- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Col. T.X. Hammes, USMC (ret.)
Best Defense bureau of intelligence context
It is virtually impossible for an agency to provide sufficient cover for a false name. If you provide information like where you went to school, what posts you have served before, etc., the information can be quickly checked. (Most yearbooks are online; graduates are listed in newspapers; property records, etc.) If you don’t provide that information, then your bio sticks out.
Giving an intern the list of names of personnel at an embassy and telling them to build the person’s bio from online sources — with cross-checking — will quickly cut through a light cover. It will also challenge even a well-constructed cover.
I think this is going to be one of the challenges for human intelligence in the 21st century.
T.X. Hammes served 30 years in the Marine Corps and is now a senior research fellow at the Center for Strategic Research, National Defense University. He is the author of The Sling and the Stone.
Is China planning more zones?; Afg accuses coalition of withholding support; Peace talks ‘tween Af-Pak progress; The Dutch double down in Mali; The Duffel Blog, unmasked, and a bit more.Gordon Lubold
Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children.| Situation Report |