Originally posted by The Gray Man at American Partisan.
In a conflict environment, the guerrilla may still have to continue living and operating within society and conduct himself as a regular civilian at times. This is simply part of being a guerrilla, it’s part of what differentiates a guerrilla from your basic battlefield combatant. It’s the ability to not just “blend in”, but to be a part of that society and environment.
With that said, the guerilla always needs to be thinking ahead, even when, especially when, he is functioning “normally” in his day-to-day civilian living routine. Part of that is always being keen to picking up intelligence and information useful to the guerrilla’s cause. People you meet will sometimes have that information, and you’ll need to know how to spot those people and further, how to assess whether or not they are useful as a source.
Prior to putting any time into source finding, you’re going to need to figure out what you need to know. You need to find out what your “intelligence gaps” are. Go over the information you have about a particular area, decide what questions you’d like to answer and develop some “priority intelligence requirements” (PIRs). Once you have your PIRs, you can start finding ways to collect against those PIRs. The guerrilla is going to need to get good at collecting from human sources.
There is an assessment tool that goes by an acronym that will assist in figuring out the usefulness of potential human source. The word is “PAMSSA”, or also “PA-MSSA”. I’ll go into some detail, as it can be useful to the guerrilla, since it can be a bit different for a soldier in a uniformed military.
The “P” stands for placement. If a potential source has placement, then it means they have a spacial or geographical position to the information you seek. A source can not help you gather information if they never have placement anywhere near the information. To use a simple example, suppose you would like to start gathering medical information about the patients in a local hospital. I don’t really know why one would be interested in doing this, but it’s a very simple fictional example for my purposes. Would your local garbage collector have placement in this case? The answer is not really. Even collecting the garbage from the hospital, from the loading docks, maybe he even occasionally has to enter the building, but he doesn’t really have good placement. What about the housekeepers inside the hospital? Do they have placement? The answer is yes. They are in and out of the rooms and working among the patients on a regular basis. How about the nurses? Yes, of course. They have placement, possibly the best placement of the three.
The next step is “A” for access. Access means direct access to the information you seek. Go back to our hospital example. Now you’ll see that the housekeepers who have decent placement do NOT have any sort of access, beyond perhaps remembering the faces of the patients they see. The nurses will have excellent access in this case. Are you starting to see what placement and access mean to finding a potential source of information? This is why the PA is often hyphenated and separated from the MSSA. You can’t move forward on the PA-MSSA assessment tool if the person your assessing doesn’t have adequate placement and access.
Moving on, we now must look at the potential source’s motivation. This usually requires actually meeting and discussing with the source. You’ll need to get an idea of what would motivate a source to willingly pass information to you. In Afghanistan, money was a big motivator for human sources, but that is often a major problem. Sources will always be willing to sell you information, and sometimes they’re even willing to sell you false information. Other motivating factors that you’d rather see are a belief in whatever your cause is. If a source shares your beliefs and is interested in advancing your cause, that’s a positive motivation. Maybe your source has been wronged by your enemy, or they’re disgruntled about something and are driven to correct it. This isn’t to say that money is always negative, since often a source considers a payment a sort of compensation for the risk they take when speaking with you. However, money as the sole motivating factor can often cause problems down the line. More on that below.
Next assessment step is suitability. When you’re getting to know your potential source, you need to see if this person is even suitable to serve in this role. You need to look for some level of intelligence. If the person you’re assessing isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, are they suitable? Do they even know anything about the information they’re giving you? Are they impulsive? During their daily activities, are they going to do something stupid and get themselves in trouble, or even killed? Are they smart enough to do what I’m trying to get them to do, or to tell me? Or are they going to maintain good placement and access? Do they speak your language? Do they have any physical issues that hinder their ability to assist you? Are they emotionally stable? Mentally stable? You’ll have to consider these things.
The next factor is susceptibility. This is consideration for how easily they will agree to work with you, or how easily they will agree to turn against you. A source with great placement and access is of no use if they’re not willing to work with you and pass along the information you need, and even more dangerous is a source that will pass along information about you to your enemies. This topic can be greatly discussed once you get into the realm of witting and unwitting sources and the subject of elicitation. I mentioned above that I would say more on motivation. You’ll have to keep in mind that having a good understanding of a source’s motivation can help you overcome problems with susceptibility.
The final variable is accessibility. This questions the ease of access you have to the source. A source that you’re unable to communicate with is useless. You’ll need to assess how you will communicate with that source, how often, for how long, etc. This touches a bit on suitability as well. Does the source have the time and opportunity to contact you? Do they have multiple ways to communicate to you? Are they capable of using more complex means, like dead drops without screwing up? Are they too busy to meet with you regularly? One very important factor to look at is time sensitive information. Does your source have the ability to recognize important and/or time sensitive information (if not, they may not be suitable) and do they have the ability to get that information to you quickly and securely?
This source assessment tool is easily practiced in daily life. All you need to do is identify your intelligence requirement and start with placement and access, and work your way down the list. Be sure to reassess sources periodically. Develop communication plans with your contacts. Assess current sources for additional collection capabilities.