Tag Archives: Diplomats

The Role of Foreign Service Officers as Human Intelligence (HUMINT)

Of all the methods in intelligence, I have been interested in the HUMINT method, known also as espionage or spying involving clandestine activities and considered as the oldest method for collecting information about foreign power. It was discussed in the class that compares to TECHINT which has limited capabilities in accessing the target, HUMINT can offer deep infiltration access to the target, although it has also weaknesses, it can simply be misleading and unreliable. For that reasons, many literature say that before the technological revolution of the twentieth century, HUMINT serves as the primary source of intelligence for government and I think for most nations, it remains as the basis of their intelligence collection activities.

The Intelligence Threat Handbook (1996) discussed that most HUMINT collection is performed by overt or open collectors such as diplomatic personnel, military attaches, members of official delegations. Diplomatic reporting, according to Lowenthal (2006), is a type of HUMINT even though it is considered as not have enough credibility because its overt nature. This is the case when the host country government official knows that when he speaks to a diplomat, his remarks are going to be informed to that diplomat’s capital, resulting non credible information. That makes some people prefer more traditional HUMINT (clandestine) even when the source’s reliability remains uncertain, more willingly than the diplomatic reporting (Lowenthal, 2006).

Apart from of their limitation, in my opinion, diplomats and other foreign service officers as a HUMINT cover and complement the traditional HUMINT activities.  For instance, as an official cover or “spy”, diplomat tend to have more access to maintain contact with the superior and would produce fast warning, he or she also has the access to the host country’s high ranking officials in order to get classified information through networking, utilizing embassy facilities and the most important thing that HUMINT diplomat can contribute to policy making in foreign affairs.

In addition to giving warning, according to Hilsman (1952), intelligence must also supply the information, analyzed and arranged in a pattern on which policy can be based. In this part, diplomats have advantage compare to traditional HUMINT, their gathered information are already policy compatible to my opinion, although there are some arguments that intelligence discussed by Hilsman (1952) should not be defined as evaluated information, because it is no longer objective since the intelligence were already two steps  up from the policy makers.


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