How to gather intelligence and act on it?
Last week the first breed of Bayraktar* drones began their duty. This was very important for Turkish Intelligence authorities. We have been using American and Israeli drones for our border security. Turkish drones were a very big necessity because drones are the best platforms to gather intelligence.
According to Defense System Magazine, the United States is continuing to invest in these proven platforms for intelligence collection. The U.S. Defense Department said in February, when each branch released their budgets for the next year, that the U.S. Air Force would be purchasing 29 additional remotely-piloted Reaper drones and the U.S. Army would be purchasing additional Gray Eagle drones, the service’s version of the Predator. Recent operations in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and continued operations in Afghanistan have forced Washington to continue to procure these vital systems for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) purposes.
But the heavy reliance on machine-based intelligence-gathering may have come at a cost in the quality of military intelligence overall. In an article for Global Securities Studies in 2013, Gabriel Margolis pointed out that “[t]he technical affluence of the United States has permeated the intelligence community and continues to contribute to the intelligence failures of the CIA because of American reliance on technology over human sources.”
Advanced satellite and unmanned systems, both of which keep soldiers out of harm’s way, has allowed for the military and covert organizations to shy away from human intelligence-gathering, or at the very least, rely on it less. Today, “UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] have replaced satellites and manned aircraft as the favored platform for intelligence collection,” Margolis wrote. “UAVs are the ultimate intelligence platform.”
However, as stated before, the human side of intelligence gathering should be as good as these technological platforms or else we will have lots of data but no sound analysis.
Turkish authorities must solve the human resources problem in Turkish secret services ASAP. Otherwise, just as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said a few days ago, we cannot really distinguish who is really who if we only rely on photos or voice recordings rather than really knowing the person and his/her motives.
*The Bayraktar Tactical UAS is a surveillance and reconnaissance system initially developed for the Turkish Armed Forces. Bayraktar currently holds the national endurance and altitude record for Turkish aviation.
Bayraktar set a record for autonomous flight endurance when it flew 24 hours and 34 minutes at 18,000 feet on Aug. 5, 2014. Bayraktar furthermore holds the altitude record with 27,030 feet on its flight on June 14, 2014, with full payload weight.