OSFI Player's Handbook Chapter 5: Methods of Gathering Intelligence
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WRITING GROUPS: Star Fleet: PRIME (SD- 2427) | Star Fleet: ORIGINS (SD- 2261)- DEFUNCT | Star Fleet: BEYOND (SD- 2771)- DEFUNCT
Methods of Gathering Intelligence
Agents of Star Fleet Intelligence, as well as those of foreign powers, use several methods to procure intelligence. Some of these methods are easier to employ than others; some, as one would expect, are less trustworthy as a result.
Differentiating between the different methods of information gathering is of critical importance to the analyst; an analyst could interpret the very same information differently, depending on the source. For example, information coming directly from a known double-agent working on behalf of OSFI might be evaluated with more or less confidence, depending on the agent's established work history, than information recorded from the subspace communiquÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©s of foreign dignitaries. An analyst needs to take into account the probable reliability of any data he or she receives, and a large part of this job is based upon the method of surveillance.
A word of caution here: as you may have gathered by the above passage, no piece of information an agent is likely to have in his or her possession can ever be interpreted as being 100% genuine. There is ALWAYS a chance that an OSFI agent or a double-agent may turn; there is ALWAYS a chance that intercepted communiquÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©s were planted by a foreign intelligence agency running a counterintelligence campaign. Interpreting information is often as much about playing the odds and playing hunches as to its veracity as it is in evaluating the actual data.
SIGINT (Signals Intelligence)
Signals Intelligence is any information gathered from the observation, interception or other acquisition of communications signals. These signals are usually audio or print; they can be scrambled and coded signals from between foreign government operatives or unscrambled mail from a father to his daughter or even data from a starship's sensor readings. ANY information gained that is NOT visual in nature via electronic surveillance in considered SIGINT.
SIGINT is usually considered to be a pretty reliable form of information gathering. However, as previously mentioned, phony data can always find its way into a communications packet or a recorded conversation, so careful study of the source is necessary to help make an accurate interpretation when evaluating SIGINT.
IMINT (Image Intelligence)
Image Intelligence is similar to SIGINT, except that it involves either still or video information. Examples of IMINT could include photographs from a sensor sweep in a distant Romulan system that reveal a new destroyer prototype on a training run, or perhaps a visual recording of a video of an innocent press conference that happens to reveal the identities of the attaches working for a foreign ambassador. ANY information of a visual nature is considered IMINT.
The reliability of IMINT usually depends on how clear the video or still is; a particularly grainy picture leaves a lot open to interpretation, while a detailed and focused picture narrows the possibilities, making it more reliable. However, there are many sophisticated methods of doctoring or changing images and videos; while OSFI can almost always spot a phony or doctored video or still, caution should still be exercised when assessing IMINT.
SENINT (Sentient Intelligence)
Any information gathered "straight from the horse's mouth," so to speak, is considered Sentient Intelligence. In other words, any data that is acquired through direct or indirect conversation with another sentient being (without the benefit of SIGINT or IMINT to confirm the accuracy of the information) is SENINT; the CIA of old Earth used to call this type of information "HUMINT," or "Human Intelligence."
The reliability of this information depends largely on the source being; if the being is a known operative working on behalf of OSFI, it is generally treated as reliable, while info coming from a rogue or foreign operative is at least viewed skeptically until some sort of confirmation or supporting data is obtained.
News and Commercial Analysis
This sort of intelligence is exactly as it sounds- it is data gathered through the careful study of civilian news and commercial services. This largely revolves around analyzing news briefs, articles and the like, as well as economic and commercial reports.
The reliability of this type of information really depends on the specific source, as some news services are known to be more accurate in their reporting than others. Also, some powers exert more control over their public information services than does the Federation; The Romulan Star Empire's primary news feed is a state-run organization, allowing them to mold the slant of any information its public obtains through them, thereby skewing the truth and making it less reliable than information obtained from Federation News Network services, who are NOT handcuffed in what or how it reports information.
Computer "hacking," as it used to be called, involves the forced entry into another computer. This could range from breaking into a single, self-contained computer to large governmental networks. It is a particularly difficult and time-consuming job due to the intensive security measures usually found on any system containing sensitive information.
This is usually considered to be the most accurate type of data, bar none. This is because most people or organizations do not place dummy or false files within its own computer or network; this means that, so long as an agent can break any encryption or coding of the data (a BIG if oftentimes), the information can be treated as genuine and completely accurate on its face.
Eavesdropping is another time-honored, old-fashioned way of gaining intel. Simply put, an agent listens in on the conversations of another person or operative without the other's knowledge.
Since such intel is presumed to have been obtained without the target's knowledge, it is usually treated as being reliable. However, it is not unheard of for foreign operatives to stage phony discussions with full knowledge that someone was listening, so a measure of caution is needed when evaluating info obtained in this manner as well.
As can be seen, information can often be categorized by more than one of the preceding methods. For example, a recorded conversation between a double-agent and his or her contact would be considered Signals Intelligence, but is also a form of Eavesdropping; an agent who breaks into a terrorist organization's computer network and obtains plans for future attacks obtained his data through Computer Hacking, but it is also a form of Sentient Intelligence, since the information was actively obtained by a sentient being.
Also, keep in mind that the reliability of information changes as more data is obtained. A single piece of data concerning a particular subject is not generally reliable, and is usually in need of confirmation. A second piece of data supporting the original piece would make the original more reliable; a second piece contradicting it would reduce its reliability.