopefully, the deputy tells us that the Sheriff has plans to physically resist any regime attempt to outlaw and confiscate personal firearms.  In either case, we’re told this because we’ve convinced this deputy that both of us are on the same ideological side, and because the deputy understands that this information is beneficial to the populace.

Compromise.  Think of compromise in this case as leverage; it’s the whip as opposed to the carrot.  We know you’re having an affair, so vote No at the next meeting or we’ll tell your wife.  We know you’re skimming money on those contracts, so collect this information for us or we’ll turn you in.  Yes, this is blackmail and/or extortion but it’s an ugly reality of the spy world.  HUMINT source or case handlers and those involved in source operations find good reasons to motivate individuals who are unwilling to collect, and compromise can be a very powerful motivator.  I would urge caution, however, because a potential source’s ideological beliefs may be stronger than the fear over their compromised situation.  In this case, or any others, our potential source could explain his situation to his superiors without our knowledge, and we could find ourselves at considerable risk the next time we meet with our potential source.  Death is a reality, and so are criminal charges.  In any event, the collection should always justify the risks, and that’s a determination you have to make, especially when attempting to leverage a source who has compromised himself.

Ego. We might run approaches called Pride/Ego Up and Pride/Ego Down.  Pride and ego are universal feelings, and we play to both high and low levels of each. A potential source might enjoy the feeling of pride when he collects for us because we encourage him and shower him with some praise.  Maybe he doesn’t get that in his work, and will continue to collect for us because we enable that emotion.  Pride/Ego Down in source recruitment is just the opposite: instead of playing up a source’s ego, we’re playing it down.  These people might be willing to collect for us to prove their own authority and power, especially if we call into question their own importance.  We might introduce a monetary reward in this manner: We don’t believe that you can get us that information because you’re not that important to the organization… but if you can prove to us that you have that amount of power then we can do this for you.  We could collect on seemingly innocuous topics like strength and disposition, leadership, personalities, and biographical information, or if we turn Pride/Ego Down into Material, then we could utilize both motivators and have him produce more important information.

Revenge.  Some would argue that revenge falls into ideology, but I include it as its own motivator.  This is the wife of a husband who beats her, or an employee of a company who wronged him.  Individuals out for revenge can be critically detrimental to an adversarial organization (and to friendly organizations by the same logic).  We identify the individual out for blood against the Leroy Jenkins Gang, and then we play on his desire for revenge and direct that anger/hatred to achieve a positive development for us.  The downside here is the loose cannon, who is initially responsive to tasking but over time considers his own goals more viable or beneficial than ours.  Assessing the source who’s out for revenge is a critical part in planning his collection.  If you suspect that you’re losing control over a Revenge source then you have two options: use him up or let him go.

Coercion.  This is my least favorite in the MICE/RC spectrum but it can be a strong motivator.  As opposed to compromise where we utilize a pre-existing fear, with coercion we are creating a justified fear.  Get us the contents of that report, or you’ll come home to an empty house.  Plant this bug in your boss’s office or we’ll kill you.  We are coercing a source’s cooperation through threats of force and violence.  I don’t recommend this in general but understand that it’s used, especially by nefarious actors.  It might even be used against you.

MICE/RC presents us with a wide range of options when attempting to recruit sources.  A good deal of planning and research on a potential source will yield the benefits of knowing which motivator you should use, and motivators should be used only in order of most effect.  Your source may not be motivated by money as much as he is ideology; ego as much as he is compromise.  Keep in mind that sometimes the greatest motivation for collection is a combination of MICE/RC factors.

Mike Shelby is a former military intelligence NCO and contract intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.

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