Issue 1: 20/05/2020

The Tactical Informer

Tactical Intelligence Studies Group

Do you want more efficient, more accurate and more timely evidence to drive your day-to-day practices?

Are you in the weeds, on the shop floor, at the teeth end: sifting through the sparse, unreliable and cluttered data to understand the situation and shape it?

Do you build systems for such people? Train them? Are you frustrated by inadequate methods? Overwhelmed by too much information? Disconnected from fellow practitioners?

We are you: a scattered community of intelligence operators, information systems engineers, cyber security analysts, researchers, data scientists, and leaders who work for a living.  We want to be quicker, more accurate, more thorough, and more explicit about uncertainties and the limits of what we know.

The Tactical Informer collects and collates news to help you quickly understand who else shares your problems, what good practices have been established, and what developments are under way.

In late July we intend to host a webinar on working methods: structured analytic techniques, searching the body of knowledge, lessons learned and lessons unlearned, possible futures, and so on. We will be trawling for papers and presentations; please do volunteer early if you have something to say. We can help you say it.

To reduce spamming your attention, this newsletter contains just a selection. A reference set of events are here; news sources are here; a starter reading list is here, and training courses are here.

Do share! If you know of conferences, study groups, books, resources or research that you think are relevant send them to us at and we’ll include them.

What’s going on in Tactical Intelligence?

OpenTech 2020

June 2020 | Virtual

An intermittent but popular gathering of citizen scientists, discussing open source data access, methods, and technology. View Event

Military Training & Education Technology Exhibition & Conference

September 2020 | London

Representatives from across the military, civil sector, industry, and academia to connect and share knowledge about simulation, training and education. View Event

Cyber Warfare and Security (ECCWS)

25-26 June 2020 | Chester UK

Brings together an interesting combination of academic scholars, military personnel, practitioners, and individuals who practice various aspects of cyber security. View Event

Comparing Intelligence & Journalism

April 2021 | Las Vegas

 This panel discusses intelligence and journalism in an age of information and disinformation, competing and false narratives, accusations of fake news and corrupt intelligence. View Event

The Tactical Intelligence Studies Group Conference

July 2020 | UK

In Summer 2020, we will be hosting our first studies group conference to discuss advancements in the tactical intelligence scene. View Event

Tales from the Front Line

The Craft of Intelligence

Book Review

CIA’s head tells stories from the fifty fraught years during and following WW2, delving into the ins and outs with the benefit of hindsight to try and learn from them.

He took a surprisingly practical approach: tourists would stop at the ‘secret’ location of the CIA headquarters when it was anonymous so he put a “CIA HQ” sign up. The visitor numbers fell away.

Another account is how the Russians would break a false story into bits and pass these onto their various embassies across the world to ‘let slip’. When the CIA assembled these ‘slips’ they assessed they had discovered an underlying plan, confirmed across several sources.

Highly recommended as an easy-to-read beginner’s introduction to the intelligence communities, where intelligence fits in government, how it broadly works, and some of the ‘gotchas’ to watch out for.

Full Book

Child Abuse Photographs Geo-located


Interpol tapped into crowdsourcing to find child abusers from outdoor photographs. This article describes a successful outcome, but also the problems with ‘reach’ (finding people who have the knowledge and skills to help), ‘breadth’ (finding enough people to cover all the research) and the relatively limited outcomes. Full Article


Counting the Dead: How Statistics can find Unreported Killings

Investigative Journalism

Multiple reports of the same event can lead to double or triple counts of that event. Events that are not witnessed are often not reported. The International Center of Investigative Journalists used multiple systems estimation to estimate the number of 2018 drug killings in the Philippines. Full Article

I Spy Podcasts

Hostile Territories

A series of podcasts discussing operations in hostile territories. “On I Spy, we hear from the operations people: the spies who steal secrets, who kill adversaries, who turn agents into double agents. Each episode features one spy telling the story of one operation”. Full Article

Training and Development


Being Trained is not the Same as Being Competent


Don’t just study the syllabus just to pass the exam. With so many online training certificates, you can become somewhat ‘trained’ in something in as little as two weeks! But it is important to not see being ‘trained’ as the main goal, rather competent. Full Article

`I Need You to Tell me What’s Going on Here’

Intelligence Exercise

Source material suitable for a one-hour individual exercise in assessment and explanation. Full Article

Improving Methods

Paddling the Data Lake

Blog Post

A light review of things to bear in mind when faced with overwhelming data. Full Article

Applying Indications and Warning Frameworks to Cyber Incidents

Academic Paper

An example of cross-domain knowledge transfer, adapting intelligence methods to help cyber security staff anticipate and react earlier in the attack chain. (proceedings of CyCon 2019 – Lilly, Ablon, Hodgson & Moore) Full Article

Crossing Divides


Groupthink is a barrier to objective assessments but measuring our cognitive isolation is difficult. Even this survey suffers from being BBC listeners and those who are willing to take part, but is illuminating all the same. Full Article


The Efficacy of ACH in Mitigating Serial Position Effects and Confirmation Bias in Intelligence Analysis

Academic Paper

Martha Whitesmith experimented to see if Alternative Competing Hypothesis methods (otherwise known as “competitive hypothesis testing” or “truth tables”)  effectively countered some specific biases. They found no effect, but the test scenario seemed too simple to properly test the pros and cons; ACH counters availability bias when there is too much information to hold in the mind at once. While this study does not test ACH against that criteria, it does show that ACH is not automatically wonderful, and establishes a protocol for testing intelligence methods. Full Article


Causal Interference

Interest Group

The Alan Turing Institute’s discussion on how to infer underlying causes from reports. Somewhat academic and situated in ‘Big Data’, but the principles are relevant to most intelligence problems. Full Article


Using Reverse Image Search For Investigations


Bellingcat are reasonably famous in the open/crowdsourcing investigation community. Here they give resources and approaches for searching for images that are like one you already have in order to, for example, check whether a profile picture is fake or to find other profiles using it. Full Article

OSIRT Framework

Resource List

A large collection of online open-source and paid-for resources categorized by topic. Could do with better metadata, but a good place to start when looking for online sources. Full Article

OSIRT Browser

Search Tool

A browser with various privacy browsing options, pre-set links to online sources (including the OSINT Framework above), and some basic means to snapshot and organize what you find. Full Article

Tell us of any conferences, study groups, valuable books, resources or research that you think are relevant at

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